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Last Updated: Monday, 21 November 2005, 17:58 GMT
Green advisor attacks homes rules
Couple looking estate agent's window
Sir Jonathon Porritt says he's been 'sympathetically listened to'
One of the government's most senior advisors says he is "mystified" that John Prescott has not insisted all new houses are energy efficient.

Sir Jonathon Porritt, chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, says the policy would not add too many additional costs to house prices.

It would instead lead to lower energy costs for homeowners, he said.

He told the Commons environmental audit committee, he said: "There's so much more that could be done."


Sir Jonathon told MPs that the building of a "very large number of houses" over the next 10 to 20 years would have an impact on the environment.

He said he "could not understand" if that was the case why the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) was not "single-mindedly" pursuing a deal that houses would only be built if they met with "the highest sustainability standards".

He said the extra costs involved in meeting those standards would "very quickly be absorbed into the net value of the homes".

They would also lead to reduced energy costs for homeowners.

"It seems incomprehensible to us that ODPM hasn't been absolutely explicit in saying ... not a single house is going to be built in these growth areas without meeting the standards," he said.

'Builders expecting it'

Sir Jonathon said it was frustrating to see an approach he branded "constipation".

"We have engaged with ministers, with David Miliband and others on the opportunities .... our advice has been sympathetically listened to," he said.

"There's a lot of concern about the degree to which this would drive up the cost of new house buildings."

Sir Jonathon said the construction industry had been expecting a "major hike" in the levels of energy efficiency they should be building into new homes.

"As a result, something becomes standard and part of the basic business of building a new house costs all start to come down," he said.

"Why that argument isn't as influential with ODPM as it might be - I am genuinely mystified."

Green field concern

The Sustainable Development Commission is engaged with ODPM in looking at ways of making major efficiency savings in existing housing stock, he said.

"Much of what we have been saying about existing stock is being taken very seriously," he added.

More than 120,000 new homes are to be built in Kent alone over the next 20 years but Mr Prescott is concerned the process is too slow and too expensive.

However, environmentalists are worried green fields will be built on to meet demand.

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