Sustainable housing

Property industry reacts to government's plans for green industrial revolution

On 18th November, prime minister Boris Johnson announced the government's 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution.

It sets outs its approach to build back better, support green jobs, and accelerate its path to net zero.

The 10-point plan focuses on increasing ambition in the following areas:

advancing offshore wind 
• driving the growth of low carbon hydrogen
• delivering new and advanced nuclear power
• accelerating the shift to zero emission vehicles
• green public transport, cycling and walking
• ‘jet zero’ and green ships
• greener buildings
• investing in carbon capture, usage and storage
• protecting our natural environment
• green finance and innovation.

It will mobilise £12bn of government investment, and potentially three times as much from the private sector, which is expected to create and support up to 250,000 green jobs.

“This year has taken a very different path from any we expected, but I have not lost sight of our ambitious plans to unite and level up our country,” Johnson said. 

“Just as science will enable humanity to rout coronavirus, so we will use the UK’s extraordinary powers of invention to repair the economic damage and build back better. 

“Now is the time to plan for a green recovery, with high-skilled, high-paid jobs that offer the extra satisfaction of helping to make our nation cleaner, greener and more beautiful.”

The government plans to help people train for these new green jobs through its Lifetime Skills Guarantee.

It will start by supporting 90,000 jobs across the UK within this parliament, and up to 250,000 by 2030. 

This will include engineers, fitters, construction workers, and many others to harness British science and technology to create and use clean energy and forge new industries that export to new markets around the world.

“We will turn the UK into the world’s number one centre for green technology and finance, laying the foundations for decades of economic growth by delivering net zero emissions in a way that creates jobs and allows us to carry on living our lives.” 

Greener buildings

The seventh point of the government’s plan aims to make UK buildings more energy efficient, with a goal to gradually move away from fossil fuel boilers over the next 15 years. 

The announcement provides an opportunity to develop the growing UK heat pump manufacturing base and expand supply chains for building efficiency.

In order to future-proof new buildings, the government will seek to implement the Future Home Standard in “the shortest possible timeline”. 

It will also extend the Green Homes Grant for another year, and commit to further funding for the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund to continue upgrading the least efficient social housing. 

Private renters are also expected to benefit, as energy efficiency requirements for private sector landlords are strenghtened.

The government has extended the Energy Company Obligation to 2026, so suppliers can help improve the draughtiest and coldest homes.

It will also kickstart the green home finance market by consulting on introducing mandatory disclosure requirements for lenders on the energy performance of homes on which they lend and setting voluntary improvement targets.

Property industry reacts

According to the Land Promoters and Developers Federation (LPDF), the government should turbo-charge incentives for local authorities, simplify local plans, clarify housing targets, conduct a national audit of green belt land, and support housebuilders in creating 250,000 new jobs.

LPDF chairman, Paul Brocklehurst, today (19th November) addressed members during an online annual conference, stating that this government has a “huge opportunity”, and can “reset the housing delivery debate.” 

“The government can be assured that, should the changes we have outlined today be enacted, that we as a sector stand ready to commit significant capital to help bring forward the sites to deliver the new homes that this country so desperately needs.

“I wish to re-emphasise our commitment as a sector to the speedy delivery of land, to be sold to the widest possible range of housebuilders and housing associations, enabling the delivery of market homes, affordable housing, and community benefits through a streamlined plan-led system.  

“Yet here is the rub. At this time of apparent unanimity around the national need to build more houses, the desire for big ideas in respect of planning may stymie our ability to deliver those homes when our economy and the younger generation excluded from the property ladder expect and deserve more.  

“The government needs to increase the funding of local authorities so that the appropriate investment can be made in planning.

“We need to improve both the human resource and use of technology within the planning process. 

“As a society, our perspective on planning needs to change. We need to take a more positive view of the role of planning in improving the functioning and wellbeing of our communities and helping each and every one of us to live our lives.”

National trade body The Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) has welcomed the prime minister’s blueprint for greener homes and buildings, but says more needs to be done to ensure the scheme leaves a lasting legacy for UK housing.

The BMF said that the government’s plan for a green industrial revolution was “a step in the right direction”.

However, it believes the approach needs to align with a broader, long-term strategy, to make a meaningful impact.

John Newcomb, chief executive of the BMF — which represents a £38bn slice of the construction industry supply chain — said: “We pressed to extend the Green Homes Grant, after our members reported that homeowners were likely to miss out on the programme.

“This was because many builders, with full order books for the months ahead, were unable to take on work under the initiative in time for the original deadline of 31st March 2021.

“It’s excellent news that the voucher scheme has been extended but, realistically, we need to think much bigger to deliver a programme of works that will have the scope and scale to improve homes and level up housing conditions across Britain.

“As a member of the Construction Leadership Council, we believe the route to achieve this is through a national retrofit strategy, to ensure the money spent makes a lasting difference to the quality of our homes.

“Members of the BMF, as a sector representing merchants and building materials manufacturers, are key to delivering the changes needed to meet the challenges ahead.

“However, we need to work as part of a broad, long-term strategy in order to invest in the new initiatives and innovations needed to transform the way we live.

“That cannot be achieved if we just work to a one-off initiative; we have to think bigger.”

Brian Berry, chief executive at The Federation of Master Builders (FMB), agreed that the extension of the Green Homes Grant for another year was “very positive news”, but thinks the green revolution needs to be more ambitious about the built environment if the government is serious about creating a low carbon economy.

“The start of the green industrial revolution has huge potential to improve everyone’s lives, but tacking all our homes to make them greener and more energy efficient has to be an immediate priority — and this requires a long-term strategy.”

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