New development still unsustainable – report

The Government is overlooking water sustainability and construction waste issues in its rush to fill Britain's housing gap, a report from the Sustainable Development Commission has concluded.

Too many houses are still being unnecessarily demolished, especially in the North of England and the Midlands, resulting in wasted resources and disconnected communities, according to the report from the Government’s sustainability watchdog.

The report also criticised plans for further development in areas that are already experiencing water stress. “There are serious concerns about whether these areas will be able to cope with increased demand,” the report said.

Although ‘encouraged’ by ministers’ efforts to take climate change into account in new development and regeneration, the report found that, overall, “few communities built so far are living up to the promise of being environmentally sensitive, well-connected, thriving and inclusive.”

Rebecca Willis, vice-chair of the SDC, said: “People want safe, attractive and affordable places to live. Despite the Government’s good intentions, our research shows that new communities aren’t always coming up to scratch.

“There’s still a huge opportunity for Government to get this right. The priority must be to turn our existing communities into eco-towns.

“Communities can be green and prosperous, with well-planned public transport and good facilities. But the Government must learn from past mistakes and put residents’ needs before commercial interests and housing targets,” she said.

The report’s main findings included:

  • housing growth taking place in severely water-stressed areas
  • significant amount of undeveloped land being used for new houses

  • plans for extensive demolition of occupied hoimes in the North and Midlands, despite a policy shift
  • “real progress”on climate change with the pledge that new homes will be zero carbon in 10 years’ time
  • lack of co-ordination means that some communities are left without vital facilities
  • focus on house-building alone will not lead to the much-needed regeneration of Midlands and the North

    To overcome some of the barriers to sustainable development, the Government should remove tax incentives for developers to demolish homes instead of refurbishing them, improve water and energy efficiency standards and connect new housing with existing communities instead of sprawling onto undeveloped land, according to the SDC.

    The full report can be accessed here.

    Goska Romanowicz

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