MP backs zero energy homes bid after Leighton Buzzard and Dunstable meetings

Bill Dunster talks to the audience
Bill Dunster talks to the audience

MP Andrew Selous has commended the work of British architect Bill Dunster who spoke at public meetings in Leighton Buzzard and Dunstable last week on increasing low cost affordable housing with low energy bills.

The South West Beds MP, speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions, said: “Zero-energy bill homes at below market prices are being built by British architect Bill Dunster, with the support of the Building Research Establishment.

“Given their potential to help people find affordable housing, what more can the Government do to help expand this type of housing as part of our commitment to both enterprise and social justice?”

Damian Green, the First Secretary of State, said: “I am happy to join him in welcoming this type of innovation. Bill Dunster’s firm is a good example of such innovation.

“I know that it has been supported by the Government’s enterprise investment scheme, so the Government are doing their best to support this type of measure.

“We are stimulating the growth of the off-site construction sector, which enables more houses to be built, through our accelerated construction programme and the home building fund.

This is another very important issue to make sure that we spread the benefits of prosperity around this country.”

Speaking afterwards Mr Selous said: “Bill Dunster set out a compelling case for affordable zero energy bill homes that people want to live in.

“There is a huge demand for affordable housing and last Friday’s conference pointed towards some solutions. I will do what I can to keep this matter at the top of the Government’s list of priorities”.

Mr Dunster, who has built low carbon houses across the UK, Europe and China spoke at a public meeting at All Saints Church in Leighton Buzzard onJuly 6 to over 70 people and at a conference the following day at the Incuba Centre in Dunstable.

He explained with detailed practicality how affordable homes for key workers and young people with zero energy bills can be built over carparks thus removing the high cost of purchasing new land.

The houses have solar roofs, electricity storage and high insulation thus both zero energy bills and the ability to power electric cars below.

These designs, as well as being high quality homes can incorporate communal space, gardens and even orchard and allotments.

Mr Dunster also explained the dramatic speed of technological development, the drop in costs of solar and battery technology and how we can use the roofs of building, factory retail areas as power plants.

He explained how to retrofit offices so that as well as being offices they can produced their own energy and could become attractive in their own right incorporating greenery and biodiversity.

Solar trees along the street can provide both seats and charging points for electric bikes, making it easy to get around without pollution and congestion.

The dramatic changes in the Smart Grid, demand flexibility and battery storage was described by Chris Banks of RES at the All Saint meeting, and Thomas Mougkasis of UK Power Networks at the Incuba conference.

The battery at Woodman Close in Leighton Buzzard which was the largest in Europe, when it was built, will be just one of 700 similar batteries across the SE East and London area.

A huge transformation is already well under way from the old model of a centraliwed power generation being distributed to customers, to the new model of lots of local renewable energy generation, local and national storage.

In addition, flexibility and demand management – i.e. when there is a lot of demand for energy Tesco can turn off their freezers for a short while – could save the taxpayer between between £17 and £40 billion a year.

Mr Mougkasis stressed that UK Power Networks were keen to work with the local community in Leighton Buzzard.

Neil Witney, a Senior Policy Adviser to the government Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, who lives Leighton Buzzard, highlighted the opportunities from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial strategy in the Industrial Strategy and funding stream.

He explained that although the government has committed legally to the Paris Agreement and to cut emission by 57% by 2032, and is doing well at cutting present emissions, in the long term “effective new strategies and new policies are urgently needed to ensure emissions continue to fall in line with the commitments agreed by Parliament... current policies are currently insufficient to meet those requirements.”

Heat and transport are two key areas requiring significant cuts in emissions,

In Friday’s conference, Mr Selous reminded people that people area already dying from Climate Change in Sub Saharan Africa and spoke of his support for this type of zero bill housing.

Ali Hadawi, the Principal from Central Bedfordshire Council, spoke with enthusiasm about the local community and the need to train the next generation of house builders and designers to be able to use and develop the new, greener building techniques.

Local businesses, officers from both Central Beds Council and Leighton-Linslade Town Council, councillors, housing associations, Leighton Buzzard Society, South Beds Friends of the Earth, Community Energy Leighton Linslade, Buzz Cycles and Central Bedfordshire College all attended the conference and enthusiastically networked.

Victoria Harvey of South Beds Friends of the Earth said: “In many urban areas we are used to the idea of underground carparks under houses.

“We have a housing crisis for young people and huge concerns over losing the green belt and this solves both problems at low cost.

“Above all we urgently need to cut emissions to stop disastrous climate change. Bill Dunster’s Zero bill designs dramatically cut emissions, gives local people control of their own renewable energy production and really improves the whole area.

“It has been great to work with Central Bedfordshire College and are very grateful for the support of the MP.

“ Partnership working is the way forward to make these things actually happen in Leighton Buzzard.”

A spokesman for Central Beds College said: “Ali Hadawi CBE, the Principal from Central Bedfordshire College, spoke with great enthusiasm about the need for local community to engage through training and for the need to train the next generation of house builders and designers to be able to use and develop the new, greener building techniques.

“This will not only help the environment and our economy but also community cohesion.”