Energy Bill [Lords]

Memorandum submitted by Country Land and Business Association (EN 19)

Energy Bill – Chapters 1 and 2

Introduction

1. The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) represents some 35,000 members who between them own and manage about half of the rural land in England and Wales and the buildings thereon. A report some years ago found that CLA members are responsible for providing some 40% of the social housing in rural areas.

Background

2. CLA welcomes the moves to make funding available to improve the energy efficiencies of property in general and the private rented sector in particular. CLA members own and are responsible for many different types of rural buildings. A large proportion of these will be traditionally built properties dating pre 1920 and so are significantly harder and cost effectively to improve in terms of energy efficiency.

3. The CLA applauds measures designed to reduce carbon emissions and is a key partner in the Greenhouse Gas Action Plan – the agricultural industry’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gases. Our members are supportive of the Government’s measures and commitment to reduce carbon emissions.

4. However we ask that our concerns on the implementation of the measures in the rural context are recognised and addressed. We ask to be consulted on the development of the secondary legislation necessary to take this forward.

Concerns

5. While we support the green deal, we are anxious that unintended consequences may arise from the proposals. These include:

6. The risk of damage to the historic interest and value of property from inappropriate measures to improve thermal efficiency.

7. The risk that conflicts between the historic buildings agenda and the green agenda may, in the context of the proposed ban on letting less well insulated buildings, lead to some properties being unlettable.

8. The risk that the proposed ban will place unwarranted burdens on property owners (that in fact the green deal will not be self financing as proposed) and damage property value.

9. The risk that the current Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) which is recognised as not "fit for purpose" for historic buildings, is taken as a fixed standard in implementing regulations.

10. In particular the EPC does not correctly address the thermal efficiency and GHG emissions from traditionally built properties dating from pre 1920s such as timber frame or cob which, because of their need to breathe, are not adaptable to thermal cladding, or very thick stone walled buildings where thermal mass makes insulation less relevant. We are concerned that owing to the lack of access to the gas grid the cost of alternative high efficiency condensing boilers is significantly higher, and that the availability of many standard approaches to insulation are denied by the owner’s proper concern for the historic fabric of the buildings, as well as heritage property restrictions.

Discussion

11. The CLA has serious concerns on the prospect of a generic ban on the letting of all F and G rated properties. The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change has announced that the original plan of conducting a review of the effectiveness of the Green Deal and the situation thereafter is to be scrapped and that from April 2018 it will be unlawful for landlords of domestic and commercial premises to rent out F and G rated buildings. There will always be difficult cases and with the current inflexible methodology where EPCs are applied to traditionally built properties there may be injustice with severe financial consequences for the property owner.

12. It should not be the case that owners of F/G properties (and others) could be forced to do things under the Green Deal which spoil the heritage significance of buildings.

13. A great number of buildings owned by our members are not listed but are still of historic significance, and have features that should not be damaged by badly calibrated green schemes.

14. The Bill sets out a very broad definition of non domestic premises: it is all encompassing. CLA members rent out properties for all sorts of purposes that will amount to tenancies.

15. An approach that sought to apply a defence to the ban on letting such as providing proof that planning permission for the works has been refused would not help on internal works or permitted development which do not need planning permission. Moreover, great expense is incurred in a full application (including the requirement for detailed scale drawings). We thus argue a professional opinion clearly stating the level of works that are appropriate for a pre 1920s building should be deemed sufficient to avoid a ban on letting, whether or not the works deliver a rating above F or G.

Proposals

16. We seek firm assurances on the face of the Bill and amendments to avoid unintended consequences:

17. We call for formal assurances in the drafting of the Bill that the "golden rule" shall apply to non domestic property.

18. The CLA continues its call for an urgent revision of the EPC, and for development of new methods of measuring the energy efficiency of traditional buildings to create a more genuine reflection of their carbon footprint. We argue that Bill should be amended to confirm the ban on letting should not apply if:

(a) The Green Deal would not improve the building to the required "E" rating. However, Landlords improvements would still be carried out within the scope of Green Deal financing, where it is feasible and does not harm the historic fabric of the building.

(b) The Landlord is unable at reasonable cost to obtain the necessary statutory and non statutory consents and permissions to be able to undertake the works necessary to partake in the Green Deal.

(c) Compliance with the regulations would have a negative impact on the value of the property.

June 2011

Prepared 15th June 2011