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Posts Tagged ‘Department for Communities and Local Government’

Department for Communities and Local Government,Housing,Private Rented Sector

DCLG: Review of Property Conditions in the Private-Rented Sector

ACE and Friends of the Earth have long been concerned about the poor standards of energy efficiency (and high concentrations of fuel poor and vulnerable households) in the private rented sector (PRS). The PRS is a rapidly growing part of the housing market. Of the 22.8m households in England in 2011, 4 million were privately rented (17.5% of the housing stock). This was an increase of 1.6m in only six years – and is the highest level since the early 1990s. The Department for Communities and Local Government has issued a review of property conditions in the PRS, and invited stakeholder responses; ACE and Friends of the Earth have provided theirs together.

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Department for Communities and Local Government,Planning and Energy Act

Pickles tells Councils: no extra energy efficiency allowed

This week, local government secretary Eric Pickles’ department will table a last minute amendment to a Cabinet Office deregulation bill. Its text is set out below. The objective is clear. It is to stop any English local authority from ever again being able to set any energy standards for any building even marginally better better than the ones Pickles allows. Or rather, than the volume house-builders are prepared grudgingly to accept.

What is most disgraceful is that the original “localism” legislation, which allowed progressive authorities to promote greater energy efficiency, was put onto the statute book as the Planning and Energy Act in 2008 by the current energy minister Michael Fallon when a backbencher. He took up this private members’ bill very much at the instigation of the then Conservative party chairman, then loudly embracing the “go green, vote blue” banner. And who was then the Conservative party chairman? None other than Eric Pickles himself.

Since he became Community Secretary in 2010, Pickles has time and again proved himself to be hostile to energy saving. He has delayed the introduction of the new building regulations by 12 months, to April 2014 rather than 2013, and lowered their energy saving requirements way below the levels consulted upon.

The 2008 Act has succeeded in delivering higher standards of energy efficiency in new buildings, and so reducing future running costs for occupants. Particularly well-known examples are the Greater London Authority, set to deliver 40% higher than Pickles’ standards in 2016, and Cambridge City Council .

Pickles has long been a poodle of the big housing developers, whose commercial interests to spend as little as possible installing measures to cut fuel bills have promoted this personal U-turn. And because new property owners will as a consequence be paying higher than needed fuel bills, he has also shown that his concern is to maximise the profits of the big energy companies, rather than helping hard-pressed households enjoy lower fuel bills.

The original Act was also trumpeted by Pickles as representing a victory for localism, permitting councils to include higher than minimum standards in their local plans. Now however Pickles believes that the man in Whitehall – in other words, him – always knows best. And local authorities should just do what they are told.

This government amendment means that, yet again, Eric Pickles’ Communities Department , by promoting this mean-minded little clause, is determined upon undermining the Prime Minister’s declared objective to make the UK the most energy efficient country in Europe.

He is not content with having watered down the new national energy efficiency building regulations, which come into force next month – a year late, and with just a 6% rather than the anticipated 25% improvement on the old requirements.

He is now denying any opportunity for more progressive councils to continue setting higher standards than his minimum.

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Building Regulations,DCLG,Department for Communities and Local Government,Display Energy Certificates

A disaster for energy efficiency inside DCLG

The following is a piece written by Andrew Warren and published in ENDS Report 467, January 2014, pp. 30-31.

The past three and a half years for Eric Pickles appears to have been a litany of failure, countering the prime minister’s energy efficiency aim for Britain.

Prime minister David Cameron has set a challenge for his cabinet: “I want Britain to be the most energy-efficient nation in Europe.” But seemingly there is one member working in the opposite direction.

Eric Pickles has been the secretary of state for the Department for Communities and Local Government since the coalition took office in May 2010. During that time, he has presided over, indeed sometimes personally made, a series of policy decisions which completely undermine Cameron’s objective.

The list of failures is as consistent as it is long. In each case Pickles seems wilfully to have sought to obstruct progress. This is despite his having been the chairman of the Conservative Party which promoted the catchphrase “vote blue, go green”.

At the start of the century, the government and the building sector came together to agree a pathway to higher new-building energy standards, at a time when they were many years behind European countries with similar climates. In exchange for a roadmap providing relative certainty on timing and extent of change, the construction industry invested in training and product development, towards zero-carbon (or very low-carbon) buildings.

The deal stuck. In 2006 and 2010, the improvements were made smoothly. The next round of changes were due to start last April – the final round before zero-carbon homes were due to be introduced in 2016. Despite issuing a consultation document in January 2012 promising these upgrades, they did not go ahead as scheduled. Instead they will come into force 12 months late, in April 2014.

Even when they do proceed, they will deliver far less than intended: a 6% rather than a 25% improvement for new homes and a 9% rather than a 20% improvement in non-residential buildings, based on 2010 levels.

But it has long been established that vast numbers of new homes fail to comply with the minimum building regulation standards. Almost inexplicably, there appears to be no government system for monitoring compliance.

If a washing machine or refrigerator is put on the market that does not deliver the promised energy savings, the National Measurement Office can take out criminal proceedings. Yet nobody has ever been prosecuted for failing to comply with the energy conservation parts of the building regulations. And countless independent studies have revealed that, once you get beyond one or two bedroom apartments, it is a minority of homes that meet even the minimum energy standards. The rest are all breaking the law and Pickles is apparently wholly unconcerned.

The position is, if anything, worse for existing buildings. New EU laws state that all advertising for a building sold or leased should include its A-G energy label. And each new occupant must receive energy performance details and how it can be improved.

Independent surveys have revealed that these legal requirements are seldom observed. Pickles’ department has not only failed to adequately monitor compliance, it has not ensured that council trading standards officers are monitoring the advertising requirements – so buyers and lessors are not informed of buildings’ energy efficiency standards. But last September Pickles had to compensate the scheme administrators, Landmark (a Daily Mail subsidiary), with a whopping £5.7m from public funds, because at least six million lodgement fees of £5.36 for energy certificates had not been paid.

An earlier EU directive had led to display energy certificates being displayed in the foyers of 42,000 public buildings. Renewed annually and reflecting annual energy usage, they were stimulating big efficiency improvements. But since 2010 there has been no pressure to keep these updated: so many are not, in part because now Pickles has also whimsically decided that smaller buildings need only renew every ten years. And he is not requiring the commercial sector to display such certificates, but instead mandating that “in a prominent place” there will only be details of a building’s theoretical performance. His department has been unable to cite any support for such a perverse interpretation of a European directive.

Such idiocy occurred largely because he omitted to consult about how the final text of the new buildings directive should be implemented. Perhaps it is because he knows that, even if he does run a public consultation, he may subsequently reverse his position – even if 82% of respondents endorse his original proposal. This is what happened in the case of his infamous ‘consequential improvements’ consultation – a policy he now rejects despite having initially claimed an £11bn saving to the economy and the stimulation of 2.2 million Green Deals.

Other examples of bad faith include the failure to set any energy efficiency targets in the revised guidance for local authorities for the Home Energy and Conservation Act. And it is an open question whether landlords really believe that DCLG is committed to enforcing the requirement of the Energy Act 2011 that F and G-rated properties cannot be leased after 2018.

Pickles is currently consulting on removing from the statute book the Planning and Energy Act. This permits local authorities to set higher minimum standards for new buildings – an act much deployed by the London mayor Boris Johnson, who requires new commercial and residential buildings to deliver 40% better energy performance than the regulations mandate.

A damaging u-turn
This act was an unusual one. It was put onto the statute book in 2008 by opposition Conservative backbencher Michael Fallon (now an energy minister) cheered on by his then party chairman as an excellent mix of localism and environmentalism. Who was this chairman? Why, Eric Pickles, who five years on is apparently seeking another personal u-turn, further damaging the environment.

I am not qualified to form a judgment on Eric Pickles’ effectiveness in other policy areas but what I do know is that to date his period in office has been an almost unmitigated disaster so far as the energy efficiency agenda is concerned – and certainly so far as achieving the prime minister’s declared objectives.

As Cameron reminds us: “In a race for limited resources, it is the energy efficient that will win the race.” Perhaps Pickles should be donning his running shoes?

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Code for Sustainable Homes,Department for Communities and Local Government,Environmental Audit Committee,Planning and Energy Act

Environmental Audit Committee: Inquiry into Housing Standards Review

The Environmental Audit Committee launched an inquiry into the Government consultation on the Housing Standards Review, which proposes “to wind down the role” of the Code for Sustainable Homes. It is taking oral evidence today. ACE submitted its written evidence to the Committee last week; the main points provided in evidence are:

  • The new Part L of the Building Regulations has not gone as far as anticipated in terms of the minimum standard it sets for new housing.
  • Against this backdrop, the justifications used for proposing to get rid of Code for Sustainable Homes energy standards and falling back to Part L alone, whilst proposing to amend or remove the Planning and Energy Act in consequence, are even flimsier and more narrow-minded than they would otherwise have been.
  • The proposals, if adopted, would reduce housing quality, increase running costs for occupants, damage localism and stifle construction innovation.
  • And the proposals are made all the more remarkable for their political naivety and short-sightedness.

Download our evidence, and read Andrew Warren’s earlier article on this topic.

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Department for Communities and Local Government,Housing,Housing Standards Review,Merton Rule,Planning and Energy Act

Government row-back on green homes could mean higher energy bills for consumers

The domestic renewable energy industry has condemned the Government’s suggestion to do away with the 2008 Planning and Energy Act. The Act, promoted by Michael Fallon, who is now Energy Minister, provides local authorities with the ability to set specific carbon, renewable energy and energy efficiency targets for new build properties (the so-called ‘Merton Rule’). The suggestion is part of the Government’s consultation on the Housing Standards Review, published yesterday.

The recent update to national Building Regulations did not impose strict enough carbon reduction targets to incentivise the integration of on-site renewables (such as solar energy systems, heat pumps and biomass boilers) into new properties. DCLG admitted this in its Impact Assessment. The Planning and Energy Act’s ‘Merton Rule’ is therefore the only policy tool explicitly incentivising on-site renewables in new homes, and must remain available to local authorities at least until Building Regulations are sufficiently strong to drive uptake of on-site renewables in new homes (which will not be before 2016 at the earliest).

Read the full joint press release by ACE, the Renewable Energy Association, the Micropower Council and the Solar Trade Association.

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

ACElogo

ACE response to binning of Consequential Improvements

Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, yesterday issued a statement saying that proposals for Consequential Improvements – which would have introduced a requirement on home owners to make improvements to the energy efficiency of their homes when carrying out extensions – have been scrapped.

How curious that in his statement Mr Pickles should entirely omit to refer to the following points – which were sent to Ministers in a briefing prepared by his Department in May (and reported by Energy in Buildings and Industry in October):

  1. 4 out of 5 people responding to his consultation specifically supported the concept of Consequential Improvements
  2. On the Government’s own figures, consequential improvements would have benefited the economy by over £11 billion
  3. 63 to 76% of homeowners who took part in Energy Saving Trust surveys felt that Consequential Improvements on extensions and conversions were ‘reasonable’ or ‘very reasonable’
  4. As a result of this decision, on Government’s own figures over 2 million fewer homes will take up the Green Deal, the very scheme which he claims to be relying upon to deliver home energy improvements

This decision is bad for the economy. It is bad for jobs. It is bad for the environment.

But it is an undoubted triumph for the Daily Mail, whose mendacious campaign (inventing the “conservatory tax”) seems to have led to this profoundly foolish and irrational volte face.

Update on December 17, 2012 – from blog written by the Energy Saving Trust outlining their own interpretation of their own research (cited by Eric Pickles last week) – continue reading below

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Building Regulations,Department for Communities and Local Government

CLG: Building Regulations consultation response

ACE has submitted written responses to the Department of Communities and Local Government Consultations on the Building Regulations in England Section two: Part L and Section four: the building control system.

The consultation on Building Regulations Part L was formed of two sections. The first was on the introduction of the requirement for “consequential improvements” to be required when an existing building is extended or when elements are replaced. Click here for our full response.

The second part of the consultation on Part L covered all other proposals under this section (Conservation of fuel and power). Click here for our full response. In appendix to this response we also submitted a paper on Improving Compliance with Part L drafted in collaboration with CIBSE, CPA, BSRIA and STROMA which can be found here.

Finally our response to the consultation on changes to the Building Control system can be found here. This response should also be read in conjunction with the paper on Improving Compliance with Part L.

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Department for Communities and Local Government,Energy Efficiency,Fuel Poverty

ECC Inquiry: Fuel poverty in the Private Rented and Off-grid Sectors

ACE have submitted a written response to the Energy and Climate Change Committee inquiry into Fuel Poverty in the Private Rented and Off-grid Sectors 

In Summary

1. The Association for the Conservation of Energy has long been concerned about the poor standards of energy efficiency (and large concentrations of fuel poor and vulnerable households) in the private rented sector (PRS). Throughout the passage through Parliament of the Energy Act 2011, we (along with Friends of the Earth and Citizens Advice) therefore led a 40-strong coalition of organisations in a campaign calling for the introduction in 2016 of a minimum energy efficiency standard in the PRS to make it illegal to re-let a property with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of F or G.

2. While we welcomed the introduction of such a standard at the Bill’s Second Reading in the Commons, we were – and continue to be – extremely disappointed that, for no good reason, it will only be introduced in 2018. In the particular context of fuel poverty, this is especially perverse. The Government have repeatedly stated that the minimum standard is intended to tackle fuel poverty in the rented sector, but it does not come into force until two years after the date – 2016 – by which they have a statutory obligation (under the Warm Homes & Energy Conservation Act 2000) to end fuel poverty. We therefore believe that the minimum standard should be brought forward to 2016. In addition a major loophole in the Act – whereby landlords will not in every case have to bring their property up to an E rating – needs closing without delay.

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