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Government urged to keep Merton rule

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Britain will struggle to achieve zero-carbon homes by 2016 if green targets for renewable energy are scrapped, it has been warned.

The government is considering to abolish the so-called Merton rule, which allows councils to set a target for renewable energy on site for all new planning applications.

But one environment group warned that this would hamper efforts to greener homes over the next nine years.

Andrew Cooper, of the Renewable Energy Association, said: “It would mean it would be much more difficult for government to achieve its own target of having zero-carbon homes by 2016.

“Over half the country will have a Merton rule target within the next two, three years if the government doesn’t abolish it. There will be real potential at that stage to achieve economies of scale.

“The UK could lose out on the economic benefits that the Merton rule would bring.”

'Merton won't be scrapped'

Housing minister Yvette Cooper denied again the government would be binning the Merton rule during a fringe meeting at the Labour conference.

She insisted they were looking at a Merton-plus. “There has been a lot of misunderstanding of the issue, and we remain committed to the principles of the rule.”

Uncertainty over blanket targets

However, a leaked copy of the upcoming planning policy statement on planning and climate change clearly states that councils should avoid setting blanket targets for energy supply.

Councils would still be able to specify targets for individual sites but have to show there are clear opportunities for generating renewable energy there.

It could be this is what the government means when it says it is still committed to the Merton rule.

Although government officials have gone on record to say the Merton rule will continue to exist, none has confirmed councils will still be able to set blanket targets.

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