Report: green standards shake-up 'not congruent with localism'

A government plan to restrict the amount of green housing standards imposed by local authorities on developers is 'not congruent' with its commitment to localism, a report by a Parliamentary committee has concluded.

Green housing: government plans to wind down Code for Sustainable Homes
Green housing: government plans to wind down Code for Sustainable Homes

The report, Code for Sustainable Homes and the Housing Standards Review, by the Environmental Audit Committee, criticises the government’s intention to remove local authorities’ discretion to set standards on energy and water saving—using the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH)—in favour of a national standard.

The plans were put out for consultation in August. The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said then that it was "minded at this stage to group the standards proposed in this consultation into a simple, short, ‘nationally described standards’ document that will reduce cost and complexity for housebuilders".

It said that when finalised (post consultation) each standard would carry with it a needs test which would include the evidence criteria which local planning authorities would have to demonstrate to planning inspectors if they wish to apply a particular standard in their area.

This would be backed up by a new planning policy statement which would "make it clear that, going forward, there is a national policy expectation that local planning authorities limit the use of discretionary standards in future to those which are proposed by the review".

The government also said that as a result of its planned changes to the requirements housebuilders face when building new homes, it proposed to "wind down" the role of the Code for Sustainable Homes - the national standard for the sustainable design and construction of new homes.

The Environmental Audit Committee report says the proposed needs test on the application of sustainability standards by local authorities "risks becoming a lawyers’ charter".

"It could curtail local choice, delay the construction of new homes, drive down standards of sustainability and compel local authorities to incur unnecessary legal fees. The Coalition Agreement stated that the Government would ‘return decision-making powers on housing and planning to local councils’.

"The proposed imposition of a national standards set on local authorities is not congruent with the commitment to localism in the Coalition Agreement".

It also calls for the Code for Sustainable Homes to be retained.

"In order to facilitate local choice, to promote green growth, green exports and green innovation, to establish a meaningful zero carbon homes standard, to consolidate seven years’ experience of sustainable development and to maintain and further develop incremental gains in sustainable home building, we urge DCLG not to wind down the Code for Sustainable Homes", the report says.

But in a statement, communities minister Stephen Williams said the current system meant there was a "mish mash of rules that housebuilders face across the country".

"We are consulting on how best to end this confusion and create a simple and effective set of standards that councils and housebuilders can understand and that support new homebuilding without compromising safety or sustainability standards", he said.

Code for Sustainable Homes and the Housing Standards Review

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