Housing and Planning Bill - Report (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:20 pm on 25th April 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Parminter Baroness Parminter Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 4:20 pm, 25th April 2016

My Lords, the aim of this amendment is for new homes to contribute to meeting our greenhouse gas targets and to help lower fuel bills. In Committee the Minister argued that homes had to be financially viable to build, yet conceded that the extra build costs to meet carbon compliance standards are under £3,000 for a three-bedroom, semi-detached house. That figure comes from a Zero Carbon Hub report published in 2014 which forecasts a continuing reduction in those costs until 2020. Indeed, the managing director of Zero Carbon Hub said last month that today’s costs are dramatically lower than in 2014 due to the industry’s greater proficiency at building energy-efficient low-carbon homes.

The Government also argued that the amendment imposed a regulatory burden, but these standards, withdrawn by the Chancellor last year, had industry-wide support. If the Government’s priority is to support small housebuilders, it should be noted that they themselves cite that the major constraints on their building more homes are land prices and access to finance. This was the evidence given last October to the House of Lords Committee on National Policy on the Built Environment by representatives from both the Home Builders Federation and the Federation of Master Builders. The committee concluded:

“We disagree with the Government’s decision to remove the zero carbon homes policy and the Code for Sustainable Homes. These decisions are likely to add to long-term housing costs through a reduction in energy efficiency, and we have heard no clear evidence that they will lead to an increase in housebuilding”.

Since the Committee stage, the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee has added its voice to the call for a reinstatement of the zero carbon homes policy.

Let us not forget home owners in all of this. The annual energy bill for a family living in a zero carbon three-bedroom, semi-detached house will be £1,220 less than that for a Victorian home and £330 less than for a home built to existing building regulations. The amendment would also avoid retrofit costs, given that the Government are not ruling out raising energy standards in the future. It is a long-term saving not just to the home owner, but to the environment.

Higher regulatory standards should not be considered as burdensome red tape, but a requirement that is essential to reduce both energy costs and to tackle the threat of climate change. As Mike Roberts, the MD of small housebuilder HAB Housing, said, there should be no exemptions: volume housebuilders have the scale and resource, whilst smaller companies are light on their feet and more able to react quickly. We urge the Government to back up the commitment that the UK made at COP21 in Paris and make higher carbon standards mandatory as soon as possible. I beg to move.