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2. Climate Change

2.1 The Climate Change Act 2008 sets out the Government’s legally binding target to reduce greenhouse gases by 80% by the year 2050 (compared with emissions in 1990) and by 34% by 2020. In 2012 the Council signed the Climate Local Commitment on climate change reflecting its commitment to reducing carbon emissions. It is also participating in the Carbon Trust’s Carbon Management Programme and has produced a Carbon Management Plan.

2.2 Government has indicated that the requirements of the Building Regulations will be increased in stages until zero carbon emissions from new development as regulated by Building Regulation (or alternative definition of zero carbon as subsequently adopted by the Government) is achieved in 2016. Notwithstanding this phased approach, the National Planning Policy Framework encourages planning authorities to plan for new development to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, setting local requirements for building sustainability.

2.3 Consistent with this national guidance, Policy CP26 of the Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan seeks to minimise the consumption and use of energy by new buildings, encourage sustainable construction and minimise the use of water. The Plan notes that further policy will be developed as part of the Allocations and Designations Local Plan.

2.4 To support the preparation of the Allocations and Designations Local Plan, the Council commissioned consultants to assess the scope for more ambitious climate change policy requirements. The results of this work are published in a background paper: the Bedford Energy Potential Study, AECOM, 2010 and in a 2011 supplement.

2.5 Government guidance allows local authorities to require levels of building sustainability in advance of those set nationally where local circumstances warrant. These should be set using national standards and cover various issues, including water, waste and recycling, flood risk, pollution and security. Actions must not only be taken to reduce the impacts of climate change by reducing carbon emissions but also to adapt development to the effects of climate change and other environmental damage.

2.6 The Code for Sustainable Homes and Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) consider the wider environmental impact of a building and therefore can achieve holistic results with regards to delivering sustainable design and construction. Compliance with the required standard can be easily demonstrated through achievement of certification. Both systems are regularly updated to reflect changes in the industry and feedback from developers and manufacturers. The methodology and quality assurance for the achievement of the required rating is carried out by licensed assessors and the Building Research Establishment. The methodology is publicly available and linked to government approved software used to demonstrate Building Regulations compliance.

2.7 The Code for Sustainable Homes goes further than the current Building Regulations and is intended to help promote even higher standards of sustainable design. The Code measures the sustainability of a new home against nine categories of sustainable design, rating the ‘whole home’ as a complete package. The nine categories are:

  1. Energy and carbon dioxide emissions
  2. Water
  3. Materials
  4. Surface water run-off
  5. Waste
  6. Pollution
  7. Health and well-being
  8. Management
  9. Ecology

2.8 The Code uses a one to six star rating system to communicate the overall sustainability performance of a new home against these nine categories. The Code sets minimum standards for energy and water use at each level achieving net carbon neutrality at level six. It is recognised that zero carbon may be difficult to achieve on all sites and the Government considers that flexibility could be introduced by allowing developers to make payments to fund community energy projects. Domestic water consumption in the East of England is currently about 130 – 160 litres per person per day. Significant reductions can be achieved by installing low water use sanitary ware at relatively little additional cost. However achieving the requirements of Code levels 5 and 6 is likely to require expensive grey water recycling systems.

2.9 The Government is committed to requiring all new homes to be zero carbon by 2016, achieving this by staged reductions in carbon emissions requirements in the Building Regulations. The most recent of these in October 2010, introduced a 25% reduction in carbon emissions relative to the 2006 Building Regulations requirement. This exceeds the minimum carbon reductions required at levels 1 and 2 of the Code for Sustainable Homes, being equivalent to level 3.


2.10 Whereas it is considered feasible to require new housing to aim at zero carbon development, to achieve higher levels of the Code (levels 5 and 6) requires water use to fall to 80 litres per person per day, which is likely to increase costs significantly. The following policy therefore expects new homes in the borough to achieve at least Code level 4, but additionally to achieve zero carbon emissions as regulated by Building Regulation (or alternative definition of zero carbon as subsequently adopted by the Government). It is recognised that it may not be feasible in all cases to achieve zero carbon emissions on-site and so, in such cases, developers will be required to contribute to a Carbon Offset Fund. This fund will be used by the Council to facilitate off-site renewable energy schemes, and improvements to the existing housing stock and other buildings to reduce carbon emissions, resulting in substantial benefits to the borough. The level and mechanism of payment, using section 106 agreements unless Government guidance indicates otherwise, and further guidance on achieving zero carbon will be set out in a supplementary planning document.

2.11 In order to demonstrate compliance with the policy, full pre-assessment certification under the relevant scheme, accompanied by a signed letter of explanation from a registered assessor will be required. Post-construction validation will also be required.

Policy AD2 Sustainable Design and Construction

Proposals for sustainable buildings will be encouraged in the borough.

All new residential developments in the borough of 10 dwellings and over or 0.3 hectares and over are required to meet full Code for Sustainable Homes level 4 or equivalent as a minimum and to achieve zero carbon emissions as regulated by Building Regulation (or alternative definition of zero carbon as subsequently adopted by the Government). If it is not feasible to achieve zero carbon emissions on-site, developers will be required to contribute to the Council’s Carbon Offset Fund.

All new non-domestic developments in the borough over 1000 square metres gross internal floorspace are required to achieve BREEAM “Very Good” standard or equivalent as a minimum.

These requirements will apply unless it can be demonstrated that they would make the development unviable.

2.12 Further information on sustainable design and construction can be found at www.breeam.org.

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