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In a right old Pickle

In a progressive country change is constant; change is inevitable

I’ll admit it. I was one of those who suggested that the “conservatory tax” would put people off having any RMI work done on their properties.

And I still maintain that I’m right. To a certain extent anyway.

Consequential improvements were suggested as an element of the next revision to Part L of the Building Regulations and would have required anyone extending or doing substantial RMI to their property to spend up to an additional 10% improving the energy efficiency of the rest of the property.

Like most things, the concept of consequential improvements would live or die by how well or how badly it is marketed and explained to its intended audience.

As soon as the Daily Mail dubbed it the ‘conservatory tax’ the project was doomed.

So it seemed to make sense that Secretary of State for community and local government, Eric Pickles should have, after due consideration and consultation with the relevant parties, put the idea back in its box.

Oh, hang on a minute.

That bit about consultation with the relevant parties. Hmm.

A consultation certainly happened. But then, nothing happened. As ACE director Andrew Warren pointed out, the results of a such consultation is normally analysed within weeks, rather than months. But over the summer and into the Autumn we heard nothing. Zip. Nada. Zilch.

Then, once the Green Deal had been ‘live’ for over two months, he announced that the consequential improvements package had been shelved.

There is likely to be a serious challenge to this from industry, in the form of a judicial review.

If you call something an extra tax, then of course the man on the Clapham Omnibus is going to get shirty about it. Of course he’s going to re-think that conservatory if he thinks he might have to pay an extra 10% just to get permission for it.

And that’s what I mean by the marketing being the difference between success and failure.

It does make sense that, as part of the plans, anyone thinking of adding an extra room or two or converting a garage or a loft should have to think about their energy costs and do something to minimise the impact of their build on those costs.

After all, if you are converting a garage into, say, a playroom, that’s simply another room that will be used and will require heating and lighting. This kind of calculation has to be taken into account with larger buildings; all the consequential improvements element of Part L was supposed to do was extend it to smaller properties.

Such work could even have been done as part of the Green Deal. The Government has spent a great deal of time and effort getting the Green Deal to market in order to help reduce fuel costs, emissions and our reliance on fossil fuels. Why on earth would they can an initiative that could help with that aim?

About Fiona Russell-Horne

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

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