Select Committee on Environmental Audit Twelfth Report


81.  The Government has taken significant steps to address environmental concerns since our last report into housing. In particular, the zero carbon target is hugely ambitious, offering the potential to forge ahead with the development of community energy systems; while considerable thought has been given to the provision of sustainable infrastructure for new developments, one of our previous major concerns. However, some of the fundamental problems our predecessor Committee first identified in 2005 continue to afflict Government policy-making. There is a continued and worrying lack of ambition and rigour in the enforcement of mandatory sustainability standards to which new homes should be built. There may be an over-reliance on market forces to raise standards (through consumer choice of sustainable houses) and provide infrastructure (through the zero carbon regulation and other levies on developers), and there is a risk that the anticipated gains will not be realised. In addition, there is pressure on the local planning system to make land available for new housing to meet Government targets.

82.  In addition to these, there are a variety of new problems brought about by a serious downturn, not just in the UK housing market, but in the global economy. In the light of the dramatic financial events of the last few weeks, we recommend that the Government revisits the extent to which a target of 3 million new homes by 2020 is realistic and viable. In revising its targets, the Government should not seek to water down its environmental ambitions, but should rather seize the opportunity to strengthen them, at the same time helping the economy by investing in the skills and supply chains needed for a step-change in environmental construction standards.

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