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Departmental Buildings

Volume 491: debated on Monday 20 April 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent progress his Department has made towards the target of increasing its energy efficiency per square metre of its Estate by 15 per cent. by 2010, relative to 1999-2000 levels; and if he will make a statement. (266882)

I can confirm that information relating to DEFRA’s performance against the energy efficiency per metre square Sustainable Operations on the Government Estate (SOGE) target is available on the Sustainable Development Commission website.

DEFRA has an ongoing programme of work to improve the energy efficiency of its estate. A key element of this programme is to reduce the size of the DEFRA Estate and make more efficient use of the existing portfolio. To date this strategy has resulted in an overall reduction in energy consumption across the estate, but has had a negative effect on the energy efficiency per metre squared.

Also, over the past four years, DEFRA has increased its capability to investigate and respond to animal and plant disease outbreaks. This work is carried out in energy intensive high containment laboratories which are regulated by strict legislation. It is accepted by energy efficiency expert bodies such as the Building Research Establishment (BRE) and the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) that energy efficiency of laboratory buildings cannot be calculated solely on a floor space basis. 75 per cent. of the DEFRA Estate’s total energy consumption is used for laboratory activities.

It should be noted that the DEFRA office estate is performing well, and if SOGE target for energy efficiency related solely to the office estate, DEFRA would currently be within 4 per cent. of achieving the target.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the change in the annual cost to his Department of maintaining the empty public buildings owned by his Department as a result of the April 2008 changes to empty property rate relief. (267134)

Allowing for the fluctuation in the number of vacant public buildings within the departmental portfolio during 2008-09 financial year due to new vacancies and property disposals, it is estimated that the change in empty property rates relief has resulted in an additional annual rates liability amounting to approximately £670,000 for the period.