Half way through Landmark’s 30th Anniversary year, July 2015 has certainly been eventful. The drive by the new Government to encourage economic growth by deregulating planning process and altering the thrust of development policy, which we anticipated from early policy announcements in June, has continued, indeed accelerated. The past few weeks have seen major policy changes which fundamentally change the route established by successive UK governments towards a competitive and sustainable economy.
Just as the White House announced a 32% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to bring the US into line with international efforts to address climate change, the UK announced a roll call of cancelled policies and programmes designed to support transition to a low carbon economy. These include: withdrawal of support for solar PV installation as part of the future energy mix (hot on the heels of the June announcement of the suspension of onshore wind), withdrawal of financial support for conversion from fossil fuels to biomass energy, cancellation of the zero carbon homes policy, new rules for vehicle tax that will discourage use of low emission vehicles, removal of the restriction of shale gas exploration from ecologically sensitive areas, and sale of the bulk of the Green Investment Bank, set up to fund sustainable developments that struggle to gain funding elsewhere. All in all, not bad for a months’ work.
The need for cost effective systems to deliver much needed development isn’t for a moment doubted, nor is the need to repay government debt and achieve good national housekeeping. The effect of abrupt and ad hoc changes to policy, withdrawal of support to fledgling industries and ‘streamlining’ of a planning system that is already buckling under the pressure of limited resources, is nonetheless deeply worrying – for investors, communities and the future of the natural environment.
On a more mundane note, we would like to thank all of our clients and colleagues for their patience whilst we survived for 7 days without access to internet. Just as government policy is looking back to the dark ages so, for a very long week, did Landmark – resorting to submitting planning applications by post (a revelation to some of our younger staff), writing and posting letters, and using the telephone rather than email to contact colleagues. We are now back in the 21st Century, and very relieved.