Kirsty spent a very ejnoyable morning at Pentillie Castle yesterday where she had a first attempt at Clay Pigeon shooting with the Devon and Cornwall branch of Women in Property.
We were excited to hear that MPs on the Communities and Local Government Committee share a similar enthusiasm for self-build homes as housing minister Grant Shapps. In their report on ‘financing of new housing supply’, they call on the government to establish a fund to incentivise local authorities to support pilot ‘volume self-build’ schemes by allocating sites and taking a flexible approach to planning.
The committee says that it sees no reason why the first pilots could not be up and running in two years’ time and has asked the government to report back.
The MPs have been to see large-scale self-build in action in Almere in the Netherlands where the local authority played an enabling role and adopted a relaxed approach to regulating design and construction (building regulations were still enforced) that has produced innovative designs.
So impressed were the MPs that they suggest that a similar, high-profile scheme in England could help to kick-start a new enthusiasm for self-build over here. They also call on the government to work with mortgage lenders to overcome barriers to lending to self builders, identified as one of the main obstacles facing the bespoke housing sector. With Self Builds in Devon a fairly common occurance we would like to see Exeter City Council back a Self Build Scheme here in the South West.
Last month Shapps hosted a workshop at No 10 Downing Street to highlight new support measures for self-builders, including the launch of the Self Build Portal|, and pledged to double the volume of self-build homes.
The government is already promoting its plans to release surplus public sector land specifically for self-build and has said it will establish a £30 million revolving fund for multi-unit self build projects, as called for by the National Self Build Association.
Having seen some of the Self Build Schemes in the Netherlands first hand we are excited at the prospect of similar schemes taking shape here in the UK, we believe the demand is high for people who would like to build there own home but don’t have the finances to buy a plot. Indeed plots of land for self builders in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset are rare, and those with planning permission sell for very high prices.
With any luck we will start to see some progress within the next few years.
Newtown Community Association (NCA) in Exeter could soon have a new building at their site in Belmont Park.
The Community Association based in Exeter has been drawing up plans for a new facility, which will be an exemplar of sustainable passive technology and provide the local community with a much needed updated facility for local clubs and groups to meet.
The NCA have been working with Exeter based Living Space Architects to create a Vision for the scheme which has now been submitted as a planning application.
Kirsty Curnow director of Living Space Architects said: “We have been working hard with the community to create a building that meets their needs and uses as little energy as possible and the NCA are delighted that the council may be able to provide some of the funding that is required to make the scheme viable”
Living Space Architects have designed projects for community groups, including a children’s football centre funded by the Football Foundation in Tavistock and a Community Centre in Belmont Park in Exeter.
Neighbourhood planning – the new tier of the planning system –seeks to give communities more control over the future of their area. But planning, design and development are complex and the skills that architects possess – enabling, facilitating, visioning, innovating and stimulating ideas – will be vitally needed if neighbourhood planning is to work.
“Evidence and experience drawn from participatory design practice points to the fact that a collaborative design process done well not only engages local people in the design of the built environment that they experience everyday, but can also lead to better and more sustainable projects, and to a more collaborative and positive process of change.” RIBA guide to Localism, getting community engagement right.
After exhibiting at the Renewable Energy Marketplace a few months ago, we decided to join Regen South West this month. Regen SW has an expert team working to enable business, local authorities and other organisations to deliver renewable energy and energy efficiency and build a prosperous low-carbon economy in the south west.
Regen SW will be working with us to expand our knowledge and expertise within the renewable energy sector so that we can help our clients make the most of the opportunities offered by the Green Deal and other Government incentives.
We will also be looking at the opportunities offered by Communities for Renewables, a not for profit company set up by Regen SW to help communities start projects to generate their own power. This is of special interest to us as we frequently work communities, such as Newtown in Exeter, who are in the process of building a new community centre which includes a photovoltaic array.
We are looking forward to working with further community groups in this setor, so if you have a project that you need some help with in Devon, Somerset or Exeter give us a call or come in for a chat.
The Government has scrapped plans for what was dubbed a ‘conservatory tax’ that would have required homeowners to install additional – and potentially expensive – energy efficiency measures when making home improvements.
Part of the complicated proposals under the England and Wales Building Regulations: Part L 2013 Consultation – ‘consequential improvements’ have been part of the Government’s agenda for many years.
This time, as in 2006 and 2010, it seems it has folded to pressure. Rupert Scott, TRADA’s Membership and Marketing Manager, is not surprised. “If someone is having their windows replaced for example, should they really have to pay to have further energy efficiency measures undertaken, when they are already doing this with the windows?”
He said the key issue for industry is whether the plans would to create more work for construction. “There will be some who are dissuaded from upgrading their windows altogether – and in this scenario everyone loses,” he said.
Another key point of the consultation – as summarised in the latest TRADA Construction Briefings document – is that the overall CO² maximum design targets have been watered down from what was expected for 2013: for dwellings, the Government’s suggested position is a reduction of the 2010 CO² target by 8%.
“This is not much of mid-way bridge between the 2010 requirements and the goal of ‘zero carbon’ in 2016,” says Mr Scott. “The main issue is that all changes to building regulation guidance have to be appraised for their economic impact. The bottom line is that as we increase the energy performance levels it becomes increasingly difficult to make the financial case.
“The performance standards are not that onerous but the way the Government is proposing to ask people to comply is. It needs to get much simpler.”
TRADA Construction Briefing
I’m sure you will already know that there was a nasty little surprise hidden away in the Budget 2012 documents about the removal of the zero rate of VAT on approved alterations to listed buildings. If you haven’t seen the details they are available in the consultation document on ‘addressing borderline anomalies’ in the VAT system: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/budget2012/vat-con-4801.pdf, and also in the Budget’s policy costing document (pages 37-38): http://cdn.hm-treasury.gov.uk/budget2012_policy_costings.pdf.
To fight this unfair move, we have joined forces with 20 other similar organisations including the Federation of Master Builders, SPAB, Georgian Society etc. Unfortunately Government has only given us until the 4th May to respond to these plans and therefore time is critical. May I ask you to do two things if you agree that the VAT law should remain unchanged?
First could you look at the e-petition at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/32056 and register your view. Additionally can you ask your friends and neighbours to register as well?
Secondly can you write to your MP objecting to the change?
If you are unsure of your MP’s name it is published on http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/ you can also find a draft of a suitable letter here: http://www.cutthevat.co.uk/cut-the-vat/listed-buildings/
During the past week we have spoken to many members and it has been suggested that we use the situation to seek change of the VAT rules to zero rate repairs and maintenance but unfortunately this is not possible under European law. There is a full European campaign to have all work on listed buildings rated at 5% but this is a separate issue and we shall revert to this at a later date.
Listed Property Owners Club
VAT Savings to be withdrawn from Listed Buildings works
Yesterday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer made an unexpected announcement that will affect a significant number of owners of listed properties in the UK.
In short, the VAT relief that currently applies to alterations to listed buildings is being withdrawn with effect from 1 October 2012. The Chancellor described the existing relief as an ‘anomaly’, which “gives a perverse incentive for change as opposed to repair”. He also considers that the majority of the work covered by the relief consists of “extension work which is not necessary for heritage”. Admittedly, extensions currently qualify for VAT relief at present, but it does not give a true picture of the type of work that owners carry out, and which frequently qualify for relief.
Dave Brown, the LPOC’s VAT adviser commented “The majority of projects that I get involved with are simply restoration jobs – and with VAT at 20% being payable on these works in future, home owners are likely to ‘make do and mend’ – or else purchase non-listed buildings next time. The end result, unfortunately, is that many historic buildings will simply fall into a state of disrepair.
Listed property owners have a hard enough time looking after the often fragile state of their homes that any disincentive introduced will, in the long-term, damage the heritage of the United Kingdom.” A consultation exercise has been introduced, and we invite all owners to contribute to it.
David Roberts, HMRC, VAT Projects Team, 3C/10, 100 Parliament Street, London, SW1A 2BQ
Alternatively, as this measure deserves the widest possible reaction, we urge you to contact your MP as soon as possible. Please also contact LPOC with your comments on firstname.lastname@example.org or LPOC, Lower Dane, Hartlip, Kent, ME9 7TE
The Energy Bill includes provision for a new “Green Deal” which the Government believe will revolutionise the energy efficiency of British properties. Put simply, the Government is establishing a framework to enable private firms to offer consumers energy efficiency improvements to their homes, community spaces and businesses at no upfront cost, and recoup payments through a charge in instalments on the energy bill.
At the heart of the Government’s proposals is the “Green Deal plan”, an innovative financing mechanism which allows consumers to pay back through their energy bills. This means consumers can see the Green Deal charge alongside the reductions in energy use which generate savings on their bill. It also means that if they move out and cease to be the bill-payer at that property, the financial obligation doesn’t move with them but moves to the next bill payer: the charge is only paid whilst the benefits are enjoyed. In this way, the Green Deal differs from existing lending – it is not a conventional loan since the bill-payer is not liable for the full capital cost of the measures, only the charges due whilst they are the bill-payer.
This is a market mechanism, funded by private capital, which the Government believe will deliver far more to consumers than any sort of top-down Government programme.
The role of the Green Deal provider is to offer a Green Deal plan to customers, which enables them to finance work recommended by an accredited adviser and undertaken by an accredited installer. These functions might be done in-house by the provider, or shared amongst other organisations, but the customer’s contractual relationship is with provider.
The Government’s proposals are centred on the Green Deal plan but are also more ambitious. For example, they are looking at how best to use the accredited, objective advice which is required in advance of the plan to give consumers a wider range of information about steps they can take to improve the sustainability of their homes, such as water efficiency.
There are a number of important consumer protections which will be embedded into the Green Deal which are detailed in the document. These include the following prerequisites for all Green Deal plans:
1. The expected financial savings must be equal to or greater than the costs attached to the energy bill, known as “the golden rule” of the Green Deal.
2. The measures must be approved and the claimed bill savings must be those accredited through this process.
3. The measures installed must have been recommended for that property by an accredited, objective adviser who has carried out an assessment.
4. The measures must be installed by an accredited installer.
5. For householders, the Green Deal provider must give appropriate advice within the terms of the Consumer Credit Act and take account of the individual circumstances of the applicant.
6. The Green Deal provider must have consent from the relevant parties, including the express consent of the current energy bill-payer.
7. The presence of a Green Deal must be properly disclosed to subsequent billpayers (e.g. new owners or tenants) alongside energy performance information.
8. Energy suppliers must collect the Green Deal charge and pass it on within the existing regulatory safeguards for collecting energy bill payments – including protections for vulnerable consumers.
To qualify for the Green Deal, expected savings in typical properties consuming a normal amount of energy must be equal to or greater than the cost of the measure. However, actual cash savings cannot be guaranteed by government since no-one except individuals and businesses themselves can control how much energy they actually consume in their own property. Whilst the consumer has ultimate responsibility for reducing consumption after the Green Deal measures have been installed, we will give energy users advice on how to change behaviour to maximise the benefits of better insulated, less wasteful properties.
Not every household will be able to save on their energy bills by taking up a Green Deal plan, so there will be additional help for those who need it most. Lower income and vulnerable households may not save money through energy efficiency because many do not have the heating turned on long enough to heat their homes sufficiently, so increased efficiency may mean they will enjoy warmer homes rather than cash savings. Likewise, homes which can only be made energy efficient through major measures which are currently more expensive will need additional support to bring down costs enough to meet the golden rule. Alongside the Green Deal, the Government is planning to replace the existing energy company obligations. The new Energy Company Obligation (ECO) will focus energy companies on improving the ability of the vulnerable and those on lower incomes to heat their homes affordably, and on improving solid wall properties, which have not benefited much from previous schemes.
The Government are designing the Green Deal with the aim of making it available for businesses as well as households – enabling smaller businesses to access funding for energy efficiency improvements, and larger businesses to meet their obligations under existing schemes at lower cost, such as Climate Change Agreements or the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme. The complexity of energy use in the business sector means that there will be a number of differences in the Green Deal for this sector, though the key principles set out here will apply to both businesses and households.
For further information visit the website for the department of Energy and Climate Change at www.decc.gov.uk
Living Space Architects spent the day at a Regen SW event today at West Point Arena. The Renewable Energy Marketpalce atracted over 1000 visitors which showed the high level of interest from businesses, landowners, communities and the public in generating their own clean, green and reliable renewable energy.
In particular, there was a high amount of interest and questions about biomass and the Green Deal – the government’s ‘free’ finance mechanism to make houses more energy efficient. There was also a continued interest in the Feed in Tariff (FiT), following the numerous announcements that have been made about them over the past few months, as local homeowners were keen to find out how the changes would affect them. Since the start of the FiT the UK’s take-up of solar PV has increased to 200,000 installations and the region with the largest share of this is the south west.
We were keen to showcase our work on the new Newtown Community Centre in Exeterand to talk to experts and suppliers about how we integrate the planned solar PV and
Regen SW is a not for profit company working to enable business, local authorities and other organisations to deliver renewable energy and energy efficiency and build a prosperous low-carbon economy in the south west of England. www.regensw.co.uk and the
Living Space Architects have submitted a planning application this week for a new sustainable community centre building in Belmont Park, Newtown, Exeter. The new building will replace an existing WW2 hut and will give the community much needed additional space for groups, meetings and celebrations. Photovoltaic roof tiles will provide electricity for the centre which will be well insulated and sealed to create a passive building. Low temperature radiators combined with an air source heat pump will provide heating for the building down to external temperatures of 3 degrees, creating further energy savings.
Talks with Exeter City Council have indicated that the new building will receive funding from the New Homes Bonus, a funding scheme from the government that gives councils additional money for community and infrastructure projects equivalent to the council tax raised on new homes built locally. Exeter have received over £300,000 from the New Homes bonus this year.
Living Space ran a series of community workshops to help produce a brief and design for the project and ensure local people were fully involved with how the scheme should be developed.