UK Politics

Don't scrap green homes code, says MPs' committee

House under construction
Image caption House builders say the code has 'had its day'

A house-building code that reduces bills for energy and water should not be diluted, MPs say.

The code allows local councils to demand that builders meet high environmental standards on energy, water, materials, waste and pollution.

Developers argue that it has put up costs, and ministers plan to get rid of the code and fold some standards into national building regulations instead.

The Environmental Audit Committee says this will bring higher bills.

The committee also argues it will reduce standards to the lowest common denominator.

The Code for Sustainable Homes is voluntary, but it has been employed by many local authorities to drive up standards on installing renewable energy; minimising the surface water run-off that exacerbates flooding; and protecting local wildlife.

It uses a one to six star system to rate the overall sustainability performance of a new home.

Committee chairman Joan Walley said: “The Secretary of State should think again before demolishing the Code for Sustainable Homes. It has been a big success in driving up home building standards.

“Hundreds of thousands of homes have to be built in the coming decades. Smart energy and water saving measures – which will ultimately save homeowners money on their bills – must become the norm if we want our homes to be fit for the future.”

The government has reviewed the code to ensure value for money and to unravel some of the tangle of rules and guidance that perplexes builders.

The MPs’ inquiry found that the government's plans failed to take into account the declining costs of fitting clean energy technology to homes. They also complain that the separate 2016 zero carbon homes standard has been successively watered down.

“The coalition agreement promised that the government would ‘return decision-making powers on housing and planning to local councils’, but 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,” Ms Walley said.

John Slaughter, director of external affairs at the Home Builders Federation, said the committee had not probed the issue enough and that the code had “had its day”.

“They are assuming the code is an incredibly efficient way of moving standards forward and that’s not necessarily the case at all.

"There are lots of different ways that it is applied across the country,” he said.

Follow Roger on Twitter @rharrabin

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