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Brown Budget not green enough, says RIBA

The RIBA has attacked Chancellor Gordon Brown's much-hailed 'green' Budget for not being green enough.

Brown included a number of eco-windfalls and 'environment taxes' in his eleventh, and probably last, Budget.

Among them are new proposals to make all new zero-carbon homes worth up to £500,000 and built before 2012 exempt from stamp duty.

However, RIBA President Jack Pringle said he felt let down by the Budget and believes the government has missed the chance to drive the 'green agenda'.

He said: 'The Chancellor told us that his budget would be about environmentally sustainable growth. But behind the headline-making tax cuts, there's not much that's new and much that's been left unsaid.

He added: 'If the government is serious about encouraging householders to do their bit for the environment, then the incentives and grants on offer will need to become far more generous.

'There's good news, however - the increased funding to health and education has to be welcomed. But it cannot be squandered and must be accompanied by a greater commitment to design quality and sustainability.'

Pringle was also keen to highlight the missed opportunity in respect of VAT on refurbishing existing building stock.

He said: 'On VAT, the Chancellor recognises there's a social case for reducing the rate for alterations to homes to support older people. I'd like to see the government recognise a similar social and environmental case for lowering VAT for refurbishment and repairs to existing buildings. We'll be making that point in the consultation on incentives.'

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Budget, the aggregates levy - frozen since its introduction - will rise in April 2008 from £1.60 to £1.95 per tonne until 2011 in a bid to reduce the environmental impact of quarrying.

At the same time the landfill tax will also rise by £8 per tonne for each year to 2011.

Brown also said that to complement the government's new environmental tax credit, worth £40 million a year to business, the advice, support and incentives available to small businesses for environmental improvement, innovation and energy audits will go up from this year's £140 million to £240 million.

In addition, the Chancellor has restricted the relief available for empty industrial properties to six months and for empty offices and retail to three months to encourage better use of commercial space.

by Richard Waite

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