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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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