Lancaster City Council: A Local Plan for delivering climate adaptation and mitigation

Lancaster City Council declared a Climate Emergency in January 2019, at which point the Local Plan had been submitted and it was not possible to be significantly amended. The Local Plan was adopted in July 2020, and the Council immediately entered a Climate Emergency partial review to ensure that climate change mitigation and adaptation become fundamental to placemaking in the District. Following a scoping consultation, 32 policies were highlighted for review, improvement, and strengthening. The policies encompass the themes of sustainable design, energy efficiency and renewable energy, sustainable transport, green and blue infrastructure, heritage, and water management.

The challenge

With the Climate Emergency declaration, the Council was aware of the necessity to ensure that the Local Plan effectively steers new development in the District to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The declaration highlighted the need to ensure that the focus of new development would be on assisting modal shift, improving energy efficiency, strengthening our green and blue infrastructure and ensuring climate resilience for our community, amongst other contributions. However, the Local Plan had already been submitted eight months prior. The Council needed to review its new plan strengthening and enhancing policies in regard to climate action, whilst balancing the need to deliver new development.

The solution

Following the Climate Emergency declaration, the Council needed to explore every action achievable to help the District adapt to the impacts of climate change and to mitigate its impact on the climate, to ensure that the District is a safe place for future generations, and that we do not further worsen the global climate crisis. Within planning, this meant that the newly adopted Local Plan had to be revisited and the Council immediately entered into a partial Local Plan Review to ensure that the policies were going to deliver new development that was climate resilient and climate friendly. 32 policies with the greatest potential for climate mitigation and adaptation were highlighted and an ambitious timeline was established to review the policies in light of the climate emergency. This process also required new, additional resources, in the form of two specialist Climate Change Policy Officers to work with Planning Officers on the plan review process.

In formulating the Climate Emergency Local Plan Review, Officers worked closely with key stakeholders from an early stage in drafting the new policies to ensure they were considered achievable from the outset. Member involvement also took place in the form of a Local Plan review Group led by the portfolio holder for Strategic Planning and Place Making, which met every few weeks to be briefed on progress.  A scoping exercise was undertaken in late 2020 and the Regulation 18 Stage consultation draft was subsequently formulated and consulted upon in Summer 2021. Work is now underway to move to the Regulation 19 stage.

The impact

The draft Local Plan can be viewed online. This webpage also includes associated evidence and multiple explanatory videos which breaks down the Local Plan by topic areas. There is an overview video describing the process and why the plan review is being undertaken, as well as topics videos outlining our proposed policies on Heritage, Water Management, Sustainable Design and Renewable Energy Generation, Green and Blue Infrastructure and Transport considerations.

Once through consultation, examination and adoption, the impact of the updated policies will broadly result in improvements to energy efficiency in new buildings, delivery of more sustainably designed homes that can adapt to climate change, generation of greater renewable energy District wide, encouragement of modal shift, enhancement of green and blue infrastructure, and better management our water resources. These changes will contribute to the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change, alongside co-benefits of climate action, such as associated financial benefits on all scales, improved mental and physical health and well-being for the community, greater support for the District’s ecosystems, and more.

Lessons learned

The climate emergency necessitates immediate action and creative focus. Even though Lancaster City Council already had a newly adopted, sound Local Plan, this was not an excuse for inaction. An immediate update of the Local Plan has the opportunity to achieve maximum positive impact. It has taken just short of one year to get the review to draft consultation stage, demonstrating that it is achievable to make a significant impact in a short time frame with a team dedicated to securing climate-positive placemaking.


Diane Neville, [email protected]