Headlines: March 20th, 2006

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister says the work it is doing in promoting sustainable local communities through changes to planning laws and building regulations, is putting the principles of sustainable development into practice. The ODPM has published an Action Plan to highlight the progress it says it is making in implementing its commitment to sustainability.The plan acknowledges that the challenge is a long-term affair, especially in relation to climate change, but the plan details action and progress for the 12 months ahead. It points to seven steps, including reviewing local and regional development plans to ensure they are fully promoting the use of renewable energy.

Baroness Andrews, the Sustainable Development Minister, said the aim was to create sustainable and inclusive communities, which meant putting principles of sustainable development into practice. “The ODPM acknowledges the long-term nature of the challenge, particularly in regard to climate change, and the need to make serious changes in policy and behaviour now across the economy and society,” she added.

Steps set out in the plan include changes that are coming into force in building regulations, which will improve the energy efficiency of new buildings by 40 per cent, and plans to begin consulations on water efficiency later this year. There will also be a review of the sustainability of existing homes to identify possible incentives for more improvements in energy and water efficiciency. There will be a new Code for Sustainable Homes, setting high standards and giving property owners better information about running costs. Later this year details will be given on voluntary initiatives and regulations for better energy and water efficiency.

Other steps include the development of a Planning Policy Statement taking account of flood risk, a new policy on waste planning and a planning statement on housing policy in response to the Barker Review of Housing Supply and designed to lead to inclusive mixed communities in all areas.

There will also be changes to the planning system to develop its role in tackling climate change and a review of permitted development rights for householders to make it easier to install small-scale generation equipment such as micro-wind turbines and heat pumps. Finally Local Area Agreements and Safer, Stronger Communities funding will be used to enable the creation of greener town centres and better quality public spaces.