Pickles U-turns on ‘conservatory tax’

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has announced that “potentially dangerous” proposals which would have forced homeowners to introduce ‘consequential improvements’ throughout their home to increase energy efficiency, have been cancelled. The proposals, which would have meant homeowners already undertaking home improvements being forced to make extra investment, have been thrown out as the Government seeks to remove obstacles to economic growth.

As a result of the Department of Communities and Local Government’s removing the plans, anyone looking to improve their home through measures such as building a conservatory “will not be subject to any rules requiring them to carry out additional building works on other parts of the home.”

Ministers believed that if carried through, the proposals “would have deterred many people from having any work done in the first place.” Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: “Having consulted carefully, the Government has noted the potential danger that introducing consequential improvements would, in fact, discourage people from undertaking home improvements.

“This measure ensures that it will remain straightforward for hard-working homeowners to undertake small-scale home improvements and conservatories.”

In January this year the DCLG published a consultation on reforms to Building Regulations in England, aimed at providing “significant savings to business,” which included asking for views on whether to require ‘consequential improvements’ to the energy efficiency of a home when other building work was undertaken, boilers replaced, or windows replaced.

The DCLG said: “Although most conservatories would not have been affected by such proposals, Ministers have carefully considered responses to the consultation, as well as research of the effects on homeowners and building professionals by the Energy Saving Trust and AECOM respectively. The Energy Saving Trust research indicated that over a third of households would be put off from doing home improvements if they had to undertake consequential improvements as well. The research also revealed concerns that there was greater potential for cowboy builders to mislead customers over what consequential improvements would be required.”

It continued: “Given the government’s growth agenda and the proposed lifting of planning rules to make it easier for people to carry out sensible extensions and improvements to their home Ministers have decided it would be inappropriate to place an additional cost on building owners. The Green Deal will continue to provide financial incentives to homeowners looking to improve their home’s energy efficiency, cut carbon emissions and reduce their long term energy bills.”

The Construction Product Association reacted to the news, saying it “had not supported consequential improvements in its response to Part L proposals early this year for work such as boiler or window replacements which reduced the carbon footprint of a home, but had on balance supported low cost and simple work to homes where extensions or other work was increasing the carbon footprint.” It added that it was difficult to gauge whether or not the move was supported by those consulted on Part L changes: “Given that the responses from consultees to the Part L consultation have still not been published by DCLG, it is not possible to judge whether the Secretary of State’s decision is supported by consultees.”

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