The Green Building Council (GBC) has launched a blistering attack on prime minister David Cameron over his commitment today to slash environmental regulations over the course of this parliament.
Cameron will this morning announce that the government will slash 80,000 pages of environmental guidance by March 2015, in a move designed to save businesses around £100m a year.
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In a speech to the Federation of Small Businesses, Cameron will say that the government will "make it vastly easier and cheaper for businesses to meet environmental obligations" and will "help house builders by cutting down 100 overlapping and confusing standards applied to new homes to less than 10".
The speech, which also highlights how the government's cancelled increases in fuel duty will on average save small businesses £1,300 per vehicle on fuel costs by 2015, covers a wide range of issues, but Number 10 this morning sought to focus on the changes to "environmental obligations".
Paul King, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC), which has lobbied for more ambitious green building standards, said the prime minister's "boasts of 'slashing 80,000 pages' of environmental guidance is utterly reprehensible".
"It is the same poisonous political rhetoric from Number 10, devaluing environmental regulation in a slash and burn manner," he added. "These words are not only damaging and irresponsible, but misrepresent the wishes of so many modern businesses, both large and small."
The building industry is currently waiting on a government response to its latest consultation on changes to environmental building regulations, which is expected to lead to the scrapping of the Code for Sustainable Homes.
However, a spokesman for the UK-GBC said that with the government still committed to introducing new zero-carbon home standards by 2018, the proposed rationalisation of environmental regulations contained "a lot of sensible stuff".
But he insisted that green businesses and investors would be dismayed at the rhetoric used by the prime minister to brag of slashing environmental regulations. "It is the rhetoric that is the problem," he said. "It sends a shocking message on the value of environmental standards. There are some sensible proposals here wrapped up in some horrible rhetoric."
In related news, The Telegraph reported this morning that ministers are considering relaxing trespass rules to make it easier for fracking developers to extract resources from underneath people's land.
Under current rules, fracking projects need permission from landowners to drill under their land or else risk being charged with trespass. The legal requirement has prompted a campaign from Greenpeace to collect the names of property owners who would oppose any drilling under their land, potentially placing a major barrier in the way of fracking developers.
However, The Telegraph reported that the Department of Energy and Climate Change is planning a consultation on changing the rules designed to make it much easier for developers to secure permission from landowners to undertake drilling activity.
"All options are on the table," a Whitehall source told the newspaper. "It would be difficult to implement a regime that removed any kind of compensation. You could change the rules so you have a de facto right, but then you have to pay. The compensation could be less than £100."