Highlands and Islands Greens have called upon Councillor Michael Foxley, Leader of The Highland Council, to dismiss the entire membership of the Council’s Planning, Environment and Development Committee following its consistent failure to implement its own planning guidance encouraging the provision of low energy measures in new homes throughout the Highlands. Greens point out that these measures could have significantly reduced households’ energy costs, boosted local businesses, and helped to tackle climate change. All this is set out in Highland Council’s own “Designing for Sustainability” guidance, published in 2006, which the Council has failed to enact. (1)
The Council’s own figures illustrate the enormous scale of the missed opportunity. On average, since 2003, 1,200 new private houses have been built each year in the Highlands. In 2007 alone some 1,800 houses were completed. Furthermore, the Council’s Highland Housing Assessment states that the Council expects some 1,100 new households to be built each year up to 2021. Thousands of Highlands residents have therefore missed out on the kind of low-cost, low-carbon housing Greens wish to see.
For example, encouraging developers to include the provision for water-heating solar panels on new residential properties in their planning applications could have resulted in:
- An estimated 50% saving on household annual water heating bills;
- A huge stimulus for domestic renewable energy businesses across the Highlands, and significant local employment opportunities; and
- Significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions from new properties.
Donnie Macleod, the Greens’ prospective Parliamentary candidate for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, said: “We need to see proper commitment from our local Councillors to sustainable housing, and we need to see them honouring their own policies. We do not believe the current Planning Committee have the will or the intention to do the right thing, and it’s time now for the entire Planning Committee to resign or to be sacked.
“The Council has demonstrated a total lack of political will on greening new homes built in the Highlands through the Planning Committee’s failure to implement their own sustainable design guidance. Thousands of homeowners are paying the price for the corners they have cut, and we have lost patience with them. We cannot afford yet another year of failure, yet another year of substandard homes being nodded through, and yet another year where local businesses miss out on substantial economic opportunities.”
(1) Highland Council’s “Designing for Sustainability” Guidance is available here.