More than 200 businesses from the construction, property and renewable energy industries have urged the Chancellor to reconsider the government's sudden U-turn over the long-established zero carbon homes policy.
In the Chancellor's productivity plan 'Fixing the Foundations', George Osborne unexpectedly axed the policy designed to ensure that all new homes built from 2016 meet zero carbon standards – together with a sister policy that applied to all new non-residential buildings, such as offices, schools and hospitals, from 2019.
In an open letter to the Chancellor, senior leaders from 246 organisations - including housebuilders Willmott Dixon and HAB Housing, major developers Lendlease and Argent, product manufacturers Saint-Gobain and Tata Steel, the energy firm E.ON and the retailer Whitbread – warn that the policy U-turn has "undermined industry confidence in government" and will "curtail investment in British innovation and manufacturing".
They write: "There was a broad consensus in support of the zero carbon policy, which was designed to give industry the confidence it needs to invest and innovate, in order to drive higher energy efficiency standards and low carbon energy solutions. Abandoning the zero carbon policy will have regressive impacts and be harmful to British industry."
Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, which coordinated the letter, said: "The speed and the stealth with which this administration has destroyed some of the long-term policies supporting the renewable and low carbon industries has been breathtaking. We have witnessed an unparalleled wave of support from our members and the wider industry who are deeply concerned about how the government's sudden, regressive and arbitrary decision to scrap the long established zero carbon policy will impact their business and investment.
"This U-turn not only means our new buildings will be less energy efficient and more costly to run, but it comes at a time when the UK should be taking strong action on climate change ahead of the UN conference in Paris in December. We urge government to reconsider its position for the sake of future confidence in the UK’s low carbon economy."
Rob Lambe, managing director of the energy services arm of Willmott Dixon, one of the UK's biggest housebuilders, said: "We have worked tirelessly over the past 10 years, along with our clients, investing tens of millions of pounds to develop detailed solutions required to deliver against the zero carbon homes 2016 policy."
Mike Roberts, managing director at HAB Housing, added: "It may not have been perfect but the zero carbon policy was an attempt to provide confidence to the construction sector, setting out future standards with enough notice for industry to be able to deliver. Scrapping the policy sends a terrible message to the industry and undermines all those who have put time and energy into making it work."