Select Committee on Environmental Audit Twelfth Report

1  Introduction

1.  In July 2007 the Government announced an increased target of 3 million new homes to be built by 2020, with 2 million of these to be completed by 2016. At the same time, it stressed:

We don't just want to build more homes. We want them to be better homes, built to high standards, both in terms of design and environmental impact and homes that are part of mixed communities with good local facilities. Our new homes need to be part of the solution to climate change; not part of the problem.[1]

Accompanying this, the Government made a number of high-profile announcements, including a timetable for all new homes to be zero carbon from 2016, the construction of 10 new eco-towns by 2020, and the introduction of a Code for Sustainable Homes against which all new homes would have to be rated.

2.  We have devoted two reports to housing and climate change in recent years.[2] The last report, published in July 2006, was critical of the Government in two particular respects: (i) grossly inadequate enforcement of building regulations, and (ii) lack of infrastructure (especially public transport) for new housing developments. Overall, we warned: "The need to build new homes is […] used by the Government as a mandate to sweep aside any concerns that people may have about the environmental impacts of those plans."[3]

3.  We have also touched on aspects of Government policy towards housing and the environment in a number of other reports. In The structure of Government and the challenge of climate change (October 2007), we warned of the risk that new towns built today could become the "climate slums" of the future, if they were not built to cope with the projected effects of climate change in the UK.

4.  This report builds on our previous work in this area, reviewing progress on existing policies in the two years since our last substantive report on housing, and examining the major new policies announced since then. By concentrating on new housing, we have aimed to complement the recent report into Existing Housing and Climate Change by the Communities and Local Government Committee.[4] In the context of our remit to consider the impacts of Government policies and targets on the objectives of sustainable development, we have concentrated on three overarching issues:

  • the impact of the growth of house-building targets;
  • what sorts of homes should be built; and
  • where these homes should be built.

1   Department of Communities and Local Government (CLG), Homes for the future: more affordable, more sustainable, Cm 7191, July 2007, p 9 Back

2   Environmental Audit Committee, First Report of Session 2004-05, Housing: Building a Sustainable Future, HC 135-I; Fifth Report of Session 2005-06, Sustainable Housing: A Follow-up Report, HC 779 Back

3   Environmental Audit Committee, Sustainable Housing: A Follow-up Report, para 98 Back

4   Communities and Local Government Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2007-08, Existing Housing and Climate Change, HC 432-I Back

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