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The ever changing face of Energy Statements

If you’ve had one completed before, you’ll know the general rule… you need a Part L assessment as usual, but then you will be required by your planning body to provide an additional document which shows how your new site will reduce carbon emissions or energy use by 10, 15 or 20% through the use of renewable and/or low carbon technology.

The various factors depend on the policies of your local authority – some ask for 10%, some ask for energy use reductions, some like pretty graphs, some like the reports to use council-approved tables only.

In recent months we’ve seen a surge in planning authorities – mostly in the South of England and Midlands – asking for Energy Statements, and an everchanging list of requirements and demands. Some councils are actually relaxing their requirements, or being more lenient with developers. Meanwhile, others are clamping down and becoming more stringent.

A key example here is in a particular district in a particular region in a particular part of London. The planning authority here is requesting that designers do all they can to get new developments to a zero carbon level. In other words, it must be shown that new houses and commercial units create as much power as they are expected to use. This ‘ambitious target’ (in their own words) is a full four years ahead of where Part L legislation is heading.

On the flipside, other councils which previously asked for a 20% renewable reduction have now repealed their own requirements, and are using BREEAM or the Code for Sustainable Homes to show the sustainability of the site instead – definitely a more flexible approach to take!

Away from the cities, we are also noticing that more rural councils are putting their own versions of Energy Statements in place. But rather than asking for a reduction using renewables, some are happy to use what is known as a ‘Fabric First’ approach.

The term ‘Fabric First’ has been used widely across the London Boroughs for several years, and encourages designers to improve the insulation levels of the building before any renewables are considered.

This is generally the preferred approach by the industry: environmental-minded companies like to see a low energy house instead of a high-energy which making its own energy to compensate, and financially-minded companies prefer this approach because it’s generally cheaper, and means they can build a more conventional house without having to worry about fancy new technology.

Some may suggest this lenient stance by some authorities is in preparation for the Part L 2013 changes. Consultation documents published by the Communities for Local Government (CLG) suggest local planning authorities should be ‘subject to viability testing’ when they ask for Energy Statements so developers are not ‘hindered through unrealistic policy expectations’.

If you’ve been asked for an Energy Statement by your local planners, it’s important to make sure you’re getting the right information to them. So contact us on 08458 386 387 to see how we can help.  

Jon Ponting

Author: Jon Ponting

This article was published by Jon Ponting on 11.05.2012.