4 July 2016: Included in this month’s Mayor’s Questions was a series of useful queries around an announcement made earlier this year that the GLA would introduce a Zero Carbon Homes planning policy from 1 October 2016 for all new major housing developments. London’s plans to g0-ahead with a zero carbon homes policy runs counter to that of national government, where 10 years of work to introduce a 2016 zero carbon policy was scrapped by the Chancellor in his Summer Budget 2015, an announcement which was widely condemned by the building industry. A recent (unsuccessful) attempt to overturn this decision, in the passage of the Housing and Planning Bill (see here), specifically cited London’s stance as evidence of why the policy should be kept (see column 919 of the House of Lords debate – and reference to the GLA’s policy in House of Commons research paper here). The House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Select Committee also stated in their recent Home Energy Efficiency report that the “decision damaged confidence in the low carbon economy and will lock in the requirement for future wide-scale energy efficiency measures and costly retrofits. We recommend that the Government reinstates the zero carbon homes policy or sets out a similar policy that will ensure that new homes generate no net carbon emissions.”
The Mayor’s responses clarified that:
- Funds raised through the London zero carbon homes offset fund need to be ring-fenced by local councils
- It’s not clear at the moment how much funding will be raised for low carbon projects through the offset funds, but money has already been collected by early adopters of the policy
- That the zero carbon policy will be extended to non-residential buildings from 2019
- It’s also not clear how many zero carbon homes will be built by 2020.
The GLA has also approved research work of the various approaches that could be taken by local authorities to direct these offset funds to. The outline of this research project states that:
‘London Plan policy 5.2 sets out that where the target percentage improvements in carbon dioxide emissions beyond Part L of the Building Regulations cannot be met on-site, any short fall should be provided off-site or through cash in lieu contribution to the relevant borough. This is to be ring fenced to secure delivery of carbon dioxide savings elsewhere.
Existing London Plan policy was prepared in expectation of the establishment of a national zero carbon homes and associated ‘allowable solutions’ framework which the national government is no longer progressing. As such, for the short to medium term it is likely that carbon offset funds established by borough’s will remain the only manner for securing carbon offset funding where development is unable to viably or feasibly meet carbon dioxide emissions reduction targets on-site. As such there is a need to gain a more detailed understanding of the diversity of approaches London boroughs are currently taking to carbon offsetting in order to best inform any future GLA actions in this policy area. This work forms the first stage of the information-gathering and data analysis of this process. “
It’s great to see London leading in this area to ensure that – as the Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee has recently said – we are “building houses that are fit for the future. We have the technology and building techniques to construct houses that generate their own power and hardly need heating. We owe it to future generations to use them.”