Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
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DCLG urged not to demolish Sustainable Homes Policy
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has been urged by MPs to reconsider plans to axe a policy that has driven up home building standards and helped to create a thriving sustainable building industry in the UK.
Environmental Audit Committee Chair Joan Walley MP said:
“The Secretary of State should think again before demolishing the Code for Sustainable Homes. The policy has been a big success in driving up home building standards, delivering local choice and supporting green exports. Building materials manufacturers in the UK told us that they use the Code as a green kitemark when they sell their products abroad.”
The cross-party Environmental Audit Committee criticised the Department for its decision to remove local authorities’ discretion to set high standards on energy and water saving—using the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH)—in favour of a lowest-common-denominator national standard.
Joan Walley MP pointed out:
“The Coalition Agreement promised that the Government would ‘return decision-making powers on housing and planning to local councils’, but this decision bulldozes local choice in favour of a one-size-fits-all approach designed to benefit developers who want to build homes on the cheap.”
DCLG’s proposed needs test on the application of sustainability standards by local authorities also risks becoming a lawyers’ charter, according to the MPs. It could curtail local choice, delay the construction of new homes and compel local authorities to incur unnecessary legal fees.
The inquiry found that DCLG failed to take into account the latest evidence on the declining capital costs of fitting clean energy technology to homes in its Housing Standards Review. The MPs also discovered that the 2016 zero carbon homes standard has been successively watered down.
The report pointed out that the CSH is a proven policy mechanism for driving incremental improvements in sustainable home building. Once-difficult-to-achieve lower-level CSH standards on energy use have been successfully embedded in Building Regulations over the six years since the policy was introduced. DCLG has not set out a replacement mechanism to drive sustainability in the future.
The Committee recommended that DCLG:
examines the latest research on the decreasing cost of clean energy technologies;
maintains and refreshes the CSH as a tool for local authorities to lever in sustainability;
retains CSH standards on sustainable construction materials to support green exports and green growth.
Joan Walley MP concluded:
“Hundreds of thousands of homes have to be built in the coming decades. Smart energy and water saving measures – which will ultimately save homeowners money on their bills – must become the norm if we want our homes to be fit for the future.
“The Code for Sustainable Homes incentivises developers and designers to think about sustainability from the outset of a project and throughout the development process. It is a proven and flexible way of pushing up home building standards and should not be dropped.”