Futures Forum: Parliamentary committee to inquire into the National Planning Policy Framework: "forcing councils to approve ad-hoc planning applications"
Futures Forum: Private Bill to amend the National Planning Policy Framework: second reading: Friday 6th June
Meanwhile, a leading member of the Community Voice on Planning
Community Voice on Planning | A National Alliance to provide communities with an effective voice on planning, enabling them to protect their greenfield and green spaces.
... has drawn attention to the 'tweaks' in housing regulations to made by central govt, as reported by the East Devon Alliance:
UPDATES ON NATIONAL PLANNING REGULATIONSUpdates on national planning regulations | East Devon Alliance
These changes were proposed last week:
Queen's Speech: 'Small sites' to be exempt from zero carbon homes standard
4 June 2014 by Catherine Early
Small housing sites will not have to meet a target for all new homes to be zero carbon by 2016, today's Queen's Speech has confirmed.
A document accompanying the speech said that the government is "committed" to implementing a zero carbon standard for new homes from 2016, but added that small sites, "which are most commonly developed by small scale housebuilders", will be exempt. The document added that the definition of what is meant by a "small site" will be consulted on "shortly".
The announcement has led to fears that developers will able to avoid the zero carbon home requirement altogether.
President of the Royal Institute of British Architecture Stephen Hodder said. "The step will stunt the zero carbon home delivery plan by opening a loophole in legislation for developers to avoid zero carbon regulations, for example though phasing development into smaller sites, or manipulating definitions of the scale of their development."
The Solar Trade Association expressed alarm at press reports that the exemption could apply to all sites below 50 homes, saying that this could exempt a significant number of developments.
The document also states that it is not always technically feasible for housebuilders to mitigate all emissions on site by using energy efficiency measures or installing renewable energy technology. The government is to legislate to allow housebuilders to instead use off-site carbon abatement measures - known as "allowable solutions" - to meet part of the target. The Zero Carbon Home standard will be set at Level 5 of the Code for Sustainable Homes, but the legislation will allow developers to build to Level 4 as long as they offset through the allowable solutions scheme to achieve Code 5, the document states.
The Renewable Energy Association (REA) criticised the move, saying that allowable solutions are an "offset tax" and warned that the move would lead to increases in energy bills. REA chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska said: "The government is so desperate to get lots of houses built quickly that they seem blind to the opportunity to give these new homes super low energy bills. Instead, the occupants will probably have to foot the bill for the new tax."
Queen's Speech: 'Small sites' to be exempt from zero carbon homes standard | Planning Resource
And yet the construction industry has been preparing for this change for years:
Countdown to zero | Analysis | Inside Housing
In fact, many in the industry are not happy with the proposals:
Zero carbon exemptions pose risk
06/06/2014 | By Pete Apps Comments (2)
Exempting small developments from requirements to build zero carbon targets risks opening up a loophole which could undermine the scheme, experts have warned.
In the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday, the government announced it would legislate to exempt small developments from a requirement to produce zero carbon homes by 2016.
The government also confirmed that developers on all schemes would be able to use carbon offsetting where it was impractical to build to zero carbon standards.
Small developments are yet to be defined for these purposes, with a consultation due to be carried out, but some house builders have suggested it could be in the region of 50 homes.
‘If you are malevolent you can repackage a large scheme to be a series of 49-home developments,’ said Andrew Warren, director of the Association for the Conservation of Energy.
Paul Ciniglio, sustainability strategist at First Wessex, said he had recently carried out design calculations for a four-home scheme built to 2016 standards.
‘While it wasn’t a doddle, it was achievable,’ he said. ‘I’m disappointed [by the announcement]. We need to know the detail on what the government means by small developments and I would be concerned if loopholes could be exploited through phasing, for example.’
The speech also confirmed that small sites could be made exempt from section 106 payments, a policy criticised last month by rural campaigners warning it would lead to fewer affordable homes in the countryside.
Zero carbon exemptions pose risk | News | Inside Housing
Government waters down zero carbon target | Online News | Building
Zero carbon target watered down | News | Building Design
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