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Case update 27 February 2024

We’re challenging the Government to build homes fit for the future

Justin Kase zninez / Alamy Stock Photo

The Government is putting roadblocks in the way of local councils who want to improve energy efficiency. But we need housing that tackles fuel poverty and the climate crisis.

When Michael Gove announced the Government’s latest plan to invest in towns left behind after years of Tory austerity, he said the funds would “empower communities in every part of the UK to take back control of their future, taking long term decisions in the interests of local people”. But less than three months later his department issued a directive limiting local authorities from introducing “local plans” to improve energy efficiency in housing beyond “national policy”, even if communities want to go further.

This is a massive overreach of central Government power and flies in the face of the Government’s obligations to reach net zero by 2050, so we’ve teamed up with Rights Community Action to launch a legal challenge.

The Written Ministerial Statement issued on 13 December states that proposals for local energy efficiency standards that improve on current or planned buildings regulation “should be rejected” unless they meet checks defined by central Government. It also declares that any improved regulations that manage to get through “should be applied flexibly” – making it all too easy for developers to ride roughshod over them.

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This announcement muddies the waters around energy efficiency, making it much harder for local planning authorities to set targets in line with net zero. 

This policy disaster stalls progress in a crucial area. According to the Future Homes Standard 2019 consultation, 20% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions are contributed by both new and existing homes. And there’s no time to waste. The UK’s independent public body tasked with ensuring the country meets emissions goals, the Committee on Climate Change, says that for the UK to meet its legally binding net zero target all new buildings must be “zero carbon” by next year.

According to Good Law Project’s Legal Manager Ian Browne, the Government must listen to its own rhetoric on local empowerment and “remove the roadblock on green homes”.

“The Tories talk up a storm about letting local people take control of local decisions,” Browne said. “And they’re quite happy to back them when they fit with their divisive agenda on grammar schools or onshore wind. But as soon as local people stand up to big business they want to grab the wheel.”

According to Naomi Luhede-Thompson, CEO at Rights Community Action, the Government seems determined to “smash any hopes” of communities adopting carbon plans. 

“Building homes that are warm, generate their own electricity, and provide safety and security to people should be the priority of any practical, forward-thinking and knowledgeable Government,” Luhede-Thompson said.

Faced with the climate emergency and the cost of living crisis, we need strong Government action on energy efficiency and fuel poverty, not more watering down of green policies.

We need to build homes fit for the future – our planet and our lives depend on it.

  • The climate crisis makes it all the more important that those in power hear your voice. Help us make sure we’re building homes that are fit for the future.

Take action: write to Michael Gove