Remove CO2 reduction and renewables contribution targets from planning policy

The review of building regulations and standards to help cut costs for the property industry and promote growth in the sector presents an opportunity to simplify the process.

Currently, developers must compile complex energy strategies for submission to planning departments to demonstrate how the proposed buildings will meet the requirements of occasionally overlapping policy from both the GLA and relevant local authority.    

For a large housing development in London, the developer is likely to be required to demonstrate a percentage emissions reduction against the local authority policy, a percentage emissions reduction against GLA policy, adherence to Part L of the Building Regulations and compliance with level 3 or 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes, all submitted to a mixture of planning and building control.   

Do we really need four different ways of showing that the houses will contribute to national targets of emissions reduction in the built environment? Or should we remove CO2 reduction targets from planning policy and leave this to Part L, the body set up to do so and one that is doing a good job of cutting emissions, with 2013 proposals likely to lead to reductions in new build emissions of 45% for homes and 57% for non-domestic buildings compared to 2002 regulations.   

Not only would this bring clarity, it would also mean planning officers don’t have to wade through highly technical and specialist energy strategies. Whether a building meets emissions reduction targets would be a yes/no answer.

The current UK planning system does not encourage services design to be completed prior to planning application submission and system specifications develop as a scheme progresses. It is impractical to develop detailed mechanical system design prior to planning as it would negatively impact viability, increasing the financial risk for developers.

So instead let’s remove CO2 reduction and renewables contribution targets from planning policy to provide simpler performance metrics for the industry. This won’t solve the housing crisis or lead the construction industry out of recession, but it will make achieving CO2 emissions reduction easier now and in the future.

Dan Jestico Head of Research and Development at engineering consultancy, Hilson Moran.

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