Councils should have the power to call for net-zero emissions as an unconditional requirement for all new developments, MPs have argued.

The cross-party housing, communities and local government select committee’s report calls for net-zero to be given a central role in the national planning policy framework.

Select committee chair Clive Betts said: “Local councils will have a critical role to play in efforts to achieve the 2050 ‘net-zero’ target, building public confidence in climate action, and ensuring a just transition.

“From low carbon housing standards, energy efficiency and retrofitting existing housing stock to planning, transport and active travel, local councils have influence over a wide range of areas for potential emissions reductions.”

The committee said the government’s recent net-zero and heat and building strategies should have said more about how councils can use planning to shape communities to reduce carbon emissions. It recommends £500m to be invested in the planning system over the next four years.

MPs are calling for the technical consultation on the future homes standard to be brought forward a year to 2022 to ensure the 2025 target is met. They also want the government to consider setting a further target of moving to zero carbon homes by 2030.

Brokers Hank Zarihs Associates said advance notice would help SME builders prepare for the changes and that development finance lenders would be able to offer loans to help them.

Electric boilers could be an alternative to heat pumps

The report calls for an explanation of where other low carbon alternatives to heat pumps will be sourced. It said the government’s forecast that 200,000 heat pumps a year are installed in new homes from 2028 falls short of the 300,000 new homes a year target.

The National Federation of Builders said there were low-cost alternatives to heat pumps such as using solar panels in the summer and an electric boiler in the winter for hot water and heating.

Mr Betts said: “Moving to lower or zero emissions from new homes is important. But to reach net-zero, it’s crucial that insulation is improved in existing homes and that householders are offered viable choices and incentives to replace their gas boilers and decarbonise their heating.”

The report urges the government to consider tax incentives, such as lower VAT, stamp duty and council tax, for energy-efficient measures and homes.

“The government’s current approach, and lack of incentives to do otherwise, risks a large number of existing gas boilers simply being replaced with new gas boilers,” said Mr Betts.

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