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AEF responds to consultation on proposed reforms to national planning policy

7th March, 2023

Between December 2022 and March 2023, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities consulted on its proposed reforms to national planning policy. Responding to a question on carbon impact assessments, AEF took the opportunity to highlight a serious planning policy issue concerning airport expansion applications under the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act (TCPA). 

A key policy document, The future of UK aviation: Making best use of existing runways (2018), has often been interpreted as implying that assessments of carbon and greenhouse gas emissions from increased passenger movements should be considered by national Government and not by local planning authorities (who should limit their CO2 emissions assessments to groundworks at airports).

However, potential emissions from airport expansion applications under the 1990 TCPA are not, in fact, being formally considered at a national level – unless LPA planning decisions are called in on climate (and sometimes other) grounds. Meanwhile there is currently no policy mechanism to ensure that carbon emissions from UK airports fall in line with the Government’s proposed emissions pathway for the sector between now and 2050. 

In view of these policy gaps, AEF called for:

  • clear guidance in the NPPF on how the climate impacts of aviation, and other transport projects, should be considered;
  • powers for local and regional authorities to assess the impact of airport expansion on local climate change targets by factoring in impacts of increased flights as well as from ground works; 
  • central Government collation and scrutiny of local authority carbon assessments to measure the potential cumulative impacts of increased airport operations in England and Wales, which would ensure that policy is implemented in a transparent manner.