Thursday, October 29, 2009

Council Committee recommends free insulation across Lewisham

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed a slight preoccupation with insulation over the past year or so. On a personal level, I've been getting my draughty ground floor Victorian flat insulated, while on a political level, the Green Group on the Council has been pushing for a borough-wide free insulation scheme to be introduced.

Back in April, I mentioned that the Sustainable Development Committee, which I chair, was carrying out a review into home insulation in the borough. Over the last few months we've gathered evidence and heard from a number of witnesses, including housing associations, energy companies, other local authorities and the Energy Saving Trust. I spent many hours in September, together with officers, working on the final report, which is now available on the Council's website.

The key recommendations of the committee's report include:
A free insulation scheme for homes across Lewisham. The Committee's report describes a possible three-year programme that would insulate around 25,000 homes and calls on the Mayor to set a target date by which every eligible householder has been offered free cavity wall insulation. The scheme would run in partnership with an energy supplier, who would meet half of the costs, as part of their obligations under the national Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT). The remainder would potentially come from prudential borrowing.

A pilot scheme to start insulating 'hard to treat' properties: The Committee wants to see harder-to-insulate solid-wall homes tackled too, as these older houses make up around 40 per cent of Lewisham's stock. The Committee suggested that building up expertise by insulating the 200 Council-owned solid-wall homes that become vacant each year could make Lewisham a national leader in solid-wall insulation work.

Creating new jobs locally: The Committee wants local people to benefit from the jobs and training that could result from the home insulation programme, and has recommended that the Mayor asks Council officers to look at potential training schemes.

Homes have the biggest potential source of energy savings in the borough
An unusually high percentage of Lewisham's CO2 emissions come from its homes - 44 per cent compared to 27 per cent nationally. This isn't because Lewisham's housing stock is less efficient than elsewhere, but more due to the lack of employment and industry in the borough, which means that housing makes up a much greater proportion of total emissions.

The Committee found that while a range of useful initiatives have been introduced to increase energy efficiency, a more systematic, street-by-street approach to insulation is now required in order to save residents money on their fuel bills and to meet the carbon reduction targets in the borough's Carbon Reduction and Climate Change Strategy.

Other recommendations in the report include:
  • Creating a register of insulation installers to make it easier for householders to get work done
  • The Mayor to consider a demonstration eco-home in the borough for local people to visit
  • A new planning rule which says home extensions can be built only if the whole property's energy efficiency is improved
  • Investigating how to incentivise private landlords to insulate their homes and help vulnerable tenants
I'll be presenting the Committee's recommendations to the Mayor and Cabinet next week. Since the report was finalised, there have been several more national reports published calling for free home insulation schemes ('Lofty Ambitions' from the Audit Commission and this from the independent Committee on Climate Change) and it seems that barely a week goes by without another body echoing their calls.

I no longer think it's a question of if we get a free home insulation scheme, but more when, and who leads on it. I'd very much like to see Lewisham in the vanguard on this, rather than 'lagging behind' (excuse the pun from yet another report calling for free home insulation, this time from the London Assembly).

A copy of the full report 'Local Warming: Increasing Home Insulation in Lewisham: a scrutiny review' can be viewed here.

NB: Really observant regular readers of this blog may notice some similarity between the key recommendations of this review and the Green Group budget amendment from earlier this year. Personally, I think it's great that our proposals now have cross-party support.


Matt Sellwood said...

Good stuff! Very useful for similar things we are looking into in Hackney.


Charlotte Dingle said...

Really good news, this... I have to say, though, that I'd substitute the words "slight preoccupation" with "monomania"... ;)