Leadership on Zero Carbon Homes

Meeting:

Mayor's Question Time

Date:

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Reference:

Question 2016/3851 (Oral)

Main question

Nicky Gavron

In light of the COP21 agreement in Paris, I welcome your commitment to deliver zero carbon homes as part of your plans for housing in the capital. How do you intend to support zero carbon homes through your new London Plan and Supplementary Planning Guidance?


Answer

The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thanks, Chairman.  Thank you for your question, Assembly Member Gavron.  Firstly, I would like to thank Assembly Member Gavron for her longstanding commitment to improving London’s environment, including important input into London Plan policies, raising awareness and environmental standards in London and working with our international partners.

 

The Paris agreement is a landmark step in international co‑operation and leadership in tackling climate change.  I want London to be a leading city in addressing this global challenge, hence my manifesto commitment to work towards London becoming zero carbon by 2050.  To help achieve this, we must ensure that new developments are zero carbon.  In the absence of strong national policy, London has taken leadership on this issue and I fully support the Zero Carbon Homes policy in the current London Plan.  I also intend to retain the Zero Carbon Homes policy in my new London Plan, as well as a policy for zero carbon non‑domestic developments.  Once my new plan has been adopted, if necessary I will issue further information in Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) to detail how the policy will be implemented.

 

I will continue to take a rigorous approach to requiring and assessing energy statements that are submitted alongside planning applications to ensure that developments are achieving the highest possible energy standards onsite and that, where appropriate, schemes support the expansion of decentralised energy opportunities, such as heat networks.  I am working with London boroughs to implement my zero‑carbon ambitions and support them in developing carbon offset funds where developments cannot meet zero‑carbon standards.  Some of these offset funds will be used to retrofit the existing building stock.  Tackling energy‑inefficient homes, responsible for over a third of our emissions, is also vital to achieving a zero‑carbon city, along with supporting low‑carbon energy infrastructure and supply.  Through my strategic planning role, I will do all in my power to ensure that development remains deliverable whilst meeting the highest standards, including environment and zero‑carbon budgets.

 

Nicky Gavron AM:  Thank you very much for that answer and thank you also for your kind remarks.  It is in all our interests that we make sure that our new‑build homes are really ultra‑energy efficient and low-carbon.  If developers build those kinds of homes, as I understand it, they would have to pay very little or even nothing into an offset carbon fund, which then goes to boroughs.  We know, being realistic, that there are some developers who will not want to do that, will not want to build ultra‑energy efficient homes and will not even want to meet your minimum requirement that they must provide 35% of the home as zero-carbon.  We also know that there are some developers ‑‑

 

Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  Is there a question in this, Nicky?

 

Nicky Gavron AM:  It is coming.  There are some developers who will play off - I know it is the end of the meeting - your affordable homes target against your requirements for zero‑carbon homes.  My question, Chair, is  will you take a tough line with those developers who say that your requirement for zero‑carbon homes is going to negatively impact on viability?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  The trick is to talk about building trees; you get more time then.  To answer your question, we have to be tough on developers and that is why the new London Plan is so important because we have to make sure that actually the next generation of homes are environmentally friendly and sustainable.  You are right that most emissions are coming from homes.  We can take the plans in relation to ULEZ and I am very ambitious about our plans in relation to making sure we reduce carbon emissions, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matters from vehicles, but we have to make sure we deal with new developments.  When you bear in mind that around 80% of today’s buildings will still be standing by 2050, which also includes retrofitting, that is why the contribution made by developers is so important.

 

Nicky Gavron AM:  Already the work has been done here to help boroughs in valuing how much a tonne of carbon is, in fact, £60 a tonne if it is not mitigated.  That goes into a fund for boroughs.  Boroughs like Westminster and Islington are really leading the way on this.  Islington is targeting, as you referred to, better insulation for homes but some boroughs will need support with this and will need support administering the funds and targeting them.  Are you prepared in some way to give that support to boroughs?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  One of the things I have realised in relation to local authority budget restraints is that some of the planning departments have been - it is not a criticism, it is just a fact - hollowed out and they need expertise.  We are giving expertise now in relation to viability.  You are right to suggest that we should be thinking about giving help in relation to environmental issues.

 

Can I go away and think about that and talk to my Deputy Mayor [for Environment and Energy], Shirley Rodrigues, and also the Deputy Mayors for Planning and Housing to see how we can do that?  You are right that there is an area of specialism that some local authorities have - you gave two examples of good ones - and some do not have.  They need them going forward.

 

Nicky Gavron AM:  That would be very helpful.  Also, if you are thinking about that, maybe there will be opportunities for some boroughs to want to pool funds with other boroughs so that maybe one could get a district‑wide combined heat and power (CHP) scheme or district heating scheme.

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  One thing that is really encouraging is that we are now seeing more and more local authorities working closely together, whether it is back‑office operations or whether it is chief executives.  Some are even talking about planning working together and that has a huge saving in relation to economies of scale.  We have good relations with London Councils and we are always told about good examples which they share with each other.  That is the way, going forward.

 

Nicky Gavron AM:  My final question: referring to what you were saying in your original answer to the first question, it is quite difficult for us know how to ensure that for these homes, once built, their energy performance and their carbon reduction will match what they put in the original energy assessment.  I do not quite know how one is going to do that or how you would do that.  Will it be spot checks?  Will it be some compensatory fines?  Can we think about a way of doing that?  We know already - and there is evidence - that many of the recent newly‑built homes are not just high-carbon but are draughty, they are not energy efficient and the residents have to actually pay more for their bills than they would have done if those buildings had been built to specification.  How are we going to monitor it?  I do not expect an answer, but it needs one.

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  No, we need to look into this.  I will tell you why: because there already are similar things in relation to contractual obligations you might be able to come up with, with a developer.  It is worth us thinking about the next generation of planning obligations so that we can make sure we can enforce them post something being built.  Once it has been built, unless you take enforcement action and pull it down, there are very few levers you have.

 

You are right to canvass the suggestion about looking at what levers we have to make sure that once something has been built it is fulfilling the promise made during the planning phase, which were the conditions upon which it got permission.  You are right that we have to look into this.

 

Nicky Gavron AM:  Thank you, Chairman.