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The high price of housing

A new study from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) aims to shed light on the

potential impact and explore circumstances under

which both social and environmental sustainability can be achieved.

Entitled Study into the environmental impacts of increasing the supply of housing in the UK, the reports scope has been limited by its six-week research and writing timescale. The main focus is on land requirements and the impacts of the construction and occupation of new houses in terms of demands on water and energy use, waste generated and the demand for aggregates. Construction wastes arisings have not been considered but are acknowledged as important for future analysis.

In order to provide a comprehensive overview of the situation, the study has assessed the impacts on four scenarios of dwelling increases and land take for the period 200116:

Baseline A continuation of current completion

rates plus additional dwellings associated with the

Communities Plan (CP) (approximately 149,000 dwellings per year)

Scenario 1 Continuation of current targets taken for Regional Planning Guidance (RPG) plus CP recommended dwellings (approximately 162,000 per year)

Scenario 2 RPG plus CP plus an additional 39,000 dwellings per annum. This reflects estimates from the Barker Review Interim Report (December 2003)

Scenario 3 RPG plus CP plus an additional 139,000 dwellings per annum. This increased estimate was acknowledged by the Barker Report aim to lower the UKs runaway housing costs, bringing it inline with the European average of 1.1%

Using the baseline and scenario 3, the report highlights the anticipated environmental impacts. During construction, a projected figure of 18 million tonnes of aggregates would be additionally required for the year 201516 alone. This, says the report, equates to about 10% of total quarried products used in the construction industry for 1998. Similarly, the figure for housing construction waste at 201516 represents nearly 15% of total construction waste to landfill in the year 1999.

In terms of occupation, annual domestic waste figures for the same period equate to 25% of collected domestic waste in the UK for the year 2001/2. A total annual waste figure, encompassing both construction and domestic waste, for the year 201516 is 9.3m tonnes.

The report suggests that the external costs of waste production for the new housing build scenarios range from £309m to £1,180m. The total external costs

from aggregates extraction were between £115m

and £311m, dependant on the number and type of dwellings built.

The report concluded that it is generally possible for greater land take requirements to be accommodated (up to scenario 2) at a lower cost to the environment if home designs are of an excellent rather than a standard design. u

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