Bath says new resi developments will have to go beyond building regs requirements and generate energy needs on site

A council in the South west says it has become the first in the country to require new homes to be truly net zero, via an amendment to its local plan.

Bath and North East Somerset said that all “new build residential development” will have to go beyond the requirements in Part L of building regulations, by delivering total energy use of less than 40 kWh/m2/annum, with all of that energy requirement to be met by on site renewable energy generation.

solar panels

Only in the case of major projects “where the use of onsite renewables to match total energy consumption is demonstrated to be not technically feasible” will developers be allowed to escape the requirements by paying into a council carbon offset fund.

Even in these cases, the council’s new policy says “renewable energy generation should be maximised”, and only the residual on site renewable energy generation offset.

The new policy SCR6 is contained in Bath’s Local Plan Partial Update, which was finally adopted late last week after approval by a planning inspector. Bath introduced the net zero housing policy to support its climate emergency declaration made in 2019, in which it pledged to become a carbon neutral district by 2030.

The council said in the policy document that it had, in part, introduced the requirement “due to the uncertainty of the Future Homes Standard”, which is the government’s own proposed trajectory for improving the energy efficiency of new homes, due to come in from 2025.

The local plan update also includes policies requiring all developments to demonstrate a 10% biodiversity net gain – a requirement which will be brought in nationwide later this year – and sets limits on embodied carbon in new development.

Councillor Tim Ball, cabinet member for planning and licensing, said: “Adoption of the Local Plan Partial Update ensures our policies are aligned with the latest national policy and put us at the forefront nationally with policies related to the climate and ecological emergencies.

“Bath & North East Somerset Council is the first in England to have an adopted Local Plan policy requiring a net zero energy balance for new housing and we are the first in the West of England to adopt a biodiversity net gain (BNG) policy.”

Bath’s current development plan dating from 2014, which this policy partially updates, has an annual housing target of around 720 homes. The council plans to conduct a new assessment of housing need when it brings forward a new plan, which it has already started consulting upon, running to 2042.

The Good Homes Alliance said on Twitter that it “welcomes the announcement that @bathnes has become the first council in England to successfully adopt an energy-based net zero housing policy as part of its commitment to tackling the climate emergency.”