Adhering to modern regulations in historic buildings is not easy, but the government proposes to help boost energy efficiency for owners of older properties…
Improving Energy Efficiency in Older Homes
Living in a Listed property or Conservation Area may be a dream for many, but with the rising cost of energy bills, trying to keep warm and eco-friendly can become a bit of a nightmare.
Owning a historic property comes with restrictions when it comes to making energy efficient and carbon-friendly improvements, but the latest planning proposals from the government, as part of its upcoming National Development Management Policies, aim to offer ‘greater certainty and consistency around any decisions made around making energy efficiency improvements’.
The policies cover energy efficient improvements such as double glazing, heat pumps and solar panels.
Affordability and Financial Incentives
In the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) document Adapting historic homes for energy efficiency: a review of the barriers, it was identified that the cost of living, coupled with the increased costs involved when retrofitting historic homes, means that fewer households are able to carry out the necessary work.
It also noted that getting consent for the energy efficient work in historic homes ‘took too long’, making it a frustrating experience for stakeholders, and in some cases resulting in losing out on financial support.
The new proposed plans will, it stated: ‘remove barriers and drive energy efficiency in historic homes, cutting energy bills for households across the country, while also ensuring that the important historical and beautiful features of these homes are properly protected’.
The report followed a review of the barriers to installing energy efficient works, carried out as part of the 2022 British Energy Security Strategy.
Among the proposals is the use of Local Listed Building Consent Orders to get consent upfront for certain improvements, so that owners do not have to apply separately to get permission.
These orders actually came into effect as part of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, allowing councils to grant Listed building consent for the alteration or extension of groups of Listed buildings in all or part of their area, or buildings of a particular description in their area.
This is something that has been discussed in previous articles, published by Apex Planning Consultants on 21 June 2022, as you can read here: Could Listed Homes jump on the Solar Panel Bandwagon?
However, according to the document, it is not clear when or how these orders should be used when it comes to energy efficiency improvements. This inconsistency is to be tackled in the new policies. It also adds that it is ‘important that these orders do not permit energy efficiency measures which harm the significance of listed buildings’.
Consultation on the new policies will look at not only using Local Listed Building Consent Orders to support energy efficiency improvements on listed buildings, but also the possibility of the secretary of state making a Listed Building Consent Order that would grant listed building consent for certain improvements across England.
As part of the new proposal, the heritage watchdog Historic England will also deliver training to Local Authority staff on how to apply advice delivered in the final policies on adapting historic buildings.
Historic England recently surveyed its conservation staff, which revealed that only 16 per cent said they felt very confident making decisions on energy-efficiency retrofit proposals. It also showed that more than half its staff has seen an increase in the volume of casework they received when it came to decisions, advice, or pre-application enquiries about retrofit.
A regular conversation we have with heritage consultants and clients alike is that whilst there is agreement Listed buildings should be protected in the national interest, they should also be fit for modern use, including living and/or working. Coupled with the global climate crisis there are good reasons to allow sensitive methods of reducing energy use, including renewable energy generation, and improving the thermal efficiency of buildings. Accordingly, we advocate these good intentions.
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