08 December 2020

A Government consultation on the future trajectory of domestic minimum energy efficiency standards in England and Wales comes to a close at the end of this month and the current recommendations, if they were to go ahead, could cause significant challenges for the rural housing sector.

Among a number of suggestions, the consultation proposes increasing the minimum energy efficiency rating from Band E to Band C from 2025 for rented properties let on a new tenancy, and from 2028 for properties let on an existing tenancy. The key aims are to reduce carbon emissions, increase the quality of landlords’ properties, reduce energy bills for tenants, and provide greater energy security through lower energy demand and reduced fuel imports

Rural homes have an important part to play in reducing carbon emissions and helping the Government reach its climate change targets. CLA members represent a range of farmers, landowners and rural industries and residential dwellings often form part their business portfolios. Our members are at the forefront of adapting their businesses to assist in tackling climate change.

However, the proposals in the consultation continue to build on a policy designed for urban, modern homes. Rural properties pose a distinct challenge to decarbonisation: they are significantly less likely to be heated by mains-gas and are more likely to be older, larger and detached than urban homes. It is less effective and at worst harmful to try and improve the energy efficiency of rural homes in the same way as urban homes. The CLA is pressing for a revised standard that better reflects the construction and other challenges of rural housing.

The most effective way to decarbonise rural homes is not yet known and therefore a requirement to reach EPC Band C must not be mandated before the Government has a clear policy and support package for the rural housing sector. Failing this, there must be a longer phase in period – and lower ceiling for rural homes, although it is recognised that this would be less effective to help meet Government targets. Grant support for those with older and historic rural properties should also be considered.

It should be noted that these recommendations only apply to the rented sector meaning owner occupied properties won’t need to comply. As they stand, these proposals would have a serious impact on the rural private rented sector, with landlords likely to leave the market by selling or changing the use of their homes to fall outside the scope of minimum energy efficiency standards. The loss of properties in the rural private rented sector would have deeply damaging consequences on rural communities, rural cohesion and the economy in rural areas and this aspect must not be underestimated or overlooked.

The CLA, as you would expect, will be submitting a formal response to this consultation and I would urge all our members with an interest in this policy to also respond. You will find all the consultation documents on the government website here. The CLA has also published a guidance note with further details of the consultation here.