Sustainable Energy in Development

Energy efficiency and renewable energy in development

Tackling climate change remains a key government priority for the planning system. Woking Borough Council has taken a strong lead on tackling the causes of climate change, and has led the way in developing sustainable energy. Our Climate Change Strategy commits the Council to setting the highest standards for new development.

The Core Strategy, adopted by the Council at its meeting on 25 October 2012, is the main document within the Council's Local Development Framework (LDF) and conforms to national planning policy. The Core Strategy sets out a 'spatial vision' of how the Borough will develop to 2027, alongside 13 strategic objectives for the Borough. Of particular relevance here is the objective to lead the way in high quality sustainable development that minimises the impacts of climate change. This will be achieved through maximising opportunities for implementing renewable energy technologies, maximising the efficient use of energy and water in buildings and managing waste effectively. The Core Strategy includes a number of policies to deliver this objective.

Policy CS22: Sustainable construction sets out the requirements for new development.

Important update

Following a Ministerial Written Statement to Parliament on 25 March, Woking Borough Council is amending the approach it takes to the implementation of Policy CS22 (Sustainable Construction) of the Woking Core Strategy 2012 in determining Planning Applications.

The statement says that, from the date the Deregulation Bill 2015 is given Royal Assent, Local Planning Authorities should not set in their emerging Local Plans, neighbourhood plans, or supplementary planning documents, any additional local technical standards or requirements relating to the construction, internal layout or performance of new dwellings. This includes any policy requiring any level of the Code for Sustainable Homes to be achieved by new development; the government has now withdrawn the Code (aside from the management of legacy cases).

For the specific issue of energy performance, Local Planning Authorities will continue to be able to set and apply policies in their Local Plans which require compliance with energy performance standards that exceed the energy requirements of Building Regulations until commencement of amendments to the Planning and Energy Act 2008 in the Deregulation Bill 2015. This is expected to happen alongside the introduction of Zero Carbon Homes policy in late 2016. The government has stated that the energy performance requirements in Building Regulations will be set at a level equivalent to the outgoing Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4.

Until the amendment is commenced, Local Planning Authorities are expected to take this statement of the Government's intention into account in applying existing policies and not set conditions with requirements above a Code Level 4 equivalent. On this basis, Council will not attach conditions requiring Code Level 5 or its equivalent on greenfield sites. It will however, attach the following condition, which seeks the equivalent water and energy improvements of the former Code Level 4, on all new residential permissions;

++The development hereby approved shall not commence until details have been submitted for the written approval of the Local Planning Authority demonstrating that the development will be constructed to achieve a water consumption standard of using not more than 105 litres per person per day maximum indoor water consumption and not less than a 19% CO2 improvement over the 2013 Building Regulations TER Baseline (Domestic). Such details as may be approved shall be installed prior to the first occupation of the development and maintained and operated in perpetuity, unless otherwise agreed in writing by the Local Planning Authority.

Reason: To ensure that the development achieves a high standard of sustainability and makes efficient use of resources and to comply with Policies CS21 and CS22 of the Woking Core Strategy 2012.

This interim arrangement will be reviewed on the enactment of the Deregulation Bill which is expected in late 2016.

Residential extensions

The Council will encourage proposals for residential extensions to incorporate energy and water efficiency measures.

Non-residential development

New non-residential development of 1,000sq.m. or more (gross) floorspace is required to comply with BREEAM very good standards. It is expected that all relevant applications will have to provide the necessary information to demonstrate that this requirement can be met, by way of a 'pre-assessment report'.

The Council will encourage proposals for non-residential developments of 1,000sq.m. or less (gross) floorspace to incorporate energy and water efficiency measures.

On developments where compliance with BREEAM very good standards is required, the Council will require applicants to produce a Pre-Assessment report in order to validate applications. If permission is granted conditions will be applied which require a Design Stage certificate to be submitted prior to commencement of the development and a Post-Construction Stage certificate to be submitted prior to occupation of the development. If any applications have been validated without this information, the Council will not be able to determine them until this information is provided.

Developments with exceptionally high total energy consumption

Applications for developments with exceptionally high total energy consumption, such as large leisure facilities with a high heat demand or buildings with exceptionally high power/cooling loads (such as data centres), will be required to reduce the total carbon emissions from the development by 10% through the use of renewable energy measures on site.

It is anticipated that BREEAM 2011 for New Construction standards will be used to assess the types of buildings to which this policy applies (including those of less than 1,000sq.m gross floorspace if energy consumption is exceptionally high). Within the scheme, Ene04 'Low and zero carbon technologies' aims to reduce carbon emissions. As a means to, or in addition to, achieving a 'Very Good' rating, the proposed development should achieve at least 3 credits available in Ene04.

As part of BREEAM New Construction 2011, BREEAM Data Centres has been developed. Relevant developments will be required to achieve at least 2 credits in the Ene05 'Low or zero carbon technologies' category, as well as the minimum standards for a 'Very Good' rating.

Further guidance on these requirements is provided in the Climate Change SPD, available to download here.

Where it can be demonstrated that the standards set out in this policy cannot be met on site, permission will only be granted if the applicant makes provision for compensatory energy and COČ and water savings elsewhere in the Borough equivalent to the carbon savings which would have been made by applying this policy.

Additional requirements for all development

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) or other forms of low carbon district heating

All new development should consider the integration of Combined Heat and Power (CHP) or other forms of low carbon district heating in the development.

All new development in proximity of an existing or proposed CHP station or district heating network will be required to be connected to it unless it can be demonstrated that a better alternative for reducing carbon emissions from the development can be achieved. Details of the zones where connection will be required are set out in the Climate Change SPD, available to download here, and will be determined by factors such as the capacity of the existing CHP network, distance from it and physical constraints.

The evidence base which supports policy CS22 sets out the locations in the Borough which have significant potential for CHP or other forms of low carbon district heating networks. Subject to technical feasibility and financial viability, all development within these zones will be required to be designed and constructed to enable connection to the future network.

Electric vehicles

The Council is actively promoting electric vehicle charging points and has already provided a number of these in the Borough. These are of particular value when the electricity source is low carbon. Details of when new development will be expected to provide electric vehicle charging points or when a contribution towards public charging points will be require, are set out in the Climate Change SPD, available to download here.

Design and construction

The design of all new developments will be required to take account of layout, landform, orientation and landscaping to maximise efficient use of energy and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The design of all new developments should facilitate the reduction of waste and the recycling and composting of the waste produced.

All developments should consider the use of sustainable construction techniques that promote the reuse and recycling of building materials. All development is encouraged to use responsible resourcing of materials and is encouraged to source materials locally. All new residential development is encouraged to meet the `materials' elements of the Code.


All applications for new development should include a completed copy of the Council's 'climate neutral development checklist' (with the exception of very minor development such as minor exterior alterations). The checklist is available to download from C-Plan.

Ecology and biodiversity

All development is encouraged to make biodiversity enhancements such as green roofs and bird and bat boxes. All new residential development is encouraged to meet the `ecology' elements of the Code.

Woking Borough Council expects proposals for all new development to comply with the policy requirements set out.

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The Climate Change Act

Development of renewable and low carbon energy provides one of the mainstays of the provisions set out in the Climate Change Act. The Act puts into statute the UK's targets to reduce CO2 emissions through domestic and international action by at least 80% by 2050 and at least 26% by 2020, against a 1990 baseline. The Act is supported by the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan which sets out the UK Government's strategy for climate and energy and proposes measures to reduce carbon emissions across all sectors.

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Submitting Energy Statements, CSH/BREEAM Requirements, and Checklists

Planning applicants will need to show how the proposed development will meet the low carbon energy requirements set out in Policies CS22 and CS23 of the Core Strategy. In order to help applicants gather all the necessary information for a planning application, the Council has developed 'C-Plan', a web-based service which allows developers to demonstrat and verify compliance with climate change policies.

C-Plan can help by:

  • providing simple templates helping applicants submit clear, concise information regarding the energy and carbon impact of a proposal, consistent with the Code for Sustainable Homes/BREEAM formats;
  • enabling applicants to input information to generate an energy statement, containing all the information needed for the Council to assess whether your proposal meets the requirements;
  • keeping track of the status of the approval process of a planning application, keeping the applicant informed of the decisions that have been reached and whether further information is required.

The information submitted is automatically assigned to a Planning Officer, who will review the information. There is no charge for developers to use C-Plan, which is available here.

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The Golden Rules for energy efficiency and renewable energy

Follow the seven golden rules to successfully integrate sustainable energy in new development:

  • Start to plan at the outset how you will address these requirements. Factors such as site layout, building design and orientation all impact on energy efficiency and generating renewable energy. If these are addressed early on, there will be a wider range of options that are viable and the solution is likely to be more cost effective.
  • Aim to achieve the highest possible standards of energy efficiency. The greater the energy efficiency, the lower the energy consumption. This will reduce the target level of renewable energy that will need to be generated within the development.
  • Think carefully about how energy will be consumed. For example, a development of one and two-bed apartments will have a very different pattern of hot water consumption than a sheltered housing development, and solar hot water heating may not be the most effective means of generating renewable energy in both cases. This is because the quantity of energy generated by a solar hot water panel may fall short of the amount claimed by its suppliers if the occupiers of a development do not consume hot water at a rate equivalent to its production.
  • One size does not fit all. Just as with many other aspects of Planning, every development will bring its own circumstances. For example, the solar resource (amount of sunlight available to generate renewable energy) will differ from site to site depending on overshadowing by other buildings and trees.
  • Seek advice from energy experts. Modelling the energy consumption of a development and designing to achieve high energy efficiency and integrated renewable energy generation requires particular skills. Early involvement of the right expertise can help to achieve a successful solution and avoid delays during Planning. Advice for house builders is provided by the Energy Saving Trust and for commercial development by the Carbon Trust.
  • An energy efficient development is not a 'niche' development. Whilst some examples of energy efficient development are conspicuous by their leading edge design, very high standards can be achieved in more 'conventional-looking' developments. Energy efficiency and renewable energy generation does not need to be at the expense of quality architecture. Many measures (such as wide cavities, insulation, ground source heat pumps) have no visual impact. New products such as solar tiles are also becoming available that have very low visual impact.
  • Do not always assume energy efficiency and renewable energy are very costly. Not all energy efficiency measures carry a net cost. For example, designing to capture passive solar energy. The growth in the market for high specification materials and micro renewable energy and higher volumes of production means increasingly competetive prices. In addition, as energy prices rise and environmental awareness increases, consumer demand for energy efficient homes can be reflected in the marketing of new development. Finacial incentives such as the Feed-in-Tariff and enhanced capital allowances can also reduce the net cost.

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Further information

The Climate Change SPD provides in-depth guidance on meeting the requirements of policies CS22 and CS23 of the Core Strategy. It is available to download here.

The Energy Saving Trust (EST) website contains a lot of information on sustainable building. Housing professionals can access a range of technical services, publications and web tools to help them reach the maximum energy efficiency potential of their new build or refurbishment projects. The website has technical services guidance, web tools and project information for advice on improving the energy performance of new build developments. EST have produced a Fabric First guide, available to download. The guide looks at the degree to which improving fabric and services can achieve higher energy standards, as well as considering the cost effectiveness of incorporating these design improvements.

C-Plan is an online tool that has been developed to enable local planning authorities and developers to achieve fast and effective compliance with sustainable energy planning policies. Configured to meet specific local planning policies, C-Plan uses simple, easy to follow steps to quantify the energy and carbon emissions impact of your development and evaluate renewable/low carbon energy proposals.