Many shops, offices, pubs and clubs could soon be powered by renewable energy, under changes to planning rules that will make it easier for businesses to install 'green' technologies like solar panels and wind turbines.
Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears, today announced that Entec - a leading environmental and planning consultancy - have been asked to draw up new planning rules that will ensure the system is doing more to encourage the use of renewable energy. The research will specifically look at removing barriers to installing small-scale renewable and low carbon technology equipment that can currently lead to increased costs and lengthy delays.
At present businesses must go through the planning system when they, for example, want to install a solar panel or a small wind turbine. A planning application can cost about £1,500 and take up to eight to sixteen weeks to be considered by councils, with no guarantee it will be approved.
Hazel Blears has asked Entec to investigate how renewable energy equipment can be included as 'permitted developments', which means the changes can be made without the need for specific planning permission as long as there is clearly no impact on others or the local environment. The research will also consider what safeguards will need to be in place for circumstances where the benefit of the technology is clearly questionable and outweighed by its impact on the local environment.
The Government also announced that Housing Minister Yvette Cooper has asked the UK Green Building Council to set out a route map for improving the overall energy efficiency of non-domestic buildings with the aim of delivering substantial reductions in carbon emissions from new buildings over the next decade.
Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears, said:
"This Government is committed to bringing forward changes that will allow us to tackle the growing challenge we face in climate change.
"This research will be crucial to working out how we can support the business world to do its bit, as we move to a zero-carbon culture.
"Whether it is your local supermarket, pub or the place where you work, green technology could soon be playing a big role in powering the building, whilst cutting carbon emissions and fuel bills too."
It is estimated 30-40 per cent of the UK's electricity could be met by installing microgeneration equipment to all types of building by 2050. Renewable technologies can significantly reduce a building's carbon footprint and can vary from wind and water generation to ground sources like heat pumps and biomass boilers. Commercial buildings account for 18 per cent of carbon emissions.
Energy efficient buildings, which draw some or all of their energy from low or zero carbon technologies not only help to reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change but also lower fuel bills.
The Government has also commissioned White Young Green Planning (WYGP) to carry out a wider investigation into what planning reforms are needed to make it easier for businesses to build extensions or make improvements to their premises.
The research will consider whether the need for planning permission can be removed for minor developments - such as small scale extensions and changes to shop fronts - where it is clear they have little or no impact on neighbouring properties or the local environment.
WYGP will also set out how local authorities should retain the right to restrict planning permission with strengthened safeguards to deal specifically with eyesore developments.
The new research projects follows on from the Government's commitment to overhaul the planning system and to better equip councils to tackle climate changes.
- A commitment to drive up the energy efficiency of all homes and for all new houses to be zero carbon by 2016.
- Proposals to overhaul planning rules to make it easier for home owners to make minor household extensions and install microgeneration equipment.
- New planning rules that will require councils to consider tackling climate change as a core factor when considering every new planning application and setting out a new role for them in promoting energy efficiency