So the Localism Bill will not define ‘Sustainable Development’. We can’t pretend we didn’t see this coming. But it’s still a shocker, for many more reasons than I’ll go into here.
Let’s just think about one: what it reveals about what we mean by ‘localism’. The (New) Localism that I understand would accept the universal definition of Sustainable Development (which we have basically had since 2005’s Securing the Future) and make decisions locally informed by this, and by local circumstances.
In contrast, what we’re heading for is local government, in effect, being free to (in fact, being obliged to) define ‘sustainable development’ itself. As well as the additional burden, and the additional complication and contestability this adds to planning decisions, it will legitimise decisions based on prioritising economic growth at the expense of social and environmental sustainability.
As they say on message boards, *facepalm*.
Legal definition of sustainability ruled out
The government has been accused of “paying lip service” to protecting the environment after refusing to define in law what ‘sustainable development’ means.
Joan Walley MP (Lab), chair of the environmental audit committee, said her committee had been “fobbed off” after ministers refused to act on one of its key recommendations.
Changes proposed in the localism bill will introduce a “presumption in favour of sustainable development”, meaning that councils default answer to planning applications should be ‘yes’.
In a report in March, the committee called for the bill to include a definition of the term ‘sustainable development’ and for it to include “the five recognised principles of sustainable development”.
However, in its response to the report, published on Monday, the government said the measures would not be necessary as the new National Planning Policy Framework would outline “the key principles that should underpin every aspect of planning”, making a legal definition unnecessary.