Early March saw formal confirmation that the Association for the Conservation of Energy (ACE) will be following through on its threat of judicial review against Mr Pickles. They have declared themselves strongly against his decision to scrap the ‘Consequential Improvement’ rules that were once a key part of the Green Deal and are keen to give them new life.
Consequential Improvements was a policy that, in conjunction with finance provided by the Green Deal (read more on the link), was aimed at obligating those who wished to extend their homes with the cost of upgrading the energy efficiency of the rest of the home, up to 10% of the value of the extension.
This is a policy that has been raised and scrapped by Labour Governments twice before, and it was raised and scrapped again by the Coalition in December of last year on the grounds that, far from encouraging improvements, it would actually discourage homeowners from extending their houses at all.
At that time, Pickles quoted figures from an Energy Savings Trust survey that revealed that 38% of homeowners would be put off undertaking home improvements by the requirements.
In reply to this decision, ACE Director Andrew Warren has said in a formal statement:
“We want to see a speedy resolution of this matter, so that we can begin to see some of the benefits which Mr Pickles identified last year would accrue from implementing his original “consequential improvements” strategy, of £11bn savings to the economy, 130 million lifetime tonnes of carbon dioxide, and 2.2 million more households benefitting from the Green Deal,”
ACE and other groups subsequently accused Mr Pickles of both “distorting” the EST report, which actually reportedly revealed broad support for the proposals, and ignoring the 82% of consultation responses that were in favour of the regulations.
Bearing in mind the communications campaign has only just got underway for the rest of the Green Deal, we would add that the 38% will have also been artificially high at the time the survey was conducted, fuelled by people who knew nothing of the finance available from the Government for the obligatory improvements and expected to burden the cost alone [that is notwithstanding the detail of this finance which is actually putting many prospective users off].
Claiming that Pickles has failed to accurately consider responses to the consultation, ACE has now served formal documents to the High Court with a view to overturning the Secretary of State’s decision and ultimately securing the reinstatement of Consequential Improvements.
Pickles and the Department for Communities and Local Government reputedly stand by their decision and Pickles actually wrote to the ACE to shed some more light on the reasons behind it. Nonetheless, the ACE remains unmoved and the near future will undoubtedly see a real clash over Consequential Improvements.
For Pickles, the outcome could potentially be having to reinstate a media berated ‘conservatory tax’ policy that he no longer believes in – an embarrassment that the Coalition Government could no doubt do without.