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Friday, 30 March 2012

Portas-Plus Remedy for Reviving the High Street

The government has today published its formal response to the Portas Review of Britain’s high streets undertaken by Mary Portas last December, which it is calling “Portas-Plus”.

Here's a link to the full document – High Streets at the Heart of our Communities.

A new package of help has been drawn up including:

·         A multi-million pound High Street Innovation Fund - kick started by £10 million of taxpayers money focussed on bringing empty shops back into use - which, if supplemented by both councils and landlords, could see £30 million going to support new business start-ups whilst bringing empty High Street properties back into use;

·         A £1 million Future High Street X-Fund, which will be awarded in a year's time to the locations which deliver the most creative and effective schemes to revitalise their high streets;

·         A National Markets Day, launching a National Markets Fortnight, to celebrate the role markets can play, help aspiring entrepreneurs try out their business ideas, and encourage more visitors to town centres;

·         A £500,000 fund for Business Improvement Districts, to help Town Centres access loans for their set-up costs; and

·         Launching a further round of Portas Pilots, to trial some of Mary's recommendations and come up with new ideas to breathe life into underused high streets.

The government agrees with the Portas recommendation to promote more widely the Commercial Lease Code, in particular supporting the use of lease structures other than upward only rent reviews, especially for small businesses.

Liz Peace of the British Property Federation, which welcomes the government’s response said:

“We also look forward to progressing the recommendation on promoting the lease code. This presents a great opportunity, not only to promote responsible leasing, but also to bring to greater prominence what our industry does, which is to make space for tomorrow’s entrepreneurs. I am particularly grateful to have Rightmove on board, who can provide a new way for us to get lease code information to that small end of the market that is always so difficult to crack.”

Many will also welcome the government’s promise to review the use of the Retail Prices Index as the basis for calculating business rates.

The government does not agree with some of the more punitive measures suggested by Portas to bring empty properties back into use, such as empty shop management orders.

Nor are there any proposals to deal with the problem of empty rates, although the government does want to encourage local authorities to use their powers to offer rates rebates.

The government has rejected Portas' call for a secretary of state sign off for out-of-town developments to help protect local high streets.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Free Quarter for Administrators Strengthens Case for Monthly Rents

The High Court has made an important ruling this week that potentially lets administrators off the hook for a whole quarter’s rent.

That’s the result of the currently unreported case of Leisure (Norwich) II Limited v Luminar Lava Ignite Limited (in administration), and there’s a very good summary of the legal issues and the history behind the case on the UKLegalEagle Blog.

In short, the High Court has decided that where a company goes into administration, any unpaid rent which fell due before the appointment of the administrators will be an unsecured claim against the company and not an expense of the administration, even if the administrators continue to use the property.

There’s little chance of a landlord being able to recover an unsecured claim.

So if the rent is paid quarterly and administrators are appointed the day after the quarter day, then no rent is payable as an expense of the administration until the next quarter day – effectively giving the administrators a free quarter’s trading.

Ironically, this case has come about in the aftermath of the decision in Goldacre which established that administrators could no longer calculate rent on a daily basis but rather had to pay for the full quarter. 

There’s more commentary on the Goldacre case too on the UKLegalEagle Blog.

Tenants and administrators will see this as a welcome opportunity to trade a company back into solvency and save jobs, although there will be no flexibility when the next quarter day comes round.

Landlords however are likely to feel cheated; and will think the High Court has just legalised a limited period of commercial squatting.

Perhaps the pre-Goldacre pay-as-you-go approach to rents was the fairest one after all.

The other irony of this situation is that it's likely to strengthen a tenant’s hand if it wants to ask its landlord to accept payment of rent monthly, rather than quarterly, to help cash-flow.

That’s something the British Retail Consortium has been advocating for years, but which the British Property Federation has felt should only be a concession to those in need, rather than healthy businesses trying to exploit an opportunity to change their terms of trade.

Landlords might however feel more inclined to switch to monthly rents now because they risk only losing a month’s rent rather than a whole quarter if the tenant goes into administration.

There's now an incentive for both landlords and tenants to shift towards monthly rather than quarterly rents (see this briefing note from Forsters for further commentary).

UPDATE 20 APRIL 2012
 
The detailed judgment in the Luminar case has now been released, setting out the rationale for the decision and summarising the position on rents in administration generally.

The case hasn’t been reported yet on Bailii, so there’s no link to the judgement yet, but here's a useful explanation from CMS Cameron McKenna.

Where rent becomes due during, rather than before, the period when an liquidator or administrator is retaining the property for the purposes of the liquidation or administration then the whole sum is payable as an expense, even if the liquidator or administrator gives permission to forfeit the lease or vacates the property before the end of the relevant quarter or month to which the advance payment relates.  In other words, a full quarter’s rent is payable where rent is payable on a quarterly basis.  This was the decision in the Goldacre case.

Cameron Mckenna suggest areas for consideration include:

·         amending leases to provide for monthly rents in advance;

·         amending leases to provide for rent to accrue on a daily basis with an “on-account” payment each quarter;

·         amending rent concession letters to ensure that monthly rent concessions amend the lease rent payment dates as an agreed variation;

·         acting swiftly, where appropriate, in seeking the consent of the administrators to forfeit the lease and take control of the property.  Cameron Mckenna comment that this is the only real remedy available (although not guaranteed) to landlords in relation to administrations or liquidations commencing shortly after a quarter day;

·         acting quickly, openly and fairly with the administrators in order to put a landlord in a better position, should an application to the court be required to permit forfeiture of the lease.

So the case for monthly rents seems to have been strengthened, albeit only as a bi-product of this judgment.

Luminar may be appealed.

Many however will agree with Cameron McKenna’s verdict that Parliament should review the fairness of the position in which the law now leaves both landlords and administrators, depending on the timing of the insolvency, and legislate for rent to be paid for the period during which the property is retained for the purposes of the administration or liquidation of the tenant. 
 

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

NPPF Published Today: Planning in the Public Interest?

The government today published the final version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), putting planning policy in the headlines.

It takes effect immediately, and is now a material consideration in the determination of all new planning permissions.

Thousands of pages of planning law have been reduced to 50 pages (down from 52 in the previous draft).

Planning minister, Greg Clark announced the new NPPF in a statement to the House of Commons.

On a very quick first scan of the new NPPF, it appears the government has taken on board some of the earlier criticisms (and they say they have accepted 30 of the 35 recommendations made by the Communities and Local Government Select Committee in December).

There remains however, at the heart of the NPPF, the presumption in favour of sustainable development.

The NPPF makes reference to the Resolution 24/187 of the United Nations General Assembly, which defined sustainable development as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

It also refers to the UK Sustainable Development Strategy Securing the Future, which set out five ‘guiding principles’ of sustainable development: living within the planet’s environmental limits; ensuring a strong, healthy and just society; achieving a sustainable economy; promoting good governance; and using sound science responsibly.

The NPPF then goes on to say:

“The purpose of the planning system is to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development. The policies in paragraphs 18 to 219 [of the NPPF], taken as a whole, constitute the Government’s view of what sustainable development in England means in practice for the planning system.”

It sets out the separate economic, environmental and social dimensions that together encompass sustainable development.

The NPPF says that with regard to decision making, the presumption in favour of sustainable development means:

·         approving development proposals that accord with the development plan without delay; and

·         where the development plan is absent, silent or relevant policies are out‑of‑date, granting permission unless:

·         any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in the NPPF taken as a whole; or

·         specific policies in the NPPF indicate development should be restricted.

Local plans must also follow these principles.

The controversial default answer of “yes” to all development, in the previous draft, has been removed.

On the BBC’s Today programme this morning, Greg Clark said, in his interview with Evan Davies, the word “sustainable” in effect amounted to a public interest test.

In his statement to the House today, he referred to “collective” interest.

He said that if it destroys a green belt or the environment "it would not be sustainable and so should not go ahead".

The “presumption” will be an important test as, although the emphasis is on a local plan-led system, around half of local authorities don’t have a local plan, and so the presumption will hold sway.

Greg Clark said in his Today interview the “presumption” meant in practice, firstly that councils should produce plans that meet the local needs of the population for employment and residential accommodation; and secondly, if there is no local plan, councils should approve the development unless to do so would be against the public interest.

The Guardian reports a “government insider” putting it differently; calling it a “powerful presumption” in favour of sustainable development and that “development should be approved unless the costs significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits.”

Will it all come down to semantics or will the “new” definition of “sustainable development” be sufficiently precise?

The NPPF is designed both to guide the writing of local plans and to be used as a substitute local plan where none has been produced by the local authority.

Greg Clark is selling the NPPF on the basis it gives power to the people.

That’s a test for localism and the Localism Act.

The onus on those local authorities that have not yet prepared a local plan will be to get on and do so.

The British Property Federation (BPF) has welcomed the new document and refers to its “brownfield first policy”, to prioritise more clearly the use of previously developed land.

The NPPF in fact talks about “encouraging” the use of brownfield land, so whether this amounts to a “brownfield first” policy remains to be seen.
 
The prioritisation of brownfield land for development will be a key element if the NPPF is to be more than just a developers’ charter to build over green spaces.

It strikes me that when you simplify a policy and adopt a broad brush approach, you can spin it any way you want – whether you are strongly pro or anti the policy.

There is however more guidance in the NPPF on what “sustainable development” means than there was before, so time will tell whether our old friend Humpty Dumpty will return to say:

“When I use a word...it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

It will be interesting to see whether, in a few years time, anything has really changed at all.

There will be plenty of comment on the NPPF over the next few days. 

So far it's managed to unite the BPF, the RSPB and the National Trust in approval!.
 
UPDATE 28/3/12

What’s been most interesting, since the NPPF was published yesterday, is how everyone seems to think they have got what they wanted out of it, whether you are a developer or a custodian of rural England.

That’s surely because there's so much vagueness in the concept of what's meant by “sustainable development” that all sides can pray it in aid of their own point of view.

This will all end up being tested in the courts, time and time again.

The Guardian today says we have gone from builders’ charter to lawyers’ delight.

And they’ve quoted Humpty Dumpty too!

He gets around, that egg.

CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme: Rust Never Sleeps - Government Launches Consultation

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) today announced a consultation on its proposals to reform the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC).

The consultation document runs to 92 pages and contains a lot of detail.

Will the outcome be as radical as the chancellor implied in his budget speech last week (see CRC – Is it Destined for the Scrap Heap?)?

Climate change minister, Greg Barker, issued a ministerial statement yesterday – “Simplifying the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme” – in advance of today’s consultation in which he states the government’s new proposals will radically reduce the administrative costs to participants by reducing the complexity of the scheme, and reducing the overlap with other climate legislation.

Headline proposals are:

·         Reduce the number of fuels covered by CRC from 29 to 4, with those 4 fuels accounting for 96% of total CRC emissions.

·         Reduce the number of reports participants are required to submit and the length of time they need to keep records.

·         Allow companies to participate in natural business units, by allowing more flexibility to disaggregate undertakings.

·         Introduce ways of reviewing and redesigning the performance league table over time in order to maximise its effect on reputation.

The stated aim is to have amended legislation in place by April 2013.

There’s no repetition in the consultation of the chancellor’s budget promise that if major savings cannot be found, the government would bring forward proposals this autumn to replace the revenues with an alternative environmental tax.

The difficulties that arise when attempting to allocate CRC costs in a landlord and tenant context have been discussed many times on this blog.

The consultation document does not offer any solution.

The document says the government does not propose to revisit fundamentally the CRC’s landlord-tenant approach because no clear consensus has emerged between stakeholdersas to the party which should be responsible under CRC.

The government suggests that the current approach, which places the CRC obligation on the party with responsibility for the energy contract, is most aligned with the party most able to influence energy consumption (normally the landlords) rather than the party responsible for using most of the energy (generally the tenants/licensees).

This position, the government argues, reflects research by the Carbon Trust on the split incentives associated with landlord/tenant relationships, and is an appropriate balance given the scheme’s focus on incentivising cost-effective energy efficiency measures.

The consultation document goes on to say that the government acknowledges the current levels of uncertainty as to the appropriate way of treating CRC costs in landlord/tenant lease and licence arrangements.

As such Government would encourage trade and industry bodies to develop their own guidance and approach on this issue.

That has not been forthcoming so far, unless you count the fact that most leases just ignore CRC altogether.

The only specific question in the consultation regarding landlords and tenants concerns the rarer situation of ground lease arrangements, where it is proposed to transfer CRC responsibility from landlord to tenant where there is a lease of 40 years plus and the tenant agrees to construct (and where necessary remove) buildings and install any gas, electricity and water services.

The consultation document has been drafted generally on the basis that CRC is here to stay, but is evolving.

There appears to have been a change of emphasis between the drafting of this consultation and the chancellor delivering his budget speech.

Time will tell whether this is the beginning of the end for CRC, as implied by the chancellor’s comments, or not.

Will CRC eventually be replaced by an alternative environmental tax?

The consultation ends on 18 June 2012.

Photo by Luton Anderson via Flickr

Friday, 23 March 2012

Supreme Court Rejects Government FIT Solar Appeal

The Supreme Court has today thrown out the government’s attempt to appeal against an earlier High Court ruling that premature cuts to Feed-in-Tariffs (FITs) for solar installations were unlawful.

This means that all systems installed between 12 December 2011 and 3 March 3 2012 will receive the higher FITs rates for 25 years.

There's a report on the ruling on the BBC.


“We are disappointed by the decision of the Supreme Court not to grant permission to hear this case. But the Court’s decision draws a line under the case. We will now focus all our efforts on ensuring the future stability and cost effectiveness of solar and other microgeneration technologies for the many, not the few.”

We had a different secretary of state when this latest attempt to appeal began.

Business Green comments:

“Serious questions will now be asked about the wisdom of ministers' willingness to impose rapid cuts that were always going to be vulnerable to a court challenge, the deeply flawed legal advice the department received, and the cynical tactic of using repeated appeals to create uncertainty in the market and slow down deployments.”

The court’s ruling is a rejection of rushed and retrospective changes to subsidy.

The solar subsidy trend will still be downwards in future, however, and that downward shift may well be quicker now the government has to absorb the cost of this ruling.

The challenge for the solar industry over time will be to show it can deliver cost effective energy without subsidy.

Photo by spanginator via Flickr

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Budget Fails to Disperse Looming Business Rates Clouds

Although Budget 2012 is in some quarters being hailed as good for business, it has done nothing to dispel worries about the looming April rise in business rates.

All the petitions circulating on this issue appear, for the time being at least, to have been ignored.

The Chancellor has also ignored calls from small businesses, landlords and his own backbenchers and a campaign supported by the British Property Federation to reduce the burden of empty rates.

The periods of relief available before rates become payable on empty properties are relatively short (3 months for most commercial premises), then they become taxed at the same rate as occupied ones.

Rates are a huge burden for small businesses and empty rates hit landlords hard.

The Portas Review looked at rates so something might still happen, but I can’t help thinking if any give-away had been planned the Chancellor would have trumpeted it yesterday.

This will be seen as a missed opportunity to help small businesses and stimulate growth.

A budget that's kinder to millionnaires than milliners.

Mind you, things could have been a lot worse for commercial property - it dodged the bullet on Stamp Duty.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Stamp Duty – Smoking Out the “Morally Repugnant”

The Chancellor, George Osborne, said in his budget speech today:

“I regard tax evasion and - indeed - aggressive tax avoidance - as morally repugnant.”

What does or does not amount to “aggressive” is likely to be viewed strictly by HMRC.

The government has set out to close the now well-known stamp duty loophole of holding expensive property in overseas companies.

The headlines from the chancellor’s speech on stamp duty are:

·         Increase in Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) charge applied to residential properties over £2 million bought into a corporate envelope - the new charge will be 15% - taking effect today.

·         The government will consult on the introduction of a large annual charge on those £2 million residential properties which are already contained in corporate envelopes, with the intention of legislating in the Finance Bill 2013 for commencement in April 2013.

·         To ensure that wealthy non-residents are also caught by these changes, the government will be introducing capital gains tax on residential property held in overseas envelopes. This is to commence in April 2013 following consultation on the details.

·         The chancellor also announced legislation today to close down the sub-sales relief rules as a route of avoidance.

·         From midnight tonight, the government will introduce a new SDLT rate of 7% on all residential properties worth more than £2 million (commercial property has escaped this new rate.)

The chancellor wound up his section on stamp duty with this rhetorical flourish:

“Let me make this absolutely clear to people. If you buy a property in Britain that is used for residential purposes, then we will expect stamp duty to be paid. That is the clear intention of Parliament. I will not hesitate to move swiftly, without notice and retrospectively if inappropriate ways around these new rules are found. People have been warned.”

So there you have it.

The detail of all this will need to be examined carefully (here’s a link to the supplementary documents issued by HMRC and here's a link to Budget 2012).

The annual charge on properties held by offshore companies will be crucial to circumvent whatever ways and means that may still exist to get around the new 15% SDLT and CGT charges on properties held that way. 

Note however that the CGT and annual charge will not take effect until April 2013 following consultation.

I suspect there may be quite a few deals where contracts have not yet exchanged where the price might be revisited (!) to take account of these changes.

On tax matters in general, advisors are going to have their work cut out distinguishing between legitimate tax planning and "morally repugnant" aggressive tax avoidance.

Photo by centophobia via flickr

CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme: Is it Destined for the Scrap Heap?

What are the odds now of the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC) surviving the year?

In his budget speech today, the Chancellor, George Osborne said of CRC, which was established by the previous government:

“It is cumbersome, bureaucratic and imposes unnecessary cost on business.”

He went on to say the government will seek major savings in the administrative cost of the CRC for business.

If major savings cannot be found, the Chancellor said the government will bring forward proposals this autumn to replace the revenues with an alternative environmental tax.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change told BusinessGreen it would launch a consultation on simplifying the CRC on 27 March 2012, focusing on the reporting process, the length of time businesses will be required to store information, as well as the metrics used for the performance league table.

CRC has never been popular or easy to understand; it's also unworkable when it comes to allocating costs on individual properties between landlords and tenants.

Many hoped it would be abolished today.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t look to me like it's long for this world.

Unfortunately, in the meantime the comments made by the Chancellor today and the prospect of yet another consultation are likely to create a lot of uncertainty for businesses trying to navigate their way through what is already a difficult burden.

Photo by Luton Anderson via Flickr

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Time Is Running Out For Flood Insurance – Property Industry & Homeowners Look For Rescue

The news may have been full of drought warnings for the coming summer, but the future availability of flood insurance remains at the top of the property business agenda.

Experts gathered at joint British Property Federation (BPF) / Peter Brett Associates summit held today warned that businesses and homeowners seeking flood insurance could face greater uncertainty and prohibitively expensive insurance premiums in just four months’ time.

There is currently a pact between Defra and the insurance industry, known as the Statement of Principles, which guarantees cover to businesses and households at risk of flooding.

The pact obliges insurers to provide cover for high-risk properties while the government continues to improve flood defences – but the pact is due to end in June 2013, without any sign of a suitable alternative.

The BPF said that the uncertain future of flood insurance will hit businesses and homeowners from July 2012 as insurance cover starts to be renewed that covers the period that includes June 2013.

The BPF is calling for urgent action to create a new settlement between government and insurers, warning that the end of an agreement that guarantees near universal provision of flood cover could leave around 200,000 homes in high flood risk areas uninsurable and leave homeowners and thousands of businesses facing unaffordable bills.

Liz Peace, chief executive of the BPF, said:

“This is a huge issue that is not getting the focus it needs, and time is running out. Its impact will be felt not only by our industry, but also banks and mortgage lenders. Uninsurable property may be difficult to sell; banks and mortgage lenders may not wish to lend on properties in flood risk areas. Bank covenants and lease obligations may not be met, making it easier to prematurely end them.”

The Association of British Insurers argues that the current model distorts the market for both consumers and insurers. It advocates a new approach, based on some form of pooling arrangement, to ensure that flood cover remains available to those at higher risk.

That sounds similar to the Pool Re system established for terrorism cover.

Jackie Newstead, partner at Hogan Lovells, says:

"There is still a widely held assumption that insurance will be available for flood risk, but with insurers being increasingly reluctant to insure high risk locations, we need to consider the implications for our transactions if it is no longer available.  It may result in some transactions not proceeding and in other cases parties being exposed to claims for being in breach of their obligations."

As I mentioned in my January post, Flood Defence Deficit Could Sink Economy, landlords need to review the leases in their portfolios; they might be held responsible for reinstating flood damage even if it is no longer an “insured risk” if the lease doesn’t contain a suitable exclusion.

On the other side of the coin, if the landlord is no longer responsible, the burden might fall on the tenant.

Here's a link to my other posts on flooding.

Last word to Bill Gloyn, chairman of the BPF insurance committee and partner European Real Estate of insurance brokers JLT:

"Despite having some four years to address the issue, it is very disappointing that neither government or the insurance market have progressed beyond rhetoric and platitudes. Time is running out fast and tens of thousands of property owners could soon find themselves without flood insurance and with no viable alternative in sight"

Monday, 19 March 2012

NPPF – It’s Not All About the Money...Is It?

Rumour has it on twitter (so it must be true) that the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) will be published on Wednesday alongside the Budget. [er...no, see update below!]

The NPPF will be the 52 page (or thereabouts) document replacing the thousands of pages of existing planning law, and there’s more about it on this blog here.

On 21 December 2011 the Communities and Local Government Select Committee released a detailed report on the draft NPPF, which you can read about in my January post What Shape Will Future Planning Policy Take?

Is the timing of the NPPF’s release an attempt to bury bad news and get it all over with in one giant anxiety ball of budget-induced controversy; or is it because planning is regarded as being only about the economy (after which it is now de rigueur to write “stupid”)?

Will there be any further consultation following its release (as recommended by CLG Committee), or will that be it?

Obviously I have no idea.

Anyway, given the reliability of twitter rumour, it’ll probably come out tomorrow now...

Just thought I’d add to the welter of pointless speculation clogging up the airwaves in the early part of this week.

Maybe just look at the nice Magnolia blossom instead!

UPDATE  21/3/12 1pm

Chancellor announces NPPF will be published next Tuesday (27 March) 

So much for twitter gossip!

And here is my subsequent post written on the day the NPPF was published.

Will Cutting the Red Tape Mean Keeping it Green?

The government’s war on red tape is now set to ignite a bonfire of environmental regulations.

The Guardian ran an exclusive on Saturday, following a leak of proposals, which were announced by the government today under the heading “environment protected and business boosted.”

Of 255 regulations, Defra says 132 will be improved, mainly through simplification or consolidation; 70 will be kept as they are, to uphold important environmental protections; and 53 obsolete regulations will be removed.

Defra has produced a document called Red Tape Challenge – Environment Theme Proposals March 2012, which lists the areas being looked at, which include waste transfer, environmental permits, chemicals, air quality and industrial emissions, carbon reduction, noise and nuisance, biodiversity and landscape management.

Many of the proposals will be subject to further consultation.

A glance at the full list reveals an alphabet soup of regulations that have built up over time and which do indeed appear unwieldy and confusing.

Many environmentalists however are furious.

The Guardian reported that Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, has called the red tape challenge “an ideologically driven vanity project”.

For the government, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman says:

“We’re making it easier for people to do the right thing, by making rules clearer and by getting rid of old, unworkable regulations. This is a prime example of how we can help grow a green economy whilst looking after our natural resources.”

The government believes that simpler and smarter environment regulations will provide savings to businesses of more than £1billion over five years and protect the environment by being cheaper and easier for companies to follow while enforcement will be targeted at companies that are not abiding by the rules.

Included amongst the proposals is better guidance, due to take effect next month, on the clean-up of contaminated land (as I mentioned in Contaminated Land Regime Gets a Spring Clean).

That ought to speed up the process that determines whether or not land is regarded as contaminated and reduce unnecessary property blight by helping to focus only on land that poses significant risk, although local authorities will still need to determine what high risk is and what is low risk.

There’s a long list of other regulations in the government’s document.

The detail of these proposals will need to be scrutinised to ensure that a drive to reduce red tape does not become an excuse to get rid of sensible but politically inconvenient law.

Is the self-styled “greenest government ever” right to target what the chancellor has called the "ridiculous costs" of "endless social and environmental goals"? Can you even be the former without having the latter?

Are those goals “endless” because their ends will never be fully realised?

It will be important, when simplifying the rules, to ensure the substance of them is retained.

The Independent reports a poll showing just 2 per cent of people think the coalition is living up to Prime Minister David Cameron's promise to be the “greenest government ever”.

That tag was always going to be a hard one to live up to, especially where the main driver is seen as saving money.

It’s a cynic, rather than the greenest person ever, who knows the price of everything, but the value of nothing.

Update 20/3/12

And to show he's no cynic, here's an open letter from the secretary of state for climate change, Ed Davey! 

Photo by Steve-h via Flickr