Agenda item

Climate Change Supplementary Planning Document Adoption

Report of the Cabinet Member Climate Emergency


The Cabinet Member Climate Emergency introduced the report, noting that Cheltenham was England’s most complete Regency town, with its many Regency buildings having undergone many changes in use over time to remain valuable and relevant in the modern day. The council needed to ensure that what they built next lived up to the same aspirations, allowing future generations to enjoy them in the same way. Future developments in the town needed to be resilient, and adapt to the world as it would be as well as how it was now. To deliver this, they had to implement important checks and balances for developments against their climate goals. Failing to take action on the climate was not an option.

She emphasised that the supplementary planning document (SPD) was intentionally as ambitious as it could be within their legal remit. It was not just a statement of what they valued, but a real set of commitments to underpin future policy. The council’s excellent climate team had included numerous useful ideas and suggestions to help developers make their applications more climate-friendly, and the document gave a clear sense of the landscape in which they would be building, both in a physical and regulatory sense. It was a good looking document which should be both interesting and easy to understand. She thanked the councillors who had worked on the topic over the years, especially the previous Cabinet Member for the climate emergency, and officers from both the planning and environment teams. In summary, she stressed the need for substantial action to change the way the council operated, starting with a road map for building a more climate friendly town.

One Member praised the way that data was presented in the SPD, making it very clear and easy to understand;  another, while sceptical about some of the figures regarding energy savings, was happy to follow up with the Cabinet Member and officers about it offline.  The Green group said this was exactly the kind of document that they wanted to see.

In response to Member questions, the Cabinet Member Climate Emergency said that:

-       When approved, the guidance would apply to all applications determined from now on, not to those applications already in the system.  The Director of Community and Economic Development confirmed this;

-       The continual updating of the document with local examples of applications approved or rejected by the council, based on the guidance, would be useful, although it would probably need to be in a separate location so that the main document did not need to be continually republished;

-       The document’s principles generally supported the protection of nature reserves and local wildlife sites, but it could be updated if it became necessary to highlight the issue at any point.

-       The SPD would was not policy, but would underpin the Cheltenham Plan, and could be used by Planning Committee when determining applications;

-       Regarding enforcement strategy, the up-coming planning review coming up would look at every aspect of the process, including enforcement. At this point, their approach had to focus on the carrot rather than the stick, since they were limited in terms of consequences for developers who failed to comply.

-       She was keen to see the policy become embedded in the broader planning processes once approved, so that Members’ enthusiasm for the policy translated into material outcomes and fed into existing policies – as demonstrated at the recent Planning Committee where an application which offered no improvements to its area in terms of flood management was rejected, with the SPD guidance forming a useful framework through which to view it;

-       She agreed that making developers understand it was not just about making as much money as possible was key, and the recently-permitted Newlands development on Shurdington Road had shown that private sector developers could deliver zero-carbon housing.

There being no further questions, the Mayor moved into debate.

The Chair of Planning Committee praised the document as an ambitious and robust piece of work. CBC was way ahead of national government on the subject, and was leading the way as the most progressive and green local authority in the country in terms of planning guidance. Stronger national legislation was needed in order to properly underpin this guidance. The Planning Committee had recently rejected a proposal for 350 homes on the basis that they all had gas boilers, and they were proud that they had stuck to their guns. Member training on the topic would be a helpful next step.

Other Members made the following points:

-        achieving change was not easy, and the council always needed to push harder and aim far in advance of what they thought they might get. Over the years they had taken a varied approach which oscillated between taking the safe option and being ambitious, and they were pleased they had committed to the latter now.

-       radical ambition was to be praised. It was particularly good to see a section on biodiversity and nature recovery, taking into account the parallel crisis in species extinction.

The Cabinet Member Climate Emergency thanked Members for their contributions and asked that they approve the recommendations in the report.

There being no further comments, the Mayor moved to the vote, where the recommendations were unanimously approved.


1.    the proposed Climate Change SPD attached as Appendix 2 be adopted.

2.    authority be delegated to the Head of Planning, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency, to make any necessary further minor changes to the document;

3.    there is a commitment to a programme of on-going training for Members and Officers about how to optimise use the SPD to help support the authority’s 2030 net zero objectives;

4.    there is commitment to ensuring that emerging Development Plan Policy has appropriate policy hooks to better integrate the objectives of the SPD into the planning process, thereby giving the document greater weight in decision-making;

5.    there is commitment to using the SPD to lobby the Chief Planner and government through the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) and others, to urgently improve national policy and provide more effective measures to help combat climate change through the planning system.

Supporting documents: