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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

Green MEPs: Changes to planning laws show blatant disregard for UK commitment to meet EU health and climate change targets

The UK’s Green MEPs, Keith Taylor and Jean Lambert, have today accused the government of showing blatant disregard for the UK’s obligations to meet legally binding EU targets on air quality and renewable energy in their proposed National Planning Policy Framework.

The proposed framework removes the ‘brownfield development first’ policy, taking away the national priority for previously developed land to be developed before greenfield sites are built on. It also removes the ‘town centre first’ policy for new office developments and weakens the rules for leisure and retail developments. This shift to development outside town centres will create a need for more travel, increasing already dangerously high levels of air pollution. The UK government is currently failing to meet both PM10 and nitrogen dioxide limit values set by the EU in its legislation on air quality (1).

Investment in renewable energy is also threatened by the proposed National Planning Policy Framework, which fails to include renewable energy requirements. These measures are currently contained in the Regional Spatial Strategies and regional targets, which are due to be abolished. With a reduction in the number of renewable energy projects coming forward the ability of the UK government to achieve their legally binding 15% renewable energy target by 2020 will be called into question.

In their submission to the government’s consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework both MEPs criticise the framework for placing a presumption in favour of development above other considerations, its inadequate definition of ‘sustainable development’ and the lack of opportunity for democratic public engagement in planning proposals.

Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East England said: “Allowing developers free reign will threaten the government’s ability to meet crucial targets set by the EU to protect citizens’ health and to reduce climate emissions. The UK already has some of the most polluted air in Europe. Encouraging more out of town offices, retail parks and leisure developments is only going to make the situation worse. When the UK faces fines of hundreds of millions of pounds the government should be thinking very seriously about how better planning could help tackle this growing public health crisis.

Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London said: “If adopted, the Government’s proposed planning framework will be a developers’ charter and nothing more. The presumption in favour of development, which is its driving force, will undermine environmental, carbon reduction and green transport objectives and restrict the voice of local people in decision-making. The UK’s EU targets on renewables, air pollution and carbon reduction are all set to suffer as a result. Government claims that this is a framework for sustainable development would be laughable if the consequences were not so serious.”

Notes to Editors

Directive on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe (2008/50/EC)

Download Jean and Keith’s consultation response here.