That’s according to a new report from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, which claims that these policies cost English households £500m in energy bills each year.

Data shows that uptake of energy-saving technologies such as UPVC windows, new boilers or cavity wall insulation is lower in areas where many properties are subject to preservation policies. Analysis found that £3.8bn savings could have been made on energy bills between 2006 and 2013 had energy consumption dropped in these areas at the same rate as in other neighbourhoods.

“Preservation policies play an important role in protecting our historic buildings but our research shows that there is a trade-off,” said Grantham Research Institute associate professor and report co-author Dr Charles Palmer. “The results highlight that preservation policies have inadvertently hindered some households from cutting down their energy use and their bills.”

‘Significant issue’

Domestic buildings account for around 13% of the UK’s annual emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG). Previous research has suggested that unless these emissions are significantly reduced, the UK is likely to fall short of its climate change targets by as much as 30% by 2025.

To address these concerns, the Government’s Clean Growth Strategy, launched last week, outlined around £3.6bn of investment to upgrade 500,000 homes through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO).

The Government has also extended support on domestic energy-efficiency improvements from 2022 to 2028, while a long-term trajectory to improve energy performance standards – including upgrading private rented homes to Energy Performance Certificate Band C – will also be developed.

But Dr Palmer warned that the Clean Growth Strategy neglects the role of restrictions that make it difficult to improve energy efficiency in homes covered by preservation policies, which account for around 10% of the UK’s housing stock.

He said: “Reducing emissions from homes could become increasingly unrealistic if preservation policies make it costly or even impossible to improve energy efficiency. 10% of the UK’s housing stock is subject to preservation polices so it is a significant issue.

“The solution could be to limit further preservation or possibly reverse some existing designations. A compromise between preservation and improving energy efficiency would also help. For instance, local authorities could relax the rules on the use of certain materials to allow for the installation of energy-efficient windows.”

George Ogleby

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