Legal and General

Financial giant accused of blocking new green homes in Fife

Campaigners in Aberdour say that financial services giant Legal and General’s “disappointing” environmental policy has prevented new sustainable homes being built in the village. 

Legal and General — through its subsidiary CALA Homes — is behind an 84-house development currently being built off Main Street in Aberdour, the biggest in the Fife village’s history. 

But calls by locals for CALA to build the homes with zero emissions heating systems were ignored by the developer. The residents have blamed this decision on Legal and General’s sustainability policy, which currently only requires its subsidiaries to build homes that “are operationally net-zero enabled” by 2030. 

The Aberdour residents have pointed out that the technology to build homes with zero carbon heating is available today, and argued that money is not an obstacle, given that CALA posted record sales and a £130 million profit last year. 

Friends of the Earth Scotland said that by fitting the new Aberdour homes with gas boilers, CALA and Legal and General were prioritising profits and “saddling homeowners with the responsibility and cost of inevitably replacing them down the line”. 

CALA said it would build all of its homes “gas free” in line with Scottish Government guidelines from 2024. It also noted that the homes in Aberdour “not only meet all of the highest current [sustainability] standards, they exceed them” and would have an A rating for environmental and energy efficiency.

Legal and General directed The Ferret to CALA for comment on the Aberdour development. 

Heating for homes and workplaces currently accounts for around a fifth of Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions, which are the main cause of the ongoing climate crisis. 

The Scottish Government has introduced its Heat in Buildings Strategy to reduce these emissions. This will compel developers to build all new homes with zero-emissions heating from 2024, and aims to remove all emissions from homes by 2045. 

This means that the houses built in Aberdour — which will have gas heating — will need to be retrofitted with renewable technology such as a heat pump relatively soon, in order to meet government requirements. 

By choosing to put gas boilers into new homes the developers are saddling homeowners with the responsibility and cost of inevitably changing them down the line. 

Richard Dixon, Friends of the Earth Scotland

The cost of installing this zero carbon heating — which can be expensive — will now fall on the new residents of the homes. Twenty-one of the 84 houses being built in Aberdour have been marketed as ‘affordable’ by CALA. 

It is cheaper to install zero-carbon heating before a house is built than it is to retrofit, and the Aberdour residents have argued that CALA should foot the bill. 

In February 2022, it was reported that Legal and General is planning to invest a further £2.5 billion in “build to rent” housing developments across the UK in the next five years. This investment comes on the back of the company investing £500m in build-to-rent properties in southern England in 2021. 

Legal and General told The Ferret that all of the build-to-rent properties it has constructed in England so far are zero-carbon heating enabled and none of them have gas boilers. 

Teresa Bray, an Aberdour resident who is also chief executive of the Edinburgh-based environmental charity, Changeworks, told The Ferret that it was “disappointing to see major financial institutions like Legal and General undermining our efforts to tackle the climate emergency”. 

Bray said: “There is well established zero carbon heating technology available that could be installed now. CALA Homes, a subsidiary of Legal and General, had record sales last year with a profit of £130m yet are unable to make any investment to start building zero carbon homes.

“Legal and General see the clear financial and environmental benefits of zero carbon heating for the rental homes they have a long term investment in. Yet the new villagers in the CALA homes being built will have to incur additional cost installing zero carbon heating when the time comes to change their boiler.”

Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland said that financial institutions had for too long “been able to prioritise profits above all else and have ignored the social and environmental impact of their choices”.

Dixon said: “The phase out of fossil fuels should be gathering pace, not being delayed by companies only doing the bare minimum. 

“By choosing to put gas boilers into new homes the developers are saddling homeowners with the responsibility and cost of inevitably changing them down the line. 

“The volatile nature of fossil fuel prices means that locking people into gas heating is likely to keep punishing those living there for years to come.” 

Kathryn Dapré, head of sustainability at CALA said: “CALA has made a commitment to building homes that are operationally net zero enabled by 2030 and reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Scottish Government’s 2045 target and ahead of the UK Government’s 2050 target. 

“As part of this journey, new CALA developments will be gas free in line with the Scottish Government’s 2024 target and UK Government’s 2025 target. The business is currently finalising ambitious science-based targets, validated by the Science-Based Targets Initiative.

“We have teams of people across the business working to resolve the technical and practical challenges faced by the industry, including those associated with scaling up the use of net zero technology.”

Photo Credit: iStock/ronstik

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