Merton Rule to be retained after renewables industry petition

The government is to preserve a key planning rule that enables local authorities to secure on-site renewable energy generation in new buildings.

Last year's Housing Standards Review consultation by the government suggested the possibility of amending or removing the so-called Merton Rule, a provision in planning law that allows councils require new buildings to incorporate on-site renewables.

In response, more than 50 companies, including Solar Power Portal signed an open letter to communities and local government secretary, Eric Pickles, not to lose the Merton Rule.

An amendment tabled yesterday to the Dergulation Bill, which is currently passing through parliament, removed the ability for local authotities to set energy efficiency standards in new buildings, but has left in place powers for councils to demand on-site renewable energy generation such as solar.

“We very much welcome that government has listened to our concerns and retained the Merton Rule for renewable energy. This popular policy will continue to enable local authorities to ensure that new homes in their locality enjoy lower energy bills and carbon footprints thanks to on-site renewables and renewable heat networks. This is great news for green jobs and skills in the sector. We’d like to thank everyone who has helped to make this possible,” said Renewable Energy Association (REA) head of on-site renewables Mike Landy.

Enshrined in the 2008 planning act, the Merton Rule is currently the only pro-renewables building regulation in the UK. Developed by the London Borough of Merton, the policy enables local authorities to demand higher energy standards than those set by national building regulations, including on-site renewable energy generation.

The Merton Rule stipulates that new developments (homes, to public buildings such as libraries and leisure centres to supermarkets and commercial buildings) must generate at least 10% of theirenergy from on site renewables. It has been particularly effective in encouraging the inclusion of on-site solar generation in new buildings, according to the Solar Trade Association (STA).

Until the Zero Carbon Act, for zero carbon new building regulations comes into force in 2016, the Merton Rule is required to sustain renewable energy and energy efficiency jobs and low carbon construction.

STA chief executive Paul Barwell said: “the positive impact of ensuring solar is part of the construction of new buildings significantly outweighs any regulatory burden. 

Barwell added: “Polls show solar is the public’s favourite energy technology – which is not surprising given it enables homeowners to save money while doing their bit for the planet.”