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Unlock business to ensure ‘Mission Zero’ isn’t zero sum

The Rt Hon Chris Skidmore MP has released ‘Mission Zero,’ an independent review of Net Zero and we are pleased to see many of the NFB’s recommendations made it into the document. The challenge now is for the Government to implement changes which deliver on, rather than placate, campaigner calls.

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the National Federation of Builders (NFB), said: “If the Government decides to read the Skidmore review as a call for more forced net zero policy, their ambition will fail, and we’ll be repeating the mistakes of the last three decades. However, if they read it as a review highlighting regulatory challenges to sustained innovation, investment, and business growth, then Britain can go a long way to not only meeting its climate goals but delivering a much-needed productivity increase.”

Construction and constructors underpin most net zero ambitions because transport, infrastructure, ‘20-minute neighbourhoods’, housing, renewables, and energy are all delivered and maintained by those 2.7 million people working in the sector.

It was therefore fantastic to see the review home in on the importance of spatial strategies through Local Area Energy Planning (LAEP) and streamlined planning processes because too often, uncertainty and bureaucracy mean projects spend more time and money jumping through hoops – and consequently making some works unviable – than on the project itself. This also impacts the ability to train and retain staff.

However, the planning recommendations only covered energy, and not the 99% of works holding the construction sector back.

Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing and planning for the House Builders Association (HBA) and NFB, said: “Rather than understanding that the planning process makes greater net zero investment unviable for new development, the review suggests planning should ignore viability to enforce net zero. This is very disappointing, as when it comes to energy infrastructure and LAEP, the review took a more commercially astute view.”

The same can be said for a call for local authorities to set their own energy efficiency standards, as this contradicts the Governments ‘Future Homes Standard’ before it is even introduced and fragments industry from moving as one to upskill and invest in net zero.

It was good to see the review do what the Climate Change Committee (CCC) have been struggling to do in their annual reports and recommend planning reform in Conservation Areas. This is vital as there are around 10,000 conservation zones and 12.5m homes built with traditional construction methods. This means the UK will require considerable workforce investment to ensure our least energy efficiency homes can be made warmer and healthier, but this capacity growth can only come if the planning process permits works to be completed.”

In the coming months, the NFB will be analysing the review and giving greater insight into how its ambitions can be delivered in practice.

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