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Oxford Set to Prohibit Gas Heaters and Hobs in New Homes Starting in 2025

The Local Plan 2040 includes proposals on delivering affordable housing and creating ‘liveable neighbourhoods.’

Oxford City Council is accelerating its plan to ban gas heaters and hobs in new homes and businesses, likely from 2025. It’s part of the requirement for all new buildings to become “zero carbon.” In the council’s existing Local Plan 2036, new homes will have to be zero carbon from 2030. The Labour-led council now aims to bring this forward to 2025 with its Local Plan 2040, which will supersede the previous version. The plan, which is open for consultation, says no fossil fuels can be directly used in the building. For instance, no gas can be used for heating and cooking. All new buildings will have to be net zero carbon in operation. Developers are required to make the buildings energy efficient. The total Energy Use Intensity (EUI) for residential buildings must not exceed 35 kilowatts hour per square metre each year, while the annual EUI cap for non-residential buildings will be 70 kwh/m2. It’s part of the plan to “tackle the existential threat of climate change,” the council said in the foreword of the document. The plan to bring forward the ban was met with criticism from the Home Builders Federation (HBF). In a statement to The Telegraph, Steve Turner, executive director at the HBF, said: “The industry is committed to the government’s very challenging agenda to make new homes even more efficient and is working with stakeholders to deliver it. We need all parties, including central and local government to work together and avoid diverging off the developing plan, which will lead to unnecessary delays and additional costs.” Councillor Louise Upton, cabinet member for planning and healthier communities, told the BBC that the councillors want to accelerate the ban so people don’t “have to do retrofitting later on” and can have lower energy bills. “Forward thinking developers are already building these kind of homes,” she said. “What I hope this plan will do is going to nudge everybody else because it makes it a level playing field that everybody has to abide by these standards.” The consultation for the Local Plan 2040 was launched on Nov. 10 and will run until Jan. 5, 2024. The plan, aimed at making Oxford a “fairer, greener, and healthier city by 2040,” also includes delivering affordable housing and creating “liveable neighbourhoods.” Developers will only be able to get planning permission if at least 40 percent of the homes are “truly affordable in the context of the Oxford housing market” and at least 80 percent of the affordable units are provided as social rented housing. Under Local Plan 2036, planning permission would only be granted for “car-free” residential developments at places that are close to public transport and local amenities. The new plan says there are “many opportunities to deliver successful low car housing developments in Oxford” because of the coverage of Controlled Parking Zones, the availability of quality walking and cycling routes and facilities, and the provision of reliable public transport options. The council identified a number of sites where it says car free or low car development will be appropriate.

 Bollards in a street in Cowley near Oxford, to create a Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN), on May 5, 2021. (Steve Parsons/PA)
Bollards in a street in Cowley near Oxford, to create a Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN), on May 5, 2021. (Steve Parsons/PA)

Liveable City

The council said it’s aiming to “make sure Oxford is a liveable city” with “strong communities and opportunities for all.” The plan to create a liveable city includes protecting local centers and reducing the need to drive. The concept derives from the idea of a so-called 15-minute city, where residents can reach all essential amenities within 15 minutes on foot or by bicycle so they can be less car-dependent. The council said it wants to create neighbourhoods where “local residents can reach facilities such as small [sic] shops, post office, primary school within a 15- 20 minute walk.” According to the plans, a larger retail or leisure premise can only be opened outside of the six designated district and seven local centres if it’s assessed there will be no adverse impact on the vitality and viability of the existing centres. The city council’s plan to create smaller neighbourhoods, along with Oxford County Council’s plan to implement traffic filters, have been met with vocal opposition over fears of government control. While the term 15-minute city is a design approach, for pockets of the public, it has morphed into a synonym for traffic-restricting government schemes that share the same stated aims of reducing carbon emissions and improving health and safety.

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