A graphic with an image of Patrick Hargreaves and the title of the post: "High Court Rules for West Oxfordshire's Net Zero Ambitions"
Built environment
Homes & Buildings
High Court rules planning inspectors acted unlawfully in removing Net Zero policies from West Oxfordshire's Salt Cross Garden Village Area Action Plan.

Planning Inspectors relied on an outdated 2015 Written Ministerial Statement to justify weakening the Net Zero requirements.

UK100 welcomes the ruling but calls for a more consistent national strategy.

In a significant ruling, the High Court has determined that planning inspectors acted unlawfully in removing ambitious Net Zero policies from the Salt Cross Garden Village Area Action Plan proposed by West Oxfordshire District Council. The inspectors had relied on an out-of-date 2015 Written Ministerial Statement to justify watering down the Net Zero requirements for new developments in the area. The court found this reasoning to be flawed, as subsequent events and regulatory changes had rendered the 2015 Statement obsolete.

After previously highlighting Salt Cross as an example of inconsistent planning decision-making, UK100 has welcomed the decision but cautioned that a consistent national Net Zero approach to planning guidance is necessary to ensure local authorities don't have to navigate a "two-speed system."

Patrick Hargreaves, UK100's Parliamentary Officer, commented on the decision, stating, "Today's ruling is welcome. The previous Salt Cross decision has had a chilling effect on local authority climate ambition, with local leaders left without any certainty over what plans might be overturned by the Planning Inspectorate."

Hargreaves emphasised the need for clearer and more consistent national planning guidance that embeds the UK's climate responsibilities within the planning system. He said, "The current patchwork of confusing and sometimes contradictory national statements and policies on the ability of councils to set higher energy efficiency standards for new developments have created unnecessary tensions and delays."

As local leaders work to rapidly build warm, future-proof homes and decarbonise the built environment, Hargreaves stressed the importance of clear national direction and guidance to drive progress in collaboration with the Planning Inspectorate. He also highlighted the need for policy certainty to encourage investment and the delivery of sustainable homes that the country urgently requires.

Hargreaves concluded, "UK100 members, local leaders and developers will have been keenly watching this ruling. But its real impact rests on the national response, now is the time for a joined-up approach to planning that ensures ambitious and robustly evidenced local plans aren't hamstrung by contradictory guidelines. If necessity is the mother of invention, inconsistency is the death of innovation."


UK100 recently highlighted the Salt Cross and the issue of the two-speed planning system while lobbying Peers in the House of Lords to support an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill seeking to place a duty on the Secretary of State and relevant planning authorities to have special regard to the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change concerning national policy, local plan-making and planning decisions.

The amendment was proposed by Lord Ravensdale in the Lords and supported by a majority of Peers. The Government initially rejected it, but the Lords sent it back to the Commons on a tight vote. The Government "insisted on disagreeing" and proposed an amendment in lieu requiring "regard" for climate change when preparing national development management policy.

A new Written Ministerial Statement was issued in December 2023 also seeks to restrict the ability of local authorities to set Net Zero housing requirements, it reads:

Any planning policies that propose local energy efficiency standards for buildings that go beyond current or planned buildings regulation should be rejected at examination if they do not have a well-reasoned and robustly costed rationale that ensures:

  • That development remains viable, and the impact on housing supply and affordability is considered in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework.
  • The additional requirement is expressed as a percentage uplift of a dwelling’s Target Emissions Rate (TER) calculated using a specified version of the Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP).