Housing Standards Review is slammed as a ‘cop out’

The timber industry has expressed its dismay at the conclusions of the Housing Standards Review consultation which were announced.

In the Government’s response to the Environmental Audit Committee Report on the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) and Housing Standards Review, the Government has rejected the Committee’s recommendation that the CSH assessment standard on sustainable construction materials should be maintained and developed. Instead, it suggests the construction industry should take forward its own voluntary, self-policed standards.

Speaking on behalf of the Timber Accord, Iain McIlwee, British Woodworking Federation Chief Executive, said:

“Cutting the Code for Sustainable Homes and leaving a void relating to material choice is an utterly retrograde step. Timber for example is one material that can help us meet the carbon reduction objectives of the Industrial Strategy for Construction and European targets for reducing embodied carbon, but this still needs to be driven home through regulation. Reliance on voluntary, self-policed standards is a cop out and will leave us lagging behind the rest of Europe.

“Today’s Government response to the Environmental Audit Committee’s report is at odds with itself, referencing many national and international assessment models which are in place, before highlighting Environmental Product Declarations that are bringing clarity. It says the Government did not consider that there was sufficient evidence to suggest the need for a Building Regulation or national standard on sustainable materials – this, we believe, is more a case of not wanting to see it, simply in the rush to deliver against deregulation targets.”

At the start of the year, David Cameron had visited the Federation of Small Businesses to announce the government’s plans to support the small businesses of Britain. 3,000 unnecessarily burdensome regulations were to be amended or scrapped, he explained. Mr Cameron said he wanted to “get out of the way of small business success.”

However, in a letter to the Prime Minister sent by the BWF last week on behalf of the Timber Accord, Iain McIlwee spelled out the unintended consequences of the changes being considered.

“The removal of a sustainable materials standard could lead to a race to the bottom driven by optimising land value and profit in the housebuilding sector. In turn, this could have a devastating effect on the timber market, impacting upon investment now and ensuring that, when the EU regulation drives necessary change, it will be the importers of manufactured wood products who will benefit. Building manufacturers in the UK will also no longer be able to use the CSH as a green kitemark when they sell their products abroad.”

Commenting on the announcement today, Iain McIlwee added:

“We welcome the simplification of regulation, but not over-simplification for political ends. We made these points clearly in a recent letter to the Prime Minister and it is very disappointing to see this outcome.

“The Government has suggested that it will consider the constitution and terms of reference for a new standards advisory group. We will work now with the Construction Products Association through this group to provide advice on the merits of a materials standard as the situation develops and put pressure on Government to reconsider its stance.”