Plans Submitted for a Unique Net Zero Carbon Community in the UK

Greenwoods Landscape Masterplan

A planning application has been submitted by Milton Keynes based Planning Consultants, Smith Jenkins, for an exemplar net zero carbon and zero fossil fuel community in Bedfordshire, the largest known of its kind in the UK. The application seeks to create a sustainable new settlement, known as Greenwoods, between Bedford and Luton, which will benefit from an on-site solar PV park and over 100 hectares of landscaped public open space.

The proposals far exceed the requirements of building regulations and planning policies, and will set the standard for other developments in Bedfordshire and beyond. The proposals will establish an important precedent for the new national Future Homes Standard, which seeks to improve upon current regulations to increase the sustainability of new homes in light of the Government’s carbon emissions targets.

A range of new homes will be provided, including later living, affordable housing and opportunities for self-build. The proposals have been designed to create a diverse, inclusive, multi-generational community, and have a focus on healthy lifestyles; low cost and energy efficient homes; and adaptable and home working models.

The development will include all of the infrastructure necessary to support the new community including schools, health centre, community centres, road network, drainage and utilities. A new innovation and employment hub will provide opportunities for local businesses and entrepreneurs, as well as spaces for flexible working.

Designed by national Architectural Practice, GSSArchitecture, who have offices in Milton Keynes, in collaboration with IDP Landscape, based in Coventry, the proposals include extensive public open space, including a new woodland, with outdoor sport and recreation facilities appealing to all ages. Existing trees and hedgerows will be retained and enhanced, with a variety of new habitats to be created, achieving over 23% biodiversity net gain, and forming a well-integrated green infrastructure network and strong landscape-led character for the development. New pedestrian, cycle and bridleway routes, connecting to nearby towns and villages, will enable new and existing communities significantly greater access to green space and the countryside.

A strong emphasis on sustainability has been at the heart of the proposals since their inception, and new and emerging sustainable technologies continue to be incorporated, guided by London-based sustainability experts, Integration. The application demonstrates how the development will achieve net zero carbon for regulated operational carbon, i.e. offsetting the emissions associated with the operation of buildings. The application also commits to detailed design offsetting emissions associated with the construction of buildings (embodied carbon) and those generated by appliances (unregulated emissions).

An increasing focus on electric vehicles has resulted in the inclusion of an on-site charging station open to the general public, which will contribute to the expanding network of these essential facilities, which are increasingly necessary in light of the Government’s accelerated deadline on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles. New technology will enable batteries within electric vehicles parked on the site to be used to store renewable energy, enabling the increased use of renewable energy within and beyond the site.

The developer, Greenwoods Central Bedfordshire Ltd. has said, “We are delighted to be able to bring forward this unique development in Central Bedfordshire. We have been impressed with the approach that has been taken by the Local Planning Authority to this highly sustainable new community that will set new standards as the country seeks to decarbonise.

“We have a positive level of engagement with the Local Planning Authority, and we are hopeful that the Council will recognise the benefits of these proposals, which seek to significantly increase the sustainability of not just construction, but whole communities. We are designing for a future beyond net carbon zero to truly sustainable and healthy lifestyles, where communities have a positive impact on the environment and where good planning and design can also contribute to social cohesion – we know this can be achieved with our Greenwoods proposals.

“From conception to the submission of a planning application, we have sought at every stage to make Greenwoods uniquely green, not just in the use of renewable energies, but in our approach to the use of new technologies, open spaces and the planting of over 100,000 new trees, to create a new community where families can truly reflect modern ways of living, working and playing.

“Greenwoods proposes significant benefits for the wider area, including new employment and transport linkages. We know that Greenwoods will deliver a new community that Central Bedfordshire can be proud of, and we believe the proposals raise the bar for sustainable development that the Local Planning Authority can demand from every development proposal.”

An outline planning application has been submitted to Central Bedfordshire Council, prepared by an experienced consultant team and ensuring careful consideration of an extensive range of technical matters.

For more information on this exemplar sustainable development, please visit the dedicated Greenwoods website:


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BDC 317 : Jun 2024