Letter from Housing Minister reassures Merton Council that renewables rule will be upheld

Merton Council has welcomed confirmation from the government that the “Merton Rule” will not be scrapped.

The council was responding to a letter from housing minister Yvette Cooper stating the controversial planning policy would stay.

Welcoming the news deputy council leader Samantha George said: "We cautiously welcome the Minister's reassurance that the Merton Rule will be upheld by the Government as an environmental standard for all boroughs to meet.

Yvette Cooper
Cooper: "Let me assure you the Merton Rule will not be scrapped."

"Merton Council is passionate about this initiative and the valuable role it can play in achieving a low carbon future. We are determined to do what we can to safeguard the Rule."

But she said the Council would continue to monitor the situation to see whether the expected Planning Policy Statement would allow local authorities “the flexibility to implement the Rule according to their own needs."

The Merton Rule, which was introduced in 2003 and requires any new commercial use buildings to reduce carbon emissions by 10% through the use of renewable energy sources.

Concerns about its future arose when it emerged the House Builders Federation was backing a proposal to scrap the initiative.

In her letter to the council, Yvette Cooper said: “Let me assure you the Merton Rule will not be scrapped, despite reports to the contrary. The Merton Rule has acted as a real incentive to provide local renewable energy and cut carbon emissions.”

However, further questions on the longevity of the Rule have been raised this week by revelations Labour ministers want to cut the target for renewable energy, currently set at 20% by 2020.

Lee Swan from CBRE Planning said a leaked report from John Hutton which indicated a possible U-turn on energy policy would have implications for microgeneration in new developments.

Swan was speaking in response to reports this week that Gordon Brown is being urged to scale down the target for energy from renewable sources, now set at 20% by 2020.

Business minister John Hutton has reportedly advised the prime minister that the current target would face “severe practical difficulties”.

Swan said the re-assessment of renewable energy policies was likely to be welcomed by the developers but added that questions remained over how the industry would go about achieving sustainable development.