Architects, contractors and QSs praise the Treasury's ambition to make all new homes carbon neutral by 2010, but question how it will be made a reality
Business, trade bodies and activists reacted positively to today’s pre-Budget report with the chancellor’s green initiatives singled out for praise.
Zero carbon targets
Jack Pringle, president of the RIBA, said: “The government is showing a clear lead on tackling climate change through building design and has answered the calls we made during our manifesto for architecture for stamp duty relief on sustainable homes and low energy schools. The challenge is now on the design and construction industry to deliver.”
A source at a major contractor was in agreement: "It is great news that sustainability standards for schools seems to be going up. But we now have to look at how we assess the schools. Do they understand that BREAM excellent does not equal a totally sustainable school? It doesn't make it automatically carbon neutral.
"Furthermore, it is all very well that schools are designed to carbon neutral standards but they have to be delivered like that too. It is too common that sustainably-designed schools do not function as designed."
Richard Steer, senior partner at Gleeds, was more cautious “To say all new buildings will be zero carbon within 10 years will be a real challenge. But then there is nothing wrong with setting ambitious targets.”
However the RICS severely criticised Gordon Brown’s environmental proposals, which included a limited period of zero stamp duty for zero-carbon homes.
David Stubbs, senior economist, said: "A time limited stamp duty exemption for new build zero rated homes is a limited ambition at best. New build accounts for 0.8% of the housing stock, this is a pittance compared to the existing stock of 25 million properties, which mostly remain carbon inefficient. What does Gordon Brown intend to do about that?"
Planning gain supplement
The chancellor has also fuelled the debate the planning gain supplement. Although the PGS was not mentioned in the speech, in the accompanying notes to the pre-Budget report it said the PGS would be delayed until at least 2009. Brown added that the levy would not apply to projects that have already been given planning permission and that 70% of the revenue will be retained in the local area.
Faraz Baber, British Property Federation director for planning, reflected the views of many in the industry: "The BPF still has major concerns over how a planning gain supplement would affect the supply of land for development and the balance of the property industry and the economy. It could remove vital links held locally between developers and local authorities due to the scaling back of section 106 agreements which currently see benefits such as schools and roads built alongside major commercial developments.”
Robert Field, a partner at law firm Lawrence Graham said: “They [the government] have obviously found it much more difficult than they thought. The sheer logistical difficulty in dragging this money to central government and then redistributing it to local government is going to add another layer of bureaucracy.”
Public sector investment
Brown's promise to increase investment in infrastructure, housing and education was cautiously welcomed by the Major Contractors Group.
MCG director Stephen Ratcliffe told Building: “We note that following the publication of the Eddington and Barker reports we see that the government is going to increase investment. We welcome to capital investment but want we want is a good deal flow and continuity. The money’s great but we need a deal flow to help with our forward planning.”