Housebuilders need to look beyond the dismal economic weather and make arrangements for the future if they are to deliver 3 million zero-carbon, cost-effective homes by 2020.

In today’s challenging market, the immediate focus of housebuilders will inevitably be on sales, rigorous cost management and the control of land spend. Equally inevitably, if these conditions persist, they will have a knock-on effect on the number of homes built in the UK in the years ahead.

But beyond these troubles lies the longer-term challenge of meeting the central objective of the Brown government – to built 3 million homes by 2020. If we are to achieve this, we can not wait for market conditions to improve before addressing planning, land availability and zero-carbon issues.

As far as planning goes, the outcome of the debate on the community infrastructure levy, successor to the controversial planning gain supplement, is crucial.

The levy seems like a step in the right direction. In particular, I welcome its local basis, which gives responsibility for setting, collecting and disbursing it to councils.

We must also ensure that it is derived from the infrastructure planning element of the local development frameworks, and not used for general projects which would otherwise be funded from different sources.

This would strengthen relationships between developers, local authorities and their communities and ensure developers’ contributions are channelled to support local infrastructure for new housing and community projects.

As the Callcutt review pointed out, a closer partnership between developers and local authorities is central to delivering results on planning. Too often, local authorities put the brakes on development when they should be acting as a catalyst.

The Barker review of land use planning showed that council planners do not always give sufficient weight to the potential economic benefits of new developments. It is vital that local authorities take these benefits into account alongside relevant environmental and social issues.

If we are to accommodate additional social housing, higher environmental standards and other commitments, the government must accept that land will have to be released at a price that recognises these needs

A causal link between a new development and new money for local infrastructure will give councillors, and those who elect them, incentives to secure more housing, and this will be reinforced by the government rewarding those councils that meet their housing targets.

On the other great issue facing the industry – land – the government also has a major role to play. We welcome the initiatives at both local and national level to ensure more government-owned land is identified for development, but it is the terms under which it is brought to market that will determine its success.

If we are to accommodate additional social housing, higher environmental standards and other commitments on which the government is insisting, it must accept the fact that land will have to be released at a price that recognises these requirements. A framework needs to be established that promotes this social value.

But nowhere is the overarching need for greater co-operation more pressing than in the field of environmental standards. To meet the government’s exacting zero-carbon requirements, housebuilders will have to look well beyond the sector.

That was the thinking behind the initiative which Barratt and E.on are pursuing. This is the most significant alliance yet between a housebuilder and an energy company. Barratt’s expertise in building energy efficient homes will be allied to E.on’s worldwide experience in delivering low-carbon energy solutions. The outcome will be several thousand low or zero-carbon homes over the next few years.

Barratt and E.on’s focus is to deliver zero-carbon solutions at the lowest possible cost. The consumer deserves no less. We must build energy-efficient homes that are affordable.

Whatever the short-term challenges may be, this is a tremendously exciting time to be working in this sector. The government has committed itself to a target of building more homes. Now is the time to create the framework to deliver it.