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CLG green light for home energy improvements

5th April 2007 Print
Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly has unveiled plans to slash planning red tape to make it easier for people to put green technology - like solar panels - on their homes and play their part in tackling climate change.

In a speech to the Green Alliance, she launched a consultation which recommends that people will no longer need to apply for planning permission to put 'microgeneration' devices on their homes where it is clear there is little or no impact on neighbouring properties.

Ruth Kelly made clear that she wants local people to think carefully about which type of technology will work best in their local area. Local authorities will retain the right to restrict planning permission in exceptional circumstances where the benefit of the technology is clearly questionable and outweighed by its impact on the local environment.

Ruth Kelly said: "This consultation document sets out important changes the Government wants to make the planning system to encourage the take-up of microgeneration. This will play an essential part in helping us meet a significant proportion of our future energy needs.

"I believe that the local planning system should support efforts to tackle climate change rather than acting as a barrier, but it is important that we ensure that there are clear, common-sense safeguards on noise, siting and size and that the unique features of conservation areas are protected".

At present, there are more than 100,000 microgeneration installations across the country - including wind, water source or ground source heat pumps and bio mass. In the Energy White Paper, the Government will provide new incentives with the aim of raising eightfold the number of households which are producers as well as consumers of energy.

Responding to the consultation, Dave Sowden, Chief Executive of the Micropower Council said: "We are most encouraged by the Government's willingness to tackle the planning system which was acting as a serious barrier to customers who want to invest in microgeneration as part of playing their role in tackling climate change.

"The current planning system says "no" unless there is a good reason to consider otherwise. In future it will say "yes" within properly considered, pre-defined limits. This will make a big difference to large numbers of customers wanting to take up microgeneration but put off today by bureaucracy and inconsistency.

"Of course, the limits need to be set appropriately, and after proper public debate. We welcome the consultation as an opportunity to have an informed debate about the detail in the coming months."

The announcement is part of a strategy to ensure a more community-based approach on green matters, where every homeowner, local business and local authority can play a greater role. In her speech, Ruth Kelly said that she wants to see local authorities step up the work they are doing to tackle climate change.

She added: "Local businesses and councils have a strong role to play. In many places local government has been ahead of national government - leading the debate, not following it. We must encourage further innovation and help ensure all councils meet the standards of the best."

The consultation paper is part of ongoing work at Communities and Local Government to protect and enhance the environment and to tackle climate change. This month, the Code for Sustainable Homes has 'gone live' which creates a single national standard to guide industry on the design and construction of sustainable housing.