Green lobby expresses concern that replacement of Caroline Flint will further disrupt timetable

Green campaigners have raised concerns that the replacement of Caroline Flint as housing minister with Margaret Beckett could further delay progress on the zero-carbon homes strategy.

The communities department is preparing to consult the industry on ways of defining zero carbon, necessary if the industry is to hit the government’s goal for all new homes to be carbon-free by 2016.

The consultations have already been delayed once. David Strong, chief executive of green consultant InBuilt, said the change could mean further delay, but that it was ”incumbent on Beckett to ensure this doesn’t happen in such a key policy area”.

Simon McWhirter, senior campaign officer at green lobby group the WWF, said that further delay would be “a real body blow” to the zero-carbon agenda. The Callcutt review of housing supply said last autumn that it was vital a definition of zero carbon was in place by the end of this year.

Flint held the housing portfolio for eight months. The change means that Beckett, 65, has become the third incumbent since Gordon Brown made housing one of his policy priorities last summer, and comes amid predictions that housing output will fall below 100,000 homes.

Beckett did not attend the inaugural meeting of Brown’s National Economic Council on Monday, of which she is a member. The communities department said she was away “on government business”.

Beckett said her priority would be to “overcome the challenges in the housing market caused by the current global turbulence, while maintaining our focus on delivering affordable homes”.

She added she would ensure support was in place for the housebuilding industry so it was “ready for recovery”.

Beckett, who has held the post of foreign secretary, will have a seat in Cabinet. Chris Leslie, a former Labour minister and director of think tank New Local Government Network, said: “If the industry was looking for someone with gravitas to champion their corner with the Treasury, then this is a pretty good win.”

Beckett’s in-tray

  • Review housebuilding targets
  • Tackle opposition from peers to the planning bill
  • Push through zero-carbon consultation
  • Decide whether to continue with rented housing reform green paper