Planning experts back low-carbon homes policy

Planning experts have given the thumbs up to plans to accelerate the development of low-carbon homes in the south west of the UK.

A panel of Government-appointed advisers reviewed the region's draft Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) during a ten-week public examination last year.

One of the key policies in the plan is the Low-carbon building escalator, which is intended to improve the energy standards of most new homes built in the region.

It will require developments of more than 10 homes to reduce their carbon emissions by approximately 25% if approved as part of the RSS later this year.

This will rise to 50% by 2011, and 100% by 2016, when Government legislation will require all new homes to be zero-carbon.

In a report to Government on the draft strategy, the panel said it backed the escalator policy, adding that the "region wishes to position itself at the forefront of energy conservation".

Councillor Mike Bawden, a member of the South West Regional Assembly, which oversaw the development of the draft strategy, said: "The panel has done a thorough technical review.

"I am pleased they have taken on board the core theme of the Regional Assembly's draft plan, including recommendations for low-carbon development in the south west."

The assembly worked with Regen SW, the renewable energy agency for the south west, to develop the plan.

Matthew Spencer, chief executive of Regen SW, said: "The Low-carbon building escalator was the brainchild of south west councillors keen to minimise the environmental impact of new house building, and since the policy was first mooted in 2005 it has gained huge support across the region."

Secretary of State for Communities Hazel Blears will now consider the panel's report and publish any proposed changes to the draft strategy in spring.

A final version of the strategy is set to be published in autumn 2008, when the escalator policy will come into force if it remains part of the strategy.

Kate Martin



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