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UK’s first eco-village scrapped following Government U-turn

A £2.8 million project to build the UK’s first perfectly energy efficient housing development for commercial sale is being axed following a major U-turn in national housing policy, hidden in the small print of March’s Budget.

Tenders had already gone out to developers wanting to build the unique homes in Shropshire when architects and builders behind the scheme were forced to call a halt to the project. Shropshire Constructing Excellence (SCE) met with housing minister Andrew Stunell at the end of March at the House of Commons who confirmed the U-turn, which SCE believes effectively re-defines “carbon zero”.

SCE says that instead of developers having to ensure a totally eco-friendly building process from 2016, the new rules would only require emissions from energy use like heating and lighting to be carbon neutral.

The move means the plug has been pulled on the Shrewsbury Exemplar Village, a £2.8 million development of up to 10 carbon neutral homes built for commercial sale which was being carried out by SCE to show whether the Government’s initial policy was economically viable.

Chairman of SCE, Carl Huntley, says the Government has reneged on a worldwide commitment to ensure that all new homes created by 2016 were carbon neutral, a standard known as Code 6, in a move which will reduce costs for homebuilders but is likely to anger environmental groups.

He said: “As the development was going to be funded both by the public and private sector, we are forced to shelve it as the Government has effectively said the current housing market cannot stand the extra costs for householders associated with building a totally eco-friendly, carbon neutral home.”

The homes planned for Falstaff Street were to be built to Code 6 standard – warm in winter, cool in summer and carbon neutral, leaving home owners with no utility bills and super-efficient houses.

Mr Huntley explained: “The project would have collected information on the costs and efficiencies to pass on to the Government ahead of the 2016 deadline for carbon zero homes. Now, however, the Government has pre-empted that information and re-defined what they believe is a carbon zero home. It’s a sensible approach, but it’s frustrating that it took so long for the penny to drop.

“What it means cost-wise for developers is an extra 10 per cent on a standard build, compared to 30 per cent. It doesn’t stop developers building Code 6 homes, but I don’t know any developer who would do it when there is such increased costs and no legal requirement for them to do it.”

The SCE homes were planned for council land being handed to the organisation for virtually no cost in return for a patch of allotments for local residents and a revamp of a nearby football pitch and the development of changing rooms. Construction was planned to begin on site in the summer and was expected to take up to a year to be completed.

The policy change also prompted a scathing attack from the UK Green Building Council which branded the move “anti-green” and “anti-growth”. Paul King, chief executive of the UKGBC, said the new policy would result in the direct mitigation of only around two-thirds of emissions from a typical home over the course of a year.

“This U-turn will result in loss of confidence leading to lower investment, less innovation, fewer green jobs and fewer carbon reductions. It is a backward step by a Government that wanted to be seen as ‘the greenest ever’,” said Mr King.


For further information please contact Amy Bould at Be Bold Public Relations on 01952 898051, 07859 002562 or email amy@beboldpr.com.


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