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Towards a more democratic and climate friendly way of meeting housing need across England
What communities can do
see also News and comment
Why it matters
The carbon costs of new housing developments
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.
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, even in the light of its own climate change legislation.
Citizens assemblies focused on housing
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
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
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.
Community-led housing in the UK
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
News and comment
Mar 12 Government plans "to bring Britain’s planning system into the 21st century"  Planning for the future, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, March 2020. Para. 16, p 9 & para 22, p 11, refer to targets on decarbonisation, but no indication that communities themselves will be able to democratically influence amounts of new housing for their areas, and in relation to local climate reduction targets or environmental carrying capacity of their areas.
Jan 21 New UK housing 'dominated by roads'  "... too many highways engineers are still approving roads that do not fully account for pedestrians and cyclists." Prof Matthew Carmona, University College London. Government poll suggests 76% of people think that for the sake of the environment, everyone should reduce their driving.
Jan 20 Kent: Sevenoaks sticks to its guns and refuses to withdraw draft Local Plan from examination, CPRE Kent  Council leader Peter Fleming: “It is clear to me the way this has been handled calls into question the integrity of the whole Plan-making system in this country…
“To call into question an evidence-led approach comes to the root of our concerns with the actions of the inspector. If we are not to follow the evidence to make our Plan then the government may just as well dictate how many homes an area should have and then pick sites, we need to put an end to the thinly veiled charade that Local Plans are in any way locally led.”
Oct 28 The housing crisis is at the heart of our national nervous breakdown, John Harris 
Oct 3 More than a quarter of UK mammals face extinction 
Jun 12 ‘Filled to bursting with trees, woods and nature reserves’: greening the Green Belt by Friends of the Earth Innovation team 
Feb 4 Green Belt: the development pressure ramps up again 
If we value rural Britain, we can’t build houses all over it, Simon Jenkins, Aug 6 
Households in southern England urged to save water after dry winter, May 5 
Set up to fail, November 16