Friday, January 9, 2009

UK Stamp Duty Exemptions on Carbon Friendly Housing

Zero Carbon Rated Houses Exempt From Stamp Duty by Anna Barrington

On 7th December 2007, the UK government gave Zero-Carbon rated eco-houses below £500,000 exemption from Stamp Duty Land Tax. This relief is available on new houses and will continue until 30th September 2012. With household numbers in this country on the increase by 223,000 per year (according to government statistics) and an increasing awareness of 'green living' amongst the public, many property developers have put this firmly on their business plans. We spoke to leading builders of new homes in Cornwall, Percy Williams & Sons who specialize in green building design in the UK and have a unique development: Fairglen in Hayle.

Simon Williams from Percy Williams & Sons explained that the 'Government declaration that Zero Carbon-rated houses were to be exempt from Stamp Duty Land Tax was at first a psychological shot in the arm to us over this project of eco-houses, but a close study of the strict definition of Zero Carbon and how we might clear this hurdle ended in disappointment'.

A Zero-Carbon Home needs to have energy efficiency in three areas, including heat loss, dwelling CO2 emission rate and net CO2 emissions. If they meet the requirements, an accredited assessor will inspect the dwelling and issue a certificate.

To receive the actual 'Holy Grail' of Zero Carbon is difficult at the best of times, as it requires a building to have a net production of carbon into the atmosphere of zero. At Fairglen in Hayle, the houses are almost uniquely efficient for this sort of development, but in addition would need a wind-turbine to achieve the last bit of balancing electrical generation. Because of the sheltered valley location that the site is in the turbine could not have been efficiently done.

With the help of John Peapell Sustainable Solutions, a specialist consultant in this area, Percy Williams & Sons were prepared to pay for a turbine on an existing site elsewhere and then pass the ownership of this to the residents' management company. It would be just as economically feasible in that the savings in Stamp Duty Land Tax could be spent on this, and the house owners would continue to benefit into the future from income from the turbine and green offset credits. Overall an economically and environmentally sound solution.

Unfortunately on examination of the detail of the legislation Percy Williams & Sons found it stipulated that the generation had to be 'hard-wired' to the development, not just owned by it.

'I did rather feel that the goalposts were not where one might expect them to be on this one; hardly any houses will achieve this at the moment without huge arrays of photo-voltaic panels or on-site wind turbines which of course restricts their locations to windier and less energy efficient sites. So it is quite safe for the Treasury to offer it' said Simon Williams.

Percy Williams and Sons are continuing to develop state of art designed and environmentally friendly houses as this is where their passion lies, maybe the government will reward the public who choose to live in these houses and the developers one day?

Anna Barrington writes for Percy Williams and Sons. For more information about this development please visit Eco Homes in Cornwall. For latest news and happenings in the area please visit the eco homes blog.

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