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ACE speaks out against Pickles’ decision

Who can explain the Communities Secretary’s decision to ditch the key plan of “consequential improvements” in the forthcoming Building Regulations, asks Andrew Warren, director of the Association for the Conservation of Energy.

ACE speaks out against Pickles' decision

In a blog on the ACE website, Warren stated that, in his view, the pre-Christmas statement made by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, ruling out implementing any “consequential improvements” requirement for smaller buildings, fulfils that description.

Last January Pickles issued a public consultation proposing that, when households erect extensions or convert garages, around 10% further of that cost should be spent on improving the energy efficiency of the original building.

Warren said: “This followed the logic that, however high the efficiency levels of the new part, the overall energy consumption at the address in question will increase. The proposal simply extended existing requirements in place for larger buildings to those below 1,000sq m.

“One of the reasons for the levels of support given across Government must have been the enormously positive boost to the economy that such ‘consequential improvements’ were deemed likely to provide. Well over £11bn economic benefit, plus over 130m tonnes of lifetime carbon dioxide reductions, would accrue.

“Another significant plus factor was the boost that these new requirements would make to the government flagship Green Deal initiative, one of the main highlights of the Coalition Agreement that enable the Prime Minister to commit in May 2010, as he took office, to leading ‘the greenest government ever.’

“Normally, the results of a consultation is analysed within weeks, rather than months. But during the summer Mr Pickles’ department announced absolutely nothing. October arrived. Still, total silence. Apart from regular Parliamentary Answers to concerned MPs that the results would be published, and a decision issued, ‘shortly’.

“Eventually and only after the Green Deal had been operational for ten weeks, Mr Pickles pronounced, ‘Having considered all the representations and evidence, including the public reaction, I can inform the House that we will not be going ahead with such regulatory proposals in any way.’

“There is no explanation whatsoever for Mr Pickles’ change of heart. Apart from his formal statement last month, we cannot tell why he has decided to reject a scheme, which, less than a year earlier, he was recommending so strongly. Even though he had demonstrated it to be good for the economy, good for the environment, good for the Green Deal. Essentially, good governance.

“His decision is too perverse to remain unchallenged. It is, put bluntly, appalling governance.”

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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