Oblivious developers ‘will need specialist help to avoid London offsetting fees’

Developers risk having residential schemes rejected by London planners because they are unaware of a zero carbon requirement which comes into force at the end of the summer.

Richard Twinn, policy advisor at the UK Green Building Council, warned many developers are still in the dark.

From October 1, the London Plan will require housing in the capital to meet standards that are 35% stricter than Part L of building regulations – or to pay cash in lieu into a carbon offset fund.

It is also a higher bar than Code for Sustainable Homes level 4, which was to be the standard before the coalition scrapped the zero carbon homes policy.

“Most people haven’t got their heads round what’s happening [through the London Plan],” said Twinn. “There are a lot of developers who haven’t twigged that it’s going to be effectively zero carbon.

“But it’s big news and people need to be aware it’s coming. Developers will have to go further than they ever needed to before or their schemes will be turned down.”

The Greater London Authority (GLA) is unique because it has the power to impose sustainability requirements. Other local authorities have to rely on negotiating with developers through the planning system.

The GLA announced earlier this year that it was pursuing a policy of zero carbon homes, though its definition is slightly different from the one used by the government – before it scrapped the national 2016 and 2019 targets.

The 35%-above-building-regs requirement is already in force for both housing and commercial buildings in London. What is new is the carbon offsetting fund for housing that fails to reach the required standard.

Twinn predicted it would incentivise developers – and their architects – to work harder to make their residential developments closer to being genuinely zero carbon.

“It’s going to require architects to go further than they have before,” he said. “They will need to be on the front foot if they want to secure work in London. Developers will be looking for things that can be done on site to help them minimise their offsetting costs.

“So there’s an opportunity for people who know their stuff and have innovative ideas to make an impact on the London market.”

There were serious implications for everyone involved in residential, he added. “There’s not great recognition of how significant it could be for the rest of the supply chain as well,” he said. “They will need to get their act together, ensuring better performance standards for their products.

Sub-contractors will need to ensure their work is up to standard. It will have a trickle-down effect and potentially there will be more money for offset solutions. District heating is big in the GLA because it’s a planning requirement that you have considered it.”