THE ABILITY OF the planning department to act on the climate emergency was questioned at last week’s borough council executive meeting.
Cllr Gary Cowan asked Cllr Wayne Smith, executive member for planning and enforcement if the planning department could consider the environment when making decisions. The issue was raised at a virtual meeting of Wokingham Borough Council’s executive, held on Thursday, July 30.
He said: “From time to time I see planning applications with officer recommendations approving the removal of trees while other planning applications approve increased traffic on already busy roads.
“My question is with regard to the council flagship policy on climate emergency what specific directions has the council given to its planning, environment and highway departments to take climate emergency into consideration when dealing with all planning applications?”
Cllr Wayne Smith said: “Managing change in the public interest will inevitably lead to some difficult decisions around traffic and landscaping as part of the balance.
“Climate change affects us all and as our communities grow the tensions you refer to will remain and will need careful management.
“Policy within the new Local Plan will require developments to provide adequate landscapes and biodiversity gain as well as improved environment performance with major residential developments being designed to achieve carbon neutral homes.”
Cllr Smith said an extra planning document would be created showing “additional detail on how development of all types is expected to demonstrate the achievement of the policy requirements, including carbon neutrality.”
But Cllr Cowan, said the issue was “really about now rather than tomorrow”.
He added: “The planning guidelines are silent on the climate emergency. What is being done right now for planning applications detrimental to the climate?”
Cllr Smith said: “It’s not an easy fix. Carbon neutrality is not an easy one to achieve. I’m not saying we can change our planning policies overnight but we are working on it and we will get there.”