A mix of views from industry professionals among our sponsors, partners and members greeted the Government’s plans to delay key net zero policies.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced last week a five-year delay to the ban on new petrol and diesel cars among a number of green policy measures which have been eased.
While some of our respondents accepted the slowing down of measures, others were unimpressed.
Pete Canavan, partner in Carter Jonas’ Oxford office, said: “The Government’s approach appears to be moving the targets rather than risk missing them.
“However, the most achievable changes to planning proposals are often made through user demand, rather than policies.
“Increasingly, house buyers are expecting car charging points as standard – even if alternatives to gas boilers are taking longer to catch on – and providers of commercial units know that climate awareness sells.
“Strategic planning and development horizons are already set beyond 2035 so Government targets before this time will simply be a stepping stone.
“For those of us already planning for change up to and beyond 2050, we are committed to adapting to climate change and approaches to zero-carbon are already embedded in our strategies.”
Laura Fitzgerald, director of transport planning consultancy Motion, said: “As the single greatest contributor of emissions, transport is a key factor in the net zero agenda.
“It’s hard then, to imagine how the delay in banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars can be considered by the Government in a time of climate emergency.
“Leaving the politics of this decision aside, we have a moral as well as an environmental obligation to consider how we travel.
“As an industry, after a slow start, there is momentum now in actively planning for electric vehicles with Building Regulations and local parking policy standards now requiring a level of charging infrastructure for all new development, which does at least mean that the charging network will continue to grow and improve, albeit questions of maintenance and viability of so many charging points spring to mind if the expected uptake of vehicle users slows on this news.”
Laura Ludlow, principal associate for Mills & Reeve, based in Oxford, said: “Rishi Sunak’s hurried announcement of exemptions and delays to green policies has not met with widespread support in the property industry.
“The British Property Federation (BPF) called it ‘hugely disappointing’ and ‘frustrating’ and decried the lack of certainty for businesses and investors. ‘Long-term decisions for a brighter future’ said Sunak’s podium, but this is exactly the approach many property investors and developers have been taking over the past few years in putting sustainability at the heart of their decision-making.
“The industry has always been ahead of policy in its drive to decarbonise and improve the energy efficiency of the UK building stock and will need to forge ahead, whether or not regulations require it.
“Occupier demand for green buildings will continue to rise and climate resilience must be addressed.
“The argument that the UK, as a leader in the race to net zero, should step back to allow other countries to catch up is a fallacy – the race to net zero is something we all need to win together and getting there sooner than 2050 will only be to the world’s benefit.
“Whether or not these policies will bring the Conservatives electoral success remains to be seen, but we can be certain that the property industry will continue to vote for net zero.”
Karen Jones, partner and head of planning for Blandy & Blandy, said: “Although Rishi Sunak has insisted the delay to certain net zero measures he outlined will not undermine meeting targets that cannot be consistent with what he proposes – and it seems inevitable that there will be some delay.
“The Government are in a phase of preparing for election and largely treading water but the recent by-election victory in Uxbridge and South Ruislip seems to have given some impetus to these proposals, as it suggested that the Mayor of London had not listened to the public ‘s concerns on introduction of the new ULEZ in that borough, which prompted a backlash and unexpected victory.
“Clearly the Conservative leadership see the recent announcement as a vote winner, with Uxbridge and Ruislip their barometer for this action.”
Tim Foreman, managing director of land and new homes for Leaders Romans Group (LRG), said: “Leaders Romans Group makes sustainability a very high priority, as is reflected in our ongoing programme of activities to support the environment.
“That said, within the New Homes division we welcome Rishi Sunak’s announcement because recent discussions with clients have led us to believe that these changes are coming too quickly for the industry to respond to well.
“Delaying the implementation will enable the housebuilding sector to respond to change more effectively. We all agree that these environmental changes need to be made for the betterment of the planet and also agree that there has to be a deadline put on them by our Government to make sure they happen.
“But the consensus is that there was just too stringent a timescale for the sector to respond in a responsible way. This was causing unnecessary delays and cost increases in what already is a difficult time in the housing industry for both buyers and sellers.”
Lawrence Turner, director of planning consultancy Boyer, said: “The UK Government’s delay in implementing net zero targets presents significant challenges for Local Plan-making and sustainable development.
“Such changes in direction create uncertainties in leadership for green policies, threatening the momentum of green initiatives at the local level and renewable energy projects.
“Sustainable strategies may be hindered, limiting progress in energy efficiency, renewable infrastructure, and housing policies.
“The delay could impair the UK’s long-term environmental and economic health, as local authorities attempt to navigate the transition towards sustainability without clear guidelines.”
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