Oxford architects, builders and environmental groups call on councils to speed up progress on energy-efficient homes.

The six members of the Oxfordshire Zero Carbon Homes (OZCHI) partnership* have written to the leaders of all six Oxfordshire councils calling for rapid action to ensure that all new buildings across the county are built to ‘zero carbon’ standards.  The letter is attached.

This follows the proposal in the current Oxfordshire 2050 Plan consultation (Policy 1) that  supports the objective of “net zero whole life carbon for both residential and non-residential” buildings.

However this Plan will not come into effect until 2023 at the earliest.  OZCHI members wish to see some real progress made on this issue before then and to ensure that this issue is not parked for two years.  The letter points out that:

  1. The County, City and District councils are now able to set more demanding local building regulations, which go beyond the current national building regulations.  The councils could and should work together to establish a common set of local standards that will be clear to architects and developers.Starting work on this now would send a clear message and set the scene for the 2050 Plan when agreed.
  2. Up to 100,000 new houses are planned for Oxfordshire in the next 10 years. Our councils and government are all committed to ‘zero carbon’ targets. The University of Manchester Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research has published the total ‘carbon budgets’ for each Local Authority in the UK if they are to do their fair share in reaching the national target. The budgets for the five district and city Local Authorities within Oxfordshire add up to a budget of 26.3MT (million tonnes) of allowable emissions (up to 2100).
  • Cherwell District Council                                                                  7.3MT
  • West Oxfordshire District Council                                                3.7MT
  • South Oxfordshire District Council                                              5.6MT
  • Vale of the White Horse District Council                                    5.2MT
  • Oxford City Council                                                                            4.5MT

Each new house built in the traditional way to meet current Building Regulations will be responsible for around 200 tonnes of emissions. Thus some 80% of Oxfordshire’s carbon budget may be wasted by building unsustainable houses that will need to be upgraded to future standards before too long.

OZCHI is also suggesting that the councils should set up an ‘Oxfordshire Zero Carbon Homes Innovation Zone’ to tackle the obstacles that exist, develop skills and training, and promote the emerging good practice taking place in Oxfordshire and across the UK.

Speaking for OZCHI Chris Church said: “We urgently need government action to cut energy waste in our homes. But this is a case where ‘local can lead’:  our councils have the power to set standards in line with their zero commitments, and make Oxfordshire a real centre for positive innovation. The 2050 Plan goal is welcome, but we should be acting  now.”

*  The six members of the Oxfordshire Zero Carbon Homes Initiative (OZCHI) partnership are:

  • Developer: Greencore Construction
  • Architects: Jessop & Cook; Sowspace; Transition by Design
  • Environmental organisations:  Bioregional;  Oxford Friends of the Earth

See:  https://www.oxfoe.co.uk/ozchi/  for more information including materials from  the county-wide seminar held by OZCHI in July.

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