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| 1 minute read


Investors in real estate have set themselves challenging targets to reduce the environmental impact of their retail assets, with many having set ambitious net zero deadlines. Indeed, occupiers have also defined stretching sustainability goals yet have traditionally focused on their supply chains.

However, the recent large increases in energy costs have drawn occupier attention to energy efficiency and the use of their properties, particularly as it undermines any benefits they may have been enjoying from rebased rents and the rates revaluation.

The planning system has always been a way for Government to pursue economic policy objectives, such as the town centre first policy under the National Planning Policy Framework, but we are now increasingly seeing the planning framework being used by Central and Local Governments to push for other societal and environmental outcomes.

Many local authorities have long had targets for built environment sustainability, and this is now being expanded with a particular focus on sustainable transport modes, including electric vehicle (EV) charging points and urban greening. As of 1st June 2023, Active Travel England (ATE) is now a statutory consultee on all major planning applications in England, and applications determined from November 2023 will need to demonstrate a biodiversity net gain of at least 10% unless exempt.

How then can owners and occupiers use this new planning regime to move their sustainability commitments forward?

The Government has introduced permitted development rights for solar panels, meaning that it’s now easier for developers to retrofit PV panels onto existing structures, subject to certain conditions being met and prior approval being sought from the local authority. Full planning permission will usually be required for the provision of EV charging points, and owners and occupiers need to think about the best way of approaching this – i.e. linking it to another application for development in order to maximise the benefits of a proposal.

Parties need to understand each other’s challenges and aspirations, work together and take a strategic view to ensure that out-of-centre retail remains attractive and relevant with a more sustainable future for our Towns of Tomorrow.


retail & leisure, planning, towns of tomorrow, insight, esg