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Homeowners to foot bill for 'green' improvements

Millions of home owners will be forced to pay hundreds of pounds more to build conservatories or replace broken boilers because of "green taxes" to be introduced from October.

New regulations proposed by the government will prevent people making significant home improvements unless they also pay for energy saving measures such as loft or wall insulation for existing foundations at the same time.

The work, aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of Britain's homes, will add 10 per cent to the cost of the initial project, with more expensive work such as conservatory extensions requiring a greater "green" outlay.

Home owners who are unable to afford the additional cost will be told to borrow it under the government's Green Deal, under which the money is paid back with interest via energy bills. The new regulations, which will apply to specified home improvements including loft and garage conversions, conservatory extensions, and boiler or window replacements, could come into effect as early as October when the Green Deal is set to be officially launched.

The preferred option among officials is for the new measures to apply to extensions to living space from October, with similar rules on replacement boilers and windows being introduced from April 2014.

But the government's consultation document admits the entire programme could be brought in this Autumn "in tandem with the Green Deal".

If the plans go ahead the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is likely to face a backlash from home owners who face taking extra time off work and calling in separate teams of builders if the services they need cannot be provided by the same firm.

There are also questions over how the scheme will be policed – particularly in the case of emergency work such as replacement boilers – and whether it will encourage financially stretched families to turn to unlicensed rogue traders.

A DCLG spokesman said the scheme would only require "economically feasible" improvements and that reducing energy wastage could save families up to £150 a year.

The spokesman said: "When a householder decides to change their boiler or add an extension they would simply be also be asked to make other energy efficiency improvements to help reduce the cost of rising energy bills so their home is warmer and cheaper to run.

"If a household does choose to go ahead the Government's Green Deal is there to help them carry out their improvements in a way that means they do not have to pay any upfront costs."

Liz Lainé, energy expert at Consumer Focus, said the government was right to target better insulation of homes but claimed it should do so using "carrots rather than sticks".
She said: "Homeowners who are forced to make improvements such as boiler repairs at short notice are hardly going welcome being told to carry out further extensive and costly work."

Source: Nick Collins - The

09 April 2012
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