TDUK Policy Executive Jack Clappen reflects on a busy winter period of political advocacy for the Confederation of Timber Industries.
A little more than a year ago, the Environmental Audit Committee recognised timber as essential for decarbonising our built environment in their landmark report ‘Building to net zero: costing carbon in construction’. While it might not always be visible to everyone in the industry, behind the scenes this has sparked a flurry of activity.
Building on the groundwork of this report, including the start of the Timber in Construction Working Group and the rejection of the lowering of the ban on combustible materials, we have been busy connecting with policymakers and campaigning for policies that incentivise low-carbon, timber construction in the UK.
With Labour racing ahead in all major opinion polls, our advocacy efforts these past few months have been focused on the opposition, and in particular, shadow ministers. Starting in January, the CTI hosted Shadow Minister for Levelling Up, Alex Norris MP, on a site visit to the Donaldson Offsite factory in Ilkeston.
Site visits are an excellent engagement tool as we were able to show Mr Norris first-hand the benefits of offsite timber construction.
During the visit, Mr Norris expressed his eagerness to expand offsite timber construction to “create localised and low-carbon manufacturing bases across the country”. He also added that if successful in 2024/5, Labour will look to explore regulatory incentives for timber such as Whole Life Carbon Assessments in construction.
Additionally, the CTI has had discussions with a range of shadow ministers this year, most recently, Shadow Minister for Business and Industry, Bill Esterson MP and Shadow Climate Change Minister, Kerry McCarthy MP.
This year has seen a more localised approach to our political advocacy, working closely with members of the Greater London Authority (GLA) to promote timber as a sustainable solution to London’s housing crisis.
Local engagement is becoming a crucial part of our operation, with devolved assemblies increasingly important as the Government looks to decentralise policymaking away from Westminster. This is being seen across the country, with authorities in the Midlands and North receiving more powers and funding in recent months.
London has proved a difficult region for timber in recent years following the ban on combustible materials in the 2021 Affordable Homes Programme.
To tackle this, we held a lunch on the fringes of the Futurebuild Exhibition with London councillors, Assembly Members and industry leaders to further understand this ban as well as additional barriers to timber construction in the capital.
Based on the discussion it was clear that our industry needs to do more to highlight the safety of timber systems as well as address shortages in supply, competency and skills.
Going forward, addressing these barriers will be central to our efforts in spring and summer.
In June, we plan to release a new APPG report titled ‘The Barriers and Solutions to Timber Construction’ which addresses the key government concerns on timber. This includes issues with supply and demand as well as building safety and skills.
This report will be launched at a House of Lords afternoon tea reception, with MPs, ministers and industry leaders present.
We will also be continuing our work with the Government’s Timber in Construction Working Group (TiC) which is looking to release its timber expansion roadmap later this year.
*This article was originally posted on the Confederation of Timber Industries website – an umbrella organisation which represents the UK’s timber supply chain.