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Developer scraps air source heat pump add-ons at new housing development along Stowupland Road, in Stowmarket

Councillors were left disappointed with a developer’s decision to scrap air source heat pump add-ons at a major development due to no interest.

In April last year, Mid Suffolk’s planning committee members approved Crest Nicholson’s proposals to build 258 new homes, 91 of which affordable, along Stowupland Road, in Stowmarket, under the condition it would offer potential buyers the option to add in paid-for air source heat pumps.

However, due to no customers taking up the offer, the developer took to the council yesterday morning to scrap the requirement and instead offer to guarantee heat pumps would be built in 139 homes by default in the development’s second phase, a requirement expected to be included in the Government’s Future Homes Standard from next year.

Plans for air source heat pump add-ons at a housing development along Stowupland Road, Stowmarket, have been scrapped. Picture: Thrive Architects/Chrest Nicholson
Plans for air source heat pump add-ons at a housing development along Stowupland Road, Stowmarket, have been scrapped. Picture: Thrive Architects/Chrest Nicholson

The agent, Michael Smith, said: “[The application] shouldn’t be reviewed as a developer trying to avoid their responsibilities.

“The option for an air source heat pump has been offered to all potential customers but so far no one has chosen to have one installed — the applicant is compliant with the condition but the condition isn’t delivering a great level of sustainable development.”

During the meeting, Mr Smith revealed the air source heat pumps were being offered at around £20,000 extra on top of the price for the home, prompting councillors, who were sceptical about the cost, to question Crest Nicholson’s motives.

Cllr Lucy Elkin said: “The agent said a number of times that people are not interested but they’re only not interested because they’re being charged £20,000.

“It’s really frustrating that people are being put off by cost when they needn’t have been.”

Cllr Nicholas Hardingham even suggested Crest Nicholson was greenwashing by presenting proposals he likened to an ultimatum.

Mr Smith insisted the proposals were a way of offering certainty that, despite no uptake so far, roughly half of the development would still include the heat pumps, instead of homes being built with gas boilers as a result of low interest.

He said: “Offering the choice hasn’t made the scheme more sustainable and taking away that choice is a straightforward route to reducing carbon emissions from the new homes.

“It’s doing nothing, it’s a pointless condition that’s going nowhere, we can do better if we guarantee the second half of the site is built under new regulations.”

Cllr Terry Lawrence added that the developer’s proposals rectified a condition that hadn’t been working practically.

He said: “The reality check here is that nobody has taken up the option so however we tweak words in changing conditions it’s still not going to change the fact that people, at the moment, don’t want to pay the extra premium.

“We should just forget about phase one now because it’s not practical, it’s not working and the public doesn’t want it at that price.”

Cllr John Matthissen countered this view by saying the previous committee had operated under the assumption the development’s second phase would be built under the Government’s new regulations, meaning they would have to be built with air source heat pumps regardless.

He said: “I’m not happy at all, this isn’t the best we can get, it’s the least bad we can get, let’s call it what it is.”

The final vote saw the proposals being approved with five in favour, one against, and two abstentions.