Sunday 30 January 2005 REPORT PUBLICATION

Sunday 30 January 2005 REPORT PUBLICATION

Housing: Building a Sustainable Future


A new report released today, Sunday 30th January 2005, by the Environmental Audit Committee says that the Government is failing to incorporate its own rhetoric on sustainable development into housing policy, leaving the environment as a 'bolt-on' extra.  On publication of the report, Housing: Building a Sustainable Future, Peter Ainsworth MP, Chairman of the Committee, said;

"The Government's housing policy is an alarming example of disjointed thinking in an area where joined-up policy is crucial.  John Prescott's new Five Year Plan still misses the key point: until the Government takes proper account of the strain which house building places on the environment, we will continue to create serious problems for ourselves and future generations. I accept the need to improve housing supply but, as things stand, the principal beneficiary of housing growth will be property developers, with the environment we all depend on being the principal loser."

 "Failure to fund the necessary infrastructure will lead to badly built homes, in poorly designed communities, with inadequate transport and public services; a far cry from the "sustainable communities" which are the Government's stated aim."

The Committee' s report says the Barker Review of housing supply represents a direct attack on the principles of a democratic planning system and that many of the "sustainability" measures in the Sustainable Communities Plan are little more than window dressing.  The MPs find it "astounding" that neither DEFRA  -  which has regrettably been sidelined on the housing issue  -  nor ODPM has done anything to assess the overall environmental impact of proposed Growth Areas or the Sustainable Communities Plan.

The MPs say Government must address the fact that its proposals for major new house building in the already over-burdened South East of England reflect a "predict and provide" approach that condemns other regions to remaining less prosperous. It was also disingenuous of Ms Barker to insist that there was no geographical dimension to her proposals for increasing housing supply.

The report points out that the housing sector itself is deeply unsustainable; expresses serious concern about  the apparent reluctance of the industry to recognise the need for drastic improvement in how homes are built; highlights the failure of local authorities to enforce existing standards; and points to an urgent need to address skills shortages. 

 Unless significant steps are taken to reduce emissions from the housing sector they could account for 55% of the UK's target carbon emissions by 2050, almost double today's figure of around 30%, making it impossible for the Government to achieve its reduction targets.

The report concludes that:

•The present evidence base for the Government's housing policies is inadequate. No proposals to further increase housing supply should be taken forward without ensuring that there is a strong evidence base to support them.

•The Government should publish a substantive response to the Barker Review, recognising its shortcomings, as a matter of urgency.

• Government should consider a National Spatial Framework for England such as those already in place in Scotland and Wales that could address environmental impacts on a joined-up, national level.

• ODPM should use every effort to maximise brownfield development and housing densities.

• The failure of draft Planning Policy Statement 1 to recognise environmental limits is serious and should be rectified.

• Government should consider fiscal measures to encourage improved energy efficiency for existing homes, including a reduced stamp duty for homes that achieve set standards, and set out a clear timetable for achieving zero-emissions homes.

• The Government should make clear how it intends to measure its success at creating sustainable communities.

For further information on the report, journalists may phone Peter Ainsworth on 07887 997 838, or Committee staff (Elena Ares) on 020 7219 4102. For general press inquiries please contact Jessica Bridges-Palmer on 020 7219 0718 (office)or 07841 737349(mob).

Notes for Editors

The report published today by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is its First Report of Session 2004-05 Housing: Building a Sustainable Future HC 135. Details of all the Committee's press releases together with its Reports, oral evidence and other publications, are available on the Committee's website at its homepage.