Housebuilder Taylor Wimpey opposed plans to cut new home emissions

Taylor Wimpey, one of the UK’s biggest housebuilders, opposed government plans to slash carbon dioxide emissions from new homes by at least three-quarters and argued against heat pumps, which are proposed as a replacement for gas boilers, one of the UK’s biggest causes of greenhouse gases.

Robert Booth 

The company, which typically builds about 15,000 new homes a year, told a consultation that a target of cutting CO2 emissions from new homes by 75% to 80% from 2025 was “too high” and argued that heat pumps would be too expensive and would disappoint customers with their performance.

Its position was revealed through a freedom of information request by Unearthed, the investigations arm of the environmental charity Greenpeace. Housing accounts for 15% of UK greenhouse gas emissions, and that does not include electricity produced in power stations. Natural gas burned for heating and cooking is the main contributor.

It placed Taylor Wimpey in a small minority of only 2% of such responses to the government consultation into its future homes standard. The majority said the target was not ambitious enough.

Barratt, Berkeley and Thakeham homes all supported the target, as did the Home Builders Federation, which represents housebuilders, according to the response released under environmental transparency laws.

Greenpeace claimed it showed the housebuilder tried to derail an important climate policy, but Taylor Wimpey strongly denied this and said it was identifying challenges about the practical implementation of the cuts.

Housing emissions remain stubbornly high with only 1m tonnes equivalent CO2 cut from 2018 to 2019 compared with cuts of 8.5m tonnes from energy supply, 2.2m for transport and 2.5m by businesses, official figures show. Advocates for greener housing hoped the government would bring forward stricter limits on CO2 emissions for new homes to 2023, but they announced in February it would happen two years later.

Ministers are shortly due to publish a new heat and buildings strategy, which could set an end date for the use of household gas heating and plans for accelerating the installation of heat pumps, which are currently two to three times more expensive than combi boilers.

Taylor Wimpey told the government in the consultation, which ended in February 2020: “There is a lack of evidence to support the viable delivery of the future homes standard of 75-80% less CO2 emissions within the proposed timescale with existing skills training and supply chain availability.”

It said heat pumps would be less efficient, more expensive by up to £200 a year on a three-bedroom home and less reliable in colder weather.

Asked about its view last week, Wimpey said it recognised the need for urgency to mitigate the climate crisis and that its consultation response was intended to identify “challenges relating to the practical implementation of the proposals”, which “led to concerns that the delivery of viable and much-needed new housing could be prejudiced”.

It said it “remains fully supportive of the UK government’s target to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. We also embrace the future homes standard with its ambition to reduce carbon emissions from homes in use by 75-80% by 2025.” It added that it had cut carbon emissions from its building sites, offices and vehicles by 39% over the last eight years.

The government has pressed ahead with the policy to significantly cut carbon dioxide emissions from new homes compared with current building regulations on thermal performance, which are set to be changed next summer.

Greenpeace UK’s head of climate, Kate Blagojevic, said: “We urgently need government policies that force housebuilders to start building homes fit for a zero-carbon future because it’s clear the industry won’t do it by themselves. Not only will this slash emissions but it will also make people’s homes warmer, cheaper to run and, with the right incentives, create a domestic heat pump and green homes industry that would deliver new jobs and boost the economy.”

Politics trumps Covid science in Javid’s push to ‘live with the virus’

To most scientists, living with the virus means doing everything you can to reduce the risks, before taking the brakes off. It doesn’t mean taking the brakes off and just seeing what happens.

Linda Geddes 

For months, the prime minister has repeated the mantra that further easing of Covid-19 restrictions would be about “data and not dates”. Yet, as coronavirus cases in the UK continue to surge, and scientists warn that fully reopening society risks building “variant factories” in our own back yard, the government appears poised to put one date – 19 July – ahead of everything else. Once again, politics has trumped science.

Since Sajid Javid’s appointment as health secretary on 26 June, the UK has confirmed a further 188,538 coronavirus cases, with approximately 25,000 extra people testing positive each day. On Sunday, Javid said that the best way to protect the nation’s health was by lifting the main Covid-19 restrictions, even though this would result in a further significant increase in cases. “We are going to have to learn to accept the existence of Covid and find ways to cope with it – just as we already do with flu,” he said.

Another mantra beloved both of politicians and scientists is that we’ll need to “learn to live with the virus”, though they often disagree on the timing of when this recalibration should take place. Until now, the government has also avoided specifying the meaning of this slippery phrase. Now that it is poised to set a date, we are about to learn what the health secretary’s vision of “living with the virus” actually means.

For Javid, a thriving economy is at odds with continuing Covid-19 restrictions. There’s no doubt that measures such as shutting down businesses and events, or instructing individuals and entire school bubbles to self-isolate if they come into contact with an infected person, are economically damaging and may be harmful to people’s mental, or even physical health. Other measures, however, such as the wearing of masks, are a mere inconvenience for most people, but they do reduce transmission – particularly indoors, when coronavirus cases are high. Doing away with them has nothing to do with the economy or people’s mental health; it is motivated by ideology.

No scientist is arguing that Covid restrictions should remain in place forever. “The frustrating thing is that we know double-vaccines work: they protect the vast majority of people, even from variants, even from Delta, so there is an endpoint to this,” said Stephen Griffin, professor of virology at the University of Leeds.

“The real worry is that that they’re basically saying it’s not going to be so bad, and we’ve got most people vaccinated so let’s just carry on. If you want to actually stop new outbreaks, and the tremendous damage done by this variant, you need to build your vaccine coverage up, to include, in my view, children aged 12 years and above, because that’s where many of the infections are at the moment, but also because there’s lots of socialising going on – and it is about to increase.

“Yes, we may eventually have to live with outbreaks and with some infections, but we’re nowhere near a herd immunity threshold, and it’s not a magic barrier that you go through – it is literally the more the merrier. You need to build that wall of double-vaccinated people, and if you do that you might not need boosters, because if everyone has that level of immunity then there will be no cases.”

Another frustration, among the government’s own advisers, is that ministers have repeatedly ignored their calls to make public spaces safer by improving ventilation.

“It is no good telling people to open windows if windows don’t open, as is the case in many public and private buildings – hence the need for ventilation grants for existing properties and ventilation standards for new builds,” wrote Prof Stephen Reicher and Prof Susan Michie – two members of the Sage subcommittee advising on behavioural science – in a recent blog for the British Medical Journal. Neither is it any good telling people to avoid stuffy spaces if they don’t know which ones are well-aired, they wrote, or telling the owners of public and private buildings to improve ventilation without regular inspections and enforcement.

To most scientists, living with the virus means doing everything you can to reduce the risks, before taking the brakes off. It doesn’t mean taking the brakes off and just seeing what happens.

Man quoted £71k for week’s holiday in Cornwall

So the pressure will be on to build more second/holiday homes, caravan/chalet  sites and “pop up” glamping sites – Owl

Molly Dowrick

A councillor from up North has been left gobsmacked after being quoted £71,000 for a one-week holiday in Cornwall.

Far from a luxurious holiday abroad, or even a posh five-star hotel in the UK, Conservative councillor from East Riding in Yorkshire, Paul Nickerson was taken aback when he was quoted £10,232 per night to rent a “modest” three-bedroom house in St Ives this August – £71,624 for the week.

Mr Nickerson had hoped to bring his three young sons aged five and under to St Ives for a lovely staycation at the popular beauty spot, but after being quoted such an overwhelming sum, he has decided to change the family break to a week’s holiday at Bridlington on the Yorkshire coast.

Cllr Nickerson told HullLive: “Everything I have seen is about 50 per cent more than their normal price. We have a young family so we normally do have a UK staycation as it’s easier.

“”But it’s normally affordable for a family, but this was shocking.

“I thought it must have been a mistake, but having checked other properties, it is clear it isn’t, as they’re all far more.”

Mr Nickerson said holiday home owners and holiday companies are “exploiting” the lack of available properties and that fewer people will be going on holiday abroad this year, due to Covid-19 rules and the financial impact of the pandemic on families.

It’s a supply and demand issue and they’re exploiting it,” he said. “A lot of people in the UK need and want a holiday, but many will not be able to afford them.

“I don’t know anyone who can afford £71,000 for a week’s holiday.”

The holiday firm labels the property a “wonderful, contemporary, waterside house” and says it sleeps six across three bedrooms and has two bathrooms with two “full baths”.

The average price to rent the house is £10,000 per night and Councillor Nickerson was quoted £10,232 per night for a one-week stay from August 14, 2021.

This equates to a total of £71,624 – even if the house was fully-occupied with six adults, it would still cost each person an eye-watering £11,937 for a week.

The property’s description reads: “This is a contemporary, reverse level property ideal for families.

“It is furnished to an exceptional standard and is 200m for the train to St Ives and 10 minutes to a wonderful largely deserted beach.

“The spacious garden is ideal for children and BBQs. There is parking for up to five cars.”

This isn’t the first time a holiday company has been criticised for charging thousands of pounds for a short holiday in Cornwall.

In May, one night in a two-bedroom villa at the Carbis Bay Hotel – which hosted the G7 Summit – cost £3,500. But the stay did include free WIFI and a “very good breakfast,” so I guess that’s ok!

Plus, a former council house turned holiday let in St Ives was charging £7,000 for a one-week stay.

The former run-down detached three-bedroom cliff side property on Porthmeor Hill was owned by Devon and Cornwall Housing (DCH) – now called LiveWest. It sold for £1.4 million at an auction in London in 2017, and DCH said proceeds of the sale would fund at least ten affordable homes in Cornwall.

The new owners, Mr and Mrs Harris, demolished the property in 2019, to build a luxury house and increase the number of parking spaces to two.

It has been transformed into what has been described as a modern day beach house with ‘understated luxury’.

Bookings are now being taken for 2021 and 2022. However, the cost of staying there – which varies from between £3,149 to £7,395 for a week stay, and £2,624 for a two-night break between November to March – has been criticised by locals, along with the fact it is a holiday let.

One person said on the Cornish Gems Facebook page: “The prices are obscene. Pure greed.”

£18,000 and the Cabinet Minister is all yours…

Roll up, roll up. Get your Cabinet Minister here. It’s that time of year when politicians are put out to market.

Anna Mikhailova

For the princely sum of £18,000, a big beast can be lured to attend an event at the Tory party conference in October. And there’s no need to be part of the chumocracy that has sold PPE to the NHS.

Lobbyists and businesses have been sent the ‘price list’ ahead of the Manchester shindig, which will be a ‘hybrid’ gathering – combining actual stalls and virtual tours.

Anyone feeling more generous can spend £24,000 to go to a special breakfast with party co-chairmen Amanda Milling

The £18,000 allows firms to host a ‘themed event on a specific of their choice’, make a speech and host a discussion all in the presence of a Cabinet Minister.

Tory chiefs even offer to work with the business to ‘generate awareness’ of the topic they are most ‘passionate’ about.

Anyone feeling more generous can spend £24,000 to go to a special breakfast with party co-chairmen Amanda Milling and Ben Elliot.

All exhibitors are entitled not only to visits from ‘senior members of the Cabinet’ and access to something called a ‘business card fishbowl’. Another Tory money-raising wheeze is for people to pay £19,800 to have their business logo printed on a conference bag. My mole says: ‘For that, I assume they are woven by Boris himself from Welsh gold.’

Either that or he is already recycling his wife’s £840-a-roll gold wallpaper…

Public reject plans for access road to bulldoze part of play park – Barnstaple

“If a secondary access is not provided, the outline consent will not be implementable until such time as the wider allocation is developed, simply because there will be no access. That will have an impact on the council’s ability to re-establish a five year housing land supply.”

Daniel Clark 

Only one of the near-600 people who responded to a consultation over plans that could see part of a play park in Barnstaple used to provide a second access road to a new housing development were in favour of such a move.

North Devon Council own the freehold of the land at Westacott, but developers Progress Land had approached the council for permission to purchase some of the land to access their site of an approved in outline urban extension of 149 homes at Westacott, with a price agreed.

A small section of the park would be used to put in a new access road, which would take away just over 10 per cent of the existing area of the park, and then would be replaced with a bigger play area including a brand new multi-use games area, upgraded play equipment and an improved playing pitch.

Councillors had previously agreed to consult the public over the scheme, and North Devon Council’s strategy and resources committee, when they meet next Monday, will be asked to make a decision over whether or not to proceed with the disposal of the land.

But the report to the meeting outlines that of the 579 responses that the council had, 578 of them were opposed to the move, with only one in favour.

Although 84 per cent of the responses were responses to a standardised community survey created by a local councillor, the report says that ‘there is clearly significant opposition to a disposal’, although reminds members they should however consider the reasons for opposition put forward and not simply consider the overall numbers.

The report of Jon Triggs, head of resources, adds: “The reasons for objection include but not limited to overlooking the park, creating a rat run, pollution, contradiction to the council’s environmental policy, detrimental to property sale values, danger to children walking to school, noise of traffic, loss of green space, air pollution and destruction of wildlife habitat.

“There was one email of support stating the existing park is tired and limited, and that gaining an improved area, MUGA and large space overall is a major positive.

“Many of the issues raised by the responses are issues that were taken into account both as part of the process for allocating the site and identifying this route as a potential secondary access, and also dealt with as part of the decision to grant outline consent with a secondary route through the open space.

“There is clearly significant opposition to a disposal, but members should however consider the reasons for opposition put forward and not simply consider the overall numbers.”

The developer submitted their reserved matters application for the scheme, which would see 134 homes built on the adjacent site, but the report says that if the secondary access across the park is not allowed, then it would almost result in the scheme not coming forward until Barwood Land’s masterplan to transform a nearby 59-hectare site into a ‘new gateway to Barnstaple’, with around 800 new homes, was developed.

Mr Triggs added: “The policies in the Local Plan envisaged that there might be other options for provision for secondary access and the developers have looked to see if they could secure an alternative access to their site by utilising the adjacent industrial estate at Castle Park Road, however this has proved to be unsuccessful to date.

“This alternative access involves private land owners also has other constraints, not least the fact that it would pass through a flood zone and therefore subject to a sequential test and would also be using roads that are unsuitable.”

The Local Plan states that the purpose of the secondary access is to improve links between Whiddon Valley and the Link Road and alleviate congestion at the Rose Lane roundabout, and Mr Triggs added: “When taking the decision, members must therefore consider the impact on the development and on the wider strategic extension, in particular on the sustainability of that development if the links to the town centre cannot be created and on the delivery of the council’s own adopted strategic policies.

“If a secondary access is not provided, the outline consent will not be implementable until such time as the wider allocation is developed, simply because there will be no access. That will have an impact on the council’s ability to re-establish a five year housing land supply.”

When the consultation was launched, deader of North Devon Council, Cllr David Worden, said: “We know the issue is controversial but we need to make sure that everyone understands fully what is being proposed and lets us know what they think before we make any decisions.”

A decision will be made at the strategy and resources committee meeting on Monday, July 5, with no recommendation made by the officers as to whether to proceed with the proposed disposal of the land.

Those opposed to the scheme made their feelings known at a gathering at the park on Wednesday, June 30 when Devon Live and the BBC spoke to anxious residents.

Among them were Marcella Priest, who says this plan is not the first time the park has come under threat.

“Our message to councillors is that we do not want a road through this park,” she said.

“It’s the heart of the community and everybody uses it from foster carers, parents, babies, joggers and children playing football. Children at Orchard Vale Primary School use this park, factory workers use it to take a break during the daytime.”

She explained that they enjoyed a ‘good size’ football pitch and to move the goalposts and downsize it would be ‘a disgrace’.

She continued: “Why should we have to cross another road or have it on a hill?

“There are also people on mobility scooters and elderly people as well. They don’t want to have to walk up a hill either. Why should we have to walk further to get to another park?.

“I’ve been here 33 years, I’ve had four and I’m a foster carer; this park means a lot to me.”

She said that the council had previously promised not to sell the land and now North Devon had ‘picked on the wrong community.’

“The proposal to sell the land is back on the table and we’re cheesed off with it. It has been going on for many years, and we just want some peace.

“We’re not putting up with it anymore. They have got an offer of money on their table, but we’ve got love of our community on our table. Hopefully, they will show us that they are not all about money and greed.”

Another resident, Hillary Brooke added: “One of the problems we have is North Devon Council are not a highways authority, and in fact, Devon County Council’s highways authority have come up with alternate routes other than a road through the park.

“The district is still sticking to their totally flawed plans.

“If approved it is going to create pollution, which is excessive to say the least. It will particularly affect children and in effect, poison them.”

Marie Moore, a former Landkey councillor said to ‘trash’ the park with a road would not honour those who fought for a recreational ground to be located at Westacott in the first place.

“Many years ago, before the park was even a park and was just grassland, a councillor and former teacher, Dave Butt, who’s no longer with us and sadly passed away two years ago helped me as a Landkey councillor get what we’ve got today,” she said.

“Trashing his memory is not on the books. I think it’s a shame that they want to do this and put a road through. I think it’s just diabolical.”

She said that her children and grandchildren treasured the facility.

“My kids rode their bikes around here and played on the equipment, so to do what they want to do by putting the road through makes me very angry.

“This is a hub. It’s the only green space we’ve got. Working at school we bring our children here. We do a toddle and sports days here and picnics in the sunshine.

“These little ones aren’t going to be able to walk all the way over to where they want to put a new park. To make children do that isn’t appropriate when we’ve got a perfectly good space already.”

North Devon and County Council members representing Barnstaple who do not sit on the Strategy and Resources Committee, also attended to show their support.

Caroline Leaver, a district council member and Devon County Council representative said that during the election campaign in May it became ‘hugely clear’ that the community needed somebody to stand up for them.

“As a county councillor, I’m in a very good position to do that,” she said.

“I think that there is concern that on the one hand, we’ve got a Local Plan which was approved back in 2018. We have an outline planning application and we have to asses every application on its merits, but at the same time, we have huge public feeling against this.

“Some of the reasons for the allocation of this land has been to do with highways. I have been in touch with the highways authority officers who tell me that it’s not necessary to have a road through here.

“I think on North Devon Council, there is a feeling that it is difficult that after years of funding cuts from central government, we are in a really difficult financial place. For some, I think money on the table will matter more. For me, nothing is more important than the communities we serve.

“It is a difficult decision that the council has got ahead of it, but there’s no doubt in my mind that there has never been more clear results from a community consultation than this one.

“If approved, it will send a message that money counts more than people. That would be an absolute travesty for people who have been fighting for this for years.

“It would also send a message that the government needs to really wake up and understand that community matters and the way in which they underfund, particularly rural councils, puts a lot of pressure onto local authorities.”

Councillor Nichola Topham added: “The mood against these plans is overwhelming.

“The vast majority of people here today and the amount of respondents to the public survey and the separate survey that was done have spoken. They have voiced the fact that they don’t want to sell the park and have a road through it.

“I think as elected members, we need to remember the reason why we’ve been elected.

“It’s not our ward, but the ethos is still the same. We’re we’ve been elected by the people of North Devon to represent their views.”