Merton Rule hailed by the experts

Scientists, environmental experts and council leaders have heaped praise on Merton Council’s Merton Rule at a national conference.

Over 40 delegates from a diverse range of organisations, including English Partnerships, the Renewable Energy Association, and the Combined Heat and Power Association, descended on Morden’s civic centre for the Merton Rule conference, to discuss ways we can all cut CO2 emissions in our homes and businesses.

During one speech Steve Waller, sustainability advisor for the Improvement and Development Agency for Local Government (IDeA) told the conference how 325 of the 390 councils in England had taken up the Merton Rule while all councils in Scotland and Wales followed their own version of it. The Merton Rule stipulates any new development must generate at least 10% of its energy needs from on-site renewable energy equipment.

Mr Waller said: ‘This is a model local authorities can follow, and they have done so. It is about working in partnership with other organisations and using targets. If you can show leadership and others follow, then that is the way to do it.”

Head of European Public Affairs for Solarcentury Dr Seb Berry said: “We would not have the rule at all if it had not been for Merton’s and other organisations’ successful lobbying. We would have lost the right to set the Merton Rule as a planning requirement.

‘At one point the Government wanted to scrap the rule and it was only a great deal of hard work from Merton Council and many others which saved it.”

Simon Anderson of Green Energy Options said: ‘Congratulations Merton for what they are doing. We would not be where we are today if they hadn’t started it.’

Merton Council is continuing the work it started with the Merton Rule, working in partnership with experts and students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) on a new monitoring system to enable all local authorities to measure the amount of renewable energy produced – and this innovative scheme is being pioneered in Merton.

The conference also heard how new technologies could turn rubbish into fuel and ways in which other local councils were cutting CO2 emissions through linking both new and old developments to a combined heat and power grid.
Merton Council acknowledges there are still plenty of challenges facing local authorities across the country if they are to succeed in meeting Government targets for all new houses to be zero carbon by 2016.

Chris Twinn, director of Ove Arup and Partners and co-leader of Arup’s sustainability group in Building Engineering London, told delegates: “Getting Joe public to realise how much energy he is saving is a challenge. If he saves money on his bills through using renewable energy sources in his home he tends to go out and buy more appliances.”

Afterwards Merton Council deputy leader Samantha George said: “We were very proud to be able to host the conference. We had some very eminent speakers who gave valuable insights into ways councils may be able to save energy in the future and set an example for others to follow.

“Conferences like this are vital if we are to all work together to cut our carbon emissions and safeguard our planet for future generations. Climate change is a very real threat to the planet and we need to put the future of our residents and our residents’ children first by striving to do everything we can to cut emissions.”

Notes for editors
1. Delegates also heard from Woking Council Chief Executive, Ray Morgan, who spoke about the iconic Woking energy model where Combined Heating and Power (CHP) units have been installed across the borough and are reducing CO2 emissions by over 70%.

2. Arup Director of Sustainability, Chris Twinn, highlighted the importance of future proofing – ensuring developers who are building now consider future needs for the development. EPI Pyrolysis director, Mark Collins-Thomas, spoke about the potential energy that can be generated from sustainably treated household and commercial waste. Head of public affairs at Solarcentury, Seb Berry, talked about practical case studies which are implementing the Merton Rule and what they will do to build on the rule to adapt it and increase its effectiveness.

3. Principal Environment Officer at Merton Council, Adrian Hewitt, spoke about the idea behind the Merton Rule and its implementation.

4. Author of the Nottingham Climate Change Protocol and sustainability adviser to the Improvement Development Agency for Local Government (IdeA), Steve Waller, delivered the keynote speech about the protocol, its progress and take-up with local authorities around the country.

5. The Merton Rule is the groundbreaking planning policy developed by Merton Council which requires the use of renewable energy onsite to reduce annual CO2 emissions in the built environment. Merton developed the rule and adopted it in 2003. Its impact was so great that the then Mayor of London and many councils implemented the rule. It has also been included in national planning guidance.

6. The Nottingham Climate Change Protocol is also known as the Nottingham Declaration. Nottinghamshire County Council first published the Nottingham Declaration in 2000. It is designed specifically for local authorities to enable them to show their commitment to addressing climate change through actions including: working with Central Government to contribute to the UK Climate Change Programme, the Kyoto protocol and the 2010 Carbon dioxide reduction target; developing plans with partners and local communities to address the causes and impacts of climate change, tailored to local priorities and community benefits; assessing the risks of climate change and the implications for Council services and communities and adapt accordingly and encouraging all sectors in the local community to adapt to the climate change impacts. So far about 100 Local Authorities, including Merton, have signed up to the declaration.