THE Government is being urged not to water down Greater Manchester’s ability to set tougher climate change targets locally when it draws up new national guidelines for newbuild homes.
The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) issued its appeal in response to Government proposals for improving energy efficiency standards in building regulations. The proposals are set out in the Future Homes Standard, issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG), which is currently open for consultation.
Though much of the proposed standard is welcomed, housing chiefs in the city region are concerned that it will rein in their ambitions to set higher ambitions for new homes locally.
In the consultation, the Government outlines proposals to require newbuild homes to incorporate low carbon heating, as well as to increase energy efficiency standards for new homes by 80% based on the previously issued 2013 guidelines.
However, the GMCA says the new plans would also remove the ability for local or combined authorities to set higher energy efficiency standards for their areas, restricting their ability to go faster and further in cutting carbon emissions.
“These new proposals have improved on existing standards but stopped short of giving us the freedom to go further,” said Salford mayor Paul Dennett, who serves as the combined authority’s lead for housing, homelessness and infrastructure.
“Here in Greater Manchester we recognise how important it is to take an integrated approach to infrastructure and the sustainable growth of our city-region – one that includes energy, carbon neutrality, and clean transport links.
“These proposals actually jeopardise our position, where we’ve committed to a target of net zero carbon buildings by 2028, and carbon neutrality by 2038 – twelve years sooner than the national target. We can’t future-proof our places by building new homes today that we already know will need to be retrofitted tomorrow to meet our targets, especially as our analysis already tells us that we need to retrofit 61,000 homes per year in Greater Manchester if we’re to meet our 2038 carbon neutrality aspirations.”
Councillor Andrew Western, GMCA’s lead for the Green City-Region portfolio, added: “It’s vital that these issues of sustainability and energy efficiency are taken into account when reviewing building regulations, and it’s an encouraging direction of travel. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go far enough.
“We’ve set out clear plans and a clear timescale for decarbonising our city-region, so it’s very disappointing to see them put at risk by a government effectively tying us to a lower standard.”
The GMCA has developed a five-year environment plan with input from representatives across the city-region, setting out a vision to decarbonise the city region’s economy and tackle the effects of the climate emergency.
“We are committed to building new, well designed and beautiful homes on brownfield land and welcome the desire to establish a level playing field for all developments,” Dennett added. “However, this shouldn’t come at the expense of us being serious about the climate emergency, the humanitarian crisis we are facing, and the need for urgent action.
“Neither should there be a postcode lottery where some residents have access to better homes than others. Net zero carbon, better and more beautiful homes should be the norm – not the exception. To do this requires genuine and sincere levelling up for cities, towns and city regions and long-term investment in people, places and communities.
“The Government should be supporting local innovation – not putting a cap on climate ambition at a time when our communities and young people are championing the need to tackle the climate emergency, with around 250 councils declaring a climate emergency and more than 100 councils adopting the goal of net zero by 2030 or earlier.”
If approved, the new Future Homes Standard would be introduced this year.
Main Image: Salford City Mayor and GMCA housing lead Paul Dennett, speaking at the Homes for the North Conference in Leeds, November 2019.