Government urged not to ‘bulldoze’ sustainable homes policy
MPs are urging the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to reconsider plans to axe the Code for Sustainable Homes.
According to the Environmental Audit Committee, the policy has driven up home building standards and helped to create a “thriving sustainable building industry” in the UK.
The Committee says the DCLG’s proposed needs test on the application of sustainability standards by local authorities also risks becoming a lawyers’ charter.
It warns that removing the policy could curtail local choice, delay the construction of new homes and compel local authorities to incur unnecessary legal fees.
Environmental Audit Committee chair Joan Walley MP said: “The Secretary of State should think again before demolishing the Code for Sustainable Homes. The policy has been a big success in driving up home building standards, delivering local choice and supporting green exports. Building materials manufacturers in the UK told us that they use the Code as a green kitemark when they sell their products abroad”.
The cross-party Environmental Audit Committee criticised the Department for its decision to remove local authorities’ discretion to set high standards on energy and water saving – using the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) – in favour of a lowest-common-denominator national standard.
Walley added: “The Coalition Agreement promised that the Government would ‘return decision-making powers on housing and planning to local councils’, but this decision bulldozes local choice in favour of a one-size-fits-all approach designed to benefit developers who want to build homes on the cheap.”
Highlighting the need to build hundreds of thousands of homes in the coming decades, Walley said smart energy and water saving measures must become the norm if “we want our homes to be fit for the future”.
“The Code for Sustainable Homes incentivises developers and designers to think about sustainability from the outset of a project and throughout the development process. It is a proven and flexible way of pushing up home building standards and should not be dropped,” she added.
Backing the Environmental Audit Committee’s call, the UK Green Building Council has stressed the importance of the policy and questions why the Government would consider axing a programme that is proving “successful”.
UK-GBC senior policy advisor Jo Wheeler said: “The Code for Sustainable Homes has transformed the industry’s attitude to sustainability, and has been very helpful in setting out a clear direction for future standards. The time was right for review and rationalisation, but any changes must support the delivery of high quality homes. With the demise of the Code and big omissions in the Housing Standards Review consultation around issues like materials, we risk losing a momentum that has transformed the way homes have been built over the last seven years.
“UK-GBC believes that where appropriate, standards should be brought into Building Regulations as soon as possible, and the Government’s self-imposed ‘one in two out’ rule is not a valid excuse to delay. We also need suitable transitional arrangements, so that we don’t see a weakening in standards before national regulations catch up,” added Wheeler.
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