Solar power plan for new homes in capital

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The Independent Online

Ken Livingstone is spearheading a move to ensure that "the vast majority" of new homes in London are powered by solar panels under new proposals which come into force next month.

The policy, which has dismayed housebuilders alarmed at the cost, is contained in the London Plan which outlines planning rules for local authorities. It will be signed off by the Government next month.

About 16,000 homes are built in the capital each year. The proportion that will have to have solar or photovoltaic panels will be specified later this year. The Mayor of London is a keen supporter of renewable energy and has installed photovoltaic panels on the roof of his home in Cricklewood, north London.

He told the magazine Building Design: "We need to introduce more photovoltaics and we will issue guidance to developers. It would be ridiculous if the vast majority didn't have solar panels or photovoltaics."

The World Wild Fund for Nature has released data showing that Britain's leading housebuilders are failing to employ best practice in sustainability. Although Countryside Properties and The Berkeley Group scored more than 70 per cent, leading firms such as George Wimpy, Barratt Developments and Wilson Bowden scored less than 30 per cent.

Architects gave Mr Livingstone's plans a cautious welcome. Steve Proctor, of Proctor and Matthews, said: "Somebody has to push it forward so it becomes cost-effective."

But Pierre Williams, a spokesman for the House Builders Federation, said increased costs would exacerbate affordable housing shortages and that money should be spent instead on improving the efficiency of old housing stock. He added: "This will be a more visible than effective method of energy conservation."

Mr Livingstone said: "I have done this on my own roof, so all day long I am giving energy back to the national grid. I am doing it to work out some of the snags [with using solar energy]."