Back in July, the new Conservative Summer Budget announced significant budget cuts for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), which led to increasing concerns that there could be impacts on innovation research, energy efficiency and the UK’s ability to meet climate change goals. Subsequently, we have heard announcements that have affected all sectors, ranging from the loss of subsidies for small scale solar farms to the end of the Green Deal Finance Company as well as the end of funding for the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund, which previously offered grants of up to £7,600 to households to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.
So, our blog a couple of weeks ago considered George Osbourne’s ‘Rural Productivity Plan’ (see http://bit.ly/1JmTFBV) – this week we will consider the Treasury’s Productivity Plan – Fixing the Foundations. And it would seem that energy efficiency measures incentives are now being diminished in the housebuilding industry too. The plan announced that the government would be axing the proposed ‘Allowable Solutions’ carbon offsetting scheme, and that there will be no further increases in on-site energy efficiency standards for new homes.
More than 200 companies from the construction, property and energy sectors wrote the George Osbourne, imploring him to reconsider this announcement – a potential policy back-track which could “curtail investment in British innovation and manufacturing”.
However, do we all need to be seriously worrying that there will no longer be incentives for developers to maintain and improve on current energy efficiency standards? We must remember that under the EU’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directives, all members must ensure that its new buildings produce nearly zero energy by 2020. Therefore, assuming there is the possibility that the UK will remain a member beyond the proposed EU Referendum in 2017 (an entirely different matter!) it is quite likely that there will be further announcements and bolstering of much needed sustainability standards to come for the industry.
As you may or may not know, here at Woolley, we are great fans of the Hockerton Housing Project (see: www.hockertonhousingproject.org.uk) which has seen the growth of a small autonomous development of houses in Nottinghamshire. Whilst we accept that it may not be practical for every home to have a ‘reed bed filtration system’ (yes – Google that!), we do try to encourage the simple and practical principles evident throughout the project, in our own planning and development work.
Whether any bolstering of UK housebuilding standards implore developers to build to the Hockerton level of sustainability – only time will tell…