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Sustainability Standards Checklist

The District Council expects developers and applicants to adopt the highest possible standards of energy and sustainable design in new and retrofit development. From the early stages of the design process, sustainability should be a key consideration and the golden thread that runs through the development, linking water use and flood risk, biodiversity and green infrastructure, green and active travel, net-zero carbon, sustainable construction, materials and waste.

The Sustainability Standards Checklist (thereafter referred to as 'the Checklist') sets out the standards that applicants are expected to demonstrate their compliance with. Relevant Local Plan policies and good practice are signposted to assist you in meeting these requirements.


If you are submitting a planning application, refer to the relevant checklist:

  • Major applications checklist is for applications for residential, non-residential or mixed-use development that involves the provision of > ten dwellings and/or a site area > 0.5 ha or floor space of > 1,000sqm
  • Minor applications checklist is for minor and householder applications, including those that seek to alter or enlarge a single house, and works within the boundary/garden of a house. It should be used for projects such as extensions, conservatories, loft conversions, dormer windows, garages, carports and outbuildings that do not fall within permitted development rights
  • Heritage Asset and Traditional Buildings Applications Checklist is for applications for development – whether residential, non-residential or mixed-use – that have an impact on heritage assets, including archaeology, and traditional buildings. If it is also a major application, both checklists should be referred to

Sustainability Statement 

As part of your application, you should submit a Sustainability Statement, explaining how your development will meet each of the standards and provide evidence to support this.

  • For major applications, submit a completed coversheet, using the template below, and a standalone Sustainability Statement, using your own template:
  • For minor applications (including householder), submit a completed Sustainability Statement, using the relevant template below.
  • For Heritage assets / traditional buildings applications, submit a completed Sustainability Statement, using the relevant template below.

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

Supporting checklist guidance

The checklist separates the sustainability standards into different environmental headings. Whilst these are referenced separately, there will be interrelationships between them and ‘co-benefits’ which should be considered to ensure that development is designed to be as sustainable as possible. For example: sustainable urban drainage systems can provide a potential source of energy when combined with ground source heat pumps.

Water use and flood risk

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 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 showers, baths, dual flush toilets, waterless urinals, washing machines, dishwashers, and automatic or sensor taps.

In addition, applicants should incorporate other water saving measures:

  • 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

Further info:

Sustainable flood risk management

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 for 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.

Further info:


Existing biodiversity value

Rich biodiversity helps break down pollutants and contributes to climate stability. Vegetation can mitigate climate variability and extremes by creating local micro-climates through shading and increased humidity, producing a more favourable environment for humans and wildlife. By storing carbon and modifying local climate conditions, natural resources provide a means of stabilising rapidly changing climate conditions.

Local Plan Policy EH3 aims to protect and enhance biodiversity.  

It is important that biodiversity is a prominent feature of schemes, providing a diversity of wildlife-rich habitats and features within natural green spaces, buildings, formal green spaces and gardens; and supports the wider ecological network.

The impacts on biodiversity must be properly assessed using the mitigation hierarchy, with a focus on minimising negative impacts and providing on-site mitigation. If these steps have been fully explored and are not considered viable on site, only then should compensation for loss of biodiversity be considered.

Biodiversity should be protected through appropriate and sensitive scheme design, development, and delivery. Potential mitigation measures could include the retention of key areas of biodiversity and the translocation of existing biodiversity features where appropriate.

Further info:

Biodiversity net gain

Development should leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than it was before construction.

Local Plan Policy EH3 seeks to protect and enhance biodiversity to achieve an overall net gain in biodiversity. It is expected that developments should achieve at least a 10% net gain in biodiversity; although a minimum net gain of 25% is being proposed in the district at Salt Cross Garden Village.

Where biodiversity net gain is relevant to your development, the DEFRA Biodiversity Metric Version 2.0 (or subsequent updated versions) should be used to calculate the amount of biodiversity units present on the site before and after development. This provides the basis for measuring the amount of net gain in biodiversity (i.e. number of units after development minus the number of units before development).

There is a need to ensure an ecologically meaningful approach to analysing and interpreting the results of the metric (a tool only) and the application of a thorough assessment of how biodiversity net gain can be delivered both on and off-site.

It is important too that enhancement measures that assist in delivering net biodiversity gain on site are both site specific and appropriate. These may include the implementation of ecological enhancement measures within low ecological value area; creation of new replacement habitats of a greater ecological value than those lost; and the installation of species-specific mitigation and enhancement measures.

Oxfordshire’s emerging Nature Recovery Network protects and restores wildlife; and provides greater public enjoyment of the countryside; increased carbon capture; and improvements in water quality and flood management. Developments must ensure that proposals for biodiversity net gain contribute towards the network, including Conservation Target Areas; conservation, restoration and enhancement of priority habitats; ecological networks and the species protection; and recovery of priority species

Habitat connectivity and linkages to the wider landscape (wildlife corridors) should be improved through development and wildlife features improved as part of a high-quality green infrastructure network. For example, biodiverse school grounds, allotments, orchards, roadside verges, cycleways, amenity spaces, green roofs and attenuation basins.

Tree planting should use species that are adaptable to and can mitigate against climate change.

All habitats delivered as part of a biodiversity net gain strategy must be secured for a period of 30 years both within the site and as part of any offsite delivery.

Further info:

Green and active travel

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. Measures to foster active and healthy behaviours include upgrading and improving Public Rights of Way, restricted local and national cycle routes; improving 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.

Further info:

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

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 scheme 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.

Modal interchanges

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.  

Electric vehicles

Electric vehicles support the transition from carbon fuelled vehicles.

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

Electric vehicle (EV) charging points should be accessible to homes and a proportion of non-allocated and non-residential car spaces, with metered charging cables. 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 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 should be anticipated as part of the development, and measures delivered 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.

Further info:

Aligning with 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

Developers of new homes should strive to achieve Key Performance Indicator (KPI) for space heating demand of <15 kWh/m2.yr, comparable to those achieved through Passivhaus.

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 carried out as part of any detailed planning submission, reconfirmed pre-commencement, validated pre-occupation and monitored post-completion.

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.

Further info:

Embodied carbon emissions

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

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.

Further info:

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.

Sustainable construction, materials and waste

Considerate Construction Scheme

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

Site Waste Management Plan (SWMP) and recycling targets

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

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 through examining of the entire life cycle of products and services. This should reduce the impact of waste on the environment, and improve efficiency and costs.

Further info:

Local and sustainable construction materials and sustainable construction

The amount of materials extracted, processed, manufactured, consumed and disposed of has a direct effect on climate change because carbon emissions occur throughout this entire lifecycle. A shift from waste management to resource management has occurred, in particular the concept of the ‘circular economy’, which sees waste as a resource and focuses on keeping resources in use for as long as possible.

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

Materials should be local, sustainably sourced, healthy, durable and ideally reused, reclaimed or natural (if not available use materials with a high recycled content). Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) can be obtained from manufacturers so that the impacts between products can be compared.

Further info:

Waste recycling access

Waste should be considered a resource rather than a problem to maximise the shift towards zero—waste. 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.

Innovative and advanced waste collection systems

Whilst there is a shift towards zero-waste, inevitably some waste will occur in development and this needs to be sustainability managed, including how it is moved around and how it can be collected by the waste collection authority (WCA).

Innovative waste collection technologies, for example underground refuse systems (URS), should be considered.

Further info:

Voluntary sustainability 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 a building or project.

Further info:

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 detailed goals and guidance documents.

Further info:


Improving energy performance and decarbonising existing buildings is important to mitigate climate change.

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.

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

Embodied carbon of buildings should be reduced through the use of re-used, reclaimed or natural materials; lean design; implementing material passports; encourage Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs); easy maintenance and use; and design for disassembly.

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

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.

Further info:

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.

Further info: