Removing planning silos to create new markets

____Nationally, the UK may have committed to hitting net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. But achieving this within a fragmented and often slow planning system is a daunting task. So how can innovation help?

This article features in issue two of Connected Places magazine.

A majority of local councils across the UK have declared climate emergencies but many are unsure where to start – such as how to reconcile climate targets with other large-scale ambitions like the levelling-up agenda, delivering major new infrastructure and building new homes.

Councils cannot consider, for instance, reducing the direct emissions from homes without examining how energy is consumed for heating. Nor should a local authority look to promote active travel without considering the distance between the homes and workplaces people are travelling to and from.

This is why a place-based approach to the way we plan, design and manage our localities is needed if the UK is to meet its net-zero ambitions. Working with more than 20 organisations, the Connected Places Catapult recently published a roadmap for Integrated Planning for Net Zero, including recommendations for changes for government and industry.

The challenge for local leaders is that three critical emission sectors – transport, energy, and construction – continue to be planned for, delivered and funded in silos.

The highest emitting sectors of carbon in the UK are currently transport (27%), energy supply (21%) and businesses and households that together contribute 32% to the UK’s overall emissions, mainly as a result of burning fossil fuels. Whilst the energy supply sector has reduced emissions over the past decade, transport and building emissions have remained largely unchanged since 1990.

The highest emitting sectors of carbon in the UK

BEIS (2021), 2019 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Final Figures.

Given their interdependencies and combined impact on carbon emissions, these sectors need to be considered as a whole, not thought of separately. Councils are now grappling with what such a place-based, cross-sector approach to net zero needs to look like.

So what are local leaders having to get their heads around?

A complex policy environment
It’s vital that local authorities have a clear understanding of their legal and regulatory commitments, and can communicate this to residents and local partners. While at the national level, policies and strategies demonstrate a commitment to the net-zero transition, there is little central guidance on how this can be actioned at a local level.

The data imperative
Understanding data is crucial to integrated planning. Being able to link datasets across transport, energy, and the built environment sectors is key to creating a strong evidence base for local authorities. Trade-offs also need to be made in towns and cities, co-benefits identified and captured, and there are other large-scale infrastructure ambitions to be reconciled too.
So good data can provide the ‘under-the-bonnet’ view that decision-makers need to visualise and assess their many and varied options.

Navigating the market landscape
Alongside data, technology and innovation can also support more integrated planning, whether it’s infrastructure delivery, strategy development or building performance optimisation. Numerous tools, platforms and toolkits already exist within the market to support net-zero planning but they tend to be by sector. Tools for cross-sector collaboration and decision-making are less common but the market is responding to this growing area of demand.

Working with TPXimpact and Open Innovations, the Catapult developed two prototypes to show how data and technology can promote collaboration and achieve results. The prototypes explore two cross-sector challenges that not only have the potential to create new markets but also reduce dependency on local authorities.

Two net-zero prototypes

Electric Vehicle Bulk Charging Planner

This data-led tool pulls together key information to help local authorities plan their electric vehicle (EV) strategy, and identifies the best locations for rolling out bulk charging infrastructure for fleets (i.e., taxi ranking, ambulances, commercial). It shows how making better use of already available data can unlock improved cross-sector processes for net-zero planning.

Community Retrofit Service

This service helps homeowners estimate the carbon impact of their home by accessing retrofit options; connecting with peers, supply chains and grants; and checking the impact of their retrofit. It makes navigating retrofit options easier for homeowners and gives them more confidence in their decisions. It can also support local authorities in monitoring the energy efficiency of neighbourhoods and their journey to net zero.

There is now a vision and a roadmap for how local authorities across the UK can move towards a more integrated approach to planning. By harnessing new technologies, using data better and taking a more collaborative approach within a local area, there’s no need for the road ahead to be a fragmented one.

This article features in issue two of Connected Places magazine.

Download a free copy of our Integrated Net Zero Planning report

Integrated Planning for Net Zero
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