Policy GP/CC: Adapting heritage assets to climate change

DRAFT version for various committee meetings.

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What will this policy do?

This policy will set out how the environmental performance of heritage assets should be balanced against the need to protect and enhance the character and value of that asset.

Proposed policy direction

The policy will:

  • Require retrofit works to be carried out in accordance with the BSI PAS 2035 framework and Historic England guidance for energy improvements to heritage assets.
  • Require proposals to take a ‘whole building’ approach to undertaking works to heritage assets to enhance environmental performance;
  • Support proposals which seek to undo the damage caused by previous inappropriate interventions (e.g. removal of cement render and replacement with breathable options).
  • Give consideration to measures that will reduce carbon emissions and assist with adaptation to our changing climate (for example external shading or property level flood protection).

The plan will also direct residents to further guidance on how to approach works to older homes.

Why is this policy needed?

Our Net Zero Carbon Study 2021 shows that existing buildings account for one third of all greenhouse gas emissions in Greater Cambridge.  While high energy efficiency standards have been introduced for new homes, we cannot meet our climate targets without reducing emissions and energy usage in all our homes. Improving energy efficiency is not only good for the climate, but it will also reduce your running costs, and increase the lifespan of your building.

Nationally, about 20% of our homes were built before 1919, using traditional timber-frame or solid wall construction methods and materials.  Of this 20%, about 1% of homes in Cambridge and 3% in South Cambridgeshire are Listed Buildings.  Maintaining the buildings we use is a powerful climate action as it ‘locks in’ the carbon used to build these in the first place.  And while traditional buildings in general need to be part of the big push to improve residential efficiency across the board, in their own analysis the Committee on Climate Change have concluded that at least 90% of existing buildings in the UK should have energy efficient retrofits for the UK to meet its zero carbon targets.  This recognises that some buildings simply cannot be adapted to eliminate all emissions.  However, there are things that can be done provided that the correct approach is taken.  Policy is therefore needed to support owners of heritage assets to undertake sensitive works to address the performance of their buildings, in line with best practice guidance for heritage assets. 

What consultation have we done on this issue?

Responses to the First Conversation highlighted the need to consider the adaptation of listed buildings to respond to climate change. We should support retrofit existing development, including heritage assets, for better energy efficiency, insulation, boilers and energy. We should provide guidance for retrofitting heritage assets.

What alternatives did we consider?

No policy – Not considered a reasonable alternative as given the scale of heritage assets in the area, and the challenge of climate change, a policy is needed.

Supporting evidence studies and topic papers

  • Greater Cambridge Local Plan: Topic paper 2: Climate Change
  • Greater Cambridge Local Plan: Topic paper 5: Great Places

Existing policies in adopted 2018 Local Plans

South Cambridgeshire Local Plan 2018

  • Policy NH/15: Heritage Assets and Adapting to Climate Change

Cambridge Local Plan 2018

  • Policy 63: Works to a heritage asset to address climate change

Tell us what you think

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