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The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 2, line 10, at end insert ("encourage the architects, designers, builders and those granting permission for residential building schemes to build buildings incorporating energy saving features and the optimum use of renewable energy in their design; and to").

The noble Earl said: The above amendment follows on partly from Amendment No. 2, but it also raises a slightly wider issue. We seem to have forgotten much of the talent that we had in the past. Visiting particularly rural areas, one can see how very cleverly the houses were designed

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up to about 80 years ago. Those who built houses seemed to have an innate understanding of how the eco-system in which we live operates. They were situated and designed to make the maximum use of solar energy, of water power, or of whatever nature could provide because they did not have the skills and technology that we have today.

However, with such skills and technology we seem to have lost the ability to enhance our buildings and make the maximum use of our surroundings. We have bulldozed plenty of land flat and we have put up houses in rows, just like in the song,

    "Little boxes, little boxes, little boxes all the same",

without thinking how they could be better designed by incorporating features which would help to keep such houses in a fit and habitable condition at the minimum cost. It is for that reason that I put down Amendment No. 3 which seeks to,

    "encourage the architects, designers, builders and those granting permission for residential building schemes to build buildings incorporating energy saving features and the optimum use of renewable energy in their design".

Again I come back to the question of renewable energy. It seems to me totally ludicrous that even in this country we have our boilers on in the summer in order to heat water. It is quite possible with modern technology—again partly due to the incentive that the Government have produced, which I mentioned on speaking to the first amendment—for us all to switch off our boilers and have good hot water through solar energy. That would save enormously on the consumption of fossil fuels and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide.

It is areas like these which need again to be brought forward by the Secretary of State for local authorities and for those who are designing and building domestic accommodation, let alone industrial and commercial accommodation, to take note of so that the maximum benefit can be gained from renewable energy and existing resources rather than using up scarce fossil fuel resources. I beg to move.

Viscount Ullswater: Perhaps I could start by saying that we on this side of the Chamber, as my noble friend indicated, would very much like to join with the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, in passing our condolences to the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, on a family bereavement.

We would all, I think, agree with my noble friend Lord Caithness that it is desirable, both from the point of view of the environment and of the occupants of newly built homes, that they should be built with due regard for energy efficiency. Although measures identified in reports made under this Bill will inevitably be principally concerned with existing housing accommodation, it is right that we should ensure that energy efficiency, including the use of renewable energy, is taken into account in the design of new buildings.

The Government have done and are doing a great deal to encourage greater attention to energy efficiency by architects, builders and others. New building regulations come into effect on 1st July 1995 requiring higher standards to be achieved for insulation and for heating and hot water controls in buildings. Also with effect from 1st July 1995, we have introduced a new building regulation which will require new dwellings to be given an energy

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rating calculated by using the Government's standard assessment procedure. Prospective purchasers and tenants will be able to compare the likely space and water heating costs of different dwellings, and architects, designers and builders will in consequence be encouraged by competition to identify ways to increase energy efficiency.

There is a considerable amount of guidance and advice available to those designing buildings. The best practice programme of the Energy Efficiency Office includes advice on energy efficient housing design, incorporating, where appropriate, design advice from the Department of Trade and Industry's passive solar design programme.

My noble friend indicated from his experience how the builders of yesteryear used the best possible planning methods to reduce the amount of heating required in older buildings. We believe that there is a future for passive solar design. Indeed the energy design advice scheme has set a target for annual energy savings of some £50 million by the year 2000. We believe that PSD is an aspect of good, low-energy, climatically responsive building design, construction and management, and it uses through that design free solar gains in buildings to reduce their energy requirements.

The best practice publications have been widely circulated among target audiences and are available free of charge from the building research energy conservation support unit at the Building Research Establishment. Designers can also turn to the energy design advice scheme of the Department of Trade and Industry for expert consultancy advice on energy conscious design measures for specific building projects.

While I agree that it is highly desirable for all concerned with buildings to take energy efficiency into account, the reference in the amendment to planning is one which would cause the Government some difficulty. The incorporation of energy-saving features in residential developments may or may not be a material planning consideration; whether it is will depend on the facts of the case. As the amendment would oblige energy conservation authorities to seek to persuade planning authorities to take account of factors which are not planning considerations, I have to say to my noble friend that that is not acceptable to the Government. However, the department's Planning Policy Guidance Note 12 states that the conservation of energy is one key issue to which the Government have already asked local authorities to have particular regard as an issue in development plans. So it is not overlooked in the planning process.

As far as concerns renewable energy sources, the Government's policy is to stimulate the development of new and renewable energy sources wherever they have a prospect of being economically attractive and environmentally acceptable in order to contribute to diverse, secure and sustainable energy supplies, reductions in the emission of pollutants and the encouragement of internationally competitive industries.

In domestic buildings the most obvious scope for the use of renewable energy sources concerns the use of solar energy. Active solar technology, used for systems which collect the sun's radiation and then transfer it in the form of heat to air, water or some other fluid, is obviously more

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complex than the PSD I have already mentioned. Nevertheless, there are currently some 46,000 active solar heating systems installed in residential properties in the UK, with up to 2,000 systems being added each year.

I hope that my noble friend will draw some comfort from what I have said about the many steps the Government have taken to ensure that energy efficiency is taken fully into account in the design of housing. These go a long way to ensuring that the aim behind his amendment is already being achieved. I have also explained that the reference in the amendment to planning is not one which would be acceptable to the Government. I therefore venture to hope that my noble friend may feel able to withdraw his amendment, but with the gratitude of the Committee for having raised these important issues.

Baroness Hamwee: I very much support the thrust of the amendment proposed by the noble Earl. In relation to the previous amendment he invited me to mention experience in that great borough of Richmond-upon-Thames. I can tell him that there, and I believe in many other planning authorities, discussions with developers on developments of any major size are used rather than a confrontational approach to planning. I am sure that the issues he raised will increasingly become major issues for discussion.

As the Minister said, there must be concern as to whether it would be possible to base a refusal of planning permission or to frame a condition attaching to a consent on an issue of energy efficiency because of uncertainty as to whether that would be a material consideration. Indeed, the Secretary of State and planning inspectors say time after time on appeals that planning should not usurp other systems.

If the noble Earl wishes to bring to the House a change to the building regulations to deal with these matters I should be very happy to support him. However, I believe that that would be the appropriate context for these matters rather than this Bill. I too would support wider discretion on the part of local planning authorities, and to the extent that there is support for that in the amendment I join with the noble Earl. However, I fear that the wording would be out of place, even though I support the thrust of the amendment. I hope that the noble Earl will not seek to press the amendment.

10.30 p.m.

The Earl of Caithness: I entirely take the point that my noble friend makes about the wording, and the problem that he would have regarding planning on which undoubtedly he is an expert. I foresaw difficulties in that regard when I put down the amendment. It was not surprising that those difficulties came home to roost.

However, I draw some comfort from what my noble friend said, as he believed that I might. Perhaps more people would draw comfort if the department made more widely known what they have done. There is no doubt that the Government have done a great deal in this field; but much has been hidden under a bushel. Many of the successes are not widely known.

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I was grateful for the full answers that my noble friend gave and for the time he has taken to address the great majority of my points. I am grateful, too, for the comments of the noble Baroness. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Clause 2 agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported to the House without amendment; Report received.

        House adjourned at twenty-eight minutes before eleven o'clock.

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