Posted by Ben Harris, marketing director at Legal Futures Associate tmgroup
When the charge for single-use plastic carrier bags was introduced in England on 5 October 2015, Tesco reported a 78% drop in number of single-use carrier bags taken from its stores in England in the first month.
According to a panel of environmental experts, if the government is to meet its targets for sustainable planning and development, a similar initiative could be the key to addressing some of the barriers.
This suggestion was put forward at a roundtable event hosted by tmgroup; featuring a range of guest speakers including: Stephen Sykes, UK Environmental Law Association chairman and Sykes Environmental LLP; Jon Lovell, founding director of Hillbreak; and Chris Taylor, product development director at GeoSmart.
It is hard to penalise a developer if an issue arises after they’ve finished a site
As it currently stands, issuing penalties for failings around sustainable planning and development is a challenge, especially as once a developer has built something, they leave the site and it is hard to put them ‘on the hook’.
Further issues include over-complicated laws and regulations, which make it challenging for even large businesses with extensive legal resources to make sense of and adhere to, as well as difficulty in receiving planning permission.
Passing the cost onto the consumer could be key in driving real change
Given the additional cost of implementing some of these initiatives, and with minimal risk of incurring a fine, it is no surprise that many developers are choosing to overlook sustainable planning and development methods.
One possible solution, however, is to pass the cost onto the consumer, in a similar way to charging for single-use plastic carrier bags. Internalising the cost of the impact like this could help to bring the issue into the demand phase of house building – as opposed to outsourcing the negative impact onto others.
In essence, if consumers are faced with higher living costs for living on non-sustainable developments, then demand for sustainable buildings could go up and investors would be far more likely to adhere to regulations.
Coupled with tax breaks for developers for using environmentally friendly technologies, this could result in a win-win situation and mark a positive step forward for sustainable development.
A number of sustainable solutions are already available
There is no doubt that enforcing sustainable planning and development is a complicated issue to address, but steps must be taken if we are to reduce the impact of flooding and land contamination, as well as ensure that our planet’s resources are available for future generations.
The good news is that conversations about various initiatives are already taking place, and a number of solutions are on the market to help support sustainable planning and development.
Sustainable drainage systems (SuDS), for example, replicate the natural drainage from the site before development and reduce run-off and flood risk through detention basins, permeable pavement, and water butts.
Since April 2015, SuDS have been a requirement for major developments in all cases unless demonstrated to be inappropriate; meaning that a high level SuDS feasibility report is necessary for property professionals at the initial master planning stage to identify drainage options and risks.
Such reports are now available for conveyancing solicitors to order. For example, GeoSmart’s SuDS feasibility report, is currently available as a first-to-market product for users of tmconvey.