Council says buildings must generate their own power

Merton Council pioneers a radical new renewable energy policy

Merton Council is leading the way with a groundbreaking new planning policy that requires developers to build renewable power generating equipment into the fabric of new factories, warehouses and offices.

The London Borough is the first in the country to introduce such a policy. It aims to make it possible for businesses occupying new buildings in Merton to use solar energy to cut their energy bills and help stop global warming. Under the new policy Council planners will expect photo-voltaic panels, solar water heaters or other energy producing equipment to be installed in all new business premises over 1000 square metres, unless located in a conservation area.

The new policy is an initiative that emerged from the Council’s review of its Unitary Development Plan (UDP). In the past there was no obligation for developers in Merton to incorporate renewable energy systems in their buildings and consequently few did. Under the new policy the Council will expect the equipment to deliver 10 per cent of the occupant’s energy needs. This is likely to save businesses money in the long term as it will help reduce the cost of the Government’s new ‘climate change levy’, which will charge businesses for the amount of non-renewable electricity and gas used.

In spite of challenges from objectors, who claimed the policy would make it too costly for developers to develop commercial buildings in the Borough, it was strongly supported by the Inspector who presided over last year’s public inquiry. Furthermore, the idea is beginning to spread. The Mayor of London has now included a similar policy in his Draft Plan for London and several other London Boroughs are now redrafting their UDP’s to follow Merton’s lead.

Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport and Planning, Councillor Russell Makin, said: “While the world’s leaders are talking about global warming and the conservation of energy resources at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, we at Merton are proud to be taking practical action on the ground and to be setting an example for local planning authorities all over the country”.

The first building in Merton to be designed and built to comply with the policy is a 3000 square metre light industrial and storage unit in Durnsford Road that is now occupied by a firm called Yewcoat Ltd (see photo). But its most important showcase will be the new office building planned for the site of the Odeon Cinema