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Lib Dems: Housing carbon compliance under threat

Communities minister Andrew Stunnell has told the Liberal Democrats conference in Birmingham that he has established an advisory committee on compliance to ensure low carbon housing standards are being met.

Mr Stunnell referred to a study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation that showed an exemplar zero carbon development was not performing to the energy efficient design standards.

The report, Low Carbon Housing: Lessons from Elm Tree Mews, by a team from Leeds Metropolitan University, looked at the features and performance of a low carbon housing scheme in York, developed by the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust.

Elm Tree Mews was built with the aim of providing affordable, high-quality housing to meet proposed energy and carbon standards for 2013.

Researchers found the performance of the properties was not as good as intended. Heat loss was much higher than predicted at 54 per cent more than designed for, the solar systems provided hot water but suffered numerous operational problems, and the ground source heat pump system underperformed.

Mr Stunnell added: “The report concluded that many processes and cultures within the industry and its supply chain need to change if Zero Carbon Homes is to be more than an empty slogan.

“That’s why, as part of the work my department is doing ahead of the next upgrade of Building Regulations in 2013, I have urgently called together an Advisory Committee on Compliance to look into what more we can do to make sure that standards are met, and that carbon reduction in the built environment becomes a reality.”

Meanwhile transport minister Norman Baker has reiterated the party’s commitment to HS2, stating it is vital for economic development.

He said: “Even after the £8.8 billion upgrade to the west coast main line, some trains – local or freight – still cannot find a path. Nor can we sensibly upgrade that line further. It would cause massive disruption to services, cost a fortune, and affect far more people than HS2 will. So we need a new line, and it is then only a marginal extra cost to make it high speed rather than conventional speed.

“The second reason is economic development. Evidence from other European countries is that high speed rail reaches the parts other transport modes can’t. We need to ensure prosperity is shared round the country, not just concentrated in London and the south-east.”

“Thirdly, there will be carbon gains arising from modal shift from domestic air to rail.”

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