The Government abolishes the Merton Rule now Housebuilders rule, OK?

Last November Ms Yvette Cooper is a graduate of Oxford University where she studied PPE. Perhaps the philosophy part of the course concentrated on Machiavellian thinking because her statements could have been composed by the man who wrote “the Prince”.

Last November Ms Cooper having run a flag up the flagpole and found that no one saluted it, said she would haul it down again. Many people believed her, but she spoke with forked tongue. Continue reading

Why Zero Carbon Homes will cause serious environmental damage

On 9th January 2007 Yvette Cooper, made a speech to the House Builders Federation. She talked about higher standards for new homes and mentioned the need for better insulation. She then announced that all new homes within ten years must be zero carbon, and thus it seems that the concept of zero carbon homes was brought into being.

Like motherhood and apple pie it sounds all very splendid and praiseworthy but unlike motherhood and apple pie it suffers no one knowing what Ms Cooper actually meant by this concept and I am sure that she herself did not know what she meant because here we all are, nearly a year and a half later, when government civil servants are still trying to “discover” what the definition of a zero carbon home comprises. Continue reading

Planning permission for solar – Waiting for change

On 26th June 2006 Sam Greenhill reported in the Daily Mail that the Government was thinking of making changes to the planning laws to make sure that there was no need to obtain consent to put up solar panels and wind turbines.

He quoted the Housing Minister Yvette Cooper as saying

 “it is patently absurd that you should be able to a satellite dish on your house but have to wrestle with the planning process for small scale microgeneration (sic), which is no more obtrusive and can have a real impact on tackling climate change.” 

The microgeneration industry has been agitating for this change to the planning laws for several years before 2006. I would have thought that changing planning regulations in such a small and obvious way is a very easy thing for a government to do once the Government Minister in charge of such things recognises that a change is needed to alleviate climate change.

Certainly in the case of solar panels which fit at or very slightly above the roof line, there can be no aesthetic objection. The case for small scale wind turbines has yet to be entirely made; if they are sited so that they do generate useful power then the aesthetics have to come after the carbon savings. In any event climate change alleviation is more important than contemporary taste in urban design.

Changing the planning regulations for solar panels should have been easy for Yvette Cooper. She is a clever person who has had a good education – at Oxford University, Harvard and the London School of Economics. Her job officially requires her to take “lead” responsibility for housing policy and programmes including low and zero carbon housing and eco homes. She also has responsibility for climate change. 

Her quotation that I have set out indicates that the change is so obvious so simple to her that in a matter of months we should all have been living under a planning regime where the rules for installing solar panels would be relaxed and as simple as those that relate to satellite dishes. 

Well, that was in June 2006. It looks like the rules will finally be created in April 2008 – nearly two years later. I cannot think of a simpler thing for such a clever person to do or one that fits more vitally into her responsibilities. There is therefore a real puzzle; why is it taking her so long?