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Welsh set tough low carbon targets

Low carbon and renewable technology will have to be included in new buildings in Wales according to new planning policies being developed by the Welsh Assembly.

The assembly is determined to force developers to think about the installation of measures such as solar panels and Combined Heat and Power and is consulting on changes it wants to implement by April next year.

The new policies will set emission targets and minimum national standards for the sustainability of buildings and for the incorporation of renewable and low carbon energy technologies.

New homes would – as a minimum - have to reach Level 3 of the Code for Sustainable Homes while other buildings would have to achieve a “very good” rating through the Building Research Establishment's Environmental Assessment Scheme (BREEAM).

Wales is the only UK country to use the planning system to set a national minimum standard for the sustainability of new buildings and the only one to combine this with a standard for the incorporation of renewable and low carbon energy sources. 

The Welsh Assembly’s Environment, Sustainability and Housing minister Jane Davidson said: “This policy will ensure that there is a level playing field across Wales and avoid the unnecessary burden for each local planning authority to devise, justify and propose similar policies to improve the sustainability of new buildings in their Local Development Plan (LDP).”

She said the planning system needed to do more to encourage the take-up of new renewable energy technologies: “This is why we are proposing a national minimum requirement for major development proposals to incorporate renewable and low carbon sources which equates to 10 per cent of the regulated emissions. This is in addition to the energy efficiency measures expected by our sustainable building standard.”

Ms Davidson added that on certain sites there might be opportunities for standards higher than the national minimum while local planning authority will be given the chance to set targets above the national minimum levels.

The Welsh Assembly has also launched an advice booklet titled 'Improving your Home - A Climate Change Guide' aimed at helping householders improve the energy efficiency of existing homes:
The booklet was created in partnership with the Design Commission for Wales, the Energy Saving Trust, and the Welsh Local Government Association.
It details 10 common projects that a householder may carry out to improve their home and corresponding measures to improve energy efficiency.
Ms Davidson said: “For example, when a householder is thinking of adding an extension to their home I want to encourage them to think about the orientation of the extension to reduce carbon emissions, and also to think about the materials that they use to ensure they are resilient to flooding.
There also may be opportunities to improve the fabric of the existing building at the same time, for example by upgrading insulation or installing a more efficient heating system.
“It is these small measures and changes in how people think about improving their home, that can go a long way to reducing carbon emissions and making sure that the existing stock can be resilient to climate change.”