19 Mar 2015, 8:43 AM
Chancellor George Osborne's last Budget before the 2015 election did nothing to enhance the government's one time promotion of itself as the greenest ever. In fact, almost all the responses from green organisations have been critical, although the housebuilding industry has extended a cautious welcome.
Moves to increase the number of new homes built and sold by offering a top up for first time buyer's savings, plus the announcement of 20 'housing zones' where brownfield development of new homes, will be a priority, were welcomed by the British Property Federation
Chief Executive Melanie Leech said: “The Federation was an early proponent of housing zones and we are pleased to see their rollout and the Government’s increased ambition to introduce them on brownfield sites.
“Spending cuts have meant that support for brownfield development all but disappeared during the recession. Housing Zones are welcome recognition that we can deliver significant amounts of desperately-needed housing on brownfield land, but that this will often need both central Government support and clarity of purpose at local level.”
The BPF also welcomed a new housing support package for London that could unlock over 4,000 homes on brownfield and public sector land.
Support for new towns at Northstowe, Bicester and Ebbsfleet, all projected to be 'eco-towns', and in Ebbsfleet's case, a garden city, to be built largely by the public sector, may be a step in the direction of greener homes which ordinary people can afford to live in.
When it came to energy policy though, plans to forge ahead with the Swansea Tidal Lagoon and cuts to fuel duty, plus promotion of oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, attracted mostly criticism.
Ben Warren, Environmental Finance Partner at Ernest and Young , said, “At a time when other forms of renewable energy, such as solar, have become affordable and quick to deploy, it is interesting to see the Chancellor focusing on an ambitious, but costly new project. What we have seen in the market is that the very slow passage of market reform and the late introduction of the CfD (Contract for Difference) regime has made it very difficult for developers to sanction investment in new projects. It would be hugely beneficial for the UK renewables sector to see the same level of support for already proven and cost effective renewables."
WWF-UK were similarly critical, David Nussbaum said: “Opportunity knocked but the Chancellor only partially opened the door to greener, smarter growth.
“Backing for Swansea’s new tidal lagoon recognises that clean energy is an essential part of our future. But a greener budget would have sent a much clearer message that dirty fuels need to be phased out, rather than offering them tax breaks.
“The Chancellor could have created jobs and boosted growth through long-term incentives for clean technologies. Giving the Green Investment Bank access to private capital would help more enterprises prosper. And reasserting the role of the Natural Capital Committee would ensure more prudent management of the natural resources on which our economy depends.
“With the threat posed by climate change and environmental degradation, we face a global challenge that our political leaders must address head on. As we approach the general election all parties should put green economics front and centre of their manifestos.”
Friends of the Earth commented "Massive new tax breaks for dirty gas and oil highlights how out of touch the Government is on climate change. George Osborne announced a package of support, including tax breaks, worth £1.3 billion to boost North Sea gas and oil. Friends of the Earth has calculated that previous tax breaks in this Parliament have already been worth over £3 billion to the industry."
“The Chancellor should heed the Bank of England’s warning about the threat climate change poses to our financial well-being by ditching support for gas and oil extraction - instead of propping it up. Clean power and ending our fossil fuel addiction must be at the heart of energy and economic policy, not just a half-hearted sideshow.”
But perhaps Marnix Elsenaar, head of planning at Addleshaw Goddard, summed the problem up when he said: “One of the crucial problems in Government policy is it remains wholly disjointed. There is no single economic plan uniting housing, health, infrastructure and education, despite the obvious need to understand where housing will go and what health and education resources will be spent near it. Transport has the potential to unlock great areas of regeneration – as we’ve seen across London, but we need a cohesive plan that creates jobs and drives up productivity. "
And seriously considers the green agenda in a joined up manner !