Basingstoke & Deane – May Bulletins

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Council challenges government to allow stronger policies for low-carbon homes

The lead Cabinet member for planning at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council is calling on the government not to stand in the way of its plans to set higher energy efficiency standards for new homes to tackle the climate emergency.

Aiming for all new homes in the borough to be net zero carbon, the council is progressing ambitious draft plans for new builds to meet very high energy efficiency standards and to require new housing developments to generate as least as much renewable energy as they use.

People were recently asked to have their say on these and other proposed planning policies as part of the council’s public consultation on its draft Local Plan that, once adopted, will guide development and planning decisions in the borough until 2040.

As the council engaged with its communities on these draft local planning policies, the government was also undertaking its own consultation on several proposed changes to national planning rules, which the council must follow.

Put forward as part of its Future Homes and Buildings Standards consultation, the government’s draft policies for energy efficiency would see new homes built to become carbon neutral at the point when the National Grid transitions to be fully powered by renewable energy.

However, the government’s current proposals are not considered ambitious enough as they would not require new homes to be built to such high energy efficiency standards.

Following the start of its consultation, the Minister for Housing Lee Rowley confirmed the government’s expectation that, unless there are exceptional circumstances, councils should not adopt stronger energy efficiency policies than those set nationally.

Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning and Infrastructure Cllr Andy Konieczko said: “Climate change is a real and growing threat and it is not acceptable or fair to future generations that we continue to allow homes to be built that will emit carbon until the National Grid is fully powered by renewable energy, which may be decades away. While the government’s proposals are a step in the right direction, they do not go nearly far enough and we know from our recent Local Plan consultation that our communities want new homes built here to be as sustainable as possible.

“With the support of local people and an impending target for a net zero carbon borough by 2030, as a council we must continue to push ahead with our ambitious policies for energy efficient homes and carbon-neutral communities. I urge the government to recognise this local support and exceptional need and to back us in this.”

With the unanimous backing of its councillors, the council declared a climate emergency for the borough in 2019. This included an ambitious target to work with communities towards achieving a net zero carbon borough by December 2030.

More information about the council’s progress to update its Local Plan is at www.basingstoke.gov.uk/LPU

More people eligible for free energy-saving home improvements

More people in Basingstoke and Deane can now get free home improvements to help them save money and cut carbon, after a grant scheme increased its income limit by £5,000.

Now, residents with a household income of up to £36,000 living in inefficient homes without gas boilers can apply for free energy-saving measures from the Warmer Homes Consortium, which Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council is part of.

The funding is from the Home Upgrade Grant, a government scheme that aims to help people that own or rent a home without gas central heating to make their property more energy efficient. Improvements that can be fully funded by the grant include insulation, heat pumps, solar panels and heating controls.

Cabinet Member for the Climate and Ecological Emergency Cllr Chris Tomblin said: “Now the income limit for this grant has been increased, even more people in our borough can benefit from free home improvements that could save them hundreds of pounds on their bills and cut local carbon emissions to help fight climate change.

“As the scheme closes to applications this November and grants are dealt with on a first-come first-served basis, if you are eligible then I encourage you to apply as soon as possible to make sure you don’t miss out.

“And if you think you might be interested in free energy-saving home improvements but you’d like to talk to someone first to find out more, then please do get in touch with our friendly and knowledgeable Green Team for free no-strings advice and support.”

While properties with gas boilers are not eligible for a grant, funding is available for people living in homes heated by storage heaters, an electric boiler, panel heaters, oil, coal, liquid petroleum gas or solid fuel.

The Warmer Homes Consortium is a partnership of 23 local authorities across the south east that is led by Portsmouth City Council and managed by AgilityEco.

The borough council launched its Green Team last summer to help residents to live more sustainable lifestyles and cut their carbon footprints in support of its 2019 climate emergency declaration and ambitious target to work towards a net zero carbon borough by December 2030.

More information about the Home Upgrade Grant, including how to apply, is at www.WarmerHomes.org.uk

People can get in touch with the council’s Green Team for energy-saving support and advice at www.basingstoke.gov.uk/green-team

Council’s million-pound pledge for more electric vehicle chargers

The borough’s first on-street electric vehicle chargers will be switched on in Basingstoke this spring as Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council begins driving forward its plan to spend over £1 million on new charging points across the borough in the next three years.

This supports the council’s climate emergency declaration and its ambition to encourage more people to swap to a zero-emission vehicle to cut carbon and make the borough’s air cleaner.

To make it easier for people without driveways to charge an electric vehicle near their home, the borough council is fully funding the first phase of a joint project with Hampshire County Council, which is responsible for on-street charging points, to create new chargers in residential areas across the borough.

Building on its track record of installing electric vehicle chargers in its car parks, the borough council will also fund further new charging points at its depots for recharging its electric operational vehicles and explore opportunities for new chargers at council-owned community centres.

The first phase of the councils’ project will begin in Basingstoke as five lampposts across Abbey Road in Popley, Schubert Road in Brighton Hill and Culver Road in Brookvale and Kings Furlong are fitted with vehicle charging points.

Quicker and easier to install than stand-alone units thanks to the lampposts’ existing power supplies, they will be capable of recharging an electric car overnight or during the working day, depending on the vehicle and its battery capacity.

Blink will operate these chargers and people will be able to use them by downloading the Blink Charging app on their phone from the Apple or Android store.

The borough council’s Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning and Infrastructure Cllr Andy Konieczko said: “I have an ambition for us to be a leader in installing electric vehicle chargers and to see at least one charging point in every ward in our borough within the next 12 months. We urgently need to tackle climate change, and I believe that the borough council has to play its role in making that happen. Our funding means extra charging points can now come forward quicker to give more people in Basingstoke and Deane the confidence they need to swap to a zero-emission vehicle as a greener and more sustainable form of transport.

“This first phase of on-street chargers is an encouraging start and we recognise that there’s a lot more to do. We’re working with the county council to make sure that this important project maintains its strong momentum and we will also continue with our programme of installing rapid chargers in council-owned car parks.”

With the first phase of installations under their joint project about to get under way, the councils will continue to work together to bring forward further on-street vehicle chargers across Basingstoke and Deane.

The project’s future charging points, like those installed under its first phase, will be created in locations with limited off-street parking that are within five minutes’ walk of homes and have an existing power supply to connect to. They will also be in areas where the demand for chargers is already high or is likely to be higher in the near future, based on technical assessments and requests from residents to the county council.

Recognising the limited amount of on-street parking in some areas, residents in any type of vehicle will be able to park next to these new chargers, though people will be encouraged to leave the spaces free for drivers who need to recharge their car.

More information about the borough council’s work to create new electric vehicle charging points is at www.basingstoke.gov.uk/vehicle-charging-point