Council consulting on green homes plan

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EAST Hampshire District Council has launched a consultation on ambitions to make planning greener.

It is asking residents and developers about zero-carbon proposals in a Supplementary Planning Document.

The online consultation was approved by the planning policy committee just before Christmas and runs until February 2.

The document clarifies environmental standards expected from house builders and how they can be achieved.

It has information on energy efficiency, using local materials, site design, house orientation, tree planting and ways new developments can be environmentally efficient.

It also clarifies current planning policies, sets targets and gives developers guidance on meeting them.

Council leader Cllr Richard Millard said: “The Supplementary Planning Document will make it clear what our current policies demand and will provide advice to help home builders reach these high environmental standards.”

But for at least two years the document will be just a ‘preferred advisory guide’ rather than an enforcible policy, because the council is between Local Plans and the expiring one determines current policy.

Cllr Millard added: “Local Plan policies cannot be changed during its lifetime, so we will have to wait for our zero-carbon homes. But we are pushing to make our next Local Plan the greenest it can be, with zero-carbon homes becoming standard practice across the district.

“Until that plan can be adopted we must make the best possible use of the planning policies in the current Local Plan that we use. But in the Supplementary Planning Document we can provide the extra detail and information developers need now to make new homes as green as they can be.”

It is hoped the new Local Plan, covering the parts of East Hampshire outside the South Downs National Park, will come into effect in 2023, bringing to life the Supplementary Planning Document policies in it aimed at ensuring developers build as near zero-carbon homes as possible.

But a new Local Plan can be adopted only after approval by a government inspector, and if they feel the environmental policies are too stringent they may ask for them to be watered down.

Cllr Millard said: “The inspector may not be inclined to approve all the proposed green planning policies in the new Local Plan that will be enforcible by our planning officers.

“But the council is prepared to stand firm on this, and we are happy to challenge the government over that view if there is a need to. Zero-carbon housing will more and more become the norm, and we aim to be one of the first councils to do that formally through our Local Plan.”