Achieving Sustainable Development through Neighbourhood Planning? Mike Jenks and Chris Smith Talk

Achieving Sustainable Development through Neighbourhood Planning?
Mike Jenks and Chris Smith

Fal Energy Partnership AGM, 24th April 2014 at Penryn Town Hall

Slides are available at ISSU:

The talk was in two parts, the first speaker being Mike Jenks (MJ) and the second Chris Smith (CS)
(Mike Jenks)

I will start this talk with some background, and look at some issues to do with urban sustainability, that may be familiar to you, and to set these in a wider context. Then Chris will get to the substance of these issues, focussing in on Falmouth and Penryn.
Since the advent of the Coalition Government, a lot has changed recently. In particular, widespread changes have been implemented to planning legislation, and it is questionable whether this could be a planning disaster or opportunity.
So what has changed?
 Much of planning regulation, guidance and evidence-based policy swept aside
 It has been replaced by a National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)
 A ‘Neighbourhood plan’ and ‘localism’ have been introduced
On the face of it, one thing in the NPPF sounds promising, and that is that there is an explicit ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’, it states:
At the heart of the planning system is a presumption in favour of sustainable development, which should be seen as a golden thread running through both plan making and decision taking
A wicked thought, perhaps cynicism on my part, but it is hard not to notice a striking resemblance to the John Mortimer satirical novels about Rumpole of the Bailey, and his often repeated mantra:
The presumption of innocence is the golden thread that runs through British justice
Could it be that those who were charged with drafting this superficial document, and the abandonment of so much planning guidance, thought they would slip in something to show their displeasure?
However, it seems reasonable to ask, if there is a presumption in favour of ‘sustainable development’, what do they mean by it?
The basic definition put forward by the NPPF is that sustainable development means
 Planning for prosperity (an economic role)
 Planning for people (a social role)
 Planning for places (an environmental role)
But read further, and the sub-text largely means economic growth, and certainly the government’s policy context within which it was written makes this clear.

And what of Cornwall Council in its Local Plan? Its headline objective is laudable and that is to: Achieve a leading position in sustainable living. And they go on to define sustainable development in the following terms:
Ultimately this is a balance of decisions around economic, social and environmental issues to meet our present day needs while not compromising the needs of future generations.

There is nothing wrong with this, being based closely on the 1987 definition by Gro Harland Brundtland at the UN Rio Summit. That is the three pillars of sustainable development; social, economic, and environmental, and that sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. But thinking and definitions have moved on since then. Many, including the UK, have added in ‘governance’ and ‘sound science’, and other countries across the world have also added culture as an important element to achieving sustainability.

So the more generally accepted headlines for sustainable development could at least be argued to be:
 Living within Environmental Limits
 Ensuring a Strong, Healthy and Just Society
 Achieving a Sustainable Economy
 Promoting Good Governance
 Using Sound Science

So if there is a presumption, then it must be for genuinely sustainable development.
The key question then is what does sustainable development really mean in an urban context?

More to follow next week…


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