The transition to the new standards didn’t work well last time, it won’t this time

Paul Everall

Earlier in the year the government announced that, contrary to the fears of some, there would be higher standards of energy efficiency in buildings required from April 2014, albeit lower than those proposed in the consultation paper last year. The target carbon dioxide rate is to be raised by 6% for new homes, and by 9% for other buildings. At the time of writing we still await publication of the revised Approved Documents, but at least we have had some indications of what will be required.

But will this change have any effect at all? Or if it does, when will we start to see it? I ask these questions because of the so-called “transitional provisions”. These sound like the sort of detail which is sleep-inducing, but in practice they are of tremendous importance.

When the last set of changes to Part L were made in 2010, LABC and many others were up in arms about the transitional  provisions used. They meant that if a building control application was submitted prior to the day the regulations came into force – even if that application related to a “site” of 1000 houses to be developed in a number of phases – and provided work started on at least one plot on that site within a year, then the whole site could be developed under previous regulations introduced in 2006. How sensible is that? As a result many local authorities have seen very few if any houses built to the 2010 standards, which were a marked improvement over the previous ones.

The people of England are being short-changed

Despite our protestations, we find that near-identical provisions have been adopted for the 2013 changes to Part L. So again there is likely to be a flurry of applications prior to next April, and if current experience is anything to go by we shall not see many new houses built to 2013 standards even by 2016 - the year in which new houses were supposed to be zero-carbon! And what do the government say when challenged about this – that provisions of this sort are all that is possible under existing primary legislation.

The people of England are being short-changed. If new legislation is required to make new Regulations work, and hence make a significant contribution to carbon reduction, then let the government press ahead and introduce it immediately.

Paul Everall is chief executive of LABC