Draft Core Strategy (incorporating Preferred Options) October 2010

Draft Core Strategy (incorporating Preferred Options)

Decentralised Energy and Sustainable Buildings

12.8 The UK Renewable Energy Strategy sets a target of 15% of energy consumption to come from renewable sources by 2020 – a challenging target that will require a seven-fold increase from 2008 levels. This strategy suggests that more than 30% of our electricity could be generated by renewables (up from 5.5% today), 12% of our heat generated from renewables (up from very low levels today), and 10% of transport energy (up from 2.6% today).

12.9 The term ‘decentralised and renewable or low carbon energy’ incorporates energy supply from renewable sources such as wind and solar energy, and low carbon energy including Combined Heat and Power, air/ground source heat pumps and energy-from-waste. The development of these technologies is clearly encouraged in national Government policy and Policy EQ1 is supportive of these developments subject to there being no unacceptable adverse effects. Some examples of unacceptable adverse effects could include the impacts of large wind turbine installation on bird flight paths in or around the Somerset Levels and Moors, or on protected landscapes such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). In this regard the Appropriate Assessment (Habitat Regulations Assessment for the Somerset Levels and Moors) makes clear that wind farm developments are likely to be unacceptable within 800 metres of the internationally designated sites.

12.10 Policy RE5[1] within the now revoked RSS stated that 10% of the energy requirements for new larger scale development (10 or more dwellings or 1000 sq m of non-residential floor space) should come from such decentralised energy sources. In advance of the anticipated adoption of this policy, South Somerset’s ‘District Executive’ approved the application of this policy as a ‘material consideration’ in dealing with all relevant planning applications. More recent draft Government policy[2] states that such policies will not be necessary from 2013 when the proposed improvements to Building Regulations requiring reduced carbon emissions come into force, as set out in the Table below.

Figure 25: Proposed Carbon improvements to Building Regulations
2010 (October)
Residential: Carbon improvement as compared to Part L (Building Regulations 2006)
Zero carbon
Non residential development
Zero carbon

12.11 In order to meet the stringent requirements necessary to achieve zero carbon homes, the Government have set out a preferred energy hierarchy (see Figure 26 below) that firstly requires high levels of energy efficiency, followed by minimum standards for reduction in CO2 emissions to be achieved onsite and/or through directly connected heat. These measures should achieve a 70% reduction in CO2 emissions per dwelling. In order to ensure zero carbon homes can be achieved, a range of mainly off-site “allowable solutions” can be introduced to deal with residual emissions after taking account of on-site technologies and connections to low and zero carbon heat networks. The Government is currently considering the scope and delivery mechanisms for allowable solutions, but has stated that allowable solutions will include:[3]

  • Further carbon reductions on site beyond the regulatory standard;
  • Energy efficient appliances meeting a high standard which are installed as fittings within the home;
  • Advanced forms of building control system which reduce the level of energy use in the home;
  • Exports of low carbon or renewable heat from the development to other developments;
  • Investments in low or zero carbon community heat infrastructure;
  • Other allowable solutions which remain under consideration.

12.12 A background paper on Sustainable Energy and Buildings has been prepared by the Council (with Somerset County Council), which suggests that wind turbines, incorporation of Combined Heat and Power(CHP) at major urban extensions, and solar technology have greatest potential for decentralised and renewable or low carbon energy generation in South Somerset.[4]

Figure 26: The Government’s preferred energy hierarchy*
Figure: The Governments
 *"Cost not exceeding £X per tonne CO2
- the Government are yet to set an actual cost (October 2010)"

12.13 The Government are encouraging the delivery of sustainable buildings via the planning system.[5] The term ‘sustainable buildings’ requires consideration of the sustainability of a building more generally including issues such as water demand, use of materials (including local sourcing), and quality of life, as well as energy use. The most recognised national sustainable buildings standards are the ‘Code for Sustainable Homes’ (measured from level 1 – 6[6] ), and ‘BREEAM’[7] (resulting in either a ‘pass’, ‘good’, ‘very good,’ ‘excellent’ or ‘outstanding’) for non-residential development. The Code for Sustainable Homes measures the sustainability of new dwellings against the following nine categories:

  • Energy/CO2
  • Water
  • Materials
  • Surface water run off
  • Waste
  • Pollution
  • Health and well being
  • Management
  • Ecology.

12.14 It is important to note that although reductions in CO2 emissions from new dwellings will be required through changes to the Building Regulations, required levels of the Code for Sustainable Homes needs to be set out in local planning policies in order to be applied. The following figure summarises the mandatory requirements for water and energy use in the Code for Sustainable Homes – if these requirements are not met, then that code level cannot be achieved. Although “water stress” (potential lack of water supply) has not been identified as a particular issue for South Somerset, climate change and population growth will mean the need to use water more efficiently is of great importance. Measures such as rainwater harvesting, grey water recycling and water efficient appliances all help to minimise water use.

Figure 27: The Code for Sustainable Homes: minimum entry requirements for energy and water use

Code level

Required energy improvement compared to Building Regs (2006)

Water litres / person / day

Total points score required to achieve Code level (out of 100)

Building Regs energy improvement (year)

October 2010
Zero carbon

12.15 Feasibility and viability are key issues in considering the achievement of decentralised energy and sustainable buildings requirements. Feasibility refers to the technical issues involved in achieving the standards such as sufficient wind speed to install wind turbines; whilst viability refers to the costs of meeting these higher sustainability standards. Draft Government policy[8] makes it clear that requirements for decentralised energy and sustainable buildings should not make new development unviable.

12.16 Government policy allows local requirements for sustainable buildings to be set, which should relate to development areas or specific sites, rather than across a whole local authority area unless justification for this can clearly be shown.[9] The additional costs of meeting BREEAM standards or Code levels are an important consideration, particularly in tough economic times. The ‘economies of scale’ associated with the major urban extension(s) proposed at Yeovil, Chard and potentially development at some of the other Market Towns, should make it more cost effective for the Code for Sustainable Homes and BREEAM standards to be achieved in these locations. At these ‘preferred development options’ it is proposed that the levels of the Code for Sustainable Homes equivalent to the CO2 reductions in the Building Regulations should be required i.e. Level 3 from October 2010, Level 4 from 2013 and Level 6 from 2016. Evidence[10] states that level 3 of the Code for Sustainable Homes would not make development unviable in many cases, and would not inhibit housing supply, including affordable housing. The Council has also recently been successful in a bid for Government money to investigate whether Yeovil’s urban extension could be developed to Eco Town standards, which requires a minimum of Code Level 4 to be achieved for new homes.

1. Draft Revised RSS incorporating the Secretary of States Proposed Changes, July 2008. [back]
2. PPS: Planning for a low carbon future in a changing climate: consultation, March 2010. [back]
3. Ministerial Statement by John Healey, July 2009. [back]
4. Sustainable Energy and Building Background Paper, SSDC October 2010 [back]
5. PPS: Planning and Climate Change, CLG, December 2007. [back]
6. Level 3 of the Code for Sustainable Homes is already required for publicly funded homes. [back]
7. Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method. [back]
8. PPS: Planning for a low carbon future in a changing climate: consultation, March 2010. [back]
9. PPS: Planning for a low carbon future: consultation; PPS: Planning and Climate Change, supplement to PPS1. [back]
10. South Somerset Strategic Housing Market Assessment, February 2009. [back]