The Treasury announced today (10 July) it will be scrapping regulations on house building to streamline development, including ending the proposed zero-carbon Allowable Solutions carbon offsetting scheme and the planned 2016 increase in on-site energy efficiency standards.

Chancellor George Osborne’s productivity plan – ‘Fixing the Foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation’ – set out an agenda to improve the UK’s long-term productivity slump. The plan was officially launched in Birmingham today by Secretary of State for Business Sajid Javid.

Osborne said: “The only way to sustainably raise the living standards of the citizens of our nation is to confront the challenge of our lifetime, to raise productivity.”

‘Death knell’

The Government’s plans for ‘zero-carbon’ homes had previously been watered down, allowing companies to buy exemptions. Under this new ruling, the Tories hope to boost housing construction by fast-tracking planning permissions.

However, green building leaders and sustainability professionals are unconvinced. The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has called the move the ‘death knell’ for zero-carbon homes.

UKGBC chief executive Julie Hirigoyen slammed the move, stating: “It is short-sighted, unnecessary, retrograde and damaging to the house building industry which has invested heavily in delivering energy efficient homes.

“Britain needs more housing but there is no justification for building homes with a permanent legacy of high energy bills.”

Hirigoyen added the industry had not been consulted on the changes, claiming the changes were not mandated in the Conservative manifesto: “This stop start policy making approach gives industry no confidence in the Government’s vision for a low-carbon economy and condemns new home owners to higher energy bills.”

Willmott Dixon Energy Services managing director Rob Lambe said: “This announcement seriously undermines industry confidence in Government policy and will diminish future investment.”

LendLease Europe’s managing director for sustainability Paul King added that this change effectively ends a “world-leading ambition for all new homes to be zero carbon from 2016”.


The Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) welcomed the proposals for increased productivity, but cited concerns of a lack of sustainability skills and questioned the surprise abandonment of zero carbon homes.

IEMA chief policy advisor Martin Baxter added: “The plan provides huge opportunities for mainstreaming sustainable thinking across the UK economy.

“Moves to deliver three million apprenticeships and Institutes of Technology registered with professional bodies have the potential to significantly enhance the reach of sustainability skills needed to deliver UK businesses the growth opportunities inherent in a sustainable economy.” 

Hywel Davies, technical director of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers said the move was not surprising, claiming the Allowable Solutions scheme “did not fulfil the requirements of the EU energy performance of buildings directive”.

The Government document added it would “keep energy efficiency standards under review, recognising that existing measures to increase energy efficiency of new buildings should be allowed time to become established.”

This is the second controversial green policy announcement to come out of Westminster in the space of three days. Osborne came under scrutiny following Wednesday’s emergency Budget after announcing renewable energy sources would now be eligible for the Climate Change Levy, rather than being exempt. Green MP Caroline Lucas claimed there was a “climate-shaped hole” in the Conservative Budget.

Matt Field

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie