Customer story: Somerset West and Taunton

Spatial Planning Process
'screenshot of 'Somerset West and Taunton
'screenshot of 'Somerset West and Taunton

Adapting local planning for climate change

Somerset West and Taunton (SW&T) is a district council in South West England, UK. Like the vast majority of UK local authorities, SW&T have officially declared a Climate Emergency.

As part of their response to this, the council immediately began working towards carbon neutrality by 2030. Looking for actions that could make a significant difference to carbon emissions, they identified that 'the planning system plays a key role in tackling the Climate Emergency.'

The council was already working on a comprehensive new Local Plan (extending all the way to 2040), which would allow them to make substantial changes to the planning system. However, they recognised that it would be 'some time before the emerging new Local Plan attracts significant weight in the decision-making process' – and change needed to begin immediately.

So the council wanted to examine how it could apply its existing planning policies 'to the best of their effect in tackling the Climate Emergency'.

Two big reasons to consult

SW&T created an 'Interim Policy Statement' to explain how existing planning policy could be applied to tackle the Climate Emergency. Whilst this didn't introduce any new formal policy, and so the council wasn't required to consult, they still made sure to open up the new Statement to public consultation – for two main reasons:

  1. 'to understand the views of the development industry and our communities' – so that those views could be taken into account in producing the final version of the Statement; and
  2. 'to raise awareness of the Climate Emergency [and] the role of planning in tackling it' – because the Council knew that this was an important area of their climate work, but that the connection would not necessarily be obvious to members of the public.

How they did it

The council ran a 6-week consultation process, using a variety of methods to raise awareness and accept responses, including:

  • an online survey, created in Citizen Space
  • email notifications
  • by post
  • parish council and agents forum meetings
  • press release
  • social media posts

All the information, supporting documents and opportunities to respond were listed on the council's Citizen Space platform – including the draft Interim Statement, the full Local Plan review and the dates of relevant council and forum meetings.

SW&T used Citizen Space to clearly set out the context behind, reasons to participate in and process for responding to the consultation. People could submit their feedback directly via Citizen Space, with no account or registration required, keeping the barriers to entry low. And the council were able to export the results for combined analysis with those received via other channels.


The month after the consultation closed, the council published a detailed report of the findings. They found that the Draft Statement was 'generally well-received and supported in survey responses'. Respondents had also raised some frustrations and concerns, which were captured and listed in detail in the report. SW&T provided point-by-point answers to each of the issues raised in the submissions received – explaining the decisions they had taken or committing to modify the Statement in response to the feedback.

In the report, the council set out all the steps they had taken, how and why – confirming that 'the comments received through the consultation have directly informed development of the final version of the Statement'. In February 2021, the Interim Policy Statement – updated in response to the consultation findings – was approved and taken forward at a full Council meeting.

Tackling the Climate Emergency is our number one priority. Climate action is integral to good planning for sustainable development. This statement helps to clarify how we expect new developments to respond to existing planning policies in relation to the Climate Emergency. This should help applicants to understand how they can and should be responding to the Climate Emergency, and ensuring we are using our existing policies to best effect.

Cllr Mike Rigby, Somerset and West Taunton Council

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