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July 20, 2006

Why don't we have 21st Century planning laws?

Last night's Property Ladder (yes I was a bit bored) got me thinking. The three people followed were all pretty nuts, but all wanted to create an environmentally friendly home. For some reason they thought they could charge £100,000 on top of the asking price because of this, which sounds not only daft but also bang out of order (clearly only insanely rich people – £400,000 for a 2–bed flat in the suburbs – can afford an environmentally friendly home).

But why is this the case? We all know that not only are many energy–saving devices cheap, but because they save energy you get back your initial investment over 10–20 years anyway.

The one that's been bugging me a lot recently is water butts. Why on earth are they not compulsory in all new homes? Especially ones with gardens.

Firstly, it would seem sensible to have water butts above ground level, so that when you turn the tap on (and attach a hose), you can get good water pressure. I've never seen this done, probably because it would be a hell of a lot easier to do when the house is going up.

Secondly, why in the name of John Prescott are we not building all new houses with toilets that use rainwater instead of the ludicrously expensive drinking water that we flush down there all the time? After the past two summers, I don't think people can deny global warming any more, and so we should expect hosepipe bans to become a regular part of life in Britain. I can't believe that installing a water butt in people's lofts would cost more than £100, and would probably be less if it took off and every new home had one.

The government seem to be doing bugger all about this. The new planning regulations that Prescott put through a couple of years ago were widely considered to be utter tosh. There should be rules that state you don't even need planning permission to build solar panels or very small wind–turbines on your property – and far greater subsidies for people to buy them (especially when you consider that the government intends to spend £bns on nuclear power anyway).

This isn't just an environmentalist concern any more – it should be the concern of everyone. Regardless of what damage we're doing to the planet, there are so many energy–saving measures that just seem to be completely sensible (the toilet–flushing one inparticular). I'm astonished that the government's been so left behind by not only public opinion but also by common sense.


Please use the comments to shout at me / agree etc., but also add any other common sense things that I've missed out. I'll start the ball rolling with all new major road developments having to have dedicated cycle lanes alongside. I can hear the complaints from the drivers already (bloody cyclists), but at least this will get them off the road!

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