Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
EVIDENCE TO THE ROYAL COMMISSION ON ENVIRONMENTAL
POLLUTION FOR THEIR URBAN STUDY
1. The following submission has been prepared by the Office of the Deputy Prime
Minister (ODPM) in response to a call for evidence by the Royal Commission on
Environmental Pollution for their Urban Study.
2. The submission responds to key questions provided by the Royal Commission to
guide the debates that are most relevant to ODPM. The submission aims to
demonstrate to the Royal Commission key areas of current ODPM policy that are
impacting the urban environment and provide information on areas that are the
subject of further research and policy analysis.
Q1 : What is the current state of the urban environment – what are the negative
environmental impacts of urban living inside and outside the urban area?
3. To respond in general to this comprehensive question: understanding the negative
environmental impacts of urban living both inside and outside the urban area is a
complex issue with many different components. This submission addresses some of
these impacts, providing further detail in response to specific questions including how
population/household growth is placing increasing pressure on the urban environment
and policy and programme areas where the Government is taking a leadership role.
4. In addition the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) has been undertaking
considerable research in this area. In January 2006 the State of the Cities Report
2005 (SCR) is due to be published and will provide a comprehensive audit of urban
conditions in the 56 Primary Urban Areas (PUAs). PUAs are urban areas each with a
population of over 125,000, are defined in terms of their physical extent (not local
authority areas) and currently comprise 55% of the English population.
5. The SCR report will include an analysis of urban trends and drivers of change; an
assessment of the contribution of cities to national success; and a review of policy
performance in urban areas. Drawing on the data, policy review and lessons from US
and European experiences, the report will also consider the policy implications for the
future and provide the foundation for better understanding of the urban environment
and its positive and negative impacts.
6. Furthermore, the European Commission presented its Urban Environment Thematic
Strategy as a draft Communication in February 2004. Considerable discussion has
taken place since then and a revised draft is anticipated around the end of 2005.
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Q2: Which environmental issues are most pressing in urban areas, and how are they
being addressed? What is the overall environmental profile of urban areas? Are new
environmental issues emerging that have been neglected or are little understood?
7. There are a range of environmental issues that are most pressing in urban areas.
Each requires careful and considered response by the Government, business and the
voluntary and community sector, as well as individuals, to ensure that the ultimate
outcome for the urban area is positive. Key priorities include climate change, waste
minimisation and water supply and addressing housing related issues including
quality, safety and management and local environmental quality. Addressing public
priorities, engaging and empowering communities will help influence changes in
behaviour that are critical for ensuring that responses to improving urban areas are
taken up by the wider community.
Climate Change, Water and Strategic Waste
8. Some observers have highlighted climate change, water and strategic waste
management issues as critical challenges for the future of the urban environment.
DEFRA has the lead responsibility for all three, although we touch upon them in this
9. ODPM are confident that the existing twintrack approach to meeting water demand is
adequate. In particular information on trends in water demand derived from regional
spatial strategies (which govern housing numbers inter alia) should inform the water
supply industry's statutory longterm investment planning to meet future demands for
water supply, and from these feed into the successive 5yearly waste price reviews by
Office of Water Services (OFWAT).
10. As regards waste, there is a need to improve the sustainability of waste management
generally, including that of municipal waste (which until recently has been increasing
in volume). This is not uniquely an urban problem but one of general importance (it is
distinct from dealing with the uncontrolled dumping and spread of waste which is of
special significance in urban areas). DEFRA and ODPM jointly announced in July
2005 a revised policy framework to help councils plan for and deliver the new waste
management facilities urgently needed to manage all waste more effectively, and to
reduce the reliance on landfill for disposing of municipal waste.
11. Housing and internal environments are, of course, essential features of the urban
environmental fabric. The Government's Decent Homes programme aims to ensure
that all of England's 4.1m social homes (the majority of which are in urban areas)
meet the Decent Homes standard. Details of that standard can be found at
www.odpm.gov.uk/housing. However, housing quality is also relevant in the private
sector, where the English Homes Condition Survey (EHCS) estimates that some 30%
of homes do not currently meet this standard.
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11. The Government expects that measures in the 2004 Housing Act to replace the
current housing fitness standard by the evidence based Housing Health and Safety
Rating System (HHSRS) will allow local housing authorities to focus on the hazards in
dwellings that have the greatest impact on the health and safety of occupiers.
HHSRS will also help social and private landlords to assess and maintain their stock
to keep them free of serious hazards, such as cold, damp and mould, poor hygiene
and sanitation, inadequate lighting and excessive noise. The development of HHSRS
as the primary means of assessing housing conditions is a significant step forward in
tackling some of the major causes of poor health and in improving the housing and
Housing – Safety and Management
12. The Act will also introduce licensing for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), which
should have an impact on these problems. The Housing Act 2004 requires the
mandatory licensing of larger, higherrisk types of HMO. HMOs accommodate some
of the most vulnerable people in society, who have often very limited access to other
housing choice. This new regime will cover all privately rented HMOs of three or more
storeys and occupied by five or more people who form two or more households. Local
authorities will also have discretion to extend licensing to smaller privately rented
HMOs in all, or part of their area, to address particular problems. For example, this
could be used to deal with areas where there are high concentrations of student
properties. The use of this discretionary power is subject to consultation and requires
approval by the Secretary of State.
13. Licensing will require landlords to actively engage in the management of their
properties or to invest in proper management arrangements for instance through
using a managing agent for their property. The Housing Act 2004 also introduces
powers for local authorities to selectively license properties in areas suffering from low
housing demand and/or significant incidence of antisocial behaviour.
14. Selective licensing is a targeted measure which will be used to tackle only the worst
problems in the private rented sector. This will help address the serious impact that
bad landlords and antisocial tenants can have on the community around them and is
about engaging with landlords and is concerned only with the property management
and not the condition of the property.
Housing – Markets
15. Many of our towns and cities have experienced rapid change in the last few decades.
Many of our northern and midlands cities have experienced falling demand for
housing and in some areas, abandonment. This poses a number of environmental
risks, including higher rates of arson, and crime. At the same time, the move to
smaller homes and a change in industry housing output types driven by both
demand and sustainable land use policies (see responses to question 8) has led to
more flats than houses being completed for the first time. This underlines the need for
appropriate building standards with respect to noise acoustics.
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Housing Building Quality
16. Noise pollution is an important issue in urban areas. The Building Regulations relating
to the Resistance to the passage of sound (Part E) were amended in 2003. The
Regulations now control the sound insulation between new dwellings and between the
main rooms within a new dwelling. In addition to this the Regulations control
reverberation in the common parts of new dwellings adjacent to flats. The Regulations
also control the acoustic conditions in new schools. These measures are intended to
provide better acoustic privacy for people in their homes, and better acoustic
conditions in schools. HHSRS will also be a useful tool in assessing and dealing with
serious noise hazards in the existing stock.
17. Urban areas are associated with a wide range of environmental issues which impact
at the local, regional and global level on the quality of the environment. The
Sustainable Development Research Network completed a quick study of the evidence
to help inform the development of the UK Sustainable Development Strategy
Securing the Future. This found a high level of concern not only with environmental
issues like air quality and water pollution but also the doorstep issues which people
see and experience everyday.
18. Evidence such as that from Market Opinion Research International's (MORI) report
'Liveability the importance of physical capital' and the joint ODPM and Strategy Unit
report 'Improving the prospects of people living in areas of multiple deprivation in
England', shows that people want to live in a good quality environment, where people
respect the local environment and there are facilities and activities for young people in
particular. Polling for ODPM suggests that almost half of the population agree the
appearance in their local area has improved in the last two years.
19. The English House Condition Survey assesses a range of liveability problems related
to the immediate environment of people's homes. Some 3.2 million (16% of)
households live in homes with types of liveability problems assessed by this survey.
For 6% of households there are significant problems arising from neglect or misuse of
the surrounding public and private space or buildings (eg graffiti, vandalism, dumping
and unkempt areas), while 12% of households experience traffic related problems.
20. The Government's Cleaner, Safer, Greener Communities initiative, led by ODPM
recognises that a wide range of policies impact on the quality of public spaces and
aims to bring together action on environmental enhancement, design quality and
reassurance. It covers a broad range of issues including a backlog of maintenance of
streets and parks, street fouling, noise pollution, litter, flyposting and commercial
waste. The Government's 'How To' guides on managing town centres, residential
areas, and parks provide further information on how these issues are being
addressed and seek to focus on the outcomes people are concerned about where
they live. The Programme aims to support leaders and practitioners by setting out the
tools and powers which are available to tackle these and other issues and to share
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Q: 3 In a modern industrial society, do urban lifestyles put more or less pressure on the
environment than lifestyles of similar affluence and aspiration lived in the countryside?
21. No ODPM response.
Q4: Which aspects of urban environmental pollution are most important in terms of their
negative affect on human health and wellbeing?
22. No ODPM response.
Q 5: How could the urban environment be improved to benefit physical and mental health,
wellbeing and quality of life?
23. A good quality urban environment is a healthy environment. ODPM is working with the
Department of Health and others to ensure that the quality of the urban environment
supports healthy lifestyles.
24. ODPM also funds CABE – The Commision for Architecture and the Built Environment
to drive up the quality of design of neighbourhoods, ensuring the better attention to
the arrangement of buildings, streets and open spaces in a compact urban form. This
can help to improve physical wellbeing and allow for healthier lifestyles by
encouraging greater physical exercise, and by ensuring that there are visually
pleasant and safer walking environments and better cycling facilities.
25. More specifically the urban environment can have an impact on well being and quality
of life in a number of ways:
o Access to quality parks and open space of all types. This provides both space
for physical exercise, recreation and leisure but also has mental health
benefits. Open spaces have the potential to be used more fully to support
healthy lifestyles, provide activities and opportunities for social engagement.
For example, ODPM is funding BTCV to expand their Green Gym concept,
providing opportunities for people to meet and exercise in green spaces while
contributing to environmental enhancement.
o Community gardens, city farms and allotments can provide physical exercise,
and can also promote and provide access to locally grown fruit and
vegetables. Gardening has long been used as a therapy in both physical and
mental illness and in rehabilitation. It promotes relaxation and communication
as well as providing a forum to learn new skills that can be appropriated to
other aspects of life. It also provides a setting for those with mental health
problems and physical disabilities to interact.
o Open spaces provide opportunities for all sections of the community including
the disabled, young, old and people from the ethnic communities to come
together, generating social cohesion.
o Green spaces provide important environmental functions including absorbing
and filtering air and waterborne pollutants, providing shelter and urban
cooling and mitigating flood risk. Green buildings and roofs provide
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26. The urban environment can be improved to maximise these impacts by:
o Improved design creating spaces people want to spend time in. For example:
quality, inclusive street design to encourage people to walk and cycle;
providing safe, attractive and stimulating parks to encourage informal physical
activity, and designing play spaces accessible for disabled children and
involving children and young people in design. ODPM have published
Developing Accessible Play Space: a good practice guide and CABE Space
have published guidance on involving young people in design called What
would you do with this space? The challenge is to ensure these guidelines
and other good practice are put into effect more widely.
o Enhancing our green spaces and valuing management and maintenance.
Since 1997 ODPM has supported the development of the Green Flag Award
Scheme. This recognises good standards of green space management,
creating environmentally sustainable spaces that are welcoming to the whole
community. The scheme is recognised by those participating in helping to
drive up the performance of green space management and we are committed
to ensuring 60% of local authority areas achieve a Green Flag Award by
o Protecting our open spaces. For example Planning Policy Guidance note 3
(PPG3) on Housing makes it clear that new housing development should
incorporate sufficient provision of open space within easy access of new
housing and that the development of more housing within urban areas should
not mean building on urban green spaces. Also PPG17 asks Local
Authorities to undertake assessments of the need for open spaces, sports and
recreational facilities and that open space and sports and recreational
facilities that are of high quality, or of particular value to a local community,
should be recognised and given protection by local authorities through
appropriate policies in development plans.
o Support for communities to engage with their open spaces. ODPM sponsors
Groundwork, who undertake local environmental projects in conjunction with
the local community. ODPM have also funded the Living Spaces Scheme,
which provides support to local communities in order that they can improve
their local spaces.
o The application of effective policies to manage and mitigate flood risk, from
local flash flooding and well as from rivers and tidal water. This includes
safeguarding and enhancing the functional floodplain (or "washland" where
water must flow or be held in times of flood and which at other times can
provide valuable green space and opportunities for recreational and sporting
27. A good quality home can also can impact positively on health. ODPM is involved in a
number of programmes to improve the standards of people's homes in both urban
and rural areas, in particular the Decent Homes programme and the Housing Health
and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). Please see response to Question 2 above for
details of these programmes.
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Q6: Is there evidence that deprived urban areas are exposed to greater levels of
environmental pollution and/or a poorer local environment?
28. The ODPM are developing, in conjunction with other departments, better evidence
that people who live in deprived areas can get trapped in a vicious circle of poor life
opportunities, exacerbated by local environmental quality and an inability to require
29. Research on behalf of the Sustainable Development Research Network concluded
that “Poor local environmental quality and differing ease of access to environmental
goods and services have a detrimental effect on the quality of life experienced by
deprived communities and socially excluded groups and can reinforce deprivation if
not tackled alongside access to employment, health and tackling crime” (PSI, Lucas et
al, 2004, Environmental and Social Justice: Rapid research and Evidence review).
30. The Environmental Exclusion Review undertaken for ODPM reinforced the findings
that deprived areas experienced poor environmental quality, and highlighted the need
to give clearer messages and reinforce the potential synergies between different
agendas to support better local environments.
31. This is why the 'Securing the future – UK Government Sustainable Development
Strategy’ includes not only a focus on creating sustainable communities but a
commitment to give a new focus to tackling environmental inequalities as well. Our
neighbourhood renewal strategy is committed to ensuring that noone is
disadvantaged by where they live.
32. For certain aspects of improving the quality of the local environment, ODPM has
already introduced programmes targeted to support the most vulnerable groups or the
most deprived areas. These areas are measured by the target to reduce levels of
unsatisfactory sites for litter and detritus by a further 13% nationally, and by 16% in
those local authority areas in receipt of Neighbourhood Renewal Funding by 2008 as
part of the ODPM’s Liveability Indicator Public Service Agreement 8.
33. In addition, DEFRA published a report in 2002 that found in a number of urban areas
of the UK the least affluent members of society tend to be exposed to the highest
levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter (although it is worth noting that this
may not be true for ozone). The report concluded that measures to improve air quality
can therefore have a more pronounced effect in deprived areas and could help to
reduce this social inequality. Whilst the research looked only at a few cities in the UK,
a more comprehensive research project is underway to analyse the link between air
quality and social deprivation. The aim of the study (ending in March 2006) is to help
better target air quality policy by providing improved ward and district level information
on air quality in deprived urban as well as rural areas and to investigate the link
between local air quality and health. Another important output of the study is to
publish local level statistics of air quality on the Neighbourhood Statistics website.
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34. The highest concentration of fuel poor households occur in urban areas, and
statistical evidence supports the notion that the 'typical' fuel poor household is likely to
be in an urban area (figures taken from the 2003 English House Condition Survey
show that 73.1% of those in fuel poverty lived in urban areas, contrasted with 26.9%
in rural areas). Consequently, activity under fuel poverty schemes such as Warm
Front has traditionally focused efforts in urban areas to reflect this. However, the
Warm Front Scheme has been criticised for failing to adequately meet the needs of
rural communities. As a result, the recently launched new phase of the Warm Front
Scheme assigns priority to flexibly meeting the needs of rural communities in danger
of falling into fuel poverty. The new phase of the Warm Front Scheme offers oil central
heating to those households off the gas network, where other low carbon technologies
have been considered. As such the conclusion is that increased efforts are being
made in rural areas, but in a statistical and practical sense it remains primarily a
problem more common in urban areas.
35. MORI research into attitudes towards neighbourhood noise conducted for DEFRA in
2003 found that problems are worse in areas of high density housing, rented
accommodation (both social and private sectors), areas of deprivation, and urbanity.
36. The Greater London Authority is currently conducting a geodemographic equality
analysis of DEFRA’s London Road Traffic Noise Map 2004, to assess how far
different populations may be differentially exposed to road traffic noise.
Section B What changes are needed to reduce the negative environmental
impacts of urban areas and to increase their positive contribution to the
environment, health and wellbeing?
Q7: What major policy developments are on the horizon over the next 5 to 10 years that
might affect the urban environment?
Sustainable Communities Plan
37. Sustainable communities embody the principles of sustainable development,
balancing and integrating social, economic and environmental components of their
community, meeting the needs of existing and future generations and respect the
need of other communities in the wider region or internationally also to make their
communities sustainable. Sustainable communities are diverse places reflecting local
circumstances but where people want to live and work both now and in the future.
38. The Sustainable Communities Plan (200308) aims to deliver more affordable housing
and improve people’s homes, neighbourhoods and quality of life. In particular, the
plan aims to:
o Increase the provision of high quality and affordable housing in areas of
o Further tackle the housing shortage in London and the South East by
providing for major growth in the four growth areas; Thames Gateway,
Milton Keynes/South Midlands, Ashford, LondonStanstedCambridge
o Regenerate declining communities
o Address housing market decline by setting up nine pathfinders to tackle
areas of low demand and abandonment in the North and Midlands.
o Bring all social housing up to a decent standard by 2010.
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o Improve the efficiency of the planning system
o Decentralise housing policy and planning by empowering local and regional
o Protect the countryside by increasing density and building more on
o Improve the local environment through the Cleaner, Safer, Greener
39. ODPM's two five year plans drive forward the delivery of this agenda: Sustainable
Communities: Homes for All (Jan 05) is an ambitious programme to address the
different housing challenges we face – low demand in parts of the North and housing
shortages in the South. It offers more choice and fairness in housing, providing the
opportunity of a decent home at a price people can afford. Sustainable Communities:
People, Places and Prosperity (Jan 05) sets out our policies to promote good
governance, empower communities, tackle disadvantage and make places cleaner,
safer and greener.
40. Kate Barker's analysis in the final report of her review of housing supply published in
March 2004, reinforced the Government's case and strategy for more growth. The
Government has broadly welcomed the report and accepted her central
recommendation that there should be a step change in housing supply. Kate Barker
also proposed a package of recommendations in which growth is combined with
planning reform, increased investment infrastructure and social housing, and a more
responsive housebuilding industry.
41. The government intends to bring forward for consultation a package of measures to
address Kate Barker's recommendations by the end of 2005. In making proposals for
additional growth we will work through the planning process, including the
development of Regional Spatial Strategies, and will be looking at the regional
distribution of growth as part of that process. New housing needs to be supported by
quality public services schools, hospitals, transport, water and power supply and
we are working with other departments to ensure this
42. The Government is committed to developing brownfield land wherever viable and has
a target that 60% of new development be on previously developed land we have
already exceeded this target and are currently at 70%.
43. This is supported by changes to planning policy (that suggest redesignating industrial
land with no reasonable prospect of being used), gap funding regime and a new
register of land. This brings with it a series of new environmental challenges, including
developing onsite remediation approaches for polluted soils, containing or treating
leachates and new approaches to handling overhead electricity pylons.
44. The development of the National Brownfield Strategy is being taken forward by
English Partnerships in its role as expert adviser to the Deputy Prime Minister on
brownfield land. Work on the Strategy was launched in February and was followed by
a number of workshops which were used to gather the views of key stakeholders.
English Partnerships are also taking forward a number of pilot studies of hardcore
derelict sites, to gather evidence in a mixture of urban and rural areas. A consultation
document is currently being produced by English Partnerships; we hope to publish
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this in the next few months, with the Strategy itself being launched in the spring of
45. The Landfill Directive is a key policy area for DEFRA, which will impact on the
regeneration and use of land as well as the forthcoming National Brownfield Strategy.
ODPM will continue to work with and support DEFRA and industry on this issue to
ensure that key linkages are maintained and cross government policy implementation
46. The Land Restoration Trust was launched in April 2004, and brings together a number
of regeneration agencies with the aim of increasing the restoration and use of derelict
and brownfield land. The Trust facilitates the remediation and regeneration of sites not
suitable for development, turning them into valuable new public open spaces. Its aim
is to acquire a portfolio of sites across England and to own and manage 10,000ha of
previously derelict land within a 10 year timescale. An initial three year trial is under
way to test these business assumptions. It is proposed that on transfer of land to the
Trust previous owners of sites will be required to pay an endowment of sufficient size
to cover the future costs of maintaining the site. The details relating to this issue are
currently being discussed with Treasury.
47. The Commission will also wish to be aware that the Government published two policy
updates to Planning Policy Guidance note 3 on Housing in January 2005 entitled
Planning Policy Guidance note 3: Housing (PPG3) ‘Supporting the Delivery of New
Housing’, and ‘Planning for Sustainable Communities in Rural Areas’. The
Government intends to publish in the autumn a draft new Planning Policy Statement
on Planning for Housing (PPS3). This will draw on Planning Policy Guidance Note 3:
Housing (PPG3) consultation paper ‘Planning for Mixed Communities’ (also published
in January 2005), and the consultation paper ‘Planning for Housing Provision’
(published July 2005) and the responses to both.
48. The new PPS3 will set out the broad national policy framework, insofar as housing is
concerned within which regional planning bodies and local authorities should develop
regional spatial strategies and local development frameworks. Its objective will be to
deliver new homes at the right time in the right place. The national policy framework
will reflect the need for flexibility in planning between urban and rural areas and in
areas experiencing high and low demand.
Q8: What information exists on the other trends that will shape our urban areas over the
next 10, 20 and 50 years? What is their likely environmental impact?
49. ODPM statistics show that the number of households in England is projected to grow
from 20.75 million in 2001 to 24.5 million by 2021, an increase of 3.75 million, or 18%.
The biggest increase is in the number of one person households which is projected to
grow by 2.5 million, from 6.2 million in 2001 to 8.7 million by 2021, 67% of the
total increase in the number of households.
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50. Cohabiting couple households are projected to grow by 0.95 million from 1.9 million to
2.8 million, an increase partially offset by the continued decline in married couple
households from 9.7 million to 9.3 million. Taking married and cohabiting couples
together, couple households are expected to grow by 0.5 million. Lone parent
households are projected to grow by 0.1 million and other multiperson
households by 0.6 million.
51. The average size of household, which dropped from 2.86 people in 1971 to 2.34
people in 2001, is projected to continue to fall, and reach 2.14 people per household
52. Although the numbers of households in all English regions are projected to increase
over the period 2001 to 2021, the size of the increases varies across England.
London, the South East, East of England and the South West are all projected to have
around twenty per cent more households in 2021 than in 2001. The North East has
the lowest projected growth of just 6%. Further information can be found in the
housing section of the ODPM website.
53. Just under 70% of the projected increase in the number of households can be
attributed to changes in the size and age structure of the adult population.
54. At present, imbalances in the housing market affect the quality of life for many people
and communities. We have not been building enough houses in the wider South East
to meet rising demand and changing social trends and this imbalance between supply
and demand has led to affordability problems. In London and the wider south east
and in the south west lower quartile house prices have risen to between 7.5 and 8
times lowest quartile incomes.
55. Through the Sustainable Communities Plan, we are already working to tackle
affordability, by achieving a better balance between housing supply and demand. The
Plan sets out a long term programme of action for delivering sustainable communities
in both urban and rural areas. It aims to tackle housing supply issues in the South
East, low demand and in other parts.
56. We are also bringing together surveys and information on green space into a
comprehensive Green Space database to assist and improve the strategic
management of green spaces across the country.
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Q9: What measures should be taken to make cities more environmentally sustainable 10,
20 or 50 years into the future? What would these urban areas be like and what would be
the social and environmental consequences?
57. The Commission may find it helpful to read the Deputy Prime Minister's vision for
Sustainable Communities, which is set out in full in the Annex to the UK Sustainable
Development strategy. In particular, the strategy aims to "create sustainable
communities which that embody the principles of sustainable development at the local
58. This vision (which includes many of the elements the Commission have suggested) is
supported by numerous land use, housing and urban policies and is implemented
through key tools such as Planning Policy Statement 1 (PPS1).
59. The Planning System provides a range of measures that are able to implement key
policy agendas and is an increasingly important tool in the development of the
environmentally sustainable outcomes. For example PPS1 sets out the overarching
planning policies on the delivery of sustainable development through the planning
system and emphasises that planning has a key role to play in the creation of
sustainable communities. Sustainable communities are places where people want to
live and work, now and in the future. They meet the diverse needs of existing and
future residents, are sensitive to their environment, and contribute to a high quality of
life. They are safe and inclusive, well planned, built and run, and offer equality of
opportunity and good services for all.
60. PPS1 says that planning should facilitate and promote sustainable and inclusive
patterns of urban and rural development by:
· making suitable land available for development in line with economic, social and
environmental objectives to improve people’s quality of life;
· contributing to sustainable economic development;
· protecting and enhancing the natural and historic environment, the quality and
character of the countryside, and existing communities;
· ensuring high quality development through good and inclusive design, and the
efficient use of resources; and,
· ensuring that development supports existing communities and contributes to the
creation of safe, sustainable, liveable and mixed communities with good access
to jobs and key services for all members of the community.
61. PPS1 also sets out a series of key principles that should be applied to ensure that
development plans and decisions taken on planning applications contribute to the
delivery of sustainable development.
Q10: How will urban areas be affected by climate change?
62. The UK's climate has followed the global trend of rising temperatures with central
England temperatures rising by almost 1°C over the last century. Climate models
predict that average annual temperatures across the UK may rise between 2°C and
3.5°C by the 2080s, with greater warming in the south and east than in the north and
west, and greater warming in the summer and autumn than in the winter and spring.
Hotter and drier summers will become more frequent over the UK with summer
precipitation decreasing by up to 50% or more by the 2080s. Winters will become
wetter with precipitation increasing by up to 30% and becoming 520% heavier.
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63. Relative sealevel may continue to rise around most of the UK's shorelines. This
could be by up to 58cm in Scotland and 2686cm in South East England. Extreme sea
levels, caused by a combination of storm surges and high tides could become 1020
times more frequent at some east coast locations by the 2080s causing increased
flooding risk in lowland areas.
64. Whilst urban areas will continue to be affected by climate change into the future
through changing environmental conditions, the Government is pursuing a low carbon
energy future to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and reduce the overall impact of
climate change. This will include increasing the use of renewable energy and other
low carbon technologies, and promoting products which are lower in carbon
65. Another area of concern that has been identified is possible overheating of buildings
due to climate change. The Building Regulations relating to the Conservation of fuel
and power (Part L) include requirements to design nondomestic buildings so as to
avoid excessive solar overheating. A prospective 2005/06 amendment to Part L
extends this requirement to capture dwellings, the intention being to improve summer
comfort in new dwellings whilst minimising the growth in domestic airconditioning.
Solar overheating can be reduced by careful selection of size and orientation of
windows, the use of external shutters or shading devices, and the appropriate use of
night ventilation, often coupled with a high thermal capacity structure. Other than
excluding light and heat, external shutters may have an additional benefit of providing
extra security when windows are left open to provide ventilation.
66. Recent (2004) changes in the guidance on the performance of walls and roofs of
buildings (Building Regulations Part C, Site preparation and resistance to
contaminants and moisture) should make buildings more robust with respect to
thermal movement and driving rain. HHSRS will also help local housing authorities
assess any hazards arising from excess heat as well as cold, and structural collapse
and failing elements.
67. Climate change is forecast to lead to more intensive rainfall events, especially in the
summer. Unless mitigating measures are taken, development tends to increase the
area of impermeable ground and the amount and pace of surface runoff, resulting in
increased flash flooding. This can happen in any location irrespective of its distance
from rivers or tidal water its incidence and severity depending on the extent of local
replacement of permeable ground by hard surfaces, topography and the distribution
and form of buildings, down to microlevel. Just building or repairing a front garden
wall on a hilly street can send storm water cascading into a neighbour's house.
68. Sustainable Drainage Systems (SUDS) aim to control and slow runoff as close to its
sources as possible by various means, such as permeable pavements, car parks and
factory hardstandings, vegetated strips and ditches (swales), and basins or ponds to
store rainwater. ODPM already encourages the use of SUDS in PPG25 Development
and Flood Risk. Its revision into PPS25 later in 2005 will strongly encourage the
incorporation of SUDS into planning development schemes in all areas to reduce the
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69. SUDS techniques can be particularly useful in older, perhaps hilly, urban areas where
Victorian development is replaced, or gardens are taken for offstreet parking, car
parks and flats. Retail and warehouse parks on edge of town sites are also major
potential extenders of hard surfaces, where SUDS should become standard design
features. ODPM published practice guidance The Planning Response to Climate
Change Advice on Better Practice in 2004. It provides assistance to local authorities
in implementing strategies to address climate change, and should also be of value to
other stakeholders, especially in the development sector.
Q 11: To what extent will conventional or nearmarket technologies be sufficient to meet
environmental goals and make cities of the future environmentally sustainable?
70. The opportunity to support new, emerging or nearmarket technologies to meet
environmental goals is imperative as we face the complex challenges of
environmental sustainability. The Government works with a range of partners to
develop and implement best practice in a range of areas including water usage,
building construction and ensuring that the planning system is supportive to new
71. ODPM are looking at a range of ways to reduce water use in buildings, including
water recycling. If the public perception and acceptability of water recycling can be
improved, there is the potential for saving water by using lower grade water for non
potable uses such as toilet flushing.
72. Building regulations designed to increase the energy efficiency of buildings will apply
across the country. From April 2006 all new homes receiving Government funding will
need to meet the energy standards of the Code for Sustainable Buildings.
73. From April 2006 all new homes in the Thames Gateway receiving Government
funding will meet the Code for Sustainable Buildings. The Government will also work
with the private sector developers on encouraging demonstration projects of the Code
in the Thames Gateway. Some developments in the Gateway are providing exemplars
of energy efficiency. For example, the Gallions Ecopark in Thamesmead has
achieved an 'excellent' rating under EcoHomes. The development comprises 39
dwellings made of timber frames with argon double glazing, solar water heating, low
flush toilets, spray taps, energy efficient lighting and recycling facilities.
74. Planning Policy Statement 22 (PPS22) sets out a positive policy framework within
which renewable energy can be implemented through the planning system. PPS22
makes it clear that renewable energy developments should be capable of being
accommodated throughout England in locations where the technology is viable and
environmental, economic, and social impacts can be addressed satisfactorily. It is also
clear that the wider environmental and economic benefits of all proposals for
renewable energy projects, whatever their scale, are material considerations that
should be given significant weight in determining whether proposals should be
granted planning permission.
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Q 12: Can highdensity developments offer a more environmentally sustainable future
that is also desirable for householders?
75. The issue of density is a complex one. Although it is often argued that most people
are in favour of lower densities, in actual fact there is clear support for maintaining the
greenbelt and saving countryside and therefore an implicit support for higher
densities. In addition, there is little evidence that residents are simply opposed to high
density per se. Although some people may express fears over a lack of space or
school facilities it is often acknowledged there is value in locational benefits that
density can bring.
76. The Government is clear that through paying better attention to design, the benefits of
the high density compact city model can be realised. By ensuring that the
relationships between buildings, and public space and green space, are considered
from the outset in conjunction with transport, infrastructure and the appropriate
provision of services, high density development can deliver the type of desirable
neighbourhoods where people want to live.
77. The viability of high densities is illustrated by looking around the country at the type of
neighbourhoods that are held in high regard. Some of our most successful and
cherished housing, like the Georgian Terraces of Bath, or the squares of Notting Hill
or Kensington in London are built to relatively high densities. Therefore the
assumption that high density means high rise and therefore poor quality is mistaken.
However, even where high rise development does result, it is important to note that
there have been significant advances in design and construction since the failures of
1960's high rise blocks, which makes this type of development a viable urban form.
Our understanding of technology, and what makes a good place to live,and ways to
involve local people in shaping development have all moved on.
78. Planning Policy Guidance Note 3: Housing (PPG3) expects new housing to use land
more efficiently through higher density housing development, i.e. developments
between 30 – 50 dwellings per hectare net. Good design and layout of new
development can help achieve the Government's objectives of making the best use of
previously developed land and improving the quality and attractiveness of residential
areas. To achieve this, the Government asks local planning authorities and
developers to think imaginatively about designs and layouts which make more
efficient use of land without compromising the quality of the environment.
79. New housing development should not be viewed in isolation. Considerations of
design and layout must be informed by the wider context, having regard not just to
immediate neighbouring buildings but the townscape and landscape of the wider
locality. The local pattern of streets and spaces, building traditions, materials and
ecology should all help to determine the character and identity of a development.
Local planning authorities are asked to adopt policies which create places and spaces
with the needs of people in mind, which are attractive, have their own distinctive
identity but respect and enhance local character.
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80. Local authorities are asked to reject poor design. The Government’s policy on design
in PPS1 is clear that design which is inappropriate in its context, or which fails to take
the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area and the
way it functions, should not be accepted. Better Places to Live, the good practice
guide ODPM published as a companion to PPG3, illustrates a range of housing
developments and how the principles of good design can be applied in practice.
Q 13: Can design codes play a significant role in improving the environmental
sustainability of urban areas? If so, what should they look like?
81. Yes, design codes can and do have the potential to play a significant role in improving
the environmental sustainability of urban areas. Design Codes can provide a
(a) improving the quality of urban development and placemaking;
(b) creating greater confidence and certainty of outcome for stakeholders
including the community;
(c) creating an operating system for the delivery of quality that can help
streamline the planning process;
(d) help to deliver the quantity of housing identified as being required to alleviate
undersupply and problems with affordability.
82. A programme of research, including seven pilot schemes, has been looking into how
effective Design Codes could be. In February 2005, CABE published 'Design Coding:
Testing its use in England' which drew on the interim findings of the ODPM's
Monitoring and Evaluation study of the Pilot Programme. The interim findings were
encouraging and demonstrated the potential for design codes, including the outcome
of higher quality of design.
83. The research programme will continue to track the progress of the pilots and the
experience of the stakeholders involved to inform policy. An evaluation of the pilot
programme will report in early 2006.
84. The ODPM are keen to investigate how far Design Codes could improve the quality of
development and improve the efficiency with which good development is delivered.
Part of this investigation involves understanding what a Design Code is and where it
might be appropriate to use them. For the purposes of the pilot programme, the
working definition of a Design Code is that it provides a set of sitespecific design
instructions, which is informed by a spatial master plan or other forms of urban design
proposals. It is a tool that can be used in the design and planning process, but goes
further and is more regulatory than other forms of guidance commonly used in the
English planning system.
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Q 14: How can construction be made more efficient in terms of natural resource use and
85. Government, industry and other stakeholders are currently working closely to see how
efficiency improvements can be made in construction material use and energy
consumption and waste minimisation.
86. In response to a recommendation by the Sustainable Buildings Task Force, a Code
for Sustainable Buildings is being developed by Government and Industry. It is
intended to be a voluntary scheme that will set out specified minimum performance
levels for energy, water, waste and materials efficiency. Once launched, it will be
applicable to all new buildings, with an initial focus on new build housing. Whilst the
Building Regulations will continue to set out the minimum legal standards for
buildings, the Code's minimum requirements will be higher than these. (Further details
of the Code for Sustainable Buildings can be found under the construction section of
the DTI website.)
87. Under the Sustainable and Secure Buildings Act 2004, the scope of the current
Building Regulations standards themselves are being extended to promote more
sustainable measures, including energy efficiency. Modern methods of construction
will be playing an increasing role and the Government is looking to capture the
benefits of a greater use of these to produce more, better homes in less time.
Potential benefits include faster construction, fewer housing defects, and reductions in
energy use and waste production.
88. The Government is taking a leadership role and through the English Partnerships'
Millennium Communities programme is encouraging house builders to use modern
methods of construction, adopt higher standards of design quality and utilise more
environmentally friendly materials, to reduce the consumption of resources in new
homes and promote a more sustainable way of living. Each of these Millennium
Communities will meet environmental performance standards for its buildings that are
more exacting than current building regulations. Each will have ecological and
environmental strategies aimed at energy efficiency and innovation in building
technology. (Further details of the Millennium Communities can be found on the
English Partnerships website).
89. Construction and demolition waste is the largest of all waste streams by tonnage. It
can prove a particularly acute cause of poor environmental quality in urban areas.
DEFRA have overall responsibility for waste policy, and the key to productive action is
to tackle in partnership with DTI the way the varied sectors of the construction industry
new building, renovation and repair, and demolition use material and manage their
waste. The issues include the storage, handling and use of materials on site, the
storage and sorting of waste arisings, and the management and reuse of waste
materials after leaving sites. Construction and demolition waste needs to move more
consistently into productive after uses rather than, at present, all too frequently going
to licensed landfill or illegal dumping. DEFRA are currently preparing regulations to
require the production of a Site Waste Management Plan for all projects above a
specified value, under new powers in the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment
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90. ODPM is acting to ensure the planning system contributes where it can towards more
sustainable outcomes for construction and demolition waste. PPS10, Planning for
Sustainable Waste Management, published in July 2005, is part of the Government's
wider package for improving the sustainability of all waste management. Paragraph
34 states that new development should be supported by site waste management
plans, anticipating DEFRA's proposed statutory requirement. Details of how to
prepare these will be given in the Practice Guide to support PPS10, dealing with
identifying the volume and type of material to be demolished and/or excavated, and
seeking opportunities for the reuse and recovery of materials. Site Waste Plans
should also demonstrate how offsite disposal of waste is to be minimised, and, where
it remains, managed.
91. Minerals planning policy has also given for many years strong encouragement to the
use of alternative materials, including construction and demolition waste in place of
primary aggregate, and to minimising waste in the use of aggregates (concrete,
asphalt, building sand, ballast and fill). The 2003 national aggregates supply
guidelines aim for a 63% increase in the annual use of aggregate alternatives in the
period up to 2016, compared to the period up to 2001. This builds on strong progress
over the past 15 years, during which the proportion of aggregate use derived from
alternative sources, mainly construction and demolition waste, has risen from about
10% to about 25%. And the draft Annex 1 to Minerals Policy Statement 1, on
Aggregates Provision in England, issued for consultation in July 2005, sets out as
main objectives of policy the minimisation of waste, efficiency in use, and the
encouragement of recycling and the use of alternatives (which include a large element
of hard construction, demolition and excavation waste).
Q 15: How can the environmental impact of buildings in the domestic and commercial
sectors be reduced?
92. Reducing the environmental impacts of buildings requires pursuing a range of
approaches at the building, neighbourhood and city levels. The creation of
Sustainable Communities, of places where people want to live and work now and in
the future, requires addressing the whole range of issues that the built environment
embraces. In this respect, environmental measures, aesthetics, good design and
householder satisfaction are intrinsically linked, along with economic and other social
93. High quality design plays a crucial role in reducing the environmental impact of all
buildings. It is important to improve the quality of existing individual buildings (such as
through the Decent Homes initiative of improving thermal efficiencies), as well as
embedding the principles of better design within and across new development
schemes. Good design improves the quality of local environments and the longterm
durability of places, and must be considered in the early stages of any project by all
parties. The careful planning of location of new developments is also crucial, for
instance to restrict the loss of greenfield sites and the need to travel.
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94. In recognition of the importance of design, Government has significantly increased its
support to the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) to
provide a range of programmes to improve design quality. Many buildings are
modified within the first few years of being built. Some of this work is quite extensive
and involves materials and components being removed and replaced. New materials
have impacts on resources and discarded materials from small sites are difficult to
recycle. Better design may create better user satisfaction thereby avoiding premature
95. As previously mentioned the Code for Sustainable Buildings is a voluntary initiative
being developed by Government and Industry. The Code will cover a wide range of
themes, including the efficient use of potable water, and consist of clear simple and
precise performance based compliance criteria. We will issue a formal consultation
paper later this year (October). The Code will consist of a series of performance
levels, and set out clearly specified minimum performance levels for resource
efficiency, including water
96. Building Regulations can also be used to reduce the environmental impact of
buildings, for example through powers in both the Building Act 1984 and the Water
Industry Act 1991 to deal with preventing waste, undue consumption, misuse or
contamination of water. Traditionally these requirements were dealt with by Water
Bylaws and more recently the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999.
97. Following the Better Building Summit it was decided that water conservation should
be pursued through the Building Regulations. Part G, Hygiene, of the Building
Regulations already deals with appliances that use water in buildings so is a natural
home for possible guidance on using water conservation. Part G is currently under
review and the means of bringing water conservation into the Building Regulations is
Q 16: How can environmentally sustainable transport systems be encouraged?
98. Whilst transport is primarily the responsibility of the Department of Transport (DFT),
the ODPM continues to play a critical role through the planning system and specific
99. Planning Policy Guidance Note 13 (PPG13) on transport sets out guidance on the
integration of planning and transport from a national to local level. PPG13 actively
o more sustainable transport choices for both people and freight,
o accessibility to jobs, shopping and leisure facilities and services by public
transport, walking and cycling, and
o the reduction in need to travel, especially by car.
100. These objectives are supported by a series of principles which local authorities need
to have regard to when (a) preparing their development plans and (b) considering
planning applications. The reduction in the amount of car parking is a key aspect of
the policy in PPG13. PPG3 asks for local parking policies to be framed with good
design in mind, and that standards should be expressed as maximum standards.
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101. Good practice guidance for urban design and transport is set out in “Places, Streets
and Movement a companion guide to Design Bulletin 32: residential roads and
footpaths” as well as “Bydesign: Urban design in the planning system towards better
practice”. The ODPM and DFT has also jointly carried out research into the
relationship between the delivery of quality residential environments set out in the
Government’s planning policy on housing in PPG3 and the current system of new
highway adoption in England. The Government is in the process of preparing a design
manual that will deal comprehensively with design, management and adoption of
residential streets which will be informed by the previous research
102. The crossGovernment Cleaner, Safer, Greener Communities programme will aim to
improve the quality of the local environment, and thereby create better conditions for
increased levels of walking and cycling.
Q 17: What would be the most effective way of managing the growing demand for water?
What other measures should be used to reduce demand and encourage efficiency?
103. Responsibility for water resources, supply capabilities and demand management
measures such as water metering and leakage control rests with DEFRA, the
Environment Agency, OFWAT and the water industry. ODPM does not hold any
independent data on which it would be able, or wish, to form a view different to that of
104. The part of the Building Regulations that deals with water service in buildings (Part G)
is currently under review. The scope of Part G is being expanded to enable the
consideration of water conservation. Likely proposals include a mandatory
requirement for certain appliances that use less water
Q 18: What measures are needed to improve the quality of sustainable urban drainage
and sewerage, and address changing flood risk?
105. The primary responsibility for measures to improve the quality of sustainable urban
drainage and sewerage, and address changing flood risk rests with DEFRA. In
revising PPG25 into PPS25 (a newstyle planning statement on Development and
Flood Risk) later in 2005, ODPM will strengthen the promotion of sustainable drainage
systems in new development, as well as refining the overall approach to matching the
location and type of development to the degree of risk.
106. To complement the revised PPS 25 research is in progress to examine what form of
building construction might be flood resistant or resilient to flood damage. If reliable
methods are identified, they will be used to support guidance for buildings in areas
with a moderate risk of flooding.
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Q 19: To what extent can new technologies be harnessed to use waste for energy
generation, compost, recycling, etc?
107. Issues concerning waste management technologies are for DEFRA. The planning
system is neutral about technologies the choice of technology at site level depends
on the structure of the local waste strategy, the geographical pattern of provision in
the region and local authority area. This is in accordance with policies in the current
development plan, and the overriding principles of driving waste up the hierarchy
towards more sustainable activities based more on increased reuse and recycling,
and less on disposal.
108. This is encouraged in the newlyissued Planning Policy Statement 10 (PPS10):
Planning for Sustainable Waste Management. However, the planning system can only
set out a framework of policies and plans what actually happens depends on the
right applications coming forward, and going through a system informed by the
Sustainability Appraisal of development plans and (often) the application of
Environment Impact Assessment to proposals at site level. As the move away from
landfill and towards increased recycling gathers momentum, the varied components of
the waste stream require more specialised treatment. This is encouraging the
adoption of a range of new technologies.
109. The Buildings Regulations guidance on solid waste storage was revised in 2002
before ODPM had the benefit of the Sustainable and Secure Buildings Act 2004. This
meant that provisions for recycling could not be mandatory in requirement H6. The
guidance for waste storage to houses recommends the provision of sufficient space
for at least 2 containers to permit recycling. For larger buildings the guidance
recommends that developers consult waste collection authority on waste matters
before they finalise their designs. Feedback from building control bodies indicates that
designers are starting to make better provision for waste.
Q 20: What is the overall contribution of urban nature to biodiversity in the UK and is it
110. The Government is acting on range of fronts to ensure that urban natures continues to
make a positive contribution to biodiversity.
111. Planning Policy Guidance note 17 (PPG17) on planning for open space, sport and
recreation and the recently published Planning Policy Statement 9 (PPS 9) on
biodiversity and geological conservation set out the Government's objectives and
policy framework on planning for green space and biodiversity in England. The
Commission is invited to take these documents into account when addressing the
issues under this question.
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112. CABE Space, the Governmentfunded national champion for parks and public spaces,
has produced guidance for local authorities on developing green spaces strategies
and management plans, both of which cover biodiversity issues. It will also be
publishing good practice guidance on managing biodiversity in green spaces. CABE's
Start with the Park guidance also focuses on creating parks and green spaces in
housing growth and renewal areas that can perform a range of social and
environmental functions, including flood control.
The Thames Gateway
113. ODPM is committed to ensuring that development in the Thames Gateway is set
within a network of green spaces, so that everyone has access to local parks and
green areas, including formal gardens and parks, large woodlands, open countryside,
wetlands and the riverside. In 2004, we published Greening the Gateway, a
greenspace strategy for Thames Gateway, in partnership with DEFRA. This was
followed in February 2005 with the Greening the Gateway Implementation Plan, which
clarified how Government, its agencies and its partners will support the delivery of
greenspace in the Thames Gateway
114. Greening the Gateway promotes functional green infrastructure, offering a wide range
of benefits including healthy recreation, biodiversity protection and enhancement and
flood risk management through water storage. A key element of this strategy is the
development of "Green Grids" covering the Thames Gateway area. The "Green Grid"
approach emphasises the importance of physically linking together parcels of
greenspace, as well as focusing attention on the practical environmental and social
benefits which urban greenspace can deliver.
115. To date, we have invested £26m in greenspace projects from the ODPM Thames
Gateway programme fund including;
o £4.65m for environmental improvements in North Kent, including green grid
projects at Swanscombe Heritage Park, Darenth Valley and Shorne Woods
o £5m for the London Riverside Conservation Park at Rainham and Averley
Marshes and the restoration of Erith, Crayford and Dartford Marshes; and
o £2m to provide for a 74 hectare conservation site at Nevenden Nature
Reserve in Basildon.
116. On 14 January 2004, ODPM announced an allocation of £11.5million to deliver new
or improved strategic greenspaces in the three growth areas Ashford, Milton Keynes/
South Midlands and LondonStanstedCambridgePeterborough to kick start the
Government’s longterm vision to provide high quality greenspaces for new and
existing communities. Fourteen projects were selected that will improve and reclaim
degraded landscapes, enhance the rural/urban fringe and protect valuable habitats.
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117. Some examples of these are:
o Dunstable Downs is receiving £1.5m to provide a new flagship facility to
accommodate additional visitors resulting from the nearby growth and will allow
for restoration and effective management of nationally important chalk downland
creating habitats for plant and animal species to thrive. The scheme is being
managed through the Chilterns Gateway Steering Group including Bedfordshire
County Council, The National Trust, South Beds District Council, Luton Borough
Council, the North Chilterns trust and the Chilterns Conservation Board.
o Ashford has a well established network of green open spaces along its rivers but
there are 'missing links' which will become increasingly important as the
population of Ashford is set to grow substantially by 2016. The green corridors
project aims to connect the missing links in the pedestrian/cycle network and to
ensure that the network connects the town to the new development areas and the
countryside beyond. A Business and Biodiversity Advisor is closely involved
ensuring regeneration and effective management of important habitat for local
animal and plant life is achieved.
o Coton Reserve will create a new greenspace to the west of Cambridge and will
include enhancements to the existing Coton path linking Cambridge to the
Reserve. Coton Countryside Reserve will be created on land already owned by
the Cambridge Preservation Society and will maintain the land as a working farm
while at the same time enhancing provision for the local wildlife, public access
o The Forest of Marston Vale is working to transform 61 square miles of land in a
key location between Bedford and Milton Keynes – with a long term aim of
achieving 30% woodland cover. £2.8m will ensure a wide range of environment
and community benefits, including landscape improvement, wildlife conservation,
agricultural diversification, recreation provision, employment generation and
Q 21: Could an ecosystems approach provide practical benefits for urban areas?
118. No ODPM response.
Q 22: To what extent do the technologies and systems exist to underpin such an
119. No ODPM response.
Q 23: What is the role of the various bodies involved in urban policy?
120. There are many different bodies that contribute to the development and
implementation of urban policy in the UK. Many of these bodies are Government
departments or agencies and some are supported by the Government through
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121. At national level, English Partnerships' (EP) serves as the Government's national
regeneration agency with a strategic role in land assembly – particularly surplus public
sector land for urban regeneration and housing growth. It works closely with public
and private sector partners and actively engages local communities to promote high
quality sustainable urban growth in England.
Regional Development Agencies
122. At regional level, the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) are nondepartmental
public bodies (NDPBs) which serve as the strategic leaders of urban regeneration and
economic development in the 9 English Regions. They are business led organisations
that ensure economic development in the regions takes into account the current and
future needs of local and regional communities and the natural environment in which
123. Local authorities have a crucial role in delivering urban regeneration on the ground by
leading local partnerships and bringing stakeholders together to help meet local
needs and priorities, providing a focal point for local decisions. Government policy has
placed partnership working much closer to the centre of the Local Government
Modernisation Agenda. The creation of a power of wellbeing has allowed local
authorities to carry out activities which promote the economic, social and
environmental wellbeing of their community.
124. Local authorities are at the heart of urban policy and have a crucial community
leadership role, being well placed to bring together public, private, voluntary and
community organisations to shape the future of an area around a shared Sustainable
Community Strategy. They are also important in relation to the delivery of services
themselves which impact on the quality of the urban environment street cleaning,
parks and open spaces, planning, etc.
125. The mission of the Government Offices is to work with regional partners, including
local authorities, businesses, local education authorities, voluntary organisations and
the health service, and local people to help create sustainable communities and to
maximise competitiveness and prosperity in the region. Their role is to manage
regional programmes on behalf of ten participating central government Departments,
to support and facilitate effective links between partners and contribute to the
development of Departments’ policies from a regional perspective. Government
Offices in the regions are part of central Government.
126. In developing urban policy Government Offices work with key stakeholders in Local
Strategic Partnerships, Market Renewal pathfinders, Urban Development Companies
and Neighbourhood Renewal partnerships to meet the overall aim that 'noone is
seriously disadvantaged by where they live'.
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Voluntary and Community Sector
127. The voluntary and community sector can play a large part in the development and
delivery of community strategies, working through community networks and umbrella
voluntary organisations where appropriate. In addition, the voluntary sector is well
placed to deliver activity with local communities, highlighting the importance of
creating local sustainable environments. Liveability has become increasingly
important to Local Strategic Partnerships, and is now part of the Neighbourhood
128. Community involvement in the Cleaner Safer Greener Communities agenda is vital. It
is a priority to engage and empower local people. Some of the most successful
spaces are created and cared for by the community the people who use the space
and know what is needed.
129. Not only can communities play a vital role in design and delivery but involvement in
community activity can lead to greater community cohesion and empowerment. The
voluntary and community sector can play a number of roles which overlap. They can
a) articulate the 'voice' of local people; b) support public service delivery and c)
directly deliver services or projects. 'Grassroots' involvement in its various forms
almost always contributes to the sustainability of programmes and projects.
130. The voluntary and community sector has a vital role to play in the delivery and
management of good quality, well designed, safe public spaces and local
environments. The sector is a major source of skills, knowledge and expertise and
can facilitate community engagement and empowerment. Groundwork, the British
Trust of Conservation Volunteers (BTCV), Wildlife Trusts and other voluntary and
community sector organisations already provide a widerange of opportunities for
people to learn new skills by involving them in practical environmental projects.
131. The Government want to see more of this work and more support through
organisations such as Groundwork where communities are actively engaged in
making decisions about their area, including the design, implementation and
management of projects. In addition, ODPM's 3 year (2003/4 05/6) £30m Living
Spaces scheme gives direct help to communities to create or improve parks and
green spaces on their doorstep. The response has been overwhelming which
indicates the very real desire of people to improve their local environment.
132. One challenge we face is the extent to which people believe they can influence
decisions affecting their local area.
Urban Regeneration Companies
133. The 21 Urban Regeneration Companies (URCs) are a Government sponsored
initiative, spread across most of the country. Their primary role is to address
significant latent development opportunities by developing and managing the
implementation of a plan, agreed by the key stakeholders following public
consultation, to realise a vision for the sustainable future of the area over a set and
viable timescale. URCs form key regeneration delivery vehicles for the Sustainable
Communities Plan (SCP), with three located in Growth Areas. Several others are
working very closely with other initiatives such as Housing Market Renewal
Page 25 of 28
134. URCs are not central government controlled or led, but are the creation of
local/regional partners, in the form of Regional Development Agencies and Local
Authorities, usually with the support of the national regeneration agency, English
Partnerships. The latter is able to advise on national best practice and
implementation in respect of sustainable development.
135. URCs all include strong community representation, often via the Local Strategic
Partnership, and so have close connections with and help to support other locally
operating initiatives and those involved in them. A primary role of URCs is to involve
the private sector in the regeneration of their area, both through attracting business to
what is seen as an improving and desirable location, and by interacting with the local
community through consultations over their masterplans, and ensuring the wide
spread of information about their operations. The URC's agenda, in each case, is
driven by local and regional priorities, informed through regular public consultation
and feedback, and incorporating board level private sector expertise and
Q 24: What part could (a) economic instruments and (b) good practice guidance or other
improved management approaches play in improving standards?
136. The ODPM recognise that sharing information and experience is critical in the
development of best practice implementation and as such has developed a range of
measures which support and promote good practice.
How to Programme
137. The 'How to' Programme has been designed to share and encourage best practice
and develop new approaches to developing cleaner, safer, greener public spaces,
focussing on town centres, residential areas and parks and open spaces. By alerting
local leaders and practitioners to the tools and powers available and how others have
approached problems, we believe this will lead to more effective action at the local
Deputy Prime Minister’s Award
138. The Deputy Prime Minister's Award for Sustainable Communities recognises people,
projects and initiatives that contribute to making towns, cities and communities,
including those in rural areas, better places in which to live and work. They pay tribute
to those people whose commitment and enthusiasm are making a significant
contribution towards the building of thriving and successful communities.
139. The Award is very much a part of the Sustainable Communities Plan rollout and as
such is an effective communications tool. They draw attention to and create a
database of outstanding examples of projects and programmes that are delivering
sustainable communities in England which others can refer to. They share best
practice and draw attention to the success at the creation of sustainable communities
the core purpose of the Department on the ground.
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Academy for Sustainable Communities
140. The Academy for Sustainable Communities’ purpose is to inspire and enable people
across different fields to work together in a coherent, farsighted approach to creating
and renewing our communities. The Academy is now working on a series of
workstreams around promoting best practice and understanding, including developing
resources and learning programmes for various delivery partnerships. For example
the Academy and DEFRA are jointly commissioning a learning programme for LSPs
on sustainable development principles within the context of sustainable communities.
Q 25: Why have the changes that would be needed to make urban areas more
environmentally sustainable not been effectively implemented before now, given that
some of the proposed solutions have been around for several decades?
141. ODPM has a firm track record on protection and cultivation of the urban environment
since 1997 we have introduced a range of measures designed to make urban areas
more environmentally sustainable. For example, we have supported the following
o Introduced the PSA8 target to lead delivery on creating Cleaner, Safer, Greener
o Established public green space champion CABE Space
o Piloted the Liveability Fund and now Safer and Stronger Communities Fund
o Provided Living Spaces grant & support for local public space improvements
o Increased by 26% the number of Green Flag Award winning spaces compared
o Increased by 8% public satisfaction with parks and open spaces
o Introduced the Code for Sustainable Buildings which will be piloted in the Thames
o Increased development on brownfield land up from 56% in 1997 to 70% in 2004
o Increased the density of new developments from 25 houses per hectare in 1997
to 40 per hectare in 2004
o Added 19,000 hectares an area the size of Liverpool to the green belt
o Revised the energy efficiency provisions in the Building Regulations (Part L),
including raising domestic boiler standards to Class A/B condensing levels
Q 26: Is the implementation and enforcement of current legislation and standards
effective? To what extent are better regulation and enforcement required to improve the
environmental sustainability of urban areas?
142. An important aspect of having good implementation and enforcement is having better
regulations to enforce. Broadly speaking the current implementation and enforcement
of regulations is effective, but it could be made more so and the Government are
committed to delivering the right regulatory structure that will reduce administrative
burdens, without reducing regulatory outcomes. The areas for reform to
deliver better regulation and enforcement that Government have identified include:
o Better Regulatory Impact Assessment to create regulations that are easy to
enforce and easier to understand
o Consolidation of national regulators to create simpler more consistent
o Fewer regulators to deal with leading to better risk assessment
o Better coordination of local authority regulatory service
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o Clearer prioritisation of regulatory requirements by Government departments
and national regulators
o Better accountability throughout the regulatory system
143. This should ensure that new regulations are therefore appropriate and proportionate.
Q 27: Is the UK’s science and knowledge base sufficient to support current urban policies
and guide development in a more environmentally sustainable direction? If not, what are
the most important gaps?
144. There is already a substantial body of knowledge and research programmes
underway by a range of organisations. ODPM is contributing to developing the
evidence further, for example, through the State of the Cities research to support
urban policy (see question 1 ODPM response for further information).
145. ODPM is in the process of developing a State of the Cities Database (available in
2006) and as part of this has explored the possibility of including a range of
environmental indicators for urban areas. Despite improved data collection and
reporting, limited data on environmental quality are available on a consistent basis
across different spatial levels and time periods. These indicators will be tracked over
time and as data on environmental quality improves, we will add to the database. The
database will provide a resource for cities and government to monitor economic,
social and environmental trends at different spatial levels for policy and action
146. Recent data and GIS developments in Government are improving the evidence base
to inform development decisions, and recent reforms to the planning system require
planning authorities to use evidence more systematically, for example in the
sustainability appraisal of regional spatial strategy and local development frameworks.
However there is more to do in developing our understanding of the spatial impact of
147. The extent to which existing knowledge is used to guide development is an issue, and
one which was addressed by the Egan Review of Skills for Sustainable Communities.
This mantle has now been taken on by the Academy for Sustainable Communities.
Q 28: Are there any other any major questions associated with the environmental
sustainability of urban areas that the Commission should examine?
148. It may be useful to consider the language used in relation to the urban environment
and whether a common language would help improve understanding and action
across different disciplines and sectors. A wide range of occupations from planners,
architects, landscape professionals, environmental health, local and central
government, police, educators and business as well as the people who live there
all impact on urban areas. This is recognised in the development of the Academy for
Sustainable Communities, where the improving the quality of life for everyone needs
to respond to the challenge of pooling knowledge, resources and skills from different
sectors to work together in driving up standards.
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