Critics slam government for having ‘no backbone on green issues’ as consequential improvements plan dropped

The prime minister has scrapped plans to reform Part L of the building regulations that would have made it compulsory for homeowners to make energy efficiency improvements to the home when making other home improvements.

According to reports today, David Cameron has called a halt to the plan, set out by the Department for Communities and Local Government, which would have meant householders doing extensions or even replacing windows would be required to spend around an additional 10% on improving the energy efficiency of their homes.

The draft regulations, which form part of the revised Part L building regulations, were released in January, but over the Easter period came under attack from the Tory-leaning press and were labelled a “tax on conservatories”.

Though, as Building has previously reported, the changes will not apply to the majority of conservatories.

Ministers have been keen to stress that homeowners would be able to use the Green Deal to pay for the improvements.

However, today the Guardian and other papers report that the measure has been scrapped.

A government source told the Guardian: “The idea that people are going to be forced to improve their energy efficiency or install a new boiler because they want to extend their garage or make their house better is not going to happen.

“It is not policy now. It is out for consultation, but the prime minister is opposed to it, and it will not become policy. It is not fair to ordinary people trying to improve their homes.”

However, the source told the paper that No 10 was not opposed to the Green Deal itself - of which the consequential improvement proposal formed a part - so long as it remained voluntary.

Over the weekend the Sunday Telegraph reported that a group of Conservative ministers - including communities secretary Eric Pickles and housing minister Grant Shapps - were calling for the scrapping of the Green Deal altogether.

However, climate change minister Greg Barker described the report as “bonkers” and yesterday Shapps denied he was opposed to the Green Deal.

On Twitter he said: “I’m a huge fan of the Green Deal which we invented in opposition”.

Architectural expert, green developer and Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud hit out at the prime minister’s intervention, saying the plans to require homeowners to improve the energy efficiency of their home when they build an extension were “about as sensible as sensible gets, especially when the homeowner doesn’t have to pay for those improvements”.

He said: “Reading the recent coverage I began to wonder if there was a secret anti-insulation lobby rabidly bent on increasing our domestic fuel bills. Things came to a head with the confabulated notion of a ‘conservatory tax’.”

“First, under proposals, conservatories below 30 square metres in size are exempt. Second, common sense prevails in that if projected energy savings fall below the cost of improvements, the homeowner can legitimately refuse to carry them out.

“Third, the improvements will be eligible for generous Green Deal funding. The Green Deal saves you money. If that makes it a tax, let’s have more of them.”

Paul King, UK Green Building Council chief executive said: “If these plans are to be scrapped as reports are suggesting, this is another u-turn that shows once and for all that a majority of ministers in this government have no backbone on green issues, even when they save people money, and are good for the economy.

“Government has a responsibility to look beyond the ludicrous media headlines. This policy would have helped protect ordinary people from soaring energy costs, as well as reduce carbon emissions to meet its own supposedly legally binding carbon budgets. It was also the best tool in the box for driving forward the Green Deal.”