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Mayor Andy Burnham joins key industry leaders in Greater Manchester to discuss net-zero and tackling the UK‘s energy crisis

27 April, 2022

Key business leaders in Greater Manchester, including Salix Homes CEO Sue Sutton, have joined Mayor Andy Burnham to discuss the region’s transition to net-zero and its role in tackling the UK’s energy crisis.

Hosted by NatWest at its Manchester office on 12 April, the roundtable brought together members of the bank’s new Sustainable Homes and Buildings Coalition, launched last year to address the blockers to net-zero and to ensure a consumer-centric approach, and two Manchester housing associations leading the way in sustainable action.

Reducing carbon emissions from homes and buildings is one of the biggest challenges preventing the UK from achieving net-zero targets by 2050 as buildings account for around 15% of total UK emissions. Greater Manchester Combined Authority has a target to achieve net-zero by 2038, which means the region needs to mobilise urgently to meet this goal, whilst supporting a just transition.

Salix Homes and Great Places Housing Group joined Mr Burnham, NatWest’s CEO of Retail Banking, David Lindberg; regional director, Steve Sankson; and its director and sustainability lead, Marcos Navarro alongside other Coalition representatives from Shelter and Worcester Bosch.

The discussion looked at how the group can help the region to deliver net-zero while supporting communities during the cost of living and energy crisis. With the most vulnerable members of society expected to be the worst hit by the increased costs, the Coalition focuses on a ‘social housing first’ approach.

The Manchester meeting re-confirmed that some of the main challenges preventing the delivery of mass scale retrofit across the UK can be linked to a lack of financial viability connected to retrofit projects, technical limitations on stock and a lack of clarity on zero carbon standards. It was made clear that supply chain challenges and a lack of skills is also holding progress back.

The group indicated that there are many ways to improve the viability of retrofitting social housing properties, such as:

·       Reviewing the rent and service charge methodology currently used so that housing associations can recover their investment costs

·       Increasing the level of public funding via grants

·       Obtain low cost funding from the private sector reducing capital costs

·       Invest in skills, technology and supply chain

Sue Sutton, Salix Homes chief executive, joined the discussion to consider the challenges and opportunities ahead.

NatWest has been supporting Salix Homes since 2015 and the bank has recently helped to finance our flagship Greenhaus development on Chapel Street, which will bring 96 affordable homes to Salford. The apartment block is currently being constructed to Passivhaus standards, a method of low-energy construction to build thermally efficient, ‘green’ homes with minimal energy required to provide heating and hot water.

Sue said: “It was fantastic to join so many like-minded individuals on this roundtable. Collaboration at a local level will be key to meeting targets and there is much to be done in the social housing sector, so it’s always beneficial to share ideas and best practices with others. 

"At a time when affordable housing is in short supply and the built environment is suffering from a major skills shortage, it can be difficult to put sustainability at the top of a housebuilder’s agenda. However, we remain committed to delivering high quality, sustainable, eco-homes for the future, as well as upgrading as much of our existing stock as possible, to ensure we’re leaders in creating sustainable properties across Salford.”

Marcos Navarro, director and sustainability lead for housing finance at NatWest, said: “Greater Manchester is one of the local authorities leading the way for greener housing, and these discussions will ensure that we can continue to support our communities in the best way, while also scaling up our efforts to make UK buildings greener. We’re very grateful to have the support of Mayor Andy Burnham and our housing associations customers at the table. 

“These discussions will ensure we can continue to support our customers in the best way, while also scaling up our efforts to make all UK buildings greener. Stimulating the retrofit market will not only help to decarbonise housing stock, which will prevent climate change. It will help to create and sustain millions of jobs, support local and national economies to recover and grow, reduce fuel poverty, reduce pressure on the NHS and save lives.”