Planning authorities like Nottingham City Council with ambitious carbon reduction targets need more Government support to drive up sustainability standards in new developments, a senior councillor says.

The City Council has set the target of Nottingham becoming the first carbon neutral city in the UK in 2028, already implementing a wide range of measures and improvements which are drastically reducing carbon emissions in the city. Many are focused on transport as one of the key sources of emissions, but the environmental standards of buildings can also play a big part in addressing the issue. There is more and more demand for sustainable development and a desire by the City Council to encourage it.

The call for more Government support for councils dealing with planning applications came from vice chair of Nottingham’s Planning Committee Cllr Graham Chapman. It came during a Planning Committee meeting on Wednesday 23rd June which approved a mixed commercial and residential development on London Road on the site of the former petrol station between Arkwright Street and London Road.

On this occasion, the proposals were amended by the developers with a number of improved green measures, following a community campaign and discussions with the council’s planning officers. But what Cllr Chapman described as “outdated Government legislation and case law” means that councils cannot insist on more than basic standards. In a recent case, Secretary of State Robert Jenrick overturned a council’s objection to a planning application on the basis that it wouldn’t meet its carbon reduction targets, ruling that, notwithstanding the high-level national commitment to carbon neutrality, and the significant weight attaching to tackling climate change, these conditions go beyond current and emerging national policy.

“Our hands are tied,” said Cllr Chapman. “Any attempt to impose high standards can be overturned on appeal because there is no Government regulation or will to resist. For higher standards we are relying entirely on the goodwill of the developer and, unlike in this case, it is not always forthcoming.

“With this development, we have ended up with a good scheme thanks to the pressure put on by the community, the flexibility of the developers and negotiations of the council officers – but it has been hard going.”

He added that some initiatives such as the installation of heat pumps provide no incentive for developers because they push up costs which cannot be recovered, and no incentive for prospective buyers who will face a higher purchase price. He called for a system of Government subsidy, which will pay back in the long term in the form of reduced import costs to the balance of trade.

“The current Government, despite its rhetoric, has no plan or strategy to take the practical measures to fulfil its policies.