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Presumption to approve sustainable development welcomed by industry

The government’s recently announced proposed presumption in favour of sustainable development, which will be introduced as a cornerstone of the reformed planning system has been broadly welcomed by the housing sector, although there have been calls for a tighter definition of sustainability. The presumption will be introduced through the forthcoming National Planning Policy Framework, which is designed to consolidate all policy statements, circulars and guidance documents into a single document. A government draft of the Framework is expected to be released for consultation this month. Graham Stock, partner at Drivers Jonas Deloitte Manchester, said: “This is the latest evidence of the government’s energy and enthusiasm for

planning reform – a determination to get the development industry building again. As is well known, many local plans have been unable to keep up with changes in the economy, the environment and business. The concept of being able to secure permission for development in the short-term, rather than having to wait for plan reviews to be completed, is a very practical way to deal with this long standing difficulty.” National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr said: “We warmly welcome the government’s publication of its proposed presumption in favour of sustainable development. The presumption – and the forthcoming National Planning Policy Framework it will underpin – can facilitate a

significant increase in ‘good growth’ to create jobs and meet housing need. Housing associations and government are jointly committed to delivering 150,000 new affordable homes over the next four years. The presumption and framework have great potential to help enable this challenging goal to be met.” Stuart Robinson, head of planning at CB Richard Ellis, said: “While I think we all applaud the intention of this proposed positive default position which the government is intending to introduce, the caveat of ‘sustainable’, this term is broad and open to interpretation by local authorities. It needs to be more tightly defined to provide a clear outline of what the government is seeking.”

Go ahead for first UK eco co-operative development

The UK’s first affordable ecological and co-operative housing project has received planning permission. The £3 million project on the formerWyther Park Primary School site in Bramley, Leeds, is being funded by members of the Low Impact Living Affordable Community (Lilac) cooperative and an HCA grant. The development will consist of 12 apartments and eight houses, built using the Modcell system, which puts straw bales inside a timber frame to create super-insulated wall panels. The straw will be sourced from Yorkshire farmers, and it is anticipated energy bills will be reduced by around 80 per cent compared with traditional construction. Residents will live as a cooperative and sign up to an agreement that aims to promote environmental sustainability. They will share their cars and use the development’s “Common House” which will have a shared launderette, food store, workshop, a dining room, kitchen and multi-function room for events. There will also be allotments, a herb garden, pond and a play area. When homes become available for sale they will not be offered on the open market. New residents will be selected by cooperative members and those leaving will “get back most of the equity they paid in” under a system designed to ensure the homes remain affordable to future residents. Councillor Neil Taggart said: “People will come to look at this development from far and wide – people living near this could well be plagued by tourists. It is a signature scheme and I wish it every success.” Lilac’s secretary Paul Chatterton, a Leeds University geography lecturer, said: “This is great recognition for a simple but a forgotten idea – that we can build houses that are affordable while also protecting our environment and building a strong sense of community – and right here in Leeds.” Craig White, of the scheme’s architect White Design, said: “Lilac is a great model for groups who want to design and help build their own communities at a price that they can afford.We look forward to getting this off the ground as one of the first real community-led low carbon neighbourhoods in the UK.”

Nearly half of British housing stock is poorly insulated

Recent government figures have revealed that almost half of British homes are not properly insulated, with householders wasting at least £100 a year on their bills as a result. Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) figures showed that only 57 per cent of Britain’s lofts have been properly insulated, with just 58 per cent of cavity walls filled with insulation. The government is now demanding that energy companies help 3.5 million households insulate their homes by December 2012 under the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (Cert) obligations imposed on energy providers. The recent figures show that 479,000 homes have had insulation professionally installed so far under the target. Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said: “At a time when money is tight and with energy prices predicted to rise, householders are missing out on over £100 of savings every single year by not getting their lofts lagged and cavity walls filled. We are making energy companies do more to help

36| July 2011 showhouse

their hard-pressed customers with another 3.5 million households set to be protected against higher bills by the end of next year.” His comments came shortly after he urged consumers to “vote with their feet” and switch provider if their energy firm raised their prices.

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