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Our reaction to the 2023 spring budget

15th March 2023

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has delivered the spring budget statement. With the UK far behind the curve on renewable energy, and rural communities once again sidelined, we’re concerned about what it means for the countryside.

Commenting on the Chancellor’s Budget statement, Tom Fyans, interim CEO of CPRE, said:

On solar energy

‘If the government really wants to fix the roof while the sun is shining then massively boosting rooftop solar is the obvious thing to do. The Chancellor is being insincere in claiming we are ‘world leaders’ in renewable energy when only 5% of our UK warehouses have rooftop solar.

'Utilising at least half of the available commercial roof space for solar panels could generate enough electricity to power every other home in the UK'

‘All new housing and commercial developments should be required to install solar panels as a condition of planning permission, unless there are strong reasons not to. There are around 250,000 hectares of commercial, south-facing roof space in the UK. Using at least half of that roof space for solar panels could generate enough electricity to power every other home in the UK and then some.

‘Ministers need to agree immediate incentives to help businesses and households install rooftop renewables at speed.’

On investment zones

‘We’re glad the government seems to have heeded warnings that investment zones would be disastrous for nature, climate and local democracy if they were huge areas where the planning system was deregulated to simply deliver a short term economic sugar rush. New innovation clusters could genuinely help level up areas outside London so long as infrastructure goes in via community consent.

'Nature is in freefall around many of our most built-up areas'

‘Green growth should be possible without needless loss of our Green Belt, through strategic regeneration of brownfield sites and better planning. Nature is in freefall around many of our most built-up areas and the Green Belt is key to giving space for it to recover. The Chancellor needs to ensure economic growth is designed to work with climate and nature, not at the expense of it.’

On rural energy efficiency

‘Unfortunately, not everyone has been treated equally in this Budget. Rural communities, yet again, have been all but ignored. Rural homes are particularly difficult to insulate and have been hard hit by energy price rises, despite the cost cap. The Chancellor has yet again missed an open goal by doing far too little to help insulate homes, which is the fastest and most efficient way to save households money now and permanently reduce energy usage in the long term.

‘The UK’s energy system is broken and needs emergency surgery. That means accelerating the shift to renewables a long term plan for tackling the ongoing crisis of unaffordable energy bills.’

On devolution

‘There appears to be a flaw at the heart of the “devolution revolution” announced today. The mayors of West Midlands and Greater Manchester now have control of a vast carbon budget as well as a monetary budget. That means they must now be held responsible for contributing to their fair share of the country’s net zero target.

'The two mayors must share the responsibility of government departments to hit legally binding net zero targets'

‘These new financial powers, if used as part of environmentally sustainable housing and transport policies, could turbocharge green growth. But that cannot be taken as a given. Reducing carbon emissions must be written into the rules.

‘The two mayors have been promised the power of “mini government departments”, with billions of pounds to spend. They must also, therefore, share the responsibility of government departments to hit legally binding net zero targets.

‘Andy Burnham and Andy Street are leaders who have made no secret of their intention to reinvigorate our former industrial heartlands. We wish them luck. They should start by announcing plans for a new generation of social housing built on brownfield land, which would come with the highest standards of energy efficiency and rooftop solar as a precondition of planning permission.’

Solar panels on rooftops of new housing in Cumbria
John Morrison / Alamy Stock Photo


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