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Sustainability Standards Checklist

The District Council expects applicants to adopt the highest sustainability standards in new and retrofit development to address climate change and nature recovery. From the early stages of the design process, sustainability must be a key consideration.

The Sustainability Standards Checklist includes sustainability standards on net zero carbon, active travel, water use and flood risk, waste, and biodiversity. The checklist separates the sustainability standards, however there are interrelationships between them and ‘co-benefits’ which should be maximised. For example, sustainable urban drainage systems can provide a potential source of energy when combined with ground source heat pumps.

A completed Sustainability Statement is a requirement for all planning applications. A Sustainability Statement should clearly explain how the proposed development meets each of these sustainability standards and include relevant evidence to support this.

The level of detail depends on the size and complexity of the proposal. All environmental assessments and supporting documents should be clearly cross referenced in the Sustainability Statement.

  • For major applications use your own report template
  • For minor applications (including householder) use the report template below

Net zero carbon

Ultra-low energy building fabric

Buildings should be designed to mitigate the impact of development on climate change by aligning with standards of net zero carbon. Ultra-low energy building fabric should be used, with a view to ensuring that space heating demand for both residential and non-residential development meets Energy Use Intensity (EUI) targets:

  • Residential <35 kwh/m2.yr
  • Office <55 kwh/m2.yr
  • Research labs <55-240 kwh/m2.yr
  • Retail <80 kwh/m2.yr
  • Community space (e.g. health care) <100 kwh/m2.yr
  • Sports and Leisure <80 kwh/m2.yr
  • School <65 kwh/m2.yr

A Key Performance Indicator (KPI) for space heating demand of <15 kWh/m2.yr, comparable to those achieved through Passivhaus, should be strived for.

Predictive energy modelling should be used, for example Passive House Planning Package (PPHP), CIBSE TM45 or equivalent, and carried out with the intention of meeting the target EUIs. This should be completed as part of any detailed planning submission, reconfirmed pre-commencement, validated pre-occupation and monitored post-completion.

Thermal comfort and overheating

With improved building-fabric performance comes the need to ensure appropriate levels of thermal comfort in order to avoid the risk of overheating.

Thermal comfort and the risk of overheating should be given full consideration in the earliest stages of design to ensure passive measures are prioritised over the use of more energy-intensive alternatives such as mechanical cooling. Overheating should be mitigated through appropriate orientation, massing and good design.

A modelling sample proportionate to development density can demonstrate full compliance with CIBSE TM59 for residential and TM52 for non-residential development, addressing overheating in units considered at highest-risk. Overheating calculations should be carried out as part of the detailed planning submission and reconfirmed pre-commencement.

Fossil fuel free

Developments are expected to be fossil-fuel free to avoid any new reliance on fuels such as oil and natural gas, for space heating, hot water and cooking.

All developments should therefore incorporate electricity fed systems.

Zero operational carbon balance

The amount of energy required by buildings on-site should be balanced by installing on-site renewables, for example through Solar PV, to supply the equivalent amount of energy.

The quantum of proposed renewable energy should be shown in kWh/yr. The amount of renewable energy should equal or exceed the total energy demand for the development in order to achieve net zero operational carbon as a whole.

Buildings designed to be net zero operational carbon should also perform to this standard when complete. This is to minimise the risk of a performance gap, when the as-built design does not perform to the standards of the original, designed performance submitted at planning stage. Post-occupancy energy monitoring should be carried out to verify the energy consumption of the development in-use.

Embodied carbon emissions

Embodied carbon is the CO2 emitted in producing raw materials and products, including, for example, building materials and products associated with mechanical and electrical engineering.

Upfront embodied carbon emissions include the product, transport and construction stages. Developers should strive for upfront embodied carbon emissions for residential and non-residential buildings of < 500 kg CO2/m2. Calculations of the expected upfront embodied carbon of buildings should be provided. Full life cycling modelling is encouraged.

The use of environmentally sustainable materials with low embodied carbon should be used, for example reused, reclaimed or natural materials that are durable. A lean design, in terms of structure, architecture and building services, will minimise the use of materials.

It is important to allow for flexibility and consider how the layout may be adapted to suit future needs. Maintenance and access requirements should be considered to ensure equipment lasts longer, as should the reuse of buildings at the end of their life.


Encouraging home working

Homeworking can reduce traffic congestion by eliminating the need to commute to work or at least reducing the frequency of travel, thereby reducing air pollution and helping to minimise impacts on climate change.

Well-designed homes and developments should have home working in mind, for example providing home offices or co-working spaces. Ultrafast Fibre to the Premises (FttP) broadband should also be considered as an essential utility and be delivered to every property.

Walking, cycling and public transport use

Green and active travel can reduce carbon emissions through reducing reliance on cars.

It is vital that the use and impact of the private car is kept to a minimum and that a genuine ‘modal shift’ towards active travel (walking, cycling, riding) and public transport is achieved, particularly for short journeys and to key destinations. Local Plan Policy T1 requires development to be in accessible locations and opportunities for walking, cycling and the use of transport to be maximised.

Walking and cycling must be at the heart of all design decisions from strategic master planning of the site through to the design of individual homes, with new development connected to existing facilities via safe and convenient pedestrian and cycle routes. Measures to foster active and healthy behaviours include upgrading and improving Public Rights of Way, restricted local and national cycle routes; connections into the countryside and walking and cycling links to stations.

Ample cycle parking must be provided in developments, in accordance with the minimum Oxfordshire County Council standards, and include provision for electric bikes and bike / electric bike hire. Cycle parking must be sheltered, safe, secure and well-lit.

Development must have safe, convenient and clearly signposted access to bus stops that are served by the bus network.

Strong connectivity between green and active modes of travel is essential in promoting walking, cycling and public transport use, and reducing transport emissions.

Sustainable transport hubs should be integrated in scheme designs, ensuring that they are easily accessible for pedestrians, cyclists and bus services to discourage use of the car for short trips. Hubs may include cycle parking spaces, electric vehicle charging points and bus stops. 

Shared mobility

Car clubs reduce the need for private car ownership, and the associated carbon emissions through fewer vehicles needing to be on the road. 

Car clubs and bike hire schemes should provide an appropriate number of cars and spaces in accessible locations, with robust arrangements in place for their long-term management. Fleet should comprise electric vehicles, with supporting EV infrastructure provided.

Electric vehicles

Electric vehicles (EVs) support the transition from carbon fuelled vehicles.

Appropriate infrastructure for the charging of vehicles, scooters and bikes must be provided in the development, in line with Approved Document S and the Oxfordshire Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy.

Electric vehicle charging points (EVCPs) should be accessible to homes, with a proportion of non-allocated and non-residential car spaces being made available with metered charging cables. Where EVCPs are not installed, connections must be future-proofed to enable the addition of charging points at a later stage as the uptake of EVs increases. Spaces must be future-proofed to facilitate an increase in the numbers of spaces with charging, with potential increased proportions as technologies evolve. Suitable power supplies and ample parking are also required for electric bikes and electric bike hire.

From the early design stages, careful consideration should be given to the location of street lights so that they can be conveniently located for charging purposes, as a future proofing measure.

The likely increase in energy demand, as a result of future increases in EV charging, must be anticipated as part of the development, and measures put in place to ensure sufficient electrical capacity within a development to meet future demand. This may include providing additional capacity in the grid network and/or using solar car ports or other on-site generation initiatives combined with battery storage. EV charging units should be ‘smart units’ including capability for load balancing and demand management to reduce the impact on the local grid network.


Water efficiency

The efficient use of water reduces running costs and carbon emissions, as less energy is required to supply water and power appliances, particularly those which require water to be heated. It also reduces a building’s impact on the wider energy supply network.

Local Plan Policy OS3 requires a water efficiency design standard limiting average per capita water consumption to 110 litres per person per day; however developers should aspire to achieve the Royal Institute of British Architects water target of 75 litres per person per day.

Water efficiency calculations are based on fixtures and fittings, in line with Part G Building Regulations residential schemes and BREEAM best practice performance for non-domestic buildings. The standard can be achieved through energy efficient fittings, for example water efficient shower heads and bath taps, dual flush toilets, waterless urinals, efficient washing machines and dishwashers, and automatic or sensor taps.

Rainwater harvesting and grey water recycling

In addition, applicants should try to incorporate other water saving measures, such as:

  • Rainwater harvesting, for example water butts, and underground storage tanks.
  • Grey water recycling, for example direct use systems (for watering plants); biological systems using sand filtered methods, wetland and septic tanks; and mechanical filters (for using the water to flush toilets).
  • Reclamation of wastewater.

Sustainable drainage

Allowances for climate change should be made in assessing flood risk to help minimise vulnerability and provide resilience to flooding. Climate change allowances are predictions of anticipated change in peak river flow and peak rainfall intensity.

Drainage systems should be considered at the earliest stages of site selection and designed to integrate into developments. The National Design Guide, the NPPF, Local Plan Policies OS3 and EH7 refer to the need to incorporate sustainable drainage systems, which mimic natural patterns to ease surface water run-off, often through storing the water and then releasing it slowly into a watercourse.

Sustainable drainage systems help to deliver a climate resilient development with a low carbon footprint and high environmental credentials, contributing to the delivery of healthy places, high quality green spaces, biodiversity and future-proofing, and provide opportunities for the integration of blue and green infrastructure to maximise multiple benefits. Techniques can include a wide range of measures, including permeable surfaces (e.g. car parking), swales, basins, attenuation ponds and wetlands.


Considerate Construction Scheme

It is recommended that construction companies, suppliers and professional organisations are registered under the Considerate Constructors Scheme.

Site Waste Management Plan and recycling targets

Sustainable construction reduces embodied carbon in development. All developments should employ sustainable construction methods on and off site.

The reuse and recycling of construction waste can reduce waste going to landfill, reducing carbon emissions from the manufacturing of new material and those released from landfill waste over time.

The aim of a Site Waste Management Plan is to reduce the impact of waste on the environment, and improve efficiency and costs.

Local Plan Policy OS3 requires all development proposals to minimise waste and make adequate provision for the re-use and recycling of waste. A Site Waste Management Plan should be prepared to manage and reduce construction waste, which should include examining the entire life cycle of products and services.

All developments should set targets for recycling construction waste and reducing landfill waste. OCC would like to see a minimum of 90% of inert and 95% of non-inert Construction, Demolition and Excavation (CDE) waste diverted from landfill by 2026 and by 2031 the inert proportion target increases to 95%.

Water used during construction should also be minimised.

Waste recycling

To maximise the shift towards zero waste, waste should be considered a resource rather than a problem. Waste recycling, rather than disposal, should be encouraged in all developments. Safe and convenient access, both within and outside the development, must be provided for waste recycling.

Voluntary standards

Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM)

BREEAM is a sustainability assessment and accreditation method that rates the environmental, social and economic sustainability performance of non-domestic buildings. Where accreditation is sought after, a ‘Very Good’ rating should be targeted. Both new construction and retrofit projects can go through the assessment.

Sustainability principles

Applicants should consider the benefits of employing recognised sustainability principles, including:

  • Building with Nature provides a framework of quality standards, an assessment and accreditation service, and national awards recognising the design and delivery of high quality green infrastructure.
  • One Planet Living sets out ten sustainability principles and provides guidance documents.

Historic assets and traditional buildings

Assessment of heritage value

An assessment of the heritage value of building(s) should be undertaken to consider how any heritage assets are affected by proposals, in accordance with Local Plan Policy EH9.

Responsible retrofit measures and the Whole Building Approach

Traditional buildings are constructed from different materials and structural forms, compared with modern buildings (post 1919) and therefore perform differently.

All applicants will need to consider how the proposal adheres to responsible retrofit measures and adopt a Whole Building Approach to ensure that historic buildings can perform well in the long term. 

Responsible retrofit should deliver sustained net reductions in energy use, a minimal environmental impact, while maintaining or improving the traditional built environment and making a positive contribution to human health.

A Whole Building Approach integrates fabric measures, such as insulation, new windows, draught proofing, and services, particularly ventilation, heating, controls and renewables, along with proper consideration of how people live and use the building. All of these must be adapted to the context of the building, for example its exposure, status, condition, and form. When these are integrated well, a building is in balance. The appropriate siting of renewable energy will need to be carefully considered within the context of a building’s heritage value, conservation area and landscape status.


Improving energy performance and decarbonising existing buildings is important to mitigate climate change. The West Oxfordshire Net Zero Carbon Toolkit and LETI Emergency Retrofit Guide provide guidance on how our homes can be retrofitted to make them fit for the future and support the UK’s net zero targets.

Reducing the energy demand of your building is the first most important step you can take in retrofit and this can be done by insulating roofs, walls, floors and windows. These measures will help to minimise heat loss from the building and improve energy efficiency.

Once measures have been included to minimise energy consumption, a low carbon heating system should be selected moving buildings away from gas to an electric based system for heating and hot water. Heat pumps offer an excellent way of transitioning to electricity whilst reducing the load on the grid as they extract additional energy from the surrounding air and ground.

Consideration should also be given to installing renewable energy on-site. Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels are a simple, mature and reliable renewable energy technology. Solar PV can be installed on flat roofs, pitched roofs, and even on walls or pergolas. The main consideration when siting Solar PV needs to be their orientation and pitch to ensure maximum exposure to the sun. If positioned in a shady location this will affect their performance. Solar thermal is another option for the provision of domestic hot water and similar considerations should also be given to the orientation, pitch and shading of the panels.

Smart controls can help to maximise the utilisation of on-site renewables and stabilise demand on the grid, helping to decarbonise the grid further.

A Building Renovation Plan/Whole House Plan can help you in planning the packages of work so that these are easy to implement.