Towards a more democratic and climate friendly way of meeting housing need across England

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"In the UK, the built environment as a whole is responsible for 42% of national emissions. The manner in which we produce, operate and renew our built environment continues to curtail biodiversity, pollute ecosystems and encourage unsustainable lifestyles." Architects Climate Action Network

"an absolutely groundbreaking result for climate justice".
"This judgment has exciting wider implications for keeping climate change at the heart of all planning decisions.
"It's time for developers and public authorities to be held to account when it comes to the climate impact of their damaging developments." Will Rundle, head of legal at the campaign group, Friends of the Earth, Feb 27, 2020, in response to "Climate campaigners win Heathrow expansion case" [1]

"The problems of housing affect most of us. The solutions need to involve all of us, too." Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts, 2015 [2]

What communities can do[edit | edit source]

  • demand that government and politicians at all levels of government tell the truth about the carbon cost of new housing development.
  • demand a more democratic system of meeting housing need
  • demand a system which allows local communities to consider environmental carrying capacity and carbon costs of development, and enables them to influence the level of development to align with national and local carbon reduction targets
  • support and encourage local politicians and other commentators who speak up against the undemocratic nature of the existing planning system
  • form alliances to advocate for a more democratic and climate friendly planning system, for example of all areas concerned about overdevelopment, or regional alliances
  • find and work with developers who explicitly concern themselves with the needs and wishes of local communities as determined and expressed by those local communities themselves, and more sustainable forms of housing
  • advocate that 'objectively assessed housing need', a phrase designed to impart a false and inappropriate sense of 'authority', and to cover up what are essentially political choices, be replaced with 'democratically assessed housing need'.
  • demand better data, more transparency and better exposition of relevant data, such as the size and age composition of migration flows, and better measures of genuinely affordable and sustainable housing.

The carbon costs of new housing developments[edit | edit source]

New housing development has carbon costs from both the construction and use of the development.

It is arguable that the present system of carbon accounting does not adequately show, and make transparent, particularly to local communities affected, these carbon costs.

Given that Local plans cover several future years, this is especially of concern in the 2020's decade when as a nation, and as local communities, we should be reducing carbon costs.

The carbon costs associated with use of new housing developments has typically in recent years continued to lock us into, for the 2020's decade, yet more car dependency, when its clear we should be and should have been, promoting more sustainable means of transport.

National and local carbon costs of new housing development[edit | edit source]

A recent (Sep 2020) article [3] by Julian Stringer of Action on Climate in Teignbridge, in response to “Changes to The Current Planning System”, [4] as well as extensive investigation into the likely local effects includes a paragraph on how this might play out nationally: "Building 300,000 houses a year, rather than 160,000 means that 140,000 extra houses will be built. Using 60t per house, embedded emissions from these additional houses will be 8.4Mt , UK GHG emissions in 2019 were 351.5Mt, so this is unnecessary housebuilding could add 2.4% to UK emissions each year."

Across a range of local areas eg the whole of the South of England, for some areas the percentage addition attributable to embedded emissions will of course be higher than a national average, and further additional percentages will be attributable to transport and travel implications of the new developments.

In addition to the many negative consequences that some are aware of, eg CPRE Kent supports county MPs in attack on 'inherently unreasonable' new housing targets [5], it seems unlikely that many people are fully aware of the extent to which proposed changes would also be locking us into higher and higher, year on year carbon costs throughout the next decade when of course we should instead be reducing carbon costs.

Disempowered communities?[edit | edit source]

Under the present (eg as at Jan 2020) planning system local authorities and communities are effectively dictated to by central government over the housing provision they are required to make via Local Plans. Not only this but those that refuse to plan for the central government numbers are threatened with even higher numbers being imposed.

Concerning the level of housing provision local communities are expected to make, any climate concerns local communities may have are not in any way catered for in the Local plan system. Central governments position that climate concerns are irrelevant looks particularly perverse, especially in the light of its own climate change legislation.

Citizens assemblies focused on housing[edit | edit source]

In recent years citizen's assemblies have been proposed as a potential solution to dealing with divisive and highly-politicised issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion, and decarbonisation measures.

The citizens’ assembly aims to reinstall trust in the political process by taking direct ownership of decision-making. To that end, citizens' assemblies intend to remedy the "divergence of interests" that arises between elected representatives and the electorate, as well as "a lack in deliberation in legislatures."

The global environmental movement Extinction Rebellion has called for citizen's assemblies on climate change to be used by governments to make decisions on climate and environmental justice. In the UK, Extinction Rebellion's 3rd demand is: 'government must create and be led by the decisions of a citizens’ assembly on climate and ecological justice.' W

Citizens assemblies focused on housing would aim to tackle housing need and fair, equitable and sustainable housing provision consistent with both carbon reduction targets and environmental carrying capacity of regions.

An England citizens assembly[edit | edit source]

An England citizens assembly could, with appropriate expert advice, consider national and regional housing need, fair and proportionate carbon reduction targets for housebuilding, ways of meeting housing need more sustainably at less carbon cost, and the environmental carrying capacity of regions.

Citizens, communities and government must insist that the housebuilding sector take full responsibility for its fair and proportionate share of carbon reduction as this is the best way to ensure that the transition to zero carbon is as fair as possible to all sections of society.

Regional citizens assemblies[edit | edit source]

Regional citizens assemblies could then follow a similar process to determine fair and reasonable targets for housebuilding across their region, again informed by carbon reduction targets and environmental carrying capacity of bioregions. In subsequent iterations of the planning cycle, the experience, concerns and expertise of regional citizens assemblies would feed back into the next national citizens assembly.

Affordable housing[edit | edit source]

"... but policy makers know that if they simply allow more housing to be built the ways its always been done it will result in more carbon emissions, deepening the city's contribution to the climate crisis." Kate Raworth

Some great questions about affordable housing from just after 7 mins into this video.

Community-led housing in the UK[edit | edit source]

In the UK, community-led housing currently constitutes less than 1% of housing stock. There have been attempts to stimulate increased growth, with mixed results. The most commonly known forms of community-led housing include: community land trusts, housing cooperatives, self–build, cohousing, and self-help housing. A range of legal models are in use in the UK to enable the delivery of community-led schemes. There is currently no legal definition of community-led housing. A draft definition was developed and presented for discussion in the House of Lords in March 2016 in relation to the Housing and Planning Act, where it was not progressed. W

Resources[edit | edit source]

Citizens data initiative[edit | edit source]

Networks[edit | edit source]

  • Data for Democracy, consider joining a network such as this to work on transparency of data and fair and reasonable estimates or projections of local housing need across the UK, particularly if concerned about Overdevelopment across the South, imbalance between North/South. If anyone interested... I'd love to hear from you Philralph (talk) 07:12, 5 January 2019 (PST)
  • Land In Our Names, "Reconnecting Black communities with Land in Britain", aded 12:25, 18 February 2021 (UTC)

see also: Campaigns

Other resources[edit | edit source]

  • Who owns England? includes tools and resources for investigating land ownership
  • Land Justice UK
  • Are you working for #landjustice in the UK? Shared Assets are building a map of all the wonderful projects, organisations and campaigns out there - add yourself here! sharedassets, added 15:18, 21 December 2020 (UTC)
  • Posts tagged land ownership from the Daily Alternative,

Policies[edit | edit source]

Quotes[edit | edit source]

  • "There is an obvious link between the construction of homes, and climate change. How do the actions of these two movements relate to one another, and what cohesiveness, if any, exists between them to achieve both their aims simultaneously?", Ola Ayorinde, Feb 2, 2021 [6]
  • "Some local authority planning officers "fell about laughing" when asked about the quality of community engagement by many developers", Tony Burton [7]
  • "We must not build housing, we must build communities." Mike Burton, politician

Video[edit | edit source]

Visions UK[edit | edit source]

Joint vision for planning, Jan 2021, developed and supported by 18 organisations

Jun 25, 2020 What would a “new land contract” for the UK—written from scratch with fairness in mind—actually look like? Can we do some of it straightaway? [8]If we really want to prevent climate collapse, renew our society and build a successful, prosperous market economy, we will need to fix this obsolete right of extraction that is coded into the foundations of our soc…” 

ReThink 2025 - Robert Wood,, includes a section on post-pandemic housing and new construction

News and comment[edit | edit source]

see separate article: Housing UK news

Campaigns[edit | edit source]

  • Save Capel, Tunbridge Wells, Kent
  • STOP THE GREEN BELT GRAB!, added 18:17, 1 December 2020 (UTC)
  • Protect Medway,, added 15:18, 19 October 2020 (UTC)
  • Save Our South Coast Alliance an alliance of individuals and groups involved in promoting the environment, community, and economy of Chichester’s coastal plain. "...excessive centrally allocated housing quotas handed down from government threaten our ability and ambition to protect our communities, environment, wildlife and economy from the inevitable impact of climate change on our low lying coastal plain." added 17:46, 24 August 2020 (UTC)
  • Enough is enough - Maidstone's Housing & Infrastructure, petition against housebuilding levels in Maidstone via, added 17:18, 18 February 2020 (UTC)
  • CPRE, the countryside charity - local and regional groups,
  • What gets built and where,

See also[edit | edit source]

local information can be found, or shared, via our many UK location pages


External links[edit | edit source]

Wikipedia: Drought in the United Kingdom W, 2009 Great Britain and Ireland floods W, Affordable housing W, Affordability of housing in the United Kingdom W

References[edit | edit source]

  1. BBC News
  2. The Guardian, August 16, 2015
  3. New Government Proposals impose 1532 houses a year on Teignbridge, Summary of our concerns, Sep 22 ...Devon
  4., Aug 2020
  5. @protectkent, Sep 13, 2020
  7. @Tony4Place,, Jul 22, 2020