Renewables groups not consulted on Merton rule u-turn

The renewables industry complained today that it has not been properly consulted on the government’s decision to scrap the Merton rule

The so-called Merton rule, part of existing planning guidance, allows local authorities to require developers to incorporate on-site renewables in new build.

However, the current draft of the government’s proposed planning policy statement on climate change scraps it. This is a u-turn on the original PPS issued for consultation in January (ENDS Report 384, p 41 ).

The revised draft was revealed by The Guardian newspaper on Monday.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) held a stakeholder meeting about the draft on Tuesday, but did not invite either the Renewable Energy Association (REA) or the Micropower Council.

ENDS understands that the only renewables company invited was Wind Prospect, a wind turbine developer. Solar Century had to cajole its way into the meeting.

“We find it strange that we’re not involved in the official sounding board process,” said Andrew Cooper, head of on-site renewables at the REA. “We have requested to be involved in drafting the statement as it will have a major effect on our industry.”

According to the current draft, “any policy relating to the energy supply of new development or on local standards for a building’s environmental performance” will have to be set out in a local authority’s development plan. These are only revised every five years.

Furthermore, any such policy will have to:

  • Focus on “site specific opportunities and avoid blanket requirements applying across extensive areas”.
  • Be “feasible and viable”. This includes “having regard to the overall costs of bringing sites to the market”.
  • Not impact on the supply of housing, or the provision of affordable housing.

These conditions effectively make the Merton rule unviable.

Naomi Luhde-Thomspon of Friends of the Earth said it looked as if “the government has caved into house building industry pressure”, and that the move would “do little to inspire confidence in Gordon Brown’s commitment to tackling climate change.”

Abolishing the Merton rule could undermine the viable microgeneration sector needed to meet the government’s plan for zero carbon homes by 2016, said Ian Manders of the Association for the Conservation of Energy.