Council adopts ‘first-of-its-kind’ net zero housing policy in plan update

A council has claimed to be the first in England to adopt an “energy-based net zero housing policy” as part of an update to its local plan.

According to a statement from Bath and North East Somerset Council, the new housing development policy “will ensure the energy use of any proposed development is measured and meets a specified target — setting a limit on the total energy use and demand for space heating”.

It will also require “sufficient on-site renewable energy generation to match the total energy consumption of the buildings — ensuring the development is 100 per cent self-sufficient”.

The statement goes on to say that another new policy has been adopted to limit “upfront” embodied carbon emissions resulting from materials used in the construction of large-scale developments. Net zero operational carbon standards will also be imposed for new major non-residential development.

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The suite of amended policies form part of an update to the council’s local plan, which was approved at a special meeting on 19 January and revises its Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan.

The council said the eco-friendly policies form part of its “commitment to tackling the climate emergency”.

According to the council, the local plan update “includes specific policies that will secure net zero development, help facilitate the delivery of renewable energy installations of an appropriate scale in the most suitable locations and further encourage the shift towards more sustainable forms of transport”.

It added that the plan “will also help to replenish housing supply, enabling the council to meet its housing requirement in a planned way and have greater control over speculative planning applications”. In addition, it would “help the council to better manage off-campus, purpose-built student accommodation schemes where they meet a demonstrable need”.

An inspector in September indicated that the authority’s partial local plan update was likely to be found sound, subject to a series of main modifications, despite the fact that its strategic policies do not look forward for the minimum 15 year period specified by the National Planning Policy Framework.

The 42 main modifications to the local plan update, detailed in a consultation that concluded in November, include additional text to explain the policy approach to renewable energy and policy amendments to ensure that the impacts of wind energy schemes are clearer.

Other modifications aim to better explain how carbon off-setting will be calculated and delivered via a supplementary planning document, while , a policy on biodiversity net gain is amended to more clearly outline national exemptions and add the minimum of ten per cent net gain.

A version of this story was first published by ENDS Report's sister publication Planning magazine.