Queen’s speech: industry’s mixed feedback

There has been a mixed response to measures outlined in the Queen’s Speech delivered to Parliament yesterday.
The most dissent is with the announcement that the requirements for zero carbon homes will be watered down with the introduction of ‘allowable solutions’ for zero carbon housing.

This means that developers will not be required to meet the highest levels of energy efficiency on larger projects, instead being offered the option of off-setting by paying into alternative green schemes, or ‘allowable solutions’. The rate is likely to be between £38 and £90 per tonne of carbon.

Smaller housing developments will also be exempt, despite previous pledges that all new homes in the UK will be built to a zero carbon standard by 2016.

Steven Heath, director – public affairs and strategy for Knauf Insulation Northern Europe, said: “Considering the tempestuous journey the UK’s green agenda and zero carbon policies have had over the last few years, it perhaps should come as no surprise that there are yet more complications and a scaling back of ambition.

“Yesterday’s decision, announced in the Queen’s speech, to further water down previous intentions for energy requirements of new homes from 2016 is a another blow for the industry. Rather than supporting and directing all efforts towards meeting the original intention that all new homes built from 2016 onwards would be ‘zero carbon’, the Government has now confirmed that only a 44% reduction in CO2 emissions will be required and this will only apply to 30% of new homes built.

“Additionally, Government policy makers have a duty to ensure that new policies will address the very real and long-term financial concerns to both new homeowners and those in the supply chain. We thought that’s what the Zero Carbon Homes ambition had set out, however yesterday’s announcement once again suggests otherwise.”

Paul King, Chief Executive of the UK Green Building Council, said: “The Coalition will laud their green credentials by claiming to have delivered on the promise for all new homes to be zero carbon from 2016. This has undoubtedly been hard-won by the Lib Dems, but unfortunately they are at risk of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by letting small developments – a large chunk of the housebuilding market – off the hook. Zero carbon homes save a fortune for households in energy costs and are better for the environment.

“However, the policy of allowing developers to pay into a fund to offset emissions they cannot reduce is a sound idea in principle, despite its lukewarm reception this week. If implemented properly, this could lead to investment in local, community energy schemes and drive innovation in clean technology. On the other hand, a weak scheme, that generates little investment that has no connection to the housebuilding which is taking place, would be a deeply disappointing outcome.”

James Parkinson, group marketing director of Ideal Boilers welcomed the measures aimed at stimulating the housing/construction and manufacturing sectors. “We hope these new proposals, including continued support for the ‘Help to Buy’ and ‘Right to Buy’ Schemes; the reforms to the planning system to enable new garden cities; the sale of high-value government land to encourage development and increased support of small house-building firms, will combine to stimulate the renewal of the housing construction industry and ongoing development of a strong supporting manufacturing sector.”

Paul Godwin, Managing Director of the Build Show, commented: “The Queen made some significant announcements that are a real encouragement to the sector. We are pleased that small housebuilding firms in particular will be supported and given a fair chance to grow and develop through the easing of planning regulations and the release of more land for development.

“Also the pledge to increase the number of apprenticeships is a welcomed commitment that will help address skills shortages and enable the industry to flourish in the years to come.”

Katja Hall, CBI Deputy Director-General, said: “Given where we are in the political cycle, and the temptation to play to public opinion, it was refreshing to see this Queen’s Speech focusing firmly on the economic recovery.

“The last thing businesses wanted was a raft of new legislation, so they will be bolstered by targeted measures to cement long-term growth, promote jobs and raise living standards. The recovery is already motoring ahead and this Queen’s Speech should help step it up a gear.”

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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