January 2013: Solid Wall Insulation’s (SWI) time has finally come and it is now the key technology to be supported in the Government’s annual £1.3 billion ECO domestic energy efficiency programme (which came into operation at the beginning of this year). However, a significant barrier to the roll out of SWI was potential planning difficulties householders could face when wishing to retrofit their homes with SWI.
So it was good to see a tweet from DECC Minister Greg Barker last week announcing that the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) – which sets the policy for planning – had issued new guidance which allows SWI to be fitted without planning approval.
No DECC or DCLG news release was issued, and it was left to BusinessGreen to explain the change. “The formal clarification confirms solid wall insulation – which is commonly fitted to the exterior of a building, potentially changing the look of a property – is classified as a “permitted development”, meaning property owners can undertake the work without specific planning permission.
“Listed buildings and properties in conservation areas will remain an exception to the rule and would require specific planning permission, but Barker predicted that planning issues would “not present a problem for the vast majority of people intending to put solid wall insulation on their houses”.
The clarification is made in the following Technical Guidance issued on the government’s planning portal website ‘Permitted development for householders‘ and the wording in the document which marks such a major change for the insulation industry is remarkably succinct:
“The installation of solid wall insulation constitutes an improvement rather than an enlargement or extension to the dwellinghouse [sic] and is not caught by the provisions of d(i) and d(ii).” [p13]
where d(i) to d(ii) set out limits and conditions to permitted development rights to the enlargement, improvement or other alteration of a house.
There is now a lot of activity around rolling out SWI in London including:
- a recently commissioned project by the GLA on the Green Deal which, along with other key issues, will also be looking at barriers to the uptake of SWI in London.
- Camden issued specific energy efficiency planning guidance for Dartmouth Park which specifically considers SWI – this is the first such suplementary planning guidance issued on SWI anywhere in the country
- Think tank Future of London issued a useful report earlier this year on planning issues related to the Green Deal in London, including SWI
- And a technology assessment paper by DECC on SWI has also been recently published, which mentioned the following issue in relation to London:
“A leading SWI installer recognised that in London there was no supplier stocking the full range of SWI materials required for jobs. Consequently, firms involved in one-off SWI jobs found it virtually impossible to source products at competitive rates. As a large contractor, the firm has worked hard to bulk purchase equipment for itself. Needing a warehouse for its own operations, it decided that it could help supply the sector at the same time.”
There’s still some way to go for SWI to make its impact in London. Even with permitted development rights, planning permission will be required in conservation areas and, as the Future of London report points out – there are around 600,000 homes in conservation areas in London, roughly half the national total and around 60 per cent of all homes in the capital are solid wall.