National planning policy is clear that planning has a key role to play in minimising vulnerability and providing resilience to the impacts of climate change, including coastal change, flood risk, drought, water supply and changes to biodiversity and landscape. It will be essential that appropriate planning policies are put in place in the new local plan to meet these challenges.
For urban coastal areas such as Southend the impacts of climate change is expected to have significant implications in terms of sea rise and the need to retain, maintain and provide sea defences that are fit for purpose given predictions of sea level rise. This requires careful planning and design to ensure that schemes are sensitive to their surroundings and do not have adverse impacts on local habitats, tourism and leisure, and do not impair important views.
The impacts of climate change are likely to result in erratic and unsettled weather, causing periods of drought and severe storms that can lead to flooding. This has already been experienced in Southend with flash floods in a number of coastal areas and areas adjacent to inland waterways. Flood risk assessments will continue to be required in areas of high risk and new development directed to areas with the lowest flood risk, and sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDs) will be required to reduce the potential of surface water flooding as a result of development, by using more natural methods for drainage, flood storage and dispersal.
In planning for the future of the town and its resilience to climate change Southend must become more energy efficient and use sources of renewable energy in order to meet national targets for a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. The Council’s Low Carbon Energy and Sustainability Strategy focuses on delivering low carbon growth, improving energy efficiency and providing for a more sustainable future with the aim of establishing Southend as a Low Carbon Smart City. This will form an important input to the development of the new local plan. However, solutions to reduce energy inefficiency must be planned properly to avoid harmful alterations to the appearance of buildings and surrounding spaces.
The Air Quality Strategy and Low Emission Strategy 2018 – 2025 identify land use planning as a key tool to reduce road transport emissions and transport related air pollution. Effective planning policies can play a significant role in helping sustain air quality improvements by providing infrastructure to encourage alternatives to the private car and by both discouraging the use of high emission vehicles and supporting the uptake of low emission vehicles (LEV) including the provision of LEV refuelling facilities such as Electric Vehicle charging points.
Furthermore, projects such as urban greening, landscaping, green walls and roofs and tree planting can reduce flooding, reduce high summer temperatures, store the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, improve air quality and provide habitats for wildlife. It will be important that the local plan seeks such provision in new development schemes, and reflects international best practice in climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Southend contains areas of high grade agricultural land, located predominantly to the north and north east edges of the Borough. National policy seeks to maintain and enhance the resilience and quality of soils, and to encourage the sustainable use of soil resources, including high grade agricultural land. Where significant development of agricultural land is demonstrated to be necessary, local planning authorities should seek to use areas of poorer quality land in preference to that of a higher quality.
 The Climate Change Act 2008 commits the United Kingdom to an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050
If you would like to find out more on this issue we have prepared a Green and Blue Infrastructure and Climate Change Topic Paper