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Budget 2011: planning shake-up and zero carbon re-think

25 March 2011

The shake-up in the planning system announced in the budget has been welcomed by house-builders, the website Construction Enquirer reported.

Chancellor George Osborne unveiled a raft of far-reaching changes which include plans to release land with planning permission through public auctions and a presumption to grant planning to sustainable housing developments.

Local authorities will be given a deadline of one year to guarantee a decision on all planning applications including appeals, Building reported.

Coupled with measures to assist first-time buyers – including £250m reserved for a scheme to assist with the purchase of newly-built homes - the Home Builders Federation said the Budget's measures addressed the major constraints to house building : the lack of mortgage availability, the planning system and over-regulation.

But HBF Executive Chairman Stewart Baseley said: “The severity of the housing crisis dictates that work doesn’t stop here.

“It is crucial that all yesterday’s announcements are built on, regulation is reduced, land supply increased and the planning system simplified.  The Budget shows ministers are listening and serious about tackling our  housing crisis. This is a very positive start.”

But the decision to reverse policy on zero carbon homes was greeted with disappointment.

Also in the Budget announcement was news of a consultation on allowing changes of use without planning permission.  “Cumbersome planning rules and bad regulations stand in the way of jobs,” Osborne told the Commons in his budget speech.

Building Design, the architect's weekly, reported Osborne's claim that councils were spending 13% more on planning due to red tape despite a one-third drop in applications.

But in its Plan for Growth, launched alongside the Budget, the Treasury said that the definition of “zero carbon” homes will only cover heating, lighting and water. In other words, house-builders will not be responsible for ensuring that the energy used by appliances in homes can be provided from renewable sources. 

Paul King, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, said that he was shocked by the policy change. “A zero carbon home will no longer do what it says on the tin,” he said.

“The world-leading commitment that new homes would not add to the carbon footprint of our housing stock from 2016 has been scrapped despite a remarkable consensus between industry and NGOs in support of it. The house-builders were not clamouring for change,” he said.

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