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Sustainable Buildings Code

Volume 474: debated on Tuesday 1 April 2008

9. What progress is being made in assisting local authorities to implement the sustainable buildings code. (197690)

Local authorities are fully aware of the code for sustainable homes, and many of them are already using it to improve the sustainability of homes in their area in a range of circumstances, including in building sustainable social housing, in housing growth areas and, where local circumstances allow, in other suitable developments. Guidance and support are available as appropriate.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Where local authorities wish to introduce compliance with code levels above the scheduled national compliance dates in their local planning frameworks, is it the Minister’s intention to provide them with the support and guidance to do so?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. His long-term and sustained interest in this area has provided a real incentive for the Government to go further. In respect of the zero-carbon homes target for 2016—the most ambitious target anywhere in the world—I would say that the planning framework provided by planning policy statement 22 in respect of renewable energy and the draft PPS on climate change, published over Christmas, helps to incentivise local authorities to go further and faster, if local circumstances allow it, and we would certainly encourage that to take place.

Does the Minister agree that a block to making buildings more sustainable is often the planning process, as my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) suggested in his question about thatch—what I might call the “Heath-Thatcher” question. Local authorities will often say no when it comes to replacing a wooden window with double glazing, and prefer single glazing because they argue that if the window is on a listed building, it cannot be changed.

I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. As I said in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. Whitehead), I believe that the planning framework that we have put in place really helps with this problem. I mentioned PPS22 and the draft PPS on climate change, and I would also mention the recently introduced permitted development rights, which show that we are pushing as much as possible for greener homes and greener communities. That is our intention, and it is a key policy for this Government.

The Minister will know that part of the sustainable buildings code is the requirement to have lifetime home standards by 2013. Will he explain the logic of imposing that requirement on publicly funded homes before those built by the private sector?

The intention is very clear: that we want to be as ambitious as possible for public buildings—and that applies to our existing intentions and targets. In response to an earlier question about Ordnance Survey, I mentioned how Britain could lead the world, and I believe that the incentive provided by public investment in this sector can help Britain to lead the world in innovative and green products, which we can subsequently export. I hope that the hon. Gentleman would agree with that.