The Environmental Audit Committee has accused ministers of "dragging their feet" in efforts to protect people from heatwaves. The EAC was made acutely aware of this after it was told the government has known all new builds are prone to overheating since 2015, yet done nothing to mitigate it.
The comments follow the government’s official response to the committee’s July report into the impact of heatwaves which warned there may be 7,000 heat-related deaths every year in the UK by 2050 without action (D&I 27-Jul-18).
The government’s acknowledgement that all new build homes are prone to overheating is significant. An investigation by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) carried out in 2015 found that "all new homes exceed the overheating threshold to some extent". While this can be mitigated using shading and ventilation, the government will be looking into this in its upcoming review of energy efficiency standards in building regulations, as committed to in the Clean Growth Strategy.
Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee Mary Creagh said: "The government has committed to create sustainable cities and healthy communities as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Ministers must act to protect people from the risks of heatwaves - especially with the UK’s ageing population.
"There is a worrying lack of coordination across government, and the government’s admission that all new properties are prone to overheating is astonishing."
One of the more disappointing areas for environment and town planning is the government’s refusal of suggestions that urban green space should be increased back to 2001 levels or higher. The response stated: "With regard to the recommendation to increase urban green space to 2001 levels, we do not currently have sufficient evidence to suggest that this would be the right focus."
Instead the government reiterated some of the 25 YEP’s plans to increase tree planting in urban areas and clarifying planning policy in relation to biodiversity net gain. It has also promised to clarify what "good" green infrastructure is focus investment, while Natural England will be publishing proposals for a national framework of green infrastructure standards in 2019.