January 2016 was the hottest month ever recorded world-wide, and no-one can deny that climate change is upon us, even if there is a vociferous minority that refuse to believe the science that goes alongside it.
But planners and developers do not seem to have got the message that they need to do something to contribute to helping to deal with the problem.
Neville’s Cross currently has two housing projects building very expensive executive homes, one on Mount Oswald near Farewell Hall, and the other on Potters Bank at Chevalier Court (what a pretentious name that is). All the houses there are £600K plus (including two at £1 million in the latter development), but even so, none of the houses has solar panels – not one!
This is madness, all developers know that it is vastly cheaper to install photovoltaic panels as a house is built rather than retro-fitting, but instead of behaving responsibly and doing it as standard, they pocket a few extra thousand pounds on each house by not doing it.
The new County Plan is the opportunity to change all this. The council should insist that all new developments over a certain size (5 houses?) include mandatory micro-generation provision. Some jobsworth may tell me that government rules don’t say that the council can do this, but that does not mean it shouldn’t try.
The record of the council in this area is not great. In the final consultation draft of the last effort at devising a County Plan, the council did include a policy “requiring” developers of executive homes to build them to the highest environmental standards, but that didn’t survive to be part of the version that went to the Inspector.
Guess what happened. The owners of Lambton Estates, who want to build many hundreds of executive homes covering a large area that straddles County Durham and Sunderland, objected and the final policy was changed to only “encourage” such standards.
When the last draft was approved by Council to go to the Inspector, I moved an amendment to reinstate the original policy, but was voted down by the dinosaurs of the Labour group.
So this time round, the Council needs to get some backbone and tell the developers who is in charge. The houses will still get built; the developers will still make a bundle; but at least we will be doing our bit on climate change.