A goodbye (to the Code)

The government is now in a state of “purdah”, (the period of time immediately before elections or referendums when specific restrictions on the activity of civil servants are in place). Just before that happened however, a whirlwind of last minute announcements were made affecting the construction industry in a March 2015 Planning update . This post goes through the main points…

The planning update may of course be subject to change or review after the election, depending on which colour of government comes into being then, but the following sets out some of the key issues covered by the outgoing coalition:

“Local planning authorities and qualifying bodies preparing neighbourhood plans should not set in their emerging Local Plans, neighbourhood plans, or supplementary planning documents, any additional local technical standards or requirements relating to the construction, internal layout or performance of new dwellings. This includes any policy requiring any level of the Code for Sustainable Homes to be achieved by new development; the government has now withdrawn the code, aside from the management of legacy cases.”

The outgoing government maintained their committment to implementing the zero carbon homes standard in 2016 and in addition to the future strengthening of minimum on-site energy performance requirements, introduced in the Infrastructure Act 2015, the powers needed to enable off-site carbon abatement measures (Allowable Solutions) to contribute to achieving the zero carbon standard.

However in recognition of the challenge for home builders and in particular smaller home builders, they announced that there will be an exemption for small housing sites of 10 units or fewer, which is now confirmed as an exemption from the allowable solutions element of the zero carbon homes target.

This means that all new homes will be required to meet the strengthened on-site energy performance standard but those building on small sites will not be required to support any further off-site carbon abatement measures. Measures will be made to try to ensure that this exemption is not abused.

For energy performance, local planning authorities will continue to be able to set and apply policies in their Local Plans which require compliance with energy performance standards that exceed the energy requirements of Building Regulations until the introduction of the zero carbon homes policy in late 2016.

The government has stated that, from then, the energy performance requirements in Building Regulations (for new dwellings) will be set at a level equivalent to the (outgoing) Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4.

“Until the amendment is commenced, we would expect local planning authorities to take this statement of the government’s intention into account in applying existing policies and not set conditions with requirements above a Code level 4 equivalent.”

So basically, please don’t set local targets beyond a 19% improvement level over Part L1A 2013 between now and the introduction of the 2016 regulations.

As discussed in a previous post, with the Code being phased out, there is a real concern of a slip towards minimum compliance that doesn’t meet the needs of our growing population, which is why we support the introduction of the new Home Quality Mark, launched at Ecobuild in March 2015, which will give householders the ability to make more informed choices over their financial outgoings, health and wellbeing, and their impact on the environment.

You may also be interested in the series of roadshows on the new Home Quality Mark in April.

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About

Jon Ducker is a qualified energy assessor working for Kingspan Insulation Ltd. He has an extensive knowledge of energy efficiency, renewable energy systems and sustainability in buildings with an expert knowledge of the relevant sections of buildings regulations and standards and their interactions with SAP. He provides authoritative advice regarding energy assessments for a wide range of public and private sector clients.

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