Report: Protected Buildings Cost English Households £500m a Year in Energy Bills

Energy Efficiency | World

Photo-illustration: Pixabay

A new report has revealed the extent to which strict property regulations are pushing up energy bills and stymieing energy efficiency efforts in older homes.

According to new research released today by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), residents of Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas have already missed out on energy savings worth an average of £240 a year due to strict preservation policies.

It finds that energy use in protected homes has fallen by less than the national average between 2006 and 2013, because energy-saving strategies like installing double-glazed UPVC windows and cavity wall insulation are barred or difficult to gain approval for.

In total, £3.8bn worth of energy savings could have accrued to protected homes in England over the period if energy use had dropped in line with the average in other neighbourhoods.

“Preservation policies play an important role in protecting our historic buildings but our research shows that there is a trade-off,” report co-author Dr Charles Palmer explained. “The results highlight that preservation policies have inadvertently hindered some households from cutting down their energy use and their bills.”

As well as consigning millions of people to draughty homes and higher energy bills, Palmer warned the problem could threaten the UK’s ability to meet its climate targets.

“The UK’s residential sector, which makes up 13 per cent of UK emissions, must decarbonise if the UK is to meet ambitious emission reduction targets,” he said. “The government’s Clean Growth Strategy plans a number of measures to improve the energy efficiency of our homes but neglects the role of restrictions that make it difficult to achieve this in homes covered by preservation policies. Reducing emissions from homes could become increasingly unrealistic if preservation policies make it costly or even impossible to improve energy efficiency. Ten per cent of the UK’s housing stock is subject to preservation polices so it is a significant issue.”

One solution could be to place limits on the numbers of properties that can be newly designated as Listed or in a Conservation Area, Palmer suggested, or introduce new powers for local authorities to relax preservation policies to allow more energy efficiency retrofits to go ahead.