The letter specifically asks Pickles to refrain from scrapping the Merton Rule, a borough wide prescriptive planning policy that requires new developments to generate at least 10% of their energy needs from on-site renewable energy equipment.

Organisations addressing Pickles say the Merton Rule is the only policy driver for renewables in new buildings until full Zero Carbon standards are introduced to Building Regulations in 2016.

The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has proposed, in its Housing Standards Review consultation, to “amend or remove” the Merton Rule.

Secured by Michael Fallon in the Planning and Energy Act 2008, the rule enables local governments to stipulate higher energy standards for new homes than national Building Regulations, and specify the inclusion of connected or on-site renewable energy systems.

The group says that scrapping the measure would damage the on-site renewables industry, weaken local democracy and lead to higher energy bills in new homes.

It stresses that until full Zero Carbon standards are applied in 2016, the Merton Rule is essential for sustaining jobs and skills in the new build renewables industry and low carbon construction.

REA Head of On-site Renewables Mike Landy said: “The Government’s zeal for deregulation is trumping economic rationality and will lead to higher energy bills for new homes. Scrapping the Merton Rule would remove a vital bridge to the Zero Carbon standards promised for 2016, which will anyway not be fully effective until the end of this decade. 

“We call on Government to commit to a clear roadmap for introducing zero carbon standards on time in 2016, and to preserve the Merton Rule until the standards are fully effective in driving renewables in new build. Industry confidence is at a low ebb and time is rapidly running out. Why wait any longer to future-proof our homes?”

Adding to Landy’s comments, Sustainable Energy Association chief executive, Dave Sowden, said: “The figures speak for themselves: the benefits of building to a zero carbon standard more than outweigh the cost. Our analysis suggests fuel bills will be up to £100 higher than they would be had the Building Regulations not been watered down in 2013.

“This Government, which has made the ‘value for money’ of policy a key priority, will be disadvantaging UK taxpayers if they repeal the Planning and Energy Act,” said Sowden.

Leigh Stringer

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