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DCLG urged not to demolish Sustainable Homes Policy

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has been urged by MPs to reconsider plans to axe the Code for Sustainable Homes.

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.

Joan Walley MP commented: “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.”

DCLG’s proposed needs test on the application of sustainability standards by local authorities also risks becoming a lawyers’ charter, according to the MPs.

It could curtail local choice, delay the construction of new homes and compel local authorities to incur unnecessary legal fees.

The inquiry found that DCLG failed to take into account the latest evidence on the declining capital costs of fitting clean energy technology to homes in its Housing Standards Review.

The MPs also discovered that the 2016 zero carbon homes standard has been successively watered down.

The Committee recommended that DCLG:

  • examines the latest research on the decreasing cost of clean energy technologies;
  • maintains and refreshes the CSH as a tool for local authorities to lever in sustainability;
  • retains CSH standards on sustainable construction materials to support green exports and green growth.

UK-GBC senior policy advisor Jo Wheeler added: “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.”

Meanwhile Gas Safe Europe is welcoming the Government review of carbon monoxide alarms in rented homes but warns that the review may not go far enough to protect people in their homes.

Gas Safe Europe managing director John Stones explains: “Whilst the review is certainly a step in the right direction – we want to raise awareness about the importance of testing your CO alarm.”

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