LAST week a development of 105 eco-friendly council houses in Norwich was awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Stirling Prize.

This prize is awarded to the nation's best new building and was described as 'a modest masterpiece' and 'an outstanding contribution to British architecture' by judges at the London ceremony.

Councillors in Oxfordshire keep telling us that they are building affordable homes but they aren’t building homes that are affordable to the people who need them.

All of our public services – NHS, education and other public services – find it difficult to recruit staff in Oxfordshire because of the high cost of housing here.

Yet the current government policy of 'help-to-buy' is not doing what it was actually supposed to do.

Most of the people who have benefited from it are people who could afford to buy anyway and developers are lining their pockets by building smaller homes at inflated prices.

We should also try to increase the number of council houses, perhaps by changing the right to buy scheme so that it takes more than three years to build up the right to buy a council house and have a concentrated effort on building carbon neutral council homes and affordable homes for those key workers that we need here in Oxfordshire.

If we are really serious about reducing carbon emissions we need to ensure that every new home being built is carbon neutral including those that already have planning consent.

According to a report published by the Committee on Climate Change earlier this year: “New homes should be built to be low-carbon, energy and water efficient, and climate resilient.

“The costs of building to tight specifications are not prohibitive, and getting the design right from the outset is far cheaper than retrofitting later.

“From 2025 at the latest, no new homes should be connected to the gas grid.

“They should be heated using low-carbon energy sources, have ultra-high levels of energy efficiency alongside appropriate ventilation, and be timber-framed where possible.”

So why are we approving local plans that don’t meet these standards?

At their annual conference in July, the Royal Town Planning Institute called on the Government to reintroduce the requirement that all new build homes are zero carbon and put in place measures and resources to make existing homes zero carbon.

All Oxfordshire plans should have carbon neutral policies and these should include plans for truly affordable homes.