Government blamed for homes in central Lancashire not yet reaching net zero

The energy used in all new homes built in Preston, Chorley and South Ribble would have produced net carbon emissions by now – had the government not scrapped a set of environmental standards the three areas aimed to adhere to .

The revelation came at a meeting of Central Lancashire’s Joint Advisory Committee, which heard that neighboring district councils will continue to struggle to impose their own local carbon reduction targets on new housing if they go further than those defined at the national level. .

However, the trio will nonetheless seek to implement such measures – and compel homebuilders operating in the area to adhere to them. In 2012 the Central Lancashire Core Strategy – a local agreement dictating the level and nature of development over the next decade – saw Preston, Chorley and South Ribble commit to reaching the top level of the Government’s Code for Sustainable Homes .

More: Lancashire will have to learn to live with the consequences of climate change

All three have registered to achieve Code Level 6 by January 2016, which means that all new homes should have zero carbon emissions from their energy systems by that date. However, the government changed the legislation less than 12 months before Central Lancashire intended to implement the standard in the region, which prevented local authorities from applying it as part of the process of planning.

Preston City Council’s director of development and housing, Chris Hayward, told the committee that Central Lancashire’s ambitions had been thwarted by the change.

“[The government] basically told us we couldn’t do this anymore. So we tried once – that doesn’t mean we can’t try again, but we were undermined by national policy on this,” Mr Hayward said.

However, the meeting heard that a new joint local plan being developed between the three councils could see further momentum to put Central Lancashire ahead of the national curve for the introduction of the lowest housing emissions standards. more stringent.

“We may be at odds again…but we have to say what we want to do whether or not the government follows through at the time,” Chorley Council leader Alistair Bradley said.

“The backsliding on some of those fundamental goals was probably a reaction to other things that were pushing the market in a different direction – the idea that housing is some kind of economic driver. That is not, to me… a reason to relax these standards, but it seems some people thought that was in the past. We need to be strong on that [in future]Councilor Bradley added.

South Ribble Borough Councilor Phil Smith told the committee he was amazed that homes were still allowed to be built without rooftop solar panels.

“Rather than being a follower, maybe we should be a leader and let people follow us,” he added.

Local plan co-ordinator Carolyn Williams said she hoped to hold a session with homebuilders as the document development process evolves this year – and promised the standards energy efficiency would be a priority.

“When they speak to you one-on-one, they are very clear [that] they want to be [greener] – they just don’t want to be so the [company] next to them is not being, as this makes them uncompetitive.

“Although I think, actually, in the future they probably won’t be competitive if they’re not green,” Ms Williams said.

She added that there was some “wiggle room” in local areas to be able to implement their own standards, but stressed that councils had to “justify” the measures and demonstrate that they did not affect the viability of subdivisions.

The Department of Leveling, Housing and Communities told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that councils can continue to set local energy efficiency standards – and go beyond national building regulations if they choose to. wish – in accordance with the Planning and Energy Act 2008. Future Homes Standard means that all new homes must be “zero carbon ready” by 2025.

Properties will need to be “scalable with low carbon heating and high levels of energy efficiency” and will need to require no renovations in order to allow them to become zero carbon as the electricity grid continues to decarbonise. Carbon emission reductions of 75% from the current standard will also be required by then. A temporary ‘improvement’ to building regulations last year required a 30% reduction in carbon emissions.

Air or geothermal heat pumps are among the options to reduce the carbon of energy production inside the house. The recent inaugural Lancashire Climate Summit learned that the role of hydrogen in home heating systems is unlikely to be determined until the middle of this decade.

Developers warn of downsides of local carbon demand

Reacting to the prospect that central Lancashire is applying more stringent carbon reduction standards in new homes than in other parts of the country, the organization which represents developers urged caution.

A spokesperson for the Federation of Home Builders told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that new homes were already “significantly more energy efficient than existing homes” and that the industry was “eager to go further”.

However, he added: “A deliverable strategy is being developed and it is essential that we have a consistent approach across the country if we are to achieve the ambitious targets set by the government.

“Any requirements beyond national standards should be carefully considered. Local planning authorities avoiding prescribed solutions – as was the case in Devon last week – and allowing developers and their teams of experts to find practical and pragmatic solutions to national standards will also contribute to the development of supply chains. supply of manpower and technologies.

Social houses should go solar

Carolyn Williams said all social housing should be built with solar panels as part of this would help to efficiently provide those who need it most with “free energy”.

However, Cllr David Borrow, Preston City Council’s cabinet member for planning and regulation, said the “economics” of such a stipulation would depend on government policy.

“[It’s] not just in terms of building control, but in terms of funding and how much [developers] can spend on a house.

“If the money isn’t there and they have to build a hundred rented houses, then they have to do it. [in] how they can do it – and if it’s not to an energy efficiency standard, it’s [what] we will be facing as the planning authority,” Cllr Borrow said.

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