Decision Maker: Planning and Transportation Portfolio Holder
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: No
Endorse the submission of the appended Council response to the Government consultation on the Future Homes Standard: changes to Part L and Part F of the Building Regulations for new dwellings.
The Council’s response consists of a letter from SWT and a joint response produced by the Somerset Building Control Partnership (SBCP) on behalf of SWT, Sedgemoor and Mendip. It makes good sense for the SBCP to prepare a joint response as the consultation goes into technical detail beyond the detail that the Council’s own planning team or strategy function would be capable of responding on. However, the strategic relevance of the topic area and proposals in relation to the climate emergency work and Local Plan Review should not be lost and as such the strategy team has prepared a letter to accompany that joint response.
The SWT Framework Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience Plan refers specifically to responding to this consultation “to encourage greater national action at an earlier date and/or retaining the ability for local authorities to go above and beyond the minimum standards of Building Regulations. The appended briefing note contains the SWT letter at Appendix A, the SBCP response at Appendix B, and a summary of the consultation proposals at Appendix C.
In summary, the key points of the SWT letter can be broken down to the following:
- The Future Homes Standard should be brought forward before 2025 if at all possible, and if this is not possible then it should deliver zero carbon homes from 2025. The technology and knowledge exists to go further and faster, but requires regulation to drive wide-scale take-up and delivery.
- The Government is relying on decarbonisation of the grid to progressively deliver the 75-80% carbon reduction proposed by the Future Homes Standard into a net zero carbon emissions over time. This pushes the problem elsewhere rather than tackling at source which would be preferable and ensure that buildings do not require future retrofit. There is no guarantee that the grid will decarbonise as quickly or as fully as might currently be anticipated.
- In time, new build homes should move towards being carbon negative to make the most of the opportunities available through new build, and to compensate for the difficulties around retrofitting much of the existing building stock.
- The 2020 uplift proposals are not ambitious enough and through the removal of the Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard (FEES) could lead to worse fabric energy efficiency than is currently allowed through the existing Part L 2013. A focus on fabric efficiency is paramount as this can reduce heat and electricity demand as well as costs to the occupier and can negate the need for costly fabric retrofit in the future.
- Of the two uplift options, requiring a headline 31% carbon reduction over existing Building Regulations would be preferred, but this option must be tightened to require greater emphasis on improving the building fabric ahead of reliance upon solar PV. Higher-still carbon reductions would be preferred;
- The 2020 uplift proposals reflect to a greater or lesser extent what local authorities are able to require by way of energy performance of dwellings through planning policy anyway, but this is insufficient;
- The Council is extremely concerned with the proposal to remove the ability for local authorities to set more ambitious local standards above and beyond Building Regulations, and strongly request that this ability is retained and unambiguously stated by Government;
- The Council welcomes the Government’s acknowledgement that there is currently an issue with developers “locking in” compliance with out of date regulations, and the proposal to address this to an extent on new developments. However, the proposed approach needs to be accompanied with advice as to how this should be considered in terms of development viability in the planning process but also greater focus on identifying potential ways to introduce improved requirements for large development sites with extant planning permissions.
- The Government should bring forward further proposals to ensure all new dwellings are also resilient to the climate change that is already in progress.
The consultation response is being publicised through a Portfolio Holder’s decision.
Urgent item?: Yes
Publication date: 05/02/2020
Date of decision: 05/02/2020