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Climate Change (Zero-Carbon Development)

Volume 454: debated on Wednesday 13 December 2006

I am today announcing the publication of environmental measures in new housing as part of a wider package aimed at tackling climate change by moving towards zero-carbon development. These are:

(i) a consultation document, “Building a Greener Future”,

(ii) a draft Planning Policy Statement, “Planning and Climate Change”,

(iii) final details of the Code for Sustainable Homes; and

(iv) a consultation document, “Water Efficiency in New Buildings”.

All these documents will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

As the Stern Review made clear, climate change is a serious and urgent issue, and carbon emissions are the main cause. More than a quarter of the energy used in this country is used by domestic households. So, to meet our goal of reducing carbon emissions by 60 per cent. by 2050, we will need to ensure new as well as existing homes are environmentally sustainable.

There is also an urgent need to build more homes. Since the early 1980s we have not been building sufficient housing, market or affordable, to meet demand. On 29 November, we published “Planning Policy Statement 3—Housing”, which aims to increase housing supply to help ensure that the growing number of households have access to decent homes at prices they can afford.

But we need to make sure that the new homes are truly sustainable for the future; by 2050 these new homes will make up around a third of the stock. That is why we are publishing:

a proposed timetable to progressively improve the energy/carbon standards in Building Regulations, with a target to achieve zero carbon for all new homes by 2016;

a new Planning Policy Statement on climate change for consultation, so that shaping places with lower carbon emissions is at the heart of what Government expects from good planning; and

a new Code for Sustainable Homes, which will provide a set of environmental standards for developers and consumers to meet on a voluntary basis.

These measures will also promote an emerging market in environmental technologies, pushing innovation and driving costs down. A diverse energy market will mean consumers gain through lower fuel bills and warmer homes.

Building a Greener Future

The consultation document “Building a Greener Future” sets out the overall strategy for moving towards zero carbon development. It sets out the three elements: a consultation on a timetable for progressively improving building regulations to achieve zero carbon homes by 2016; a draft planning policy on climate change (see below) and a Code for Sustainable Homes (see below).

The proposed timetable would see the energy/carbon requirements of building regulations revised to be equivalent to the following levels of the Code for Sustainable Homes:

Level 3 (25 per cent. improvement on 2006 regulations) in 2010

Level 4 (44 per cent. improvement on 2006 regulations) in 2013

Level 6 (zero carbon) in 2016

In his pre-Budget Report 2006, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a time-limited stamp duty exemption for the vast majority of new zero-carbon homes. This exemption will provide an incentive for buyers of new homes to demand, and housebuilders and developers to offer, zero carbon homes in advance of Level 6 of the Code becoming a mandatory standard.

Planning Policy Statement: Planning and Climate Change

The planning system has an important role to play in setting out a framework for the location, siting and design of new development, and in helping to secure enduring progress against the UK's emissions targets. This draft PPS on climate change sets out how planning, in providing for the new homes, jobs and infrastructure needed by communities, should contribute both to the reduction of emissions and delivery of zero-carbon development, and to the shaping of sustainable communities that are resilient to climate change. We are putting tackling climate change at the centre of what we expect from good planning. This is why the new PPS will sit alongside and supplement PPS1, where we set out our core objectives for the planning system

The draft PPS sets out where and how planning can contribute most effectively. We expect to see:

planning strategies put in place that help secure progress against the UK's emissions targets - both by direct influence on energy use and emissions and through bringing together and encouraging action by others.

these planning strategies being tested on their carbon ambition. They should deliver patterns of urban growth that help secure the fullest possible use of sustainable transport and, overall, reduce the need to travel. New development should be located to optimise its carbon performance. It should make the most of existing and planned opportunities for decentralised, renewable and low-carbon energy supplies.

real ambition in regional and local planning policies for renewable and low-carbon energy supplies. We are challenging regional planning bodies to set targets for renewable energy capacity in line with national targets, or better where possible. Applicants for renewable energy will no longer have to demonstrate the need for their project, either in general or in particular locations.

a planning process that supports business innovation and engages constructively and imaginatively with developers to secure the delivery of sustainable buildings. The draft PPS sets out the vision of a planning system that underpins delivery on the ground and helps secure the sustainable development needed in all communities.

Code for Sustainable Homes

We are also publishing the final version of the Code for Sustainable Homes, which sets environmental sustainability standards which can be applied to all homes. A consultation on the Code was published in December 2005 with the Government's response to the Barker Review of Housing Supply. The Code applies only in England, although it will have implications for Wales.

The revised Code has six levels. Minimum standards at Code Level 1 are higher than the minimum mandatory standards in Building Regulations. There are set minimum energy/carbon efficiency and water efficiency standards at each level. The Code also rewards other environmental considerations, such as sustainable construction materials, recycling availability, cycle spaces and home offices, with credits towards their Code rating.

We are proposing that assessment against the Code starts for new homes in April 2007. This will put in place accreditation and assessment arrangements to ensure that new homes can voluntarily receive a Code assessment from that date. We are minded to propose mandatory rating against the Code of all new homes by April 2008, which we believe will encourage take-up of higher environmental standards, and boost demand for environmentally-friendly technologies and construction methods. A further consultation on this will follow in the new year.

Water efficiency in new buildings

The consultation sets out proposals for setting minimum standards for water efficiency in new homes and new offices and shops. It seeks views on the approaches suggested and on the performance standards that should be set for homes and the workplace.

These new regulations would provide minimum mandatory standards for water in the building regulations to underpin the minimum standards for water efficiency at level 1 of the Code for Sustainable Homes and will establish best practice in the water efficiency of offices and shops as the norm. The minimum standards would also contribute to the wider package of measures being developed by the DEFRA-led Water Savings Group to reduce consumer demand for water.