Builders to be told all new developments in Cardiff must be carbon neutral
Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
Builders are set to be told all new developments in Cardiff must be zero carbon to reduce the city’s emissions.
New rules will urge developers to use energy-efficient insulation, heat buildings with renewable energy, install solar panels, and include electric vehicle charging points.
Cardiff council is working on plans for ‘city-wide zero carbon development’ as part of its One Planet strategy to get the city carbon neutral by 2030.
Opposition councillors raised concerns that the council struggles to enforce current rules on making developers fund affordable housing, and could struggle with new energy rules too.
About 27 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions in Cardiff come from domestic sources such as people heating their homes. Most homes in the UK are heated with natural gas, a fossil fuel which emits carbon dioxide and contributes to a heating climate.
Zero carbon development would mean new buildings insulated better, to reduce the amount of energy needed to warm homes and offices. Retrofitting is also a key part of the plan, where current buildings will have their insulation greatly improved to reduce energy demand.
Three main options exist for heating homes with renewable energy: district heat networks, heat pumps and hydrogen gas boilers. The council is already planning to build a huge heat network in the south of the city fuelled by incinerated rubbish.
Generating renewable electricity on site would cut demand for energy for each new building; this could be sourced from solar panels on the roofs of buildings. Developers will also be asked to include a certain number of charging points for electric vehicles per household.
By 2025, Cardiff will need 10,000 charging points, according to modelling by the Welsh Government. This is expected to rise to 40,000 by 2030, and assumes that nine out of 10 vehicles will be electric by 2035. The city so far has fewer than 100 charging points.
On Thursday, May 20, the council’s cabinet received major updates on the progress of the One Planet strategy. This revealed new details about the action plan, including new rules developers will have to follow, as well as monitoring air quality and electric vehicles.
During the cabinet meeting, Liberal Democrat Councillor Rhys Taylor raised concerns over how the new rules would be enforced. Developers often use ‘financial viability statements’ to justify building or funding much less affordable housing than the council’s policy dictates.
Affordable housing is a key part of Section 106 money, a rule where developers must fund local public services like schools and surgeries. Often they dodge this rule and claim that if they paid the required amount to affordable housing, then they wouldn’t make enough profit.
Cllr Taylor said: “If they have the same challenges that we have seen with Section 106 in the last number of years, then we really aren’t going to see that step-change from housing stock and private developers.
“Because if a developer is able to say ‘well we can’t afford that as the scheme would be unviable’, then we aren’t going to take those strides forward that we really need to see to meet that climate emergency target.”
Andrew Gregory, the council’s director of planning, transport and environment, said the council has other ‘tools and levers’ to get developers to build more sustainably.
He said: “Although there have been major steps from Welsh Government and building regulations on energy standards for new housing, we’re aiming to step beyond those with a more ambitious programme of zero carbon development across the city as quickly as possible.
“That is extremely ambitious, but we’re scoping it out at the moment. Clearly one of the pinch points is going to be about financing that. The typical conversation about Section 106 may play into that.
“But the council is in a long term partnership with many major housebuilders, and we have other tools and leverage with the development community. They also have aspirations to move as quickly as possible to a publicly compliant position in terms of energy.”
A huge public consultation on the One Planet strategy was held last winter, finishing recently. Now the council is drawing up its final action plan over the summer, with a much more detailed strategy due to be revealed later this year, on how Cardiff can get to carbon neutral.