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CLA accuses government of an “abdication of responsibility”

The CLA has condemned the government for an ‘abdication of responsibility’ over new energy efficiency rules for listed buildings.

In a damning critique, the CLA – a membership organisation for owners of land, property and businesses in rural England and Wales – has criticised ministers for their failure to ‘confront the fundamentally flawed rules that make understanding compliance with energy efficiency regulations all but impossible’.

The new energy efficiency standards, which will come into play in less than six months, will affect thousands of listed and heritage buildings throughout the UK countryside. From 2018 it will be illegal to rent out a property with an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of lower than E to a new tenant. From April 2020, the same will apply to existing tenants. The regulations apply to all buildings which are legally required to have an EPC.

The CLA, over the last three years, has repeatedly called on ministers to deal with the fundamental flaws in the new regulation. They say listed buildings are ambiguously exempt from needing an EPC while at the same time being required to have one, to prove that the installation of the new energy efficiency measures would drastically change the character or appearance of a heritage building.

EPCs, which were introduced by EU Directive in 2003, have been criticised for not accurately assessing the true energy performance of a heritage or listed building. Consequently, the CLA believes all listed buildings should be exempt from EPC requirements, with property owners instead being encouraged to attain energy efficiency ‘through means that are more appropriate to the building type and construction’.

Following more than two years of delay, new guidance was recently published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. It advises owners of heritage or listed property to make their own minds up about whether they need an EPC or not. If they are unsure, they should seek advice from Trading Standards.

“There are hundreds of thousands of concerned owners of listed buildings who face continuing ambiguity,” Ross Murray, CLA president, said. “Having promised guidance for more than a year, it has finally arrived and fails to give a clear message.”

He added: “The policy is fundamentally flawed due to an error made when the Government transposed the Energy Performance of Building Directive into UK law. Rather than admitting this and committing to doing something about it, the Government is essentially just passing the problem on to thousands of property owners. “

Murray said the result of this has been endless confusion and potentially costly and unnecessary bills, as well as potential damage to good heritage buildings across the countryside and in towns and cities.

“We have sought clarity on this issue week in week out for over a year,” he concluded. “The failure of officials and ministers to confront the original transposition error is an abdication of responsibility.”

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