The planning system has a role to play in minimising energy consumption; let’s use it.
Imagine no ceramic roof tiles; solar slates instead
Imagine all the windows – having shuttered doors
Imagine all those ground source heat pumps -providing warmth and coolth
Imagine irrigation – with grey water from the butt
It is the height of summer: barbecues and garden living, open windows, hosepipes banned, struggling to chill enough water, pop-up beaches in city centres and [relatively] peaceful roads. There is something decadent about filling a watering can from a rain-filled water butt to give those precious plants a chance of survival.
It’s summer… but winter’s coming and with the cold, long nights and a likely over-abundance of rain the near certainty of previously unimaginable hikes in energy bills.
As a child, I recall my dad putting aluminium foil behind the radiators – to reflect the heat back in to the room. As a newlywed in our first home, we juggled the storage heater to make the most of low-cost off-peak electricity. Now we have had our loft insulated and cavity walls filled with insulation. So satisfying, in the depths of winter, to see your roof is still snow-covered – the insulation is working.
Now imagine the void created when contaminated soil was excavated from the post-industrial brownfield before construction of new homes begins. Imagine that void backfill not with treated or imported soil but with coils and coils connected to ground source heat pumps to heat … and cool those new homes. And an underground water tank. That void is suddenly an asset, not a liability.
Go back a bit further and imagine the site investigation to establish the geotechnical properties and characterise any soil or groundwater contamination. How much extra would the two days it would take to construct (never drill) the 100m deep borehole needed for a small home cost?
Our planning system has a presumption in favour of sustainable development. England’s National Planning Policy Framework (Paragraph 157) sets the bar high “In determining planning applications, local planning authorities should expect new development to… take account of landform, layout, building orientation, massing and landscaping to minimise energy consumption.”
Imagine if the roughly 1,500,000 new homes built since the NPPF was introduced in 2010 had been designed “to minimise energy consumption”. Now imagine if local planning authorities used their powers and influence to invoke paragraph 157 when determining planning applications – today. It won’t help offset the shock of October 2022 but it might go some way to helping tomorrow be better than yesterday.
Paul Nathanail writes in an independent capacity on matters relevant to land condition, sustainable development, climate change and circular land use.