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Planning and Sustainable Development

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Terms of Reference

The Working Party aims to influence the debate about planning and the scope and ambition of sustainable development. Whilst the language of 'sustainable development' has been around for some time, the last few years have seen a considerable effort to translate this international ambition to the national and local level. Lawyers can no longer treat 'sustainable development' as if it was confined to the field of policy-making. The term is now appearing in legislation, and as a material consideration in the decisions of public bodies.

Meetings take place each year (June) at the UKELA Annual Conference, and at other times as appropriate. Consultation responses are coordinated primarily by e-mail among members.

The co-convenors welcome help with consultations and are happy to receive any suggestions for the Working Party to take forward.

The Working Party is open to all UKELA members. If you would like to join, contact the WP's convenors.

Next Event


4 July 2019

7 Devonshire Square, London EC2M 4YH


Across the country underground rock layers and coal mines from the industrial revolution could provide a valuable source of clean geothermal energy or act as reservoirs for storing excess heat for example from industry.

The use of underground rock layers and redundant infrastructure to supply or store heat raises a host of technical, property and consenting issues which this seminar organised jointly by the British Geological Survey, Squire Patton Boggs and UKELA’s Planning and Sustainable Development Working Party will explore. Bookings are now open via the link below.

More information

Recent Events and Activities

The WP has met regularly at UKELA’s annual conferences.

Fracking: The group is taking an active interest in the regulation of fracking through the planning system. Members attended a special presentation and Q&A session on the Environment Agency's draft guidance on Shale Gas on Tuesday 9 February at King & Wood Mallesons. The group has helped programme two UKELA events on fracking and the environment.

Neighbourhood Planning: The Working Party organised a seminar in April 2015 jointly with PEBA on how the system of neighbourhood planning, introduced under the Localism Act 2011, is working out in practice. The session considered how those involved can ensure that plans and Orders actively shape local development while also benefiting the wider area, including the delivery of sustainable development and environmental gains. It also looked at the role for Strategic Environmental Assessment and Habitats assessments. It was chaired by James Findlay QC (Cornerstone Barristers) with presentations by James Corbet-Burcher and Tim Jones (No5 Chambers), Charles Mynors (Francis Taylor Building) and Matthew Harrison (White Design).

Regulating nuisance: The Working Party organised a session on regulating nuisance at UKELA's Edinburgh conference in June 2014. The session was held jointly with the environmental litigation working party and covered: the ten issues from Coventry v Lawrence and how they are changing nuisance law and remedies; the common law and statutory examples from noise nuisance; what's happened to funding and running nuisance cases after Jackson. We heard from Will Upton (6 Pump Court), Professor Francis McManus (Edinburgh Napier University), Gordon Wignall (Number 5 Chambers) and Innes Urbanski (Senior Acoustician, Waterman Environmental). The group also helped organised a London meeting on Nuisance on 15 April.

Reform of judicial review: The Ministry of Justice published in February 2014 plans for reform, following the second consultation on this area in nine months. The underlying aims have been 'to stem the growth in applications for judicial review' (December 2012 consultation) and to reduce delays to development projects in particular. The Environmental Litigation Working Party and Planning & Sustainable Development Working Party have submitted joint responses to both consultations. The first response (January 2013), raised concerns that reducing the time limit for bringing planning judicial reviews 'would give rise to a real sense of injustice and to actual injustice'; and cautioned against removing the right to seek an oral permission hearing for applications that have been rejected on the papers as 'entirely without merit'. The second response (November 2013) was broadly supportive of proposals for a specialist Land and Planning Chamber of the Administrative Court, but raised concerns about some proposal including those to restrict standing in a way that might be contrary to the Aarhus Convention. Copies of both response are available on the Environmental Litigation Working Party page.

Sustainable development: We held a joint session with the Wales working party on Sunday 14 July 2013 at the UKELA conference in Cambridge. The session considered the current status of sustainable development in law; the proposed sustainable development duty under the Welsh Sustainable Development Bill; and the implementation of the presumption in favour of sustainable development under the National Planning Policy Framework. It was chaired by Will Upton (convenor), with presentations by Haydn Davies (Wales working party convenors), Fran Aldson & Yohanna Weber (convenors).

NPPF and the presumption in favour of sustainable development: We helped organise a UKELA-PEBA seminar on 22 November 2012 on the practicalities of the presumption in favour of sustainable development under the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The event was chaired by Morag Ellis QC, with speakers Ben Linscott (PINS), Hugh Ellis (TCPA) and John Rhodes (Quod planning consultancy). The questions and ensuing debate exposed some strikingly different views about the document and how it should be interpreted.

We considered issues to watch for concerning application of the new NPPF at our meeting on Saturday 7 July 2012 at the UKELA conference in Southampton. Will Upton (6 Pump Court), Neil Sinden (CPRE) and Richard Ford (Pinsent Masons) gave short presentations which were followed by a group discussion. At our previous meeting on 26 March, Dr Eloise Scotford of King's College gave a presentation on the presumption in favour of sustainable development in the draft National Planning Policy Framework.

Consultation Responses

Document TitleComments
UKELA response to Net Gain Consultation February 2019 
Duty on non-economic regulators to have regard to economic growth: response to BIS consultation, April 2013 
Sustainable Development Bill White Paper: response to Welsh Government consultation, March 2013Response to Welsh Government consultation on the Sustainable Development Bill White Paper, March 2013
Government’s proposal for a new National Planning Policy Framework: response to DCLG consultation, October 2011 
Draft National Planning Policy framework: submissions to the House of Commons CLG and Environmental Audit committees' examination, September 2011 
Presumption in favour of Sustainable Development: letter to DCLG, June 2011 
Embedding Sustainable Development across Government: response to Environmental Audit Committee inquiry, October 2010 
Ecotowns - Living a Greener Future: response to DCLG consultation, June 2008 
Proposed EIA England Amendment Regulations: response to DCLG consultation, January 2008Response to the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact
Assessment) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2007 Consultation
Planning White Paper 2007: response to DCLG consultation, August 2007 
Planning and Pollution Control Interface: response to Defra-DCLG consultation, December 2006Response to joint DCLG and DEFRA consultation on options for improving the way planning and pollution control regimes work together in delivering new development
Proposed PPS 25 on development and flood risk: response to ODPM consultation, February 2006 
Changes to the Development Control System: response to second DCLG consultation, September 2005Response to second consultation paper on changes to the development control system
The Environment Agency's Objectives and Contribution to Sustainable Development: response to DEFRA consultation, April 2002Response to Consultation by DEFRA on The Environment Agency's Objectives and Contribution to Sustainable Development - Consultation Paper (published 25th January 2002)

Related documents

Document TitleComments
Planning Bill: letter to Baroness Andrews, October 2008 
Planning Bill: letter to Secretary of State, July 2008 


The Working Party has co-convenors: Peter Dixon and Patrick Duffy.


Peter Dixon

Barrister, Exchange Chambers

Patrick Duffy

Patrick Duffy

Patrick is a Director of the Environmental Planning team at Avison Young (formerly GVA) having previously been a Technical Director and Waterman Group and a Director at Savills. He has extensive experience of Development Planning along with Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Appraisal for a range of urban development projects, including mixed use urban regeneration and extension schemes, sports and leisure projects, including new stadia and transport interchange facilities.

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