Amending the Planning and Energy Act - what could this mean?

During the recent Future Homes Standard consultation, Government published their intentions to amend the Planning and Energy Act 2008 during 2020 or 2025 - but what does this mean?
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The impact of the Planning and Energy Act

The initial aim of the Planning and Energy Act 2008 was to allow local planning authorities greater control over their local plans. Part of this was the power to require compliance with energy efficiency standards for new homes that exceed the requirements of the Building Regulations.

Since its introduction, it has been both positive and negative for the construction industry. On one side, it has helped to deliver more energy efficient, low carbon homes. This has assisted the development of low carbon supply chains, albeit on a regionalised basis, and aided the country in meeting environmental targets.

On the other side it has led to regional inconsistencies; choosing to live in some areas may mean you benefit from higher energy standards than elsewhere, with likely lower bills as well. These regional differences across England also means it is often difficult for developers to understand the planning requirements within each region. This inconsistency needs to be addressed to ensure that all legal requirements are being met.

Government’s response

In 2015, Government published a Written Ministerial Statement which clearly stated their expectation that local planning authorities should not require standards above a 19% improvement on Part L 2013 targets. Although most local authorities adhere to this, others do not. Therefore, Government drafted amendments to the Act to put this expectation into law; although this never became legally binding.

With an update to Part L expected before the end of 2020 (with a likely 20% or 31% uplift in energy efficiency standards), Government are seeing this as their opportunity to address the issue. They have done this by suggesting that this new, higher target would remove the need to allow local authorities this power; if not during 2020, then certainly during 2025 (which will bring an expected 75-80% uplift compared to current standards).

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What would this mean?

Amending the Planning and Energy Act would mean that local planning authorities, including the GLA, could not mandate energy standards higher than those listed in the regulations. This is not expected to remove their power to set other regional requirements, such as a mandated percentage of on-site renewables or aesthetic demands.

However, it has been noted by industry that Government should look to replace this requirement for higher energy standards with a model which encourages new developments to build to a lower carbon specification.

This could be achieved by using the 2020 update to Part L to establish stages of minimum energy targets for the future, with an incentive plan which makes it commercially viable for new developments to be built to future standards as early as possible. The incentive could be led by Government, by offering industry funding or other financial motivation to build to future carbon targets, or this could also be marketing led when selling or renting new dwellings.

Whether this new approach is taken by Government or not, it is likely that within one or five years, local planning authorities will not be able to mandate higher energy targets beyond those listed in the Building Regulations. This will help to simplify the compliance process across England, but could also reduce energy standards in certain localised areas.

Learn more about the Future Homes Standard

To learn more about the potential effect of the Future Homes Standard consultation, request our latest CPD: The Future Homes Standard consultation and its impact on 2020 HVAC specification, via our CPD page

This presentation aims to show what HVAC specification could look like if the proposed changes are approved, with research carried out using the BETA SAP 10.1 software.

Alternatively, you can download our guide on the topic here.