A review of ‘Merton Rule’ projects in four local planning authorities in Cambridgeshire

May 28th, 2013 by

A review of ‘Merton Rule’ policies in Cambridgeshire with recommendations for updating and improving the performance of these policies following a consultation with local council and industry stakeholders


South Cambridgeshire District Council, Huntingdonshire District Council, East Cambridgeshire District Council, and Cambridge City Council


Completed June 2012


Change Skills Fund, managed by Sustainability East on behalf of Improvement East

Project partners

Emma Jones, Impetus Consulting Ltd.

What was the project about?

First developed by the London Borough of Merton in 2003, ‘Merton Rule’ policies have been adopted by the majority of councils in England. They require a reduction in the carbon emissions from new developments through the installation of on-site renewable energy generation.

The purpose of the project was to investigate the degree to which these policies are a) reducing carbon emissions and raising the profile of renewable energy and b) cutting the fuel bills of occupants and providing local economic benefits.

Improving Merton Rule policies using a solar first approach to renewable energy in new buildings

Methodology – how we approached this

We drew together a broad evidence base from a variety of sources to develop a composite picture of the efficacy and impact of Merton Rule policies in the four LPA areas via:

  • A review of relevant lterature on policy and regulation.
  • A review of all the relevant planning applications in the four LPAs.
  • Interviews with LPA officers, developers, housing associations, estate managers, residents, tenants, and supply side companies.
  • A workshop for stakeholders.
  • A mystery shopping exercise sales agents for new homes in South Cambridgeshire.

Key findings

There was considerable variation in understanding between the four LPAs about the purpose of these policies. There were also marked differences in the way developers submitted information to LPAs with planning applications.

Merton Rule policies are certainly resulting in renewable energy installations in private housing and non-domestic developments. But developers have yet to embrace these policies and regard them as off-putting to customers.

It is difficult to say if Merton Rule policies are resulting in the required reduction in CO2 emissions in these areas, but this seems unlikely from our research.

Our research suggested that there is a strong case for the retention of these policies even with incremental improvements in the Building Regulations. But they could be improved through a technology specific policy focusing on PV and solar thermal based on a reduction in total carbon emissions.

A ‘solar first’ approach would make these policies easier to implement, and monitor and much more likely to produce the required CO2 savings.


The findings and recommendations of the study are being considered as part of revisions to the Core Strategy in the four LPA areas.


The Executive Summary of the project report can be downloaded here.

The full report can be downloaded here.

Links and resources:

Emma Jones (now part of CAG Consultants Ltd)

E hq@cagconsult.co.uk
T 020 8555 6126

Carly Leonard, Executive Director, Sustainability East

W http://sustainabilityeast.org.uk/
T 01223 361215

Dr Richard Hales, Sustainable Communities Team Leader – Planning and New Communities, South Cambridgshire District Council

T 03450 450 500

Written by

Environmental consultant, facilitator, founder & Director of Climate Works Ltd.