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A new era for sustainability as we welcome in the new government

We welcome the new governments ambitious agenda - measures central to the Labour manifesto place a strong emphasis on sustainability in both the energy and housing sectors.

Supporting the new governments sustainability agenda.

They are committing to the construction of 1.5 million homes over the next parliament, a target that represents an approximate 100% increase in annual housing output, a significant boost for the construction industry.

They plan to “back the builders, not the blockers” by more than doubling onshore wind capacity to 35GW and significantly increase grid capacity to “rewire” Britain.

Their commitment to reducing emissions is clear: “By 2030, the UK will be the first major country in the world to run on 100 per cent clean and cheap power.” They also propose “golden rules” to ensure development benefits both communities and nature. If achieved, this sounds truly laudable.

Streamlining the planning system

We have focussed on the items above (and we appreciate we may be biased) because of their footprint their potential impacts on the receiving environment. But, as the new government has outlined, streamlining the planning system to allow these development ambitions to be achieved is, in their view critical. But, is an attempt to streamline the planning process a little short-sighted when the process even now, doesn’t necessarily prevent impacts to the receiving environment?

Our current planning system is designed to reduce environmental impact and follows a structured approach:

  1. A project is proposed.

  2. An outline design is developed in response to project demands and known environmental receptors.

  3. Residual risks to the environment are mitigated.

  4. The project is consented on the assumption that the design and applicable mitigation strategies will reduce any environmental impact to acceptable levels.

However, a recent survey by the Association of Environmental Clerk of Works reveals a concerning reality. Over 80% of respondents responsible for monitoring a project’s environmental performance believe that the construction phase has a larger impact than initially assumed and consented.

From an environmental compliance standpoint, this discrepancy is concerning. It also affects Biodiversity Net Gain, as a larger-than-expected impact on the environment will result in a smaller net gain. The introduction of Environmental Outcome Reports has sparked debate within the Impact Assessment community. Yet, details on how these will be applied remain unclear. Streamlining the planning system without addressing its efficacy could do more harm to our already stressed environment.


Moving forward

Positive environmental performance needs stronger incentives, and basic environmental compliance must be enforced more efficiently. While we fully support the new government’s targets, it is crucial that these developments do not come at the expense of our environment.

The construction industry stands at the threshold of an exciting yet challenging era. As we strive to meet these ambitious targets, it is imperative that we balance development with sustainable practices to ensure a brighter, greener future for all.


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