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The coalitions are coming

Just when I thought it wasn’t possible, not one but two coalitions of Built Environment organisations have announced their arrival in the last week. Both have been formed to tell the government what they think about how it’s handling major issues in planning – in one case the proposed infrastructure levy and in the other climate change,

I wrote earlier this month about the siloed nature of the UK planning system, highlighting the many areas of impact that planning decisions incur on local communities, urging stakeholders to collaborate and connect the dots of interest groups and local needs so that changes in local built environments benefit all.

And then this week, presto, it happened. Twice.

In the case of the government’s proposed infrastructure levy, a group of 30 Built Environment organisations - public, private and non-profit sectors -- came together in an appeal to Housing Secretary Michael Gove asking him to scrap it.

The group argues there is a lack of clarity on how the proposed levy’s rates and thresholds will protect the delivery of affordable homes, warning that ‘we cannot support reforms that are likely to leave communities with fewer social and affordable homes, mixed and balanced developments and less of the infrastructure they need.’

It also warns that the levy could ‘make it harder, not easier, for local leaders and communities to secure the benefits of new development’ – resulting in local authorities and housing providers delivering fewer homes for affordable and social rent.

Roger Gough of the County Councils Network, which organised the letter, urged the government to add teeth to the existing rules, saying that the levy “could end up being the worst of both worlds: resulting in less funding being made available for vital infrastructure, less affordable homes being delivered than before and impacting on the viability of development.”

Group members include the British Property Federation, Construction industry Council, Home Builders Federation, Land Promoters Federation, RTPI and TCPA amongst others. The full letter is here.

Led and organised by the Green Building Council, the letter calls on the government to reform England’s planning system to bring it into line with the Climate Change and Environment Acts

Signatories support urgent amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill currently going through Parliament.

The GBCUK said

“England’s inconsistent planning system is not delivering the change we need to tackle the climate and nature breakdown. Our business and local authority members are faced with endless barriers, delays and legal challenges to the kind of low carbon nature-friendly development we all want to see.

Today we’re urging the Government to back simple changes to planning law through the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill that can help fix this. By introducing a clear legal imperative for planning decisions at all levels to align with our Climate Change and Environment Acts, we can unlock huge investment and momentum towards the beautiful neighbourhoods and low carbon infrastructure the country urgently needs.”

Signatories include Landsec, Grosvenor Properties, Igloo Developments, Rockwool, Lipton Rogers Developments, NBBJ and AECOM. The letter is here.

Hopefully these two will inspire a third coalition of Built Environment organisations – this time focused on promoting public health and health equity.

Evidence on the variation in health outcomes across London and the country as a whole continues to build since Sir Michael Marmot updated his 2010 report on health inequalities in 2020. Health inequalities are increasingly regarded as a larger public health problem, with impacts on social and economic progress, thus drawing the attention of business and policy organisations that are beginning to address wider health issues in their policies and practice.

But we have yet to see the planning system integrate health promotion and health equity into policy and practice, despite widespread evidence that the built environment has a significant impact on people’s health. Indeed, there have beenrecent calls for a legislative requirement to address health inequalities through planning.

For those interested in joining my coalition of Built Environment organisations seeking the integration of health and health equity parameters into planning decisions, here are the starting points:

  • · All built environment projects must do no harm to local health and aim to improve local health and health equity

  • · The impact of a planning proposal on local health and health equity must be evaluated robustly and with local input. A scale with “do no harm” at one end and “significant improvement to local health” might be applied (and if it does harm it doesn't go through).

  • · a Health Impact Assessment must be produced with local input to both structure and content, using recognised metrics and current data on health and wellbeing

  • · changes to the local built environment must involve local NHS Integrated Care Systems

Let’s add to the Built Environment coalitions. Who’s in?

Clare Delmar

Listen to Locals

23 June 2023


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