Government challenged on local efficiency targets

The High Court allows legal challenge from the Good Law Project

Infrared image lack of thermal insulation Innovate UK Building Performance Evaluation report CIBSE Journal April 2016

The High Court has given the green light for a legal challenge to what have been labelled ‘unnecessarily draconian’ planning rules that limit the scope for councils to set local energy efficiency standards.

The Good Law Project (GLP) is supporting non-governmental organisation Rights Community Action (RCA) in its judicial review of a written ministerial statement (WMS) issued by the Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) in December. The GLP has described the guidance as a ‘massive overreach of central government power’.

The High Court has said the hearing into the challenge must take place as soon as possible after 20 May.

The WMS, issued by DLUHC junior minister Baroness Penn, prohibits councils from setting energy efficiency standards in their local plans that are above those outlined in the national Building Regulations.

RCA argues that this statement is unlawful, because it cuts across the objectives of the Climate Change Act 2008. Other grounds for challenge include whether the government has failed to assess the environmental impacts of the policy, which is required by the Environment Act 2021.

The WMS states that ‘local plans must be consistent with national policy’ and adds that ‘any planning policies that propose local energy efficiency standards for buildings that go beyond current or planned national Building Regulations should be rejected at examination’.

The WMS has generated a widespread backlash, with Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud branding the move a ‘policy disaster’ and a letter, co-signed by more than 50 bodies, describing it as ‘unnecessarily draconian’.