|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con):
I shall come immediately to the Bill. Clause 2 relates to permitted development orders. The hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke) made a timely intervention about permitted development rights for telephone masts. I sound a note of caution because we probably all know from our constituencies about the
11 Nov 2005 : Column 655
trouble that they have caused. The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. Whitehead) has sensibly anticipated a potential problem, because clause 2(5) allows the Secretary of State to
I wonder whether some appliances that fulfilled that criterion would comply with the provisions about appearance and noise. The last thing that hon. Members want to do, through the best intentions, is to cause many unsightly units to spring up throughout the country through permitted development rights. We all know from our post bags the trouble that that can cause, especially when the planning system is powerless to do anything about it.
Mr. Forth : Does my hon. Friend share my worry that if we loosen the planning regime sufficiently to allow all the allegedly good things to happen, there is a great danger of intrusion by noise from windmills and other devices? Perhaps health and safety hazards could be caused by generating plants that are not properly maintained or managed by people who do not know how to do that. Does he agree that some protection is required in the planning regime?
Martin Horwood : The hon. Gentleman may have misheard the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), who mentioned the noise caused by such technologies. The noise created by a micro-generation wind turbine, which is only a few feet high, is negligible. Surely he agrees that noise will not be a bar to their introduction.
Mr. Harper: That is a timely intervention, but the promoter acknowledges that there are potential problems with the noise and appearance of the units. Clause 2(5) gives the Secretary of State the power to make conditions about the appearance and noise of such devices, thus heading off those anxieties. However, I am worried that the Bill gives the Secretary of State the power, but not the duty, to provide for those conditions. We could get into a dangerous position whereby the Government did not make such provisions and we could end up with the same problems as we experience with phone masts. We do not want to repeat that problem.
There is a potential problem with clause 3, which deals with building regulations. The problem does not affect new buildings, but subsection (3) provides for energy ratings for dwellings. I am worried about the use to which the information could be put, especially the potential use for taxation. It is probably reasonably cost effective to constructthrough modern technology and all the latest building techniquesnew build housing that is as energy efficient as possible. That is welcome.
11 Nov 2005 : Column 656
However, in constituencies such as mine we do not desire massive new housing development. Many of the properties in the area, including the property in which I live, are hundreds of years old, so without spending huge amounts of money they are not amenable to becoming especially energy efficient. I would not want my constituents to have their properties rated as energy inefficient
On clause 4, in relation to dynamic demand technologies, it is sensible to use technologies that use the power available more efficiently. It would be helpful if the Minister were to tell us whether she was attracted by this part of the Bill, because one of the concerns expressed by the CBI and other business organisations is that if this winter is particularly harsh there might be restrictions on power availability. It might therefore suit the Government to have a wide availability of technologies that enable energy suppliers to cope more easily with not being able to produce to previous peak demand levels. We do not want to overdo it, however, because that would reduce the duty on power suppliers to supply the power that we demand. To some extent, that is sensible, but I do not want to start forcing people to make do with less power than they require.
Paddy Tipping : Surely, however, the whole input of the Bill is to reduce carbon emissions, and if we can do that from our own homes that makes sense. It also makes sense in economic terms. These are good value-for-money measures and I am perturbed that the hon. Gentleman is arguing in favour of the big generating companies and not for his constituents and mine.
I think that it was pointed out earlier that the building regulations will only apply to new buildings, so most of my constituents will not be affected as there will not be substantial new build in my constituencynor is it wanted. I am addressing my constituents' concerns. In areas where there will not be substantial new build, I do not want a future Government to be able to tax people based on the energy rating of their homes, which some interest groups have already discussed.
11 Nov 2005 : Column 657
Mr. Harper: I think that the hon. Lady will regret making that point, as we have known since a week or two ago that the Government propose to build a database of views from windows, and my constituents in the Forest of Dean might be affected by that.
Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South) (Lab): I want to try to help the hon. Gentleman out of the hole that he was getting into. During my experience with an existing property over the past year, I have learned a lesson from Woking council, which has taken existing buildings and incorporated them into a local energy system, raising the standards of the built environment and giving renewable energy systems to those properties in different energy market contracts. Is that not the significance of supporting this Bill and the preceding Bill?
Mr. Harper: As I have said, I am not an engineer or scientist by training, so the hon. Gentleman's points about his experience are most helpful. He makes a valuable point about the effectiveness of local action. If it is possible under existing regimes to do as Woking council has done successfully, it strikes me that we should be cautious about making things more complicated. Given that many people have said that these sorts of issues are important, and people are chomping at the bit to be able to do their own thing, we should focus on reducing the complexity and bureaucracy and removing barriers. I think we should be a little cautious about making things more complicated.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) mentioned cost. The Government have rightly focused on the cost of providing homes for those who find buying low-cost homes difficult. The hon. Member for Southampton, Test touched on the question of how much we load on to the building of new homes. The Minister has expressed an interest in producing low-cost homes, as has her boss the Deputy Prime Minister, but building regulations often add costs. We should not make things more expensive and difficult to achieve while saying that we want to do the opposite. I end on that note of caution.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|