Planning sustainably for your practice - Veterinary Practice
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InFocus

Planning sustainably for your practice

“Options available to become more ‘green’ are plentiful and entail varying levels of commitment, cost, time and risk”

The impact of the climate emergency is a particular concern for the veterinary sector due to the sector’s undeniable impact on and influence over people, animals and the environment. With this in mind, sustainability will be a priority for many veterinary practices.  

How you can make your practice facilities more sustainable will depend on whether the practice is a newly built building or not. You may also find yourself more restricted in your ability to make changes to the clinic to make it more sustainable if you occupy by way of a lease. This article provides a brief overview of these considerations.

Why should you consider making your veterinary practice more sustainable?

There are some clear benefits to thinking proactively about sustainability. It is likely to have a positive financial impact not only in terms of saving direct costs but also in improving the credentials of the practice when compared to competitors. It also raises your practice’s profile when looking to raise finance via banks, financial institutions and investors. Finally, it is consistent with the ethical values and priorities of the veterinary sector in looking to care for animals and biodiversity. With many public bodies targeting net zero by 2030, we can all expect to see a sharper focus on the “green characteristics” of the business and their supply chains: something that is likely to become a greater concern for consumers.

With many public bodies targeting net zero by 2030, we can all expect to see a sharper focus on the green characteristics of the business and their supply chains

That being the case, sustainability is clearly a topic that is worth considering on a regular basis, keeping the options available under review and monitoring improvements and the impact of the measures taken.

What can I do to make my practice more sustainable?

The first steps are likely to be the simplest to take, and the options available range significantly from very simple adjustments in day-to-day operations to schemes focused solely on improving the environment and biodiversity.

To name a few examples, the practice may wish to review its energy usage, save energy where possible and consider whether energy may be sourced from renewable sources. Or a practice could review, monitor and put in place measures to reduce water usage or waste and recycling.

There will be opportunities for the practice to consider its environmental and social governance (ESG). Given the intangible nature of the respective elements of ESG, it can be difficult to measure and define. As it stands, there is not a generally accepted measurement tool, but actively contemplating the respective pillars, the ways in which they can be furthered for the benefit of the practice and its staff, and keeping these under review is a good starting point.

Does it make a difference if my practice is a new build or existing build?

If your practice premises are a new development, the planning system and building control will likely have imposed requirements to ensure that new buildings are built and fitted as efficiently as possible. This will include requirements in relation to the manner and materials used in the construction of the building, its energy efficiency, limitations on water usage or requirements for particular drainage arrangements.

In addition, any new developments will need to achieve biodiversity net gain, this being a 10 percent improvement in biodiversity as a result of the development. The extent to which any of these requirements apply may be dictated by the location of the practice and the particular circumstances relating to it. For example, a new veterinary practice in Herefordshire would also need to achieve nutrient neutrality, but this would not be required everywhere.

Any new developments will need to achieve biodiversity net gain, this being a 10 percent improvement in biodiversity as a result of the development

However, the position is often very different when a practice is opening its doors in an existing building. In this instance, it may not be necessary to formally apply for planning permission because the building is already in existence and the use of the property permits a veterinary use (typically class E). This means that the practice will simply need to comply with existing planning conditions, which may be a number of years old and so not impose the same demands as a new build.

We often consider this a benefit as a planning application can bring with it delays, additional costs and uncertainty. However, it may mean that sustainability is not at the top of the agenda because there is no need to react to requirements imposed. This will mean it is for the practice to be focused on sustainability and reducing environmental impact in other ways.

Summary

It is clear that the environmental agenda will play a key part in this sector moving forward; indeed, it will be an important one for veterinary practices to support in view of the undeniable connections between the sector and flora and fauna.

Options available to become more green are plentiful and entail varying levels of commitment, cost, time and risk

Options available to become more “green” are plentiful and entail varying levels of commitment, cost, time and risk. This enables practices of all sizes to play their part in responding to the climate emergency and hopefully achieve some other benefits along the way.

Laura Greenman

Laura Greenman is a partner in Harrison Clark Rickerbys’ Planning, Environment and Highways team. She advises on a wide range of legal issues that can arise pursuant to the planning regime, with a particular focus on the rapidly evolving areas of natural capital and sustainability.


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