The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) today publishes its Fifth Report of Session 2005-06, Sustainable Housing: A Follow-up Report.

Tim Yeo MP, the Chairman of the Committee, commented:

"As a Committee we have never disputed the need to address the problem of housing affordability and we accept that this will inevitably result in more new homes being built, but we are concerned that consideration of the environmental impacts of these new communities ranks below a significant number of other economic and social factors. Indeed, we are concerned that houses have already been built, and will continue to be built, without sufficient regard to strong environmental standards. Reliance on developers to gradually begin to "do the right thing" we believe is misplaced and is symptomatic not only of ODPM's reluctance to take on the building sector but also of a fundamental lack of urgency in the Government's approach to ensuring that new housing and new communities are truly sustainable."

Key conclusions of the Report include:

€ We recommend that HM Treasury revises the current VAT rules concerning both new build and refurbished homes built to high environmental standards.

€ We recommend that HM Treasury should also consider reducing both Stamp Duty and Council Tax for those homes built to high environmental standards.

€ We are pleased to welcome ODPM's latest decision to set minimum standards of energy and water efficiency for every level of the Code but we are anxious to know exactly what these standards will be and when they will come into effect. ODPM must make these details available at the earliest opportunity. This should include an assessment of the cost and practicality implications of setting minimum standards for each level, reflecting one of ODPM's original concerns, as well as an assessment of the energy and water efficiency savings attached to each standard.

€ It was disappointing and frustrating to find that there had been no significant improvement in either compliance or enforcement of the Building Regulations. If the Government regards the new Code for Sustainable Homes as a form of draft Building Regulations, then ODPM must set out a clear timescale in which Code standards will be adopted into Regulations.

€ We remain deeply concerned that ODPM is determined to build new homes first and then worry later, if at all, about how the supporting infrastructure can be created. The communities that are created as a result of such a short-sighted policy will be anything but sustainable.

€ We consider that with only ten years left before the Government's own deadline of 200,000 new homes per year by 2016, to delay discussing how to fund the infrastructure for much of that development until the Comprehensive Spending Review in 2007 represents a massive planning failure.

Copies of the report can be obtained from TSO outlets and from the Parliamentary Bookshop, 12 Bridge Street, Parliament Square, London SW1A 2JX (020 7219 3890) by quoting House of Commons No 779. The text of the Report will also be available from approximately 10am onwards on its publication date, on the Committee's Internet homepage

For further information on the report, journalists may phone the Committee's media officer, Laura Kibby, on 020 7219 0718.

Notes for Editors

The report published today by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is its Fifth Report of Session 2005-06, Sustainable Housing: A Follow-Up Report, HC 779. Details of all the Committee's press releases together with its Reports, oral evidence and other publications, are available on the Committee's website