Passivhaus Affiliate

Councils Can: Exemplar Local Plans

To meet their climate commitments, local councils are setting standards for new buildings that go well beyond current UK building regulations and draw on Passivhaus requirements and methodology. We offer an overview of some of the exemplar policies being proposed by local authorities.

Windmill Gardens, Potterhanworth,  North Kesteven District Council

Local action

While upgrades to national building regulations (Future Homes Standard in England & Scottish Passivhaus equivalent legislation) are still being debated and determined, local authorities are leading the way, setting standards above current building regulations for new build projects in their Local Plans.

Central Lincolnshire Local Plan

Research into exemplar local authority building requirements undertaken by the Good Homes Alliance and co-sponsored by the Passivhaus Trust, has found a number of exemplar policies (both approved and in the pipeline) that either mention Passivhaus directly or include space heating requirements and metrics that are similar to those required by Passivhaus (15 kWh/m2/year). In addition, several Plans include the idea that buildings certified to the Passivhaus standard should be considered ‘deemed to satisfy’ the council’s requirements, potentially offering a shortcut to achieving planning permission in the areas.

Going beyond building regulations

For many years, it has been unclear as to whether local authorities had the power to mandate building requirements above national standards, with the Written Ministerial Statement (WMS 25 March 2015) often cited as a barrier. However, planning inspectors increasingly acknowledge the need for action against climate change, with one recently commenting “The WMS 2015 has clearly been overtaken by events”.  A Ministerial letter of confirmation (24 January 2022) has also confirmed that it is possible for local authorities to demand higher building standards.   Essex County Council has taken legal advice that has established the legal justification for requiring higher targets for energy performance standards above the national baseline. And various councils have now tested this by successfully going beyond building regulations in their Local Plans. 

 

The tide has turned. High impact policies are now possible.

Thomas Lefevre, Director, Etude

 

There is, unfortunately, still some ambiguity, with the 2015 Written Ministerial Statement being subject to different interpretations by planning inspectors. This can mean that local authorities bringing forward similar progressive policies on zero carbon policies are seeing starkly different and unpredictable outcomes at examination – seemingly based on which planning inspector they get allocated to examine their local plan, how sympathetic that inspector is towards the importance of climate change, and how they personally interpret the WMS (and how much weight to give to it). It’s a game of chance – with councils seeing very similar policies either accepted or refused. Lancaster City Council is currently challenging the ruling of the Planning Inspectorate on its Local Plan. West Oxfordshire Council has recently issued a legal challenge after its net zero plans for a Garden Village were watered down by planning inspectors.  

There are increasing calls for WMS 2015 to be formally revoked to end this confusion.  A report for the Climate Change Commission, released in July 2023, looks at barriers and opportunities for delivering net zero and climate resilience through the local planning system and includes a number of recommendations, including that the 2015 Written Ministerial Statement on Plan Making should be revoked immediately. 

Approved plans & policies

Local authority 

Key policies

Progressive features

Bath & NE Somerset       

Core Strategy, Placemaking Plan and Local Plan Partial Update   

New build residential development will be required to meet the standards set out below. New build residential development will aim to achieve zero operational emissions by reducing heat and power demand then supplying all energy demand through onsite renewables.

Through the submission of a sustainable construction checklist, proposed new dwellings will demonstrate the following;

  • Space heating demand less than 30kWh/m2/annum;
  • Total energy use less than 40kWh/m2/annum;

Strong preference for Passive House Planning Package (PHPP) as energy modelling methodology. PHPP deemed suitable for all projects, while SAP only ‘suitable for most projects’ 

 Central Lincolnshire

Adopted Local Plan 2023

Target achieving a space heating demand of around 15-20kWh/m2/yr and a total energy demand of 35 kWh/m2/yr, achieved through a ‘fabric first’ approach to construction. 

To simplify (and hence speed up) the decision making process, applicants are able to demonstrate that they have met the requirements of this policy if they provide certified demonstration of compliance with:- Passivhaus Plus, Premium or Classic

Cornwall

Climate Emergency Development Plan Document

Residential development proposals will be required to achieve Net Zero Carbon and submit an ‘Energy and Carbon Statement’ that demonstrates how the proposal will achieve:

  • Space heating demand less than 30 kWh/m2/annum;

  • Total energy consumption less than 40 kWh/m2/annum.

Strong preference for Passive House Planning Package (PHPP) as energy modelling methodology. PHPP deemed suitable for all projects, while SAP only ‘suitable for most projects’  

Eastleigh Borough Council 

 Local Plan

Aim to deliver at least 1% of all residential units within the whole scheme which achieve full ‘Passivhaus’ certification.

Glasgow City Council

Glasgow City Development Plan, SG5: Gold options

Glasgow City Council has set ‘The Glasgow Standard’ as a minimum standard for housing in Glasgow funded through the affordable housing supply programme. Passivhaus certification is deemed an acceptable route towards achieving the ‘Gold’ level within the standard (Option 2). Gold level compliance has been required for new developments from 1 September 2018 onwards.

 

Under consultation & in the pipeline

Local authority 

Key policies

Progressive features

Bristol City Council      

Bristol Local Plan Review 

Passivhaus offered as an alternative compliance route.

Forest of Dean

Climate Emergency Action Plan – Issues & Options

Establish planning policy and conditions that require new developments to be built to Passivhaus standard or equivalent, exceeding standard building regulations.

Greater Cambridgeshire

Local Plan consultation

All dwellings should achieve an EUI of no more than 35 kWh per m2 per year.

a. All new dwellings should have a space heating demand of 15-20 kWh per m2 per year

b. All non-domestic buildings should achieve a space heating demand of 15-20 kWh per mper year

Merton

Local Plan consultation

EUI target - 35kWh/m2.yr

Space heating demand target - 15kWh/m2.yr (2025 and after)

West Berkshire

Local Plan consultation

New development of one or more new dwellings will meet the following minimum standards of construction: • Equal to or less than 15kWh/m2 /year space heat demand target, evidenced by the Building Regulations Part L SAP Fabric Energy Efficiency metric. 

Neighbourhood Plans

Developing Neighbourhood Plans can be particularly useful for communities where there is no prospect of an up-to-date Local Plan coming forward in the near future as they can be progressed much quicker than Local Plans. 

Neighbourhood 

Key policies     

Progressive features

Ivers,  Buckinghamshire 

The Ivers Neighbourhood Plan 2021-2040

Policy IV14 seeks to incentivise the Passivhaus, or equivalent, standard, using the following mechanisms: 

a) by recognising that achieving this standard may sometimes lead to building forms, plot sizes, plot coverage and layouts that are different to the character in which the development is located. The policy therefore provides a means by which planning officers can give more weight to achieving a higher energy efficiency standard in the planning balance, providing the scheme does not significantly harm the character area.

b) the policy requires post-occupancy evaluation for all new or refurbished buildings, unless the applicant has chosen to deliver the development using the Passivhaus, or equivalent, standard.

Similar Neighbourhood Plans are currently awaiting approval.

Other exemplary local authority policies

The Good Homes Alliance research has uncovered a number of other best practice examples of local authorities calling for building performance above and beyond the national requirements, often calling for a 19%+ improvement over building regulations.

These policies are also likely to favour Passivhaus developments, as we are seeing in the case of the Greater London Authority requirements.

Useful templates

These examples will help set a precedent for other Local Authorities to follow and meet their climate emergency commitments and could be used as template policies for other councils. The Good Homes Alliance has developed some resources which explain in more depth how these policies were implemented, including information from the consultancies who have been supporting progressive councils in developing evidence bases.

Councils' own building programmes

Social housing providers who have delivered Passivhaus homes

As we have reported previously, many local authorities are already embracing Passivhaus for their own social housing or public building programmes. A few notable examples include:

A longer list of councils and housing associations that have undertaken Passivhaus housing projects is here.

Are you missing from the list?

This is not an exhaustive overview, so many apologies to local authorities with Pasivhaus policies in their Local Plans that we have inadvertently missed off the list. Please email info@passivhaustrust.org.uk and we will update our information.  We would also be interested to know if your local authority is experiencing any challenges in going beyond building regulatons. 

 

Further information

Passivhaus & Planning

Passivhaus Social

Passivhaus Educational Buildings

Passivhaus Retrofit

Net Zero Planning Policy - Good Homes Alliance resource hub setting out practical steps for the adoption and implementation of progressive policies, including case studies, timeline and actions, and resources.

The Spatial Planning for Climate Resilience & Net Zero report, Climate Change Commission 19 July 2023 

More than 100 businesses call on the Government for planning reform to deliver net zero and restore nature - 15 June 2023

Plan inspectors made inconsistent climate decisions - 31 March 2023

Previous PHT story: Local Passivhaus Policies   8 May 2022

Previous PHT story: The UK's first Passivhaus Leisure Centre makes a splash 25 March 2022

Previous PHT story: Scottish Schools lead large scale Passivhaus 8 April 2022

Previous PHT story: Council adopts Passivhaus Plus for all future homes 21 February 2022

Previous PHT story: Social housing championing Passivhaus at scale 12 May 2021

Previous PHT story: Passivhaus ambitions progress in the city of York 27 January 2021

 

 


 


1st June 2023


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