NFRC calls for PM’s ‘rhetoric’ to be ‘followed up with delivery’, whilst UKGBC says a ‘frenzy of building is not equivalent to building back greener’ and FMB calls for focus on ‘upgrading our existing buildings.
A number of organisations within the construction sector have been quick to respond to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ speech.
NFRC Chief Executive James Talman welcomed the certainty over future work it will help provide, but cautioned “The Prime Minister’s rhetoric must now be followed up with delivery.”
He explained: “The Prime Minister’s vision to build back better, faster and greener, will be welcomed across the construction industry. Roofers have been calling for certainty over future work and support to retain apprentices and jobs, and this announcement will help to provide that.”
He added: “The Prime Minister’s rhetoric must be now followed up with delivery. We have been calling for the school Condition Improvement Fund to be released, and after months of delay, are delighted that this has now happened. That being said, we are still hearing of Local Authorities delaying projects, and this is having a real impact on roofing contractors. Project Speed should apply to all public sector work, not just high-profile infrastructure schemes.”
He concluded: “What is needed now is not just fast-tracking of current projects and funding, but incentivising future investment. Speed is one thing, but we also need substance. The government should now look to tax incentives to encourage investment.”
Whilst the focus in the PM’s speech is on ‘Build, Build, Build’ and stimulating activity, Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive at UKGBC, was focussed on ‘Build, Back, Better’ and said the “opportunity underpin our recovery plans with climate ambition” should not be missed.
She explained: “We asked for ‘Build Back Better’, but what we’ve got is ‘Build Build Build’.
“If we do not seize this moment, and take the opportunity to underpin our recovery plans with climate ambition, we will not achieve our target of net zero emissions by 2050. Yet the plans announced by the PM today make no reference to energy efficiency – perhaps the most urgent of all infrastructure priorities – that can create jobs right around the country, improve health and reduce costs to NHS, and increase consumer spending power by lowering energy bills. All this despite universal support for a national retrofit strategy over the past few weeks from wide ranging industry and academic institutions, and a 2019 manifesto promise of £9bn in insulating our draughty homes.
“We welcome a focus on levelling up the fortunes of individuals right across the country through investment in new homes and infrastructure, but a frenzy of building is not equivalent to building back greener. Such investment must be underpinned by the highest quality outcomes including efficiency, net zero emissions, waste avoidance, social value and biodiversity net gain. Yet on the basis of current Building Regulations and planning standards, none of these outcomes would be guaranteed.
“I sincerely hope that the Chancellor’s budget announcement next week will provide much-needed detail on the way this Government will practically ‘build back better’.”
Likewise, it was the issue of energy efficiency and upgrading existing buildings which the Federation of Master Builders said should not be overlooked following the PM’s announcement. In a statement the FMB explained: “Planning reforms and an apprenticeship guarantee are welcome policies for the construction industry, but building back greener is not possible without investing in insulating our homes.” It continued: “Local builders and building contractors are the foundation of the construction industry and employ hundreds of thousands of people across the UK. Boosting activity in this sector through a national energy efficiency retrofit strategy will help provide local growth.”
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, continued: “A complex planning system hampers the ability of small to medium-sized (SME) house builders to bring forward new homes. I therefore welcome the Prime Minister’s statement of intent to radically reform this process. Builders have been concerned for years that the planning system needs updating so as to alleviate workloads for stretched departments but also to speed up decisions. More money for the Home Builders Fund is positive, but this must now be open to micro builders delivering five homes or fewer, often on small brownfield sites. The apprenticeship guarantee will be vital in construction where we have been experiencing a skills shortage for many years.”
Berry concluded: “It is not possible to ‘build back greener’ and better without upgrading our existing buildings, however. Heating our homes accounts for 20% of total UK carbon emissions and these buildings must be insulated as soon as possible to achieve net zero by 2050. This programme of work will also help to boost activity in the repair and maintenance building sector which has seen workload, employment levels and enquiries all fall to historic lows this year. These firms employ hundreds of thousands of people, and SMEs train 71% of apprentices in construction. They are key to the levelling up agenda and boosting regional growth.”