Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Is the Code for Sustainable Homes dead? and COP21

How can a planning system be operated effectively when treated as a political football and made the subject of continuous change; new legislation (ie the Housing and Planning Bill 2015), tinkering with policy (ie review of the National Planning Policy Framework), together with ministerial statements, leave practitioners in both public and private sectors, those in NGOs and inspectors struggling to keep up to date and give accurate and effective advice to their clients,  councillors and supporters.

As we all know the Code for Sustainable Homes was wound down and then finally removed by the Secretary of State.  The Building Research Establishment (BRE) has suggested the form of a replacement.  Maybe nobody told the inspector who held the inquiry and reported to the officer in the Government Office who wrote the decision letter on behalf of the Secretary of State who imposed a condition requiring the development to conform to Code for Sustainable Homes Level 3.  Should officers be looking through their bins to see whether there is an old copy of the CSH that has escaped the waste/recycling stream?  Should those involved in local plans be (re)inserting policies recommending or requiring CHS compliance? Questions, questions...

If the presumption in favour of sustainable development (see para 14 of the NPPF) and s39(2) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (a test of 'soundness' of a local plan), are taken seriously then the energy/water efficiency of buildings should be addressed.  Clearly Level 3 of a 6 point sustainability scale cannot be sufficient at a time when all new development must 'consume its own smoke' (see Appeal Decision APP/N2345/A/12/2169598) as a contribution to the reduction in carbon emissions implied by the recent COP21 agreement to aim for only a 1.5 degree rise in global temperature.  

The use of the CSH by the Communities Secretary could be an excuse for everybody else to return the energy efficiency of buildings (including aspect and power/heat generation) to planning control and not the preserve of Part L of the Building Regulations that does not equate to 'sustainable development'.  However, CHS 3 is clearly inadequate and decision-makers should be requiring CHS 5 with allowable solutions.  Obviously this would not please George Osborne who removed the zero carbon homes target from under Greg Clark's nose, but the Chancellor would have to repeal s39(2) of the 2004 PCPA, the Climate Change Act and amend the presumption in the NPPF to prevent planners and the lpanning system from helping with the job of complying with the national and EU targets and  now the earth saving aspirations of the Paris COP.

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