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Prepare For More Planning Paperwork As Manchester Targets 2038 Zero Carbon Deadline


Manchester City Council’s aim of creating a zero-carbon city by 2038 or earlier will mean additional paperwork in the planning application process for developers.

The ambitious carbon target — at least 12 years earlier than the national 2050 target — will be met in part by tightening requirements on new development.

However, because proposed government rules do not allow the city council to go as far as they would like, the council has had to find a novel way to achieve its zero carbon goals. The additional paperwork required ahead of the validation of planning applications is intended to get round the government’s strictures.

report to the Labour-controlled council’s ruling Executive says that the National Planning Policy Framework is long on aspirations but very short on guidance about how to achieve low carbon development. It alleges the NPPF confuses decision-making by creating a number of conflicting priorities.

The council proposal exploits a loophole in current government plans that require solar panels and better insulation but prevent councils adding any further zero-carbon requirements to this basic English minimum. The government argues that allowing local councils to set their own minimum standards is “inconsistent, confusing, and creates inefficiencies in supply chains, labour and outcomes,” the report said.

The council will strengthen its own zero carbon rules by requiring developers to submit extra paperwork with planning applications. This is likely to include more information on the energy efficiency of buildings and on-site generation, and more information about construction management to help address environmental impacts at the planning stage.

Manchester already requires developers to submit a Building Research Establishment Assessment Method accreditation for development proposals, an Air Quality Assessment to evaluate the impacts of the development and proposed mitigation, an ecological assessment together with how they intend to deal with biodiversity, an Environmental Standards Statement, a Blue and Green Infrastructure Statement looking at greenfield and water implications, a Flood Risk Assessment if the application site is within a designated Flood Zone, a sustainable drainage strategy, a transport statement including the provision of electric charging points now or to ensure developments are future-proofed, and a travel plan for staff. Tree studies and replacement schemes may also be required.

“From discussions with the [property] industry it is clear that many responsible developers already recognise that it is incumbent on them to address climate change issues,” the report to councillors said. 

“Many contractors, developers and occupiers understand their corporate social responsibility and how important this issue is to decision makers. In many ways we are pushing at an open door. Engaging with the industry is already assisting in understanding what is achievable and deliverable.

“Updating and opening up the validation checklist has the potential to help in this regard, as will be providing practical advice and guidance to those who may need more of a steer in addressing climate change.”

Can Manchester's zero carbon ambitions and its growth potential be reconciled, and if they can't, what will give? To join the conversation at Bisnow's Next Level Manchester event on 13 May, register here.