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Policy & Activities

03 November, 2003

Notice - Better Building Summit

The Government held a Better Buildings Summit on 21 October to promote sustainable housing and communities. The summit was jointly led by the Deputy Prime Minister and Defra and DTI Secretaries of State.

Key points from the Summit include Government announcements that: -

 

· The next review of Building Regulations for water conservation and of the efficiency of bodies will be advanced to ensure implementation by April 2005.

 

· The review of PPS 1 will “put sustainability at the heart of planning policy”. Mr Prescott did not elaborate on this statement, however, and later indicated that there were legal issues about how his aim could be realised (as HBF has previously understood).

 

· Defra is establishing a Task Group on Sustainability Buildings which will include industry representatives. The Task Group is to report back to Ministers by February 2004 and will look at ways of improving the environmental performance of buildings.

 

· There will be a new training programme for heating installers designed to train 70,000 technicians in time to implement the revised Building Regulations on boilers by April 2005.

 

· There will be a total of £5 billion of Government funding for socials and affordable housing over the next 2 years based on the initial housing strategies produced by the Regional Housing Boards.

 

· A second Urban Summit will be held in the autumn of 2004.

 

· There will be new green standards for all public sector developments from 2004.

 

Following presentations and afternoon workshops summary messages were said to be that:

 

· A mixture of Building Regulations standards and incentives (for developers and home owners) was central to the way forward. Mr Prescott also suggested the planning system might be used.

 

· Fiscal incentives were widely felt to be necessary given that it was recognised the public as a whole were not demanding or placing a high value on a high environmental performance from their homes. Mr Prescott said tax credits should be looked at further.

 

· There was much the Government itself could do via its major role as a client or procurer of buildings.

 

· Improving further the energy efficiency of new homes was the easy win and should not obscure the need to make improvements to the existing housing stock.

 

· Support for R & D programmes and demonstration projects had a role.

 

· The Government had a major leadership and educational role in raising public awareness of the issues and buy in to tackling them.

 

· Intergrading supply chains could make a significant contribution.

 

· The seller’s pack would raise awareness of the energy performance of homes and could be an influential factor in changing public attitudes.

 

· The absence of Treasury Ministers at the Summit was noted.

 

Comment

 

For the most part the messages emerging from the Summit were pragmatic. For housebuilders the most helpful finding was the recognition of the lack of a general market premium of cutting edge energy efficiency or environmental innovation. This provides a strong base for us to argue against unrealistic ambitions for delivery through commercial channels.

 

The political commitment of the Government to sustainability – economically, socially and environmentally – was, however very clear and could result in unwelcome proposals. One set of risks relates to what may be proposed in integrating sustainability in planning policy and process. There is also a lot of interest from CABE and others in developing design codes for sustainable housing and communities.

 

HBF believes it is therefore important to monitor follow up to the Summit and we will look particularly to identify at an early stage any detailed proposals likely to impact developers.