Homes for people not cars

The draft Greater Cambridge Local Plan is out for consultation, which is a great opportunity for us help build a low carbon future.

We are very supportive of the excellent proposed policy to require all new homes to be “Net Zero Carbon” homes. This means they will be so energy efficient they will cost less than £200 per year to heat (at current prices) and will have to generate as much renewable electricity as they use each year.

When done at scale, these would cost about £5000 extra per house to build, which from the future householders’ point of view is an incredibly good deal. Every householder we’ve spoken to about this thinks it’s a great idea, as do many big landowners and some (ethically minded) developers.

The landowners and developers tell me that all they want is a level playing field, so that they can design and build better homes without being undercut by the cowboys. They do, of course, need their developments to be “financially viable”, but this calculation is influenced by some quite surprising things.

One has pointed out to me that a quite small reduction in the required number of parking spaces would probably cover the additional cost of Net Zero Carbon Homes.

The current South Cambs Local Plan requires that each house must provide 2 parking spaces, one of which must be within the private “curtilage” of the property, plus additional shared spaces for visitors.  This takes a surprisingly large area, so our rough calculations suggest that developers could build 5% more homes on the same area, if parking policy required just 0.5 fewer car parking spaces per home. At the average Cambridge sale price of £500K per home, this would increase developers’ financial return by £25K extra per home, which would more than cover the cost of building to Net Zero Carbon standards. And the surplus could be used to increase the proportion of “Affordable” homes, and/or provide more green space for recreation and nature.

So we think it’s clear:  In addition to the Net Zero Carbon homes policy in the draft Local Plan (which we urge everyone to support), the plan should also update the parking policy by reducing the required number of parking spaces per home. To make this work, those parking spaces should preferably be shared rather than private (because this takes less land), there should be explicit encouragement of car clubs, and new homes should, if possible, be within 15 minutes by bike or on foot of public transport and services such as shops and employment.

Then we can use our precious land for providing affordable zero carbon homes for people, not storage for parked cars

Access consultation links here: