The Built Environment

We don’t have time to wait for changes to the planning system – let’s go around it.

Make the south west the centre of expertise for low carbon buildings.

We need to create demand to stimulate a market to develop skills and jobs in zero-carbon new build and retrofit.

New developments need to be planned holistically so that people don’t have to travel long distances for services and employment.



James Shorten

James is a geographer and planner at Geo Consultants with nearly 30 years of work on the planning system and sustainable development. He holds an MSc in Planning from Reading University. He was the main author of the Welsh Government’s One Planet Development Guidance.

Tim Jones

Tim is Chairman of the South West Business Council and Chair of the North Devon UNESCO Biosphere Foundation. Previously, Tim was the first Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership. As a chartered surveyor, Tim has been involved for over 30 years in a wide range of property issues. Tim is now extensively involved in commercial property development across the south-west peninsula.

Ian Hutchcroft

Ian is Chair of Plymouth Energy Community and has been involved in energy for over 25 years. His current focus is buildings; previously Head of Local Delivery (England) at the Energy Saving Trust, Ian’s present role is with the ZebCat Project, trialling a Dutch retrofit model in Devon called Energiesprong.


Dan Lash

Dan is a research scientist with a background in architecture and building physics who uses these skills to solve problems relating to energy and comfort within the built environment. He has assisted local authorities with government policy on energy use in buildings (e.g. the Building Regulations and other policy documents) and regularly reviews schemes at various scales for local planning authorities. He has also produced several design and sustainability compliance tools for local authorities to help embed sustainability principles within developments and has authored a large number of workshops for building professionals on sustainability, energy use and comfort in buildings which he has delivered to hundreds of delegates. Dan has also provided expert advice on energy and sustainability at Design Review Panels and has provided evidence at examinations in public.

Alan Boldon

Alan Boldon has held senior appointments in the arts, academia and charities. He is also an artist, curator and writer. As an artist Alan has exhibited throughout Europe and given lectures and keynote addresses throughout the world. He spent many years working on interdisciplinary projects and for 12 years directed an international arts summer school in Luxembourg devoted to exploring interdisciplinary engagement with place. He has a BA in Art and Social Context and an MA in Psychological Aesthetics. Having studied at Dartington College of Arts in the 1980s, Alan returned to establish the arts and ecology programme at Dartington in 2000. The powerful pull of the place, along with a deep commitment to the values of Dartington Hall Trust, drew Alan back in October 2018 as executive director of learning. He took on the interim role of managing director of the Trust in September 2019

Karime Hassan

Karime was appointed Chief Executive and Growth Director of Exeter City Council in 2013. He joined Exeter City Council as the Director of Economy and Development in February 2011, following eight years as Corporate Director at East Devon District Council. During his time at East Devon he set up the Exeter and East Devon Growth Point. Karime has been involved with many of the significant development projects around Exeter over the last couple of decades.

Louise Evans

Louise works for National Energy Action, the national fuel poverty and energy efficiency charity. As Project Development Coordinator in the South West, Louise is responsible for coordinating organisations and delivering projects that help to alleviate fuel poverty in the South West. Louise has 10 years’ experience working in the field of fuel poverty for local authorities and charitable organisations. She completed an MSC in Advanced Energy and Environmental studies at the Centre for Alternative Technology in 2014.

Andy Wood

Andy leads the delivery of the major growth programme located in the West End of East Devon that is planned to accommodate over 10,000 each of new homes and jobs over the period to 2031. His responsibilities include leading the implementation of the Exeter and East Devon Enterprise Zone designation which is intended to accelerate the delivery of over 2million sq.ft of new commercial space across four sites including Exeter Science Park and Cranbrook town centre. 

The Growth Point team has a strong partnership working ethos and a focus on achieving good growth.  This combines responsibility for ensuring the delivery of habitat mitigation and green infrastructure strategies alongside achieving zero carbon development.  The team supports the South East Devon Habitation Mitigation Partnership and is bringing forward the Clyst Valley Regional Park proposals, a major new area of accessible greenspace.   Andy also chairs the Low Carbon Task Force which aims to deliver a range of low carbon and de-carbonising projects in the Greater Exeter area. 

Sarah Lee

Sarah qualified as an Architect in 2004 whilst working for Stride Treglown in Plymouth, following 5 years of study at the University of Plymouth and placements within the Architects department at Plymouth City Council for 2 years and at Harrison Sutton Architects in Totnes.

Sarah has been working for this large commercial practice across the South West but principally in Devon and Cornwall for 15 years since then, with experience across many sectors including Education, Retail, and Residential.

Sarah supports her Clients throughout all project stages, acting as their Trusted Advisor from Inception through to Completion.

Sarah has been joint Chair of the Plymouth branch of the RIBA since 2016 helping to promote the role of the Architect and good quality design within the construction industry. She also works closely with the University as a result of this role, helping to forge design links across the City.

Charles Hill

Charles has worked at Arcadis and with local authorities in Devon and Cornwall for the past 12 years. He’s been the Project Manager for the delivery of up to £45m of Passivhaus scheme for the past 5 years. He’s currently the Programme Manager for the Langarth Garden Village scheme adjacent to Truro and has a keen interest in sustainability and combatting climate change. He’s representing the RICS Regional Board in the SW who are keen to contribute to forming Devon’s Carbon Plan.

Luke has worked in the NHS for 12 years. He started his career working in a waste management role in Gloucestershire and moved to Devon in 2012 to become the Energy and Sustainability Manager at the RD&E. During this time he has been involved in many sustainability, efficiency and CO2 emission reduction projects ranging from no cost staff education programs to multi-million pound developments. Luke is passionate about reducing CO2 emissions and delivering sustainable development.

Alastair Mumford

Alastair Mumford has been working in the low carbon sector for over 15 years as a project manager for capital works and as a consultant on sector development programmes. Alastair has two roles, one as Corporate Energy Manager for Devon County Council and the other as Regional Programme Manager for the South West Energy Partnership between Bristol, Plymouth and Devon authorities. Alastair is responsible for the development and management of a range of low carbon projects including the deep retrofit of the council’s estate. Alastair has been involved with a number of retrofit projects including as programme manager of the Zero Energy Buildings Catalyst programme, a £2m programme demonstrating net zero energy retrofits, and as part of the Ready for Retrofit project team, a £6.3m project delivering retrofits and sector development.

Andy England

Andrew is a Chartered Town Planner, with some 35 years of experience working in Local Government across the south west and is also qualified in Design in the Built Environment. Andrew is a Past Chair of the South West Royal Town Planning Institute, and a current member of the Regional Activities Committee. He has previously worked for a number of local authorities including Cornwall Council (where his remit included minerals, waste and renewable energy planning), Cotswold District Council, Bournemouth Council, as well as Devon authorities. He is currently Assistant Director for Planning & Transport at Torbay Council, which includes all aspects of planning, and transport.

Key Points Summary

Key Outcomes

  • We don’t have time to wait for changes to the planning system – let’s go around it
  • We need to create demand to stimulate a market to develop skills and jobs in zero-carbon new build and retrofit
  • Make the south west the centre of expertise for low carbon buildings
  • Local people need true engagement about what they want to see in their local communities

Key Actions


  • Upheaval to building occupant
  • Cost
  • Organisational investment criteria – organisations often look for a 8 year payback max. This is too short. This results in the low-hanging fruit being implemented, which makes it even harder to do the rest.
  • Quality of installations can be poor and have given some technologies a poor reputation
  • Little action in the rented sector. Perhaps because the tenant gets the financial benefit but the landlord funds the capital cost.
  • Properties are turning over at their slowest rate for decades, so refurbishment opportunities at the point of ownership transfer are not very high
  • Commercial buildings are very diverse in how they are constructed and so adopting common methodologies is difficult.

Overcoming the Barriers

  • Energy Performance Contracting
  • Re-prioritise health funding to support retrofit for the fuel poor
  • Provide volume from housing associations, local authorities and community energy organisations to the market to establish supply chains and reduce costs
  • Energiesprong whole house retrofit – treat the whole house, once – it’s a model that is workable, now.
  • More monitoring and enforcement of existing requirements on landlords by Trading Standards (rental properties are not permitted to be E, F or G)
  • Scotland has introduced 0% loans for home owners to deliver energy efficiency and renewables improvements
  • There is a pilot operating in the Exe Valley to review how effective it would be to incentivise retrofit through council tax discounts – need to apply learning from this
  • Public sector refurbishments to show leadership and aim for net-zero carbon.
  • Purchasing green energy through Power Purchase Agreements that enable new generation capacity can be a low-cost part of the decarbonisation puzzle. This comes with a warning that many commercially-available ‘green tariffs’ do not work.


  • The planning system judges local authority performance on how many homes a local authority provides, not on the quality or sustainability.

Overcoming the Barriers

  • Focus on the experience of people, not housing numbers. We need a document that sets out what the community want – doesn’t have to be a planning document – let’s not use the planning system as an excuse.
  • Exeter – we’ve got a local industrial strategy, we’ve got a garden city strategy, we’ve got a transport strategy that is focussed on walking and cycling – everything is aligned to get this transition moving.


  • Up-front build costs in comparison to existing Part L of the Building Regulations. Developers argue that building to higher standards will require other commitments, such as affordable housing, to fall.
  • National Planning Policy Framework makes it difficult for local areas to set higher standards
  • Local Plans and Neighbourhood Planning process is too long to address the climate emergency
  • Supply chain is not setup for modern, modular construction in Devon
  • The planning system is often about collecting objections rather than supportive voices
  • Electricity grid needs to be reinforced to achieve the extent of electrification necessary to build to net-zero carbon

Overcoming the Barriers

  • Publicise the Committee on Climate Change’s calculations that a passivhaus with an air source heat pump costs just £4,800 more than an equivalent Part L house.
  • Collectively work on demonstrating that it is financially viable to build zero-carbon homes, now.
  • Architecture and engineering professionals to encourage clients to target net-zero. Work with the institutes to do this.
  • Help the mortgage lenders understand that a higher performing house is going to cost less to run over the long term. “Green Mortgages”
  • Government lobbying for changes to regulations (but this may not be quick enough)
  • Use Local Development Orders to bring forward the right type of development in the right place.
  • Take away the burden of the planning system in return for a developer’s commitment to net-zero.
  • Public sector to demonstrate by example and lead others to build to zero-carbon. We don’t need planning policy for this.
  • Commit to training and skills development in the southwest through the Local Enterprise Partnership – this is a jobs and growth opportunity. Pitch for the southwest to own this agenda.
  • Public sector to specify local supply chains to help grow skills and the jobs to support them (skills don’t necessarily need academies – many can be learned on the job)
  • Education to enable consumers to demand zero-carbon homes
  • Fiscal measures – council tax banding – to reward consumers to make the right choice
  • Give communities a proper voice in spatial planning decisions – Transition Homes in Totnes has shown this is effective and results in local support

Overcoming the Barriers

  • Include the carbon intensity of materials within decision making