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Government relief of Zero Carbon policy on small developments from 2016

The government’s green credentials have been questioned once again in a new consultation document  Next Steps to Zero Carbon Homes: Small site exemptions. The document published yesterday sets out the governments preferred approach to delivering Zero Carbon homes after 2016.

In essence, one in five homes will not have to meet the zero carbon homes standard when it is introduced in 2016 under the plans set out.

Under the proposed zero carbon homes regulations, any new dwelling except in small sites, will be required to emit significantly lower carbon emissions than they do today through the use of better and more energy efficient building fabrics, the use of low or zero carbon technologies such as solar Photovoltaic panels. 

As part of the zero carbon hierarchy, off site measures may then be employed to complete the zero carbon development target through Allowable solutions. This equates to a payment (per ton of CO2 mitigated) into a fund which will provide CO2 reductions measures off site, such as wind farms, Solar farms or even retrofit energy efficiency measures on existing buildings)

Government announcements in the spring and summer of this year set out a plan to let smaller sites off the regulatory hook but did not  specify what the threshold of a small site would be, until now.

In the consultation published yesterday, the government has set out its “preferred option” to exempt developments of ten homes or less from having to pay for allowable solutions. This would be reviewed after 5 years.

According to the government’s own figures 21% of homes submitted for planning permission last year were on sites of ten homes or less and therefore  around one in five new homes will be exempt!

Paul King, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, said it was “disappointing” that the government was “looking to exempt one in five new homes from this” standard. He said it would “potentially condemn those households to higher energy costs for decades to come”.

JB comments – Although the consultation states that “The exemption does not stop smaller developments from building to the zero carbon standard, if they choose to do so” there is little rational for any small builder agreeing voluntarily to yet another payment for developing a zero carbon site, when developing  a reasonably “low carbon” development under building regulations, would be acceptable and more profitable.Whether the majority of larger builders simply focus on achieving the minimum fabric and energy standards set by building regulations, as has been the case, and then accept having to pay Allowable Solutions payments, is a moot point. I have a sneaking suspicion that many will!

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