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consequential improvements,Eric Pickles,Judicial Review

Judicial review of “consequential improvements” decision fails

Today in the High Court Mr Justice Nichol ruled that we cannot judicially review the decision by Eric Pickles, the Community Secretary, not to proceed with his proposal that homes which are expanded should make energy improvements to the existing building (“consequential improvements”). He ruled that a government minister is entitled to make any policy decision he considers appropriate, provided he has “genuinely considered” representations made during the consultation. He said that it was not relevant that 82 per cent of those responding had endorsed his original proposal. There were a minority who had rejected the idea, and he was entitled to rule in their favour.

The judge ruled that Ministers are entitled to change their minds. Apparently this was the first time any organisation had ever sought to challenge through the courts why a government proposal had not gone ahead, a challenge that the judge accepted as legitimate.

We are very disappointed that as a result the £11bn worth of extra construction activity which Mr Pickles’s department originally identified as likely to be delivered by consequential improvements will not now be realised. Nor will the 130 million tonnes of CO2 lifetime savings be delivered. Nor will we see the extra 2.2 million Green Deals he forecast it would deliver.

CLG’s costs have been awarded against this Association.

I am very grateful to the hundreds of people who have approached us in support of our initiative. I am sorry we have not proved able to challenge this most perverse of all decisions successfully.

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Energy Efficiency,Energy Policy,Products and Appliances

Ed Davey must plug in to the efficiency of appliances

The Prime Minister is unequivocal: “To those who say we just can’t afford to prioritise the green agenda now, my view is: we can’t afford not to”.

Government energy policy is prioritising that agenda. A significant component of that agenda is electrifying the economy – our transport, our buildings, and most particularly our electricity generation.

Business as usual won’t deliver this. So the government is deliberately stepping in to alter the merit order for generation. Nobody denies that will mean that the cost per kilowatt-hour generated will grow.

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consequential improvements,Eric Pickles,Judicial Review

Judicial review of Eric Pickles to go ahead

Having taken advice from Learned Counsel and our legal advisors, I can confirm that the Association for the Conservation of Energy will be proceeding with the judicial review process against Eric Pickles, regarding his complete volte face on implementing the “consequential improvements” section of his Part L building regulations consultation.

We intend to serve our formal documents in the High Court this Friday. On Learned Counsel’s advice we shall not be releasing the response received, late last week from Eric Pickles to our initial letter. We do intend though in our own document to point out the various admissions of errors which Mr Pickles has made already regarding his initial December 13 statement.

We want to see a speedy resolution of this matter, so that we can begin to see some of the benefits which Mr Pickles identified last year would accrue from implementing his original “consequential improvements” strategy, of £11 bn savings to the economy, 130 million lifetime tonnes of carbon dioxide, and 2.2 million more households benefiting from the Green Deal.

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Building Regulations,consequential improvements,Department for Communities and Local Government,Eric Pickles,Judicial Review

Statement on Eric Pickles Judicial Review threat

The Association for the Conservation of Energy has at last received Eric Pickles’ response to our threat of judicially reviewing his decision to reverse entirely the strong recommendations the government was making last spring, to widen the existing ‘consequential improvements’ concept to cover smaller buildings. Despite requesting – and receiving from us – an extension of an extra 17 days to prepare the response, it was nonetheless received later than agreed.

Whilst he rebuts our charge, Mr Pickles concedes that his December statement to Parliament was wrong in several ways. This included quoting completely inaccurate figures, and drawing conclusions from the wrong focus groups. He also fails to address the undeniable fact that 82% of respondents to his 2012 consultation endorsed the concept of extending consequential improvements.

We are meeting with Learned Counsel next Tuesday, and will make a further statement after that.

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ACE to judicially review Eric Pickles

The Association for the Conservation of Energy has formally told Communities Secretary Eric Pickles that it will apply for judicial review of his December 13 statement ruling out implementing any “consequential improvements” requirements for smaller buildings.

A judicial review is appropriate if a Minister is known to have acted irrationally, disregarding facts placed before them in a consultation which they initiated. This is particularly so if they fail to explain why they have opted to reject the weight of evidence before them.

Having taken advice from Leading Counsel, the Association is confident that Mr. Pickles’ statement fulfills that description.

Last January Mr. Pickles issued a public consultation proposing that, when households erect extensions or convert garages, around ten per cent further of that cost should be spent on improving the energy efficiency of the original building.

This followed the logic that, however high the efficiency levels of the new part, the overall energy consumption at the address in question will increase. The proposal simply extended existing requirements in place for larger buildings to those below 1000 m2.

Accompanying Mr. Pickles’ proposals was an Economic Impact Assessment. This has to be approved before being issued by every other Government department, including the Prime Minister’s office and the Treasury. One of the reasons for the levels of support given across Government must have been the enormously positive boost to the economy that such “consequential improvements” were deemed likely to provide. Well over £11 billion economic benefit, plus over 130 million tonnes of lifetime carbon dioxide reductions, would accrue.

Another significant plus factor was the boost that these new requirements would make to the government flagship Green Deal initiative, one of the main highlights of the Coalition Agreement that enable the Prime Minister to commit in May 2010, as he took office, to leading “the greenest government ever.”

Subsequently it turns out that projections for take-up of the Green Deal has been heavily predicated upon the presumption that the consultation proposals would be approved. Absent that, some 2.2 million fewer households were reckoned to be likely to take up any Green Deal package.

Eventually and only after the Green Deal had been operational for ten weeks, Mr. Pickles pronounced. “Having considered all the representations and evidence, including the public reaction, I can inform the House that we will not be going ahead with such regulatory proposals in any way.”

The public reaction can be measured in two ways. Most importantly, the answers to the first question within the public consultation, which asked whether or not such a requirement was approved. Respondents voted 82:18 in favour.

A YouGov opinion poll, taken last May, revealed that the public were nearly 2 to 1 in favour of extensions triggering additional energy improvements. Majorities could be found by gender, by age group, by social grade, by region and – significantly – by supporters of all three political parties.

In his statement, Mr Pickles used just two reports to justify his decision, from the Energy Saving Trust and from AECOM. ACE maintain that the summaries he used seriously distort the research evidence, and in both cases misrepresent the conclusions reached, which in both cases were largely very positive.

ACE Director Andrew Warren said:” There is no explanation whatsoever for Mr. Pickles’ change of heart. Apart from his formal statement on December 13, we cannot tell why he has decided to reject a scheme, which, less than a year earlier, he was recommending so strongly. Even though he had demonstrated it to be good for the economy .Good for the environment .Good for the Green Deal. Essentially, good governance.

“His decision is too perverse to remain unchallenged. It is, put bluntly, appalling governance.”

As Conservative Party chairman in 2008, Eric Pickles was responsible for coining the slogan “Vote Blue, Go Green.” He has until February 11 to respond. Should he not withdraw his statement of December 13, the application for judicial review will proceed.

 

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consequential improvements,Department for Communities and Local Government,Eric Pickles

Pickles progress must now be brought to account

After overwhelming public support for “consequential improvements” to energy efficiency in smaller buildings who can explain the Communities Secretary’s decision to ditch this key plan?

A judicial review is appropriate if a minister is known to have acted irrationally, disregarding facts placed before them in a consultation which they initiated. This is particularly so if they fail to explain why they have opted to reject the weight of evidence before them.

It is my view that the pre-Christmas statement made by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, ruling out implementing any “consequential improvements” requirement for smaller buildings, fulfils that description.

Last January Mr Pickles issued a public consultation proposing that, when households erect extensions or convert garages, around ten per cent further of that cost should be spent on improving the energy efficiency of the original building.

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