Greener Living: Stamp duty to be waived for all zero-carbon emission homes

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The Independent Online

All new homes will have zero carbon emissions within a decade, Gordon Brown announced yesterday, as he unveiled a drive to create a new generation of "green" housing.

He said Britain would be the first country in the world to make the zero carbon commitment. Stamp duty worth thousands of pounds will be waived for zero-emission dwellings, to ensure that eco houses become the norm for new developments.

Ruth Kelly, the Secretary of State for Communities, will announce details next week.

Ministers are planning a raft of reforms to Britain's building regulations. Houses contribute nearly 30 per cent of Britain's total carbon emissions, pumping 41.7 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year.

Treasury officials estimate that eight million tons of carbon emissions a year could be saved by 2050 if all new homes are zero-carbon rated by 2016.

They hope the stamp duty concession will help to kick start the development of new low-carbon technology. At present, there are only about 200 zero-carbon homes in Britain, such as the Bedzed development in south-west London.

But ministers hope to make the new Thames Gateway developments a showpiece for low-zero carbon technology.

Mr Brown also announced plans to offer low-cost loans for existing homeowners to install energy efficient equipment.

Under the plans, new homes will have to be super-insulated to prevent heat loss, and use modern "green" technology to produce their own heat and electricity.

Options include so-called biomass boilers using wood pellets rather than oil or gas, andenergy sources such as solar power, pumps extracting heat from the ground, and roof-mounted wind turbines.

Other possibilities include heat exchangers to stop heat escaping with stale air through ventilation systems, and water recycling equipment. Careful design, such as using large south-facing windows to harvest "passive" solar heat, will also be included in the new homes of the future.

New homes will still be able to use electricity from the national grid, but will have to show that they can generate enough surplus power at night to offset any electricity used from the mains. Mr Brown also published plans to waive income tax on any money "green" homeowners make by selling their surplus electricity to the national grid.

Simon Reddy, of Greenpeace, said his organisation was working to build 200 zero-carbon homes in east London. He said Mr Brown's announcement was " very welcome", but added: "The stamp duty concession is an empty gesture unless the Government makes sure that they build the things."

And the Home Builders' Federation said builders "want to help people cut their carbon emissions," but urged Mr Brown not to withdraw his stamp duty concession too soon.