The conservation group had been working closely with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in developing the Code for Sustainable Buildings, which was a Labour manifesto pledge.

However, following what the WWF calls “18 months of agonisingly slow progress” the ODPM is due to issue a draft code which seems to be weaker than existing building regulations.

“We have done our very best to work with Mr Prescott’s department, to help them deliver something that would live up to the Deputy Prime Minister’s own commitments to sustainable, energy efficient housing,” said Robert Napier, Chief Executive of WWF-UK.

“It appears that the recommendations and advice of the Senior Steering Group has been ignored and, in a final demonstration of disregard, the members of the Senior Steering Group have not even been given the opportunity to comment on the draft.”

The Code for Sustainable Buildings will be a requirement for the public sector in all building projects. It was meant to address such issues as energy efficiency, particularly as UK homes are responsible for nearly a third of all CO2 emissions, as well as matters to ensure new developments have good public transport links and are assessed for their ecological value before building begins.

According to WWF, however, the draft code represents less than existing commitments for publicly funded housing to go beyond minimum building regulations for energy efficiency. It will also drop existing public sector requirements for new homes to be close to public transport and for assessment of ecological value of sites.

“WWF seeks to work constructively with progressive government agencies, but on this occasion we regret we can no longer sanction what Mr Prescott’s department is producing. The Government must now take the public consultation extremely seriously if it stands any chance of delivering what is so urgently needed,” Mr Napier said.

The draft Code for Sustainable Buildings is expected to be announced next week as part of the pre-budget report which will also include details of how the Government will put the results of the Barker review on housing into practice.

The Sustainable Communities plan has been criticised by a number of environment groups for a number of issues, largely centred on the fact that most of the building plans are for the South East, an area already suffering from overcrowding, traffic congestion, and water shortages.

By David Hopkins

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