Eric Pickles' Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) will face a day in court over its controversial decision to scrap energy efficiency rules that would have delivered an estimated £11bn boost to the economy.
The regulations would have required households and businesses undertaking extension work to ensure their properties meet minimum energy efficiency standards and were seen as a central plank of the government's wider efficiency strategy.
ACE, which is backed by a host of businesses from across the energy efficiency and construction sectors, announced last month that it was considering legal action over Pickles' decision, after accusing the Secretary of State of failing to adequately consider responses to a consultation on the proposed rules that were overwhelmingly in favour of the legislation.
ACE Director Andrew Warren issued a statement this afternoon confirming that after further taking legal advice the group will be "proceeding with the judicial review process against Eric Pickles, regarding his complete volte face on implementing the "consequential improvements " section of his Part L building regulations consultation".
He added that ACE would now serve formal documents to the High Court on Friday with a view to overturning the Secretary of State's decision and ultimately securing the reinstatement of rules that the government's own modelling suggested would deliver significant economic and environmental gains.
"We want to see a speedy resolution of this matter, so that we can begin to see some of the benefits which Mr Pickles identified last year would accrue from implementing his original "consequential improvements" strategy, of £11bn savings to the economy, 130 million lifetime tonnes of carbon dioxide , and 2.2 million more households benefitting from the Green Deal," Warren said.
Pickles axed the regulations last December, after a number of newspapers criticised the proposal and branded it a "conservatory tax", arguing that requiring households to meet energy efficiency standards would drive up the cost of home improvement work.
The Secretary of State accepted this argument, and in Parliament he justified the decision to scrap the rules by citing the results of an Energy Savings Trust survey that revealed 38 per cent of households and businesses would be put off undertaking home improvement work if the "consequential improvement" requirements were introduced.
However, ACE and other groups subsequently accused Pickles of both "distorting" the EST report, which also revealed broad support for the proposals, and ignoring the 82 per cent of consultation responses that were in favour of the regulations.
Pickles' wrote to ACE last week providing further detail on the thinking behind his decision, but the response has failed to appease the group with Warren suggesting the Communities Secretary's letter only served to strengthen the case against the government.
"On Learned Counsel's advice we shall not be releasing the response, received late last week from Eric Pickles, to our initial letter," he said. "We do intend though in our own document to point out the various admissions of errors which Mr Pickles has made already regarding his initial December 13 statement [to Parliament]."
DCLG was considering its response to the latest developments at the time of going to press. However, the department has said in the past that it stands by its decision and maintains that it properly considered the consultation responses.
"We noted the potential danger that introducing consequential improvements would discourage people from undertaking home improvements," a spokeswoman said last month. "Given the government's growth agenda and the proposed lifting of planning rules to make it easier for people to carry out sensible extensions and improvements to their home Ministers have decided it would be inappropriate to place an additional cost on building owners."