The Planning System and Sustainability

Sustainability should mean leaving the planet in a more attractive state than you found it. And this is where many ‘sustainable’; developments fail. The Planning system we currently have for regulating sustainability consists of rules that tend to encourage ugly architecture and involve a serious waste of resources. Energy-saving issues are dealt with by the Building Regulations, and this is clearly the best place to deal with such issues. It is then dealt with by experts in accord with established national standards. Yet now following central government advice, every local authority started to double-up on the Building Regulations ‘Part L’ energy-saving requirements, with proposals of their own.

It seems odd to me that at a time when local government is suffering from underfunding as never before experienced, Planning departments are being saddled (or saddling themselves) with ever greater responsibilities.

It can cost over £30,000 in fees to submit for a block of flats, and there’s no guarantee it will be approved.

If ‘sustainability’ were no longer a regular part of almost all planning applications it would cut down enormously on waste within local government, and waste for house owners, whilst effectively introducing a more rational national system.

Photovoltaic cells

Lack of investment in power generation in Britain may soon cause a crisis in our power supply. The politicians’ answer is pure genius: invent a system whereby we pay three or four times more for our energy than we currently do, and persuade us we are getting free energy!

There are two main facts the consumer needs to know: (i) the costs and (ii) the savings. The figures are simple to work out. Outputs of photovoltaic cells are usually quoted to kWp. This is the peak output under ideal conditions. But the relevant figure is the energy generated by the system in an average year. In southern England, for a south facing roof, in an unshaded position, you multiply the kWp figure by 800 to estimate the energy generated annually.

‘Sustainability’ is about leaving the planet in a more attractive state than you found it. Photovoltaic systems do the exact opposite, they are extremely ugly, and ruin the appearance of almost any house and the surrounding area. (There is the option of photovoltaic ‘slates’ and tiles, whose appearance is less offensive, but they cost even more than panels.)

In summary: encouraging the use of ugly technology to produce energy that costs three times the current cost, with very confused legislation, is not the answer to our current problems.