Anglia Ruskin University
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Does the planning system in England deliver a sustainable and resilient built environment? A study of the experience of town planners

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conference contribution
posted on 2023-08-30, 16:14 authored by Niamh Murtagh, Nezhapi-Dellé Odeleye, Christopher Maidment
The case has been made in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes for the crucial role of the built environment in mitigating the worst excesses of a warming global climate and in protecting people through adaptation. Town planners are essential actors in delivering sustainable and resilient urbanism. Given that legislation is implemented by people, the study aimed to examine how town planners experienced and thought about the changing legislation and how they understood the concepts of ‘sustainability’ and ‘resilience’ in the built environment. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 19 planners working in England who had at least seven years’ experience. In the analysis, we explored meanings of sustainability and of resilience, and how these concepts were seen as incorporated in legislation. Sustainability was seen by the participants as embedded in regulations but its realisation varied substantially. Tensions were evident between the three pillars of environment, society and economy. ‘Resilience’ as a concept was poorly understood and legislative support was patchy at best: while flooding features extensively in local plans, wider issues of climate impact such as overheating are not comprehensively addressed. The conclusions are that planners are often frustrated in their attempts to develop a more sustainable built environment and that the current planning system is inadequate to deliver consistently sustainable and resilient outcomes. However, alignment between sustainability goals and professional identity were also noted, offering avenues to explore beyond the institutional constraints of legislation.


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Sustainable Ecological Engineering Design

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International Conference of Sustainable Ecological Engineering Design for Society (SEEDS) 2019


Ipswich, UK

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