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MPs criticise DCLG on sustainable homes policy wind down

The government should reconsider its plans to axe the Code for Sustainable Homes, MPs have warned.

The Environment Audit Committee has published a report looking into the CSH and the Housing Standards review.

In August, the government suggested it would ‘wind down’ the CSH as part of plans to use Building Regulations to provide energy requirements for buildings.

The cross-party committee criticised the department on its plan to remove local authorities’ power to increase sustainable housing standards using the CSH.

It added the policy was a “proven mechanism” for furthering improvements on sustainable home building.

The standards review was launched in October 2012 to look at Building Regulations and voluntary housing standards, such as the CSH. Its aim was to identify and justify the unnecessary costs and complexities attached to the house build process.

The CSH was introduced five years before the review as a way of assessing the environmental performances of new homes.

Labour MP and chair of the committee Joan Walley said the coalition government “promised” it would return decision-making powers on housing and planning to local councils.

She added: “This decision bulldozes local choice in favour of a one-size-fits-all approach designed to benefit developers who want to build homes on the cheap.”

The inquiry also concluded that the Department for Communities and Local Government failed to consider the latest evidence on the declining capital cost of installing green measures in homes in its review.

UK-GBC senior policy adviser Jo Wheeler said the CSH had “transformed” the industry’s attitude to sustainability but added that now was the time for review and rationalisation.

She added: “UK-GBC believes that where appropriate, standards should be brought into Building Regulations as soon as possible, and the government’s self-imposed ‘one in, two out’ rule is not a valid excuse to delay. We also need suitable transitional arrangements, so that we don’t see a weakening in standards before national regulations catch up.”

Ms Walley added that thousands of homes had to be built in the coming decades and smart energy and water saving measures “must become the norm if we want our homes to be fit for the future”.

The committee recommends the DCLG should:

•  Examine the latest research on the decreasing cost of clean energy technologies.

•  Maintain and refresh the CSH as a tool for local authorities to lever in sustainability.

•  Retain CSH standards on sustainable construction materials to support green exports and green growth.

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