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Cooper set to scrap key green housing policy

Housing minister Yvette Cooper is poised to abandon a central plank of her green-homes policy after concerted lobbying by powerful house-builders.

Fears are growing that Cooper will jettison the Merton Rule, pioneered by the London borough, which forces developers to slash carbon emissions by 10 per cent from current levels, through greater use of renewables like wind farms and solar energy.

Last year Cooper urged all UK local authorities to adopt Merton Rule. But the minister looks set to set to jettison this recommendation following pressure from the influential House Builders Federation (HBF).

HBF told the AJ it was opposed to individual targets for reducing carbon emission in house-building.

Last month Cooper stated that local authorities should not set their own ad hoc zero-carbon timetables through the planning system.

'We do not believe that local authorities should each set separate building standards, with different preferred technologies or environmental measures,' Cooper stated in the government's Building a Greener Future policy (July 23).

This policy appears to contradict the government's strategy for achieving zero-carbon new-build homes by 2016 set out in the Housing Green Paper - also published last month.

A further update on building guidance, known as the PPS on Climate Changes, is expected later this year, which could spell the final death-knell for the Merton Rule.

Fourteen local authorities have introduced the rule and another 76 are poised to adopt it.

An HBF spokesman insisted individual local-authority targets undermined efforts to work towards a national target for reducing carbon emissions in house-building.

'We want greater flexibility to enable developers to adjust to different areas and circumstances. Wind farms, for example, do not work in all areas of the UK. Saving money is not a major factor in this,' he added.

by Clive Walker

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