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ACE Bill passes final hurdle in House of Commons

Planning and Energy Bill passes final hurdle in House of Commons

Michael Fallon’s Planning and Energy Bill, drafted by ACE and the Micropower Council, and supported by many other organisations, received its Report Stage and Third Reading in the House of Commons.

Government Ministers spoke against the Bill at Second Reading, but following our intense subsequent lobbying, the Government agreed to support the Bill, subject to some amendments which were made at Committee Stage. These amendments (agreed with the Government prior to tabling) mean that the Bill:

1)      Enables Local Authorities to introduce policies that require a percentage of new developments’ energy needs to be met by renewable or low carbon sources located in the locality of the development;

2)      Enables Local Authorities to set energy efficiency standards higher than those required by Building Regulations.

This Bill will enable Local Authorities to play a greater role in combating climate change and promoting microgeneration and energy efficiency.

The Bill will now go forward to the House of Lords.

History of the “Caton” Bill

The part of the Planning and Energy Bill relating to energy efficiency was originally a free-standing ACE Bill – the Local Planning Authorities: Energy and Energy Efficiency Bill, promoted by Martin Caton MP in the 2006-07 session of Parliament.

CO2 emissions are higher now than when the Labour Government took office. Energy efficiency is the simplest and most cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions.

However the planning system does not make sufficient provision for energy efficiency.  Cambridge City Council was recently required to water down a planning policy requiring large developers to ‘provide evidence of how they have minimized energy consumption, maximized energy efficiency and considered the feasibility of using CHP systems’ as, to quote the government inspector, it was ‘unreasonable to the extent that it imposes more onerous requirements than the Building Regulations’.

ACE promoted the Local Planning Authorities Energy and Energy Efficiency Bill in the last Parliamentary session.  It would have enabled local authorities to specify in their local development plans energy efficiency standards higher than those required by Building Regulations, along with targets for generating energy from renewable and low carbon sources.

The Bill aimed to allow local authorities to impose similar requirements when determining individual planning applications. The Bill also promoted microgeneration and aimed to give it the boost it needs to move from its current niche market to widespread expansion in the main energy market.

Martin Caton MP took up the Bill in the 2006 Private Members’ Ballot.  At its Second Reading debate on 19 January 2007, it was talked out by Government Minister Phil Woolas and was again objected to on 20 April when the Second Reading debate resumed.  Nevertheless, ACE continued to wage a vigorous campaign in support of the Bill. Martin Caton’s Early Day Motion No. 471 attracted the support of 298 MPs of all Parties.  His amendment to the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill (to give local authorities similar powers) was supported by 80 MPs.

With the Government now conceding all the key elements of the Planning and Energy Bill, it looks as though the long battle to win the Caton Bill has now succeeded.

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