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Eco advice for architects added to Planning Portal

Words:
Stephen Cousins

A new sustainability hub has been added to the national planning application service, providing concise information advice on biodiversity net gain, nutrient neutrality and Future Homes Standard

The new Planning Portal sustainability hub offers architects and the public key advice on making projects more sustainable at planning stages.
The new Planning Portal sustainability hub offers architects and the public key advice on making projects more sustainable at planning stages. Credit: Terraquest

Planning Portal, the national online planning application service, has set up a dedicated section to give architects concise information and guidance on how to make projects more sustainable, including checking compliance with legislation and planning requirements.

The free-to-use resource, a joint venture between the government and TerraQuest, was created as part of a drive to ‘simplify sustainability legislation to encourage uptake’. Guidance is divided into two sections: one aimed at homeowners working on small projects; the second for professionals, including architects, working on larger projects.

A series of legislation guides for professionals provides detailed information on evolving issues such as biodiversity net gain, which requires developers to show that schemes will increase their site’s biodiversity by at least 10 per cent; and nutrient neutrality, which imposes limits on surface water runoff and wastewater generated by developments, as well as the Future Homes Standard.

These guides summarise the latest updates, clarify affected parties and link to essential legislation and other resources.

Planning Portal’s policy and strategy advisor, James Garrett, tells RIBAJ: ‘There will potentially be a shift in priorities following the general election, with new initiatives taken forward. Our expert team will be looking across that as policy changes … we wanted to provide a single source that people know they can rely on and come back to as things change and iterate.’

The new hub even offers information on sources of grant funding for building projects.
The new hub even offers information on sources of grant funding for building projects. Credit: Terraquest

The sustainability hub provides detailed information on sustainability concepts relevant to planning and building. These include embodied carbon and retrofitting, covering the benefits of different approaches to retrofitting and common alterations. Advice is tailored to help applicants submit valid planning applications that meet environmental standards.

A section on sustainability funding explains the grants currently available from the government, including through the Green Deal, the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, the Home Upgrade Grant and the Energy Company Obligation (ECO4), with external links to more further information.

Planning Portal worked with organisations such as the Environment Agency, the Public Advice Service and those involved in developing BNG rules to improve how information on the website is presented. A partnership with BNG specialist Joe’s Blooms provides planning applicants with access to its web tools designed to help them check and fulfil their biodiversity obligations.

According to Garrett, architects can exploit the resource to either ‘ensure they are up to date with their knowledge’, or to point clients to it to raise the profile of sustainability issues. ‘You want to be able to evidence to your clients why things are required and why things have to be done in a certain way, so it's not just a case of ‘take my word for it,” he says.

The plan is to expand the hub to incorporate feedback from local authorities on the quality of planning applications, including common errors and invalid applications.

“The aim is to try to front-load some of that validation activity to ensure a better quality of applications upfront,‘ says Garrett, ‘so you get fewer issues and delays down the line.’

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