Rightfully, there has been a lot of anger at the proposed number of new homes (44,400). It seems very hard to understand why we’re planning for more than the absolute minimum number required by central government (36,700). There’s barely enough water even for that minimum, and the area is already economically overheated and environmentally overstressed.
But the more new homes we build, the more important it is that they’re all ‘Net Zero’ new homes: They must be built to superb standards of energy and water efficiency; heated and powered entirely by renewables and stored power; sequestering (rather than emitting) carbon when they’re built.
There’s a section in the Local Plan on Net Zero Carbon buildings, which is very promising.
For example, it proposes a requirement that all new homes are so well designed and built that their space heating demand is very nearly as good as a PassivHaus. This is exciting, because a typical PassivHaus has heating bills one tenth of those in a normal newbuild home, while it has been estimated that a Passivhaus could cost only around £5,000 extra to build. Although the big housebuilders will complain furiously, most home-owners would be very happy to pay just £5,000 to have nearly free heating for life!
We’ve recently seen the disruption caused by wild swings in the price of gas, and these price swings are only going to get worse. To avoid this, we need to get off gas, and focus instead on having lots of renewables, energy storage and energy efficiency.
The Local Plan supports this, proposing very sensibly, that no new homes should be connected to the gas grid. Gas has a frighteningly high climate change impact (partly from when the gas is burnt, and partly because of leaks) but when homes are very well insulated, gas is unnecessary: smaller homes can just be heated by simple electric heating, while larger homes may use a heat pump to reduce bills still further.
The Plan aims to increase renewables, so new homes will be required to provide as much electricity as they use during the year from renewables (usually solar panels on the roof) Where there’s too little roof space to do this onsite, for example in a block of flats, the developer must pay for sufficient renewables elsewhere and “future proof” the building.
There is, of course, a lot more detail in the Plan, and there are aspects that seem a little weak, but overall, the Net Zero Carbon aspects are a breath of fresh air.
Do have a look at the draft Plan and do respond to the official public consultation when it’s launched in November. We need to be strong in our support for the good aspects, while urging improvement to the weak areas.
Explore the climate change “theme”of the Local Plan here
The following policy areas have been identified under this theme:
- Policy CC/NZ: Net zero carbon new buildings
- Policy CC/WE: Water efficiency in new developments
- Policy CC/DC: Designing for a changing climate
- Policy CC/FM: Flooding and integrated water management
- Policy CC/RE: Renewable energy projects and infrastructure
- Policy CC/CE: Reducing waste and supporting the circular economy
- Policy CC/CS: Supporting land-based carbon sequestration