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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 August 2007, 09:39 GMT 10:39 UK
Threat to green housing measure
Wind turbine on house roof
EU rules want new homes to be carbon neutral by 2016
A measure introduced by local councils aimed at cutting carbon emissions in new housing is coming under pressure from building groups.

Under the so-called Merton Rule, named after the council which introduced it, new buildings must find 10% of electricity from renewable sources.

While the rule has been welcomed by green groups, it has been criticised as a costly burden by the building sector.

As a result government plans to step up adoption of the rule are under threat.

Around 150 councils across the UK have so far signed up to the Merton Rule.

There's quite a groundswell in local authorities to be pioneers in some areas
Jack Pringle, RIBA

However, while the drive is being adopted on a voluntary basis by local councils as yet there is no ruling from central government.

The matter is currently under review at the Department for Communities and Local Government and a decision on whether to bring in a broader planning framework based on the Merton Rule will be reached by the end of the year.

Last year, housing minister Yvette Cooper said she wanted all local authorities to adopt the Merton Rule.

But now reports suggest that she is soon expected to publish a policy document outlining the abolition of the rule.

Under the Merton rule any new building is required to cut emissions by 10%, through various means including insulation and renewable sources, in order to prepare the ground for homes to meet European Union targets of being carbon neutral by 2016.

According to government proposals, a new framework would steer away from a "one-size-fits-all" approach and expand the scope of the Merton Rule, allowing councils to set their own goals and bring in their most ambitious targets for renewable energy.


Property industry groups have lobbied hard against the Merton Rule.

The Home Builders Federation has called for any national strategy on green energy to be phased in over 10 years, adding that any attempt to introduce such action on a local basis will lead to confusion and higher costs.

Meanwhile, the British Property Federation (BPF) has attacked the Merton Rule, saying it effectively "straitjackets" the building industry.

"There's plenty of other ways you can actually set aspirational targets for producing a built environment that's actually carbon efficient," BPF chief executive Liz Peace told the BBC.

"There's lots of ways of incentivising people to behave better. You can incentivise commercial developers to produce greener buildings simply by giving them an accelerated planning process if their buildings tick all the right boxes."

However, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has called on the government not to scrap the rule.

RIBA President Jack Pringle said that innovation and pioneers were needed to lead the way on making homes energy efficient.

"There's quite a groundswell in local authorities to be pioneers in some areas," he added.

"I can understand big business wanting to argue for minimum standards, but I don't think that's going to help in this case."

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