As usual our District Council seems to be between the devil and the deep blue sea (or in this case the climate emergency).
You will know that the current Local Plan for the Vale of the White Horse requires more than 1,000 homes to be built every year.
You may also know that, in common with many other councils, the Vale has declared a Climate Emergency.
The conflict comes because many of the homes to be built over the next 20 years have already been given outline planning permission and as this includes the financial agreements, the quality and quantity of the homes to be built has also already been agreed.
This means that most of these homes will have gas boilers; insulation to current standards (which won’t be enough if the heating has to be changed to other – less efficient but more eco friendly types); no solar panels (considered “toys” by one developer); and will not have sufficient local amenities or wide cycleways and footpaths (likely to be necessary for a very long time).
Even applications being considered now have similar standards being assumed and the Council can’t do anything about it because the government standards haven’t been changed yet.
Newer building standards may come into effect in 2025 or 2030 but that’s many more years down the road and if the Climate Emergency is really an emergency then changes should be made now!
The problem is, as usual, money. For developers to build more efficient and sustainable houses costs extra.
The time will come – though it hasn’t come yet – when homes that do not meet such standards will be reduced in value because the purchasers fear that, without these features, they will not be able easily to sell them on.
The planning agreement between developers and the Council for any development includes a sum which the developers have to contribute to the provision of local infrastructure for the new residents and the balance between the building cost, infrastructure cost and need for a nice fat profit is a fine one.
If the building cost has to increase after the agreement has been signed, then the developers can go back to the Council and ask for the agreement to be changed – to enable them to build more houses closer together or to reduce the provision of infrastructure.
As the infrastructure includes green spaces, and public transport (also important to the climate emergency), the Council can’t win!