Government launches housebuilding ‘allowable solutions’ consultations

On 6th August, the Government launched its keenly awaited consultation on Allowable Solutions – measures that will enable housebuilders to meet the 2016 zero carbon standard after implementing fabric energy efficiency standards and on-site carbon compliance measures.

The consultation document is seeking views on how this policy could be implemented and at what cost to the industry.

Colin Morrison, Director of Sustainability and planning consultancy Turley Associates says:

“After considerable work by the Zero Carbon Hub, the industry has been calling on government to provide some certainty on this crucial issue given its estimated £224million annual cost to the housebuilding industry. This is at a time where cost certainty is critical to future land deals and meeting future housing demand, not to mention the technical requirements of delivering zero carbon homes from 2016.”

Colin adds:

“Guidance is needed to encourage consistency across a growing number of local authority led ‘carbon offset’ funds, which are increasingly becoming part of the planning process yet often identify a wide range of carbon abatement costs and compliance requirements. As a consultation document, it raises a number of interesting questions around the development and application of Allowable Solutions which will need further analysis and discussion.”

Bank carbon savings

Colin continues:

“One of the more interesting consultation suggestions is the possibility of allowing housebuilders to ‘bank’ additional carbon savings through voluntarily achieving higher standards of Part L on extant planning permissions before October 2016. Whilst we would clearly need further detail on this option it could present the housebuilders with a cost-effective option to ‘transfer carbon savings’ around their development portfolio.”

Carbon price cap

Commenting on the suggested price of carbon abatement, Colin said:

“The consultation is suggesting a price range of between £36 and £90 per tonne with the financial impact modeled on the mid range value of £60 per tonne. Whilst this is higher than previously suggested by the Zero Carbon Hub it is clear that the Government is trying to make the system as flexible as possible for housebuilders by establishing a national market for Allowable Solutions projects whilst capping the cost of this policy. It is also clearly stated that house builders will have the freedom to decide how they meet the allowable solutions requirements and are not obliged to use a local authority scheme.

Flexibility

The consultation also appears to provide additional flexibility for Allowable Solutions projects to be located in the United Kingdom. “In practical terms, this means a housing development in the Midlands could meet its Allowable Solution obligations by funding the installation of loft insulation in houses in Scotland,” says Colin.

Turley Associates, acting for housebuilders across the country, will examine this consultation and respond to ensure that this policy provides maximum flexibility and does not impede the construction of new homes.