Somewhere towards the back of the draft Housing Standards Review, there’s a suggestion that local councils in England should not be allowed to impose their own energy requirements on new developments. This one little sentence could have huge implications on future housing estates, both in building cost and appearance.
Currently, local planning departments can go above and beyond the requirements of Approved Document Part L, and insist on a site being made more efficient. Some ask for a 10% reduction in carbon emissions via renewable technology… some ask for 20% energy reduction from low carbon sources... some ask for 5% from fabric… the list goes on.
It’s a real postcode lottery which can be very confusing, and costly for developers. This is why you may see one development where houses are caked in PV panels, and another estate just down the road – over the county boundary – with no renewables at all.
The Housing Standards Review wants to put a stop to this. With the future of local planning policies under the spotlight, you’d think that councils and authorities would hold fire on making any revisions to their own guidance, just in case the documents are rendered illegal in the very near future.
But Boris isn’t holding fire by any means…
Last month a new, draft version of The London Plan was released. This covers planning policies for council’s across the capital. It sets out how developers need to be mindful of London’s transport links, economy and jobs, people and health, and of course, carbon emissions.
The climate change section is very clear on what will be expected on new developments… a staggering 40% CO2 improvement over the national Target Emission Rate. This means that new developments in London must cut carbon emissions by 40% through design – this would involve higher levels of insulation, innovative heating solutions and/or photovoltaic panels aplenty. Developers who are unable to meet this steep target will be expected to pay into a local authority money pot, so the council can invest in low carbon projects elsewhere in the district. But this all flies in the face of the Housing Standards Review, which doesn’t want regional targets.
The big idea is to bring all parts of England in line with Part L. This Review is part of the Red Tape Challenge which was set up to rid politics of as much bureaucracy and red tape as possible. So on one side, you have Boris and his London Plan, and on the other side you have Pickles and the Department for Community and Local Government.
IF both the London Plan and Housing Standards Review both get adopted in their current forms, we’re going to end up with a stand-off between these two political heavy-weights. Whose side are you on? Should England be working to a single, national carbon emission rate for new developments, or should we stick with regional, locally controlled targets? Should London be an exemption, and if so, then why not Manchester, Bristol or Nottingham?
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