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Climate Change and the Environment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:52 pm on 8th February 2005.

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Photo of Tim Yeo Tim Yeo Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 1:52 pm, 8th February 2005

No—I am sorry.

The fourth area of policy that needs to be changed concerns the planning system, which should be used to avoid making the consequences of climate change worse. For example, planning policy guidance must be strengthened to make it easier for councils to refuse consent for building on flood plains or on sites where development would make flooding more likely because of run-off problems. We must bear it in mind that one of the characteristics of climate change is that rainfall is becoming more violent and we more often experience high winds. I sympathise with the concerns of the Environment Agency about wrongly located development continuing to make the risks of flooding greater. The harm that such development inflicts is not confined to new buildings but can cause problems for existing properties, and in the end it may be the taxpayer who picks up the tab.

Planning guidance can also contribute positively to cutting carbon dioxide emissions by encouraging development at or near railway stations—a point that I made in a speech just before Christmas. It is a scandal that we have failed, under public and private ownership models, to make better use of the huge brownfield development opportunities that exist around many stations. Starter homes or commercial and retail development on those sites would be beneficial environmentally and in other ways. Planning agreements should ensure that such developments provide funds to improve stations in order to bring them into the 21st century and increase the capacity of the railways at a time of record demand. Those gains could be obtained without taxpayers or travellers having to contribute a penny. Development around stations would offer people more chances to choose environmentally friendly transport options. The Government's role is not to coerce people out of their cars but to facilitate those choices.