Page last updated at 13:37 GMT, Wednesday, 2 April 2008 14:37 UK

Green drive 'neglects old homes'

Terraced houses in London
Older houses waste the most energy, the report said

The government must do more to improve the energy efficiency of existing homes, MPs have said.

A drive for improvements in new homes means "insufficient priority" for existing stock, the communities and local government committee said.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn agreed the energy efficiency of older buildings must be improved, adding that "simple steps" would cut emissions.

The government is launching plans for 100 "green neighbourhoods".

Areas will compete for the status, with the winners commiting themselves to reducing carbon emissions by 60%.

'Will do it'

Mr Benn told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It's about simple steps."

He added that the government had set its carbon emissions reduction target and was "going to do it".

Ministers have promised to make every new home built in England "zero carbon" from 2016.

But the committee said current housing policy "risks neglecting the environmental impact" of the UK's existing housing stock of more than 25 million homes.

Its report added that a quarter of British homes were built at least 90 years ago, with existing housing emitting nearly twice as much carbon as new ones.

The government's understandable desire to build improvements into future housing has led it to give insufficient priority to action on the vast bulk of the housing stock
Phyllis Starkey
Committee chair

Measures including a national roll-out of "smart meters" to help people monitor their energy use, to stamp duty rebates for people who make their homes more efficient within a year of moving in are needed, the MPs said.

The committee also proposes that energy performance certificates, contained in Home Information Packs (HIPs), be required for homeowners seeking planning permission.

It said: "The bulk of our housing, however old and leaky it may be, is capable of the kind of improvement that will deliver the necessary reduction in carbon emissions without destroying the visual character and appearance that makes it uniquely ours."

It said "imaginative solutions" were needed to bring new ideas and technologies to homes in which draught exclusion and insulation had already been fitted.

"We need neither a mass demolition programme followed by the construction of replacement eco-homes nor to preserve every last pre-1919 building precisely as it was on the day it was built."


Committee chairwoman Phyllis Starkey added: "The government's understandable desire to build improvements into future housing has led it to give insufficient priority to action on the vast bulk of the housing stock."

The Local Government Association also called for a national insulation programme, prioritising vulnerable households and part-funded by energy suppliers.

Housing Minister Caroline Flint said the government was "absolutely committed" to reducing emissions from old and new buildings and progress had been made.

Shadow environment secretary Peter Ainsworth said: "We support sensible measures to save energy and money to improve homes, but this is yet another example of a rehashed announcement."

Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Steve Webb said: "We are not going to make any progress in the fight against climate change if we have to rely on piecemeal initiatives from a department that has no money and no power."

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