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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 June, 2004, 07:24 GMT 08:24 UK
'Severe' costs of housing plans
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The Review of Housing Supply - Report and Recommendations
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Plans to build hundreds of thousands of new homes could cause up to 8.4bn worth of damage to the environment, says government-commissioned research.

The Treasury's Barker Review of housing supply this year said up to 140,000 new homes a year were needed in Britain.

But a report warns the proposals risk raising carbon dioxide emissions, which add to climate change, by a fifth.

A Tory MP said it was "strange" the report was published only on an obscure part of a government website.

The report, by consultant groups Entec, Eftec and Hodkinson, said the extra housing could create 40% of the current level of domestic waste.


The consultants say there would be a "significant and severe" impact on the environment from the take-up of land needed from the Barker plans.

Chancellor Gordon Brown welcomed Kate Barker's recommendations on housing as he unveiled his Budget in March.

He said Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott would consult on how the need for more houses is balanced with environmental concerns.

Having silenced local opposition, John Prescott is planning to bulldoze England's green fields
Caroline Spelman
Shadow local government secretary

But Peter Ainsworth, chairman of the Commons environmental audit committee, said the report was difficult to find on the website of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The Conservative MP told BBC News Online he did not want to prejudge his committee's inquiry into the housing plans.

"I do think, just as a matter of process, it is extremely strange that when they now say there is an inquiry going on into the environmental impact they do a paper on it and then put it out as if it was not there."

Waste burden

Mr Ainsworth said Ms Barker's remit had covered the economic case, not the environmental consequences, of housing supply problems.

The consultants' report says:

  • The extra housing could produce 20% more carbon dioxide emissions by 2015-16

  • An extra 50,000 mega litres of water for homes could be needed, although demand could be reduced by introducing water meters for individual homes

  • The extra waste costs could be up to 1.2m

  • But building 39,000 extra homes according to "green" guidelines, one of the other possible scenarios being considered, could save millions of pounds,

The consultants try to assess the environmental costs of the Barker proposals in monetary terms, taking account of climate change, the impact on rivers and coral reefs, and waste pollution.

They put the possible bill at between 5.1bn and 8.4bn.

'Broken promises'

The report says there should be further work on the Barker recommendations' impact on the environment and sustainable development.

Conservative shadow local government secretary Caroline Spelman said ministers were breaking their promises to protect the green belt by planning to build the equivalent of 26 towns the size of Slough.

"Having silenced local opposition, John Prescott is planning to bulldoze England's green fields and concrete over the Green Belt, irrespective of the wishes of local people," she said.

A Defra spokeswoman said there had been "no intended cover-up" of the report and the department was trying to rectify the problem.

She continued: "Defra ministers recognise the need for more houses to be built. Our concern is that those houses are built in the most sustainable way possible."

The consultants' report did not necessarily reflect the views of the department, she added, but the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister would want to consider it.

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