Agenda item

Draft Climate Change Supplementary Planning Document consultation

Report of the Cabinet Member Climate Emergency


The Cabinet Member Climate Emergency presented the report, noting that planning formed an important part of the council’s declaration of a climate emergency. Current planning regulations, both locally and nationally, were not adequate to meet the demands of tackling the climate emergency. This report was part of a bottom-up approach that would lead on the issue, and he hoped that their introduction of the SPD would feed up into the national planning agenda. He noted that last year’s attempt by national government to update planning rules had run aground partly due to local authorities not being convinced that the changes would adequately tackle climate change.

He noted that the report was clear and understandable, with infographics for clarity, and at 30 pages long it was also concise. Nobody could be left in any doubt of the standards the council was expecting of future developments, including new build homes, extensions and retrofits, both domestic and non-domestic. It came along at an important time, with the Climate Emergency Action Plan and Cheltenham Green Deal having been adopted last week, and applications for the town’s first carbon neutral homes having recently been passed by Planning Committee. It was encouraging to see that developers were already taking notice of the agenda being set by the council.

The SPD called for all developments to meet high standards, moving beyond gas-powered properties entirely. This would be beneficial not only environmentally but also in terms of energy security, with recent events making clear that global fossil fuel markets did not guarantee this. A clear message was being sent to developers that if they wanted to develop in Cheltenham, they needed to meet higher standards than before. The document would form a key part of the planning process and would inform the decisions made by Planning Committee. There was no excuse for developers to not pay heed to it. The next step was now consultation, in order to find out the views of the local community.

The Cabinet Member Housing praised the SPD’s conciseness and clarity, and emphasised the need for partners across the town, county and region to hold themselves to the same standards as this authority. Public consultation was key, and the county council had not adequately done this before removing the vegetation around the Arle Court Transport Hub.

The Cabinet Member Customer and Regulatory Services added that he was fully behind the SPD as the Cabinet Member responsible for planning. It was putting the climate emergency declaration into practice, and should put Cheltenham in the spotlight nationally as a radical leader on the topic. It set out vital steps to mitigate the dangerous consequences of climate change and the ecological crisis that goes hand in hand with it. He was pleased with the focus on biodiversity and the wide range of buildings it covered, as well as radical steps like encouraging new buildings to not connect to the gas grid.

The Cabinet Member Safety and Communities echoed this, stressing that it was an opportunity to change the way things were, especially considering upcoming major developments like West Cheltenham. It would also provide an opportunity for other authorities to learn how they can make a difference. She hoped that the county council would follow their lead and update their own transport policies in pursuit of net zero.

The Cabinet Member Cyber and Strategic Transport emphasised the need to make major comprehensive changes in the way they did things to tackle climate change. Changes in national policy were needed too, since developers could appeal if their applications were rejected on the basis of failing to meet the SPD’s requirements. They needed to be careful that the SPD was not undermined by this.

The Cabinet Member Climate Emergency thanked Members for their contributions, highlighting the importance of consultation and sending a clear message. Developers needed to know that if they did not follow the guidelines now, it would cost them in the future in retrofitting. This was especially key for larger developers, who tended to place less of an emphasis on the needs of the community. The county council had made an announcement on the 28th February about mass transit, and he was hoping to get more detail on this soon to reassure him that they were moving in the right direction too. While the council could put in place their own policy and direct things at a local level, there was inevitably a risk that national government will lag behind. Nonetheless, they needed to take their role as change-makers seriously, and take the lead rather than being passive.

The Leader moved to the vote, where it was unanimously:



1.    The draft Climate Change SPD be approved for public consultation. The consultation is proposed to run for just over 4 weeks between 7 March 2022 and 4 April 2022.

Supporting documents: