Housebuilders say Reading council has exploited delay in introducing ODPM code to impose tougher requirements

Housebuilders have complained that a council is taking advantage of the delay in introducing the Code for Sustainable Homes to set its own higher standards.

Reading council in Berkshire has devised criteria for sustainability that go beyond levels set by the Building Regulations and the ODPM's draft Code for Sustainable Homes.

The Home Builders Federation said the delayed launch of the code has opened a policy vacuum for council planners. It had been due to be introduced this month but has now been pencilled in for later this year.

The HBF said that housebuilders will face increased costs if councils devise their own standards. It said such measures would mean fewer homes could be built.

Dave Mitchell, technical director at the HBF, said: "This is regulation by the back door. We need a national code that applies everywhere not something that differs everywhere."

We need a national code that applies everywhere

Dave Mitchell, HBF

Reading's proposal, published in a strategy document, is that all new developments should meet the BRE's Eco-Homes' "very good" standard, the second highest level in the environmental rating system. Currently this is is only required for public sector housing.

The council has also proposed that:

  • Fifty per cent of developments containing more than 10 dwellings or 1000 m2 of floorspace should meet the "excellent" standard.
  • Thermal performances values should exceed energy regulations requirements by 12%. The recent Part L revisions have increased the energy efficiency requirements from the previous document by an average of 20%.
  • Larger developments should produce 15% of their energy from renewable sources on site. Many councils have only recently moved to a 10% requirement.
  • It should adopt standards from the draft Code for Sustainable Homes governing urban drainage and water conservation.
The Code for Sustainable Homes, which is designed to supersede the Eco-Homes standard, will apply to publicly owned land initially. However, the government wants councils to encourage developments on private land to comply.

It has been delayed partly in order to beef up energy and water efficiency criteria.

Reading’s requirements

  • All new homes to reach BRE’s “very good” standard
  • Half of large developments to meet “excellent” standard
  • Thermal performance 12% above current requirements
  • Large schemes to produce 15% of their energy on site