Why do sustainability statements matter, how do they relate to energy modelling, and when in the planning process are they needed?

We are asked a variation of this question a lot so we hope the answers below are useful.

Many local authorities require an Energy and Sustainability Statement to be submitted as part of a planning application. The Sustainability Statement is an integral part of any planning application. The statement aims to demonstrate how the developer will address specific environmental objectives. These can include CO2 emissions, renewable energy targets, and local environmental issues. You need to show how the developer will address all environmental issues as part of the project. For example, renewable technologies and insulation will tackle energy efficiency targets. Additional measures also need to be considered around wildlife and public transport links.

A carefully crafted and well-considered Sustainability Statement can be crucial to successfully ensuring planning approval. The developer will usually prepare the statement at the pre-planning stage which would be accompanied by their planning application. The statement needs to reflect your specific local authorities’ requirements, as planning policies will differ in each area. 

So, what is a sustainability statement?

A Sustainability Statement is a comprehensive document covering all aspects of the environmental impact of a planned development. It should demonstrate how the development will address core policies regarding sustainability as set by the Local Authority. The statement outlines planning proposals that will ensure the development of the building is sustainable using a SAP calculation. The SAP software takes into consideration many factors. These may include the planned energy efficiency, water conservation, flood risk, and drainage, for instance. It will also consider:

Do I Need One?

Sustainability Statements are also required for developments proposed on Green Belt land. However, in 2012 the National Policy Framework outlined that local authorities should only allow building on Green Belt land in exceptional circumstances. Therefore, it is likely that planning permission will only be granted to housing with exceptional sustainability qualities. 

Although it is the case that Sustainability Statements are necessary for Green Belt development, it is down to the discretion of the Local Authority as to whether they are needed for Brown Belt Sites. For larger developments on Brown Belt sites they will often be required, but for single builds the local authority may not deem it necessary. In some cases, the local authority might require the developer to not only meet, but exceed, the standards set in Part L of the Building Regulations. 

Where Do I Start?

You will often commission a Sustainability Statement at the beginning of your project in support of a planning application. The first step in drafting a Sustainability Statement is to contact your Local Authority to find out their specific requirements.

Following this you or your architect should provide as much information as possible in relation to the proposed plans. This includes, but is not limited to: Floor-plans, Elevations, Sections, Site plans, Insulation type/thickness, Air Tightness value, U-values of openings, Specification of heating systems, Hot water generation, Percentage of low energy lighting, Ventilation system specification, renewable technologies, Accredited construction details, Flood drainage strategy, Wider site details, Traffic counts, Information on how/where materials are sourced and Information About the wildlife and plants in the area. 

Once this information has been collected, it will be inputted into SAP software for assessment and used to generate a Sustainability Statement. It will produce a comprehensive report incorporating the sustainability options you are considering as well as their respective impact on cutting CO2 emissions and the wider environment. 

What is an energy statement and do I need one?

When submitting plans for a new development you often will be required to submit an Energy Statement alongside your planning applications and Sustainability statement to your Local Planning Authority at the very start of the project process. 

The statement submissions, which are also known as Energy Strategy Reports, should demonstrate how the specific local energy efficiency targets will be met. As these are set by your Local Planning Authority, rather than nationally, it is necessary to look up your Local Planning Authorities Carbon Emission and Renewable energy targets. 

As the energy statement is often closely related to the Building Regulations, planners may for example require a 10% improvement over and above the building regulations Part L emissions in their Local Planning Authority’s guidance. Similarly, they may require a 10% requirement for renewable energy to supply your development or other policies affecting the way the building or development is proposed to operate. Such energy statements are prepared using energy modelling and require Low or Zero Carbon Feasibility Studies to be incorporated into the one energy statement/report.

What does an energy statement include?

The Energy Statement should be a detailed calculation report on how a development will achieve the Local Planning Authority’s Emission Target. Therefore, it needs to include a calculation of the predicted energy/CO2 emissions of the development and demonstrate how potential improvement could reduce energy consumption and emissions. To achieve this the following information should be included:

Where do I start?

  1. Calculate Total Regulated Energy after deducting energy efficiency savings.
  2. Calculate the % of decentralised and renewable or low carbon sources. 
  3. Calculate Predicted energy savings.
  4. Assess feasibility of using different energy technologies for the development.
  5. Calculate the energy savings of renewable energy options as % of total regulated energy to achieve at least X% (Determined by Local Planning Authority)
    • If less than X% return to Step 2
    • If X% or more progress to Step 6
  6. Submit an Energy statement with your Planning Application and Sustainability Statement 

What next?

To conclude, Energy and Sustainability statements are supporting documents to a planning application.  Requirements will vary across different local authorities but a reduction in carbon emissions and low energy technologies can be expected.  The local planning authority may also require that the new development meets BREEAM and other sustainability standards.

If you need help navigating this complexity, get in touch with our friendly team.

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