Business leaders unite against Tories’ zero-carbon homes U-turn

More than 200 businesses have put their names to a letter today (20 July) calling on Chancellor George Osborne to reconsider ending the Government's plans for zero-carbon homes.

The Productivity Plan launched earlier this month by the Chancellor unexpectedly scrapped the policy which was initially designed to ensure new homes built from 2016 met zero-carbon standards.

The Government said it was cancelling the proposals to remove regulation and ensure greater productivity in the construction sector.

But businesss have been quick to hit back with a letter to Osborne signed by 246 senior leaders from energy and property businesses and groups, including industry leaders from the Aldersgate Group, E.ON UK, Whitbread, Saint-Gobain and the British Property Federation. 

The signatories of the letter claim the sudden U-turn has “undermined industry confidence” and warm the policy could damage investment in British innovation. “There was a broad consensus in support for the zero-carbon policy,” write the signatories, “which was designed to give the industry the confidence it needs to invest and innovate.”

Weakening standards

The letter adds: “The weakening of standards will mean our future homes, offices, schools and factories will be more costly to run, locking future residents and building users into higher energy bills.

“It also runs counter to advice from the Committee on Climate Change, impeding our ability to meet our statutory carbon targets cost-effectively at a time when we should be showing international leadership on this issue.”

UK Green Building Council chief executive Julie Hirigoyen said the Government had undertaken a “breath-taking” destruction of policies supporting renewable energy and low-carbon industries.

Hirigoyen said: “We have witnessed an unparalleled wave of support from our members and the wider industry who are deeply concerned about how the Government’s sudden, regressive and arbitrary decision to scrap the long established zero-carbon policy will impact their business and investment.”

Mike Roberts, managing director of sustainable housing developer HAB housing, added: “It may not have been perfect, but the zero-carbon policy was an attempt to provide confidence to the construction sector, setting out future standards with enough notice for industry to be able to deliver.

“Scrapping the policy sends a terrible message to the industry and undermines all those who have put time and energy into making it work.”

False economy

Writing in an exclusive blog post for edie today, David Hopkins – executive director of Wood for Good, claimed the end of the zero-carbon policy was a false economy. “There’s a widely held misconception that creating sustainable homes takes longer and is more expensive,” he wrote. “This doesn’t need to be the case.

“If sustainability isn’t factored into new build developments now, it will prolong the need for retrospective action in the long term – creating an extra, ongoing financial burden on an important sector.”

Current investment in zero-carbon housing is vast; including £1bn in 1,300 new homes being built in Cambridge and 400 homes under development in Oxfordshire. Last week saw the official opening of a ‘carbon-positive’ housing project in Cardiff, designed to meet tough future energy efficiency standards.

Matt Field

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