Timber takes centre stage in House of Commons

The APPG for the Timber Industries hosted its annual autumn parliamentary luncheon in the House of Commons on 22 November.

Just hours before the Westminster Hall Roof and Lantern was crowned the winner in the Restoration and Reuse category at this year’s Wood Awards, industry figures and MPs had passed underneath this exquisite timber building on their way to forge new pathways for the industry to move forward.

The lunch marks the beginning of a crucial period for the timber industry, with the UK Government set to launch its Timber in Construction (TiC) Policy Roadmap imminently.

In attendance at the lunch were senior peers such as Lord Best, Lord Ravensdale, and the Earl of Caithness, and MPs from across the UK, including Richard Bacon (Norfolk South), Charlotte Nichols (Warrington North) and Sir Roger Gale (North Thanet).

Industry representatives came from every section of the timber supply chain, ranging from forestry right through to housing, along with key figures from housing and the professional associations – keen to talk on how timber can help drive a low-carbon transformation of the UK.

Timber construction | A cross party issue

With an election year likely forthcoming, the APPG will be a strong source of support for the TiC as a cross party group. While the TiC is a Conservative initiative, Baroness Hayman, APPG Chair and a Labour Peer was confident Labour will look to continue or produce something similar if elected.

“Every major party in the UK, whether red, blue, yellow, or gold, is committed in some way to achieving net zero and decarbonising the UK. With the built environment accounting for 25% of our national emissions, timber is essential to this aim.

“By sustainably harvesting trees and building with wood, we can turn our built environment into centres of carbon capture and storage, decarbonising one of our most polluting sectors.”

Forestry and timber on the government agenda

The lunch’s keynote speech came from Isabella Murfin, the Director of the Nature for Climate Tree Programme at DEFRA, who has been heavily involved in the creation of the TiC Policy Roadmap.

Murfin, outlined the increasing recognition of the importance of trees and woodland for nature, people, and the economy, as the government’s commitment to expanding productive forestry in the UK, and a need to continue to grow demand.

In discussion with the group, Murfin said that the TiC Working Group was “incredibly valuable in finding common ground, identifying priorities for action, and stimulating innovation in the timber sector”, with the roadmap an “excellent foundation” for industry to build on.

Still work to do

CTI directors Andrew Carpenter (Structural Timber Association Ltd) and David Hopkins (Timber Development UK) lead a discussion on the barriers and solutions to timber construction; key among them resistance to change in the construction and housing industry.

This, as outlined by the hosts, can only be challenged through effective regulation of embodied carbon emissions which will incentivise the use of low-carbon materials such as timber. Similar regulation has been seen across Europe in states such as France, Netherlands, and Denmark.

The Government has promised a consultation on embodied carbon which the CTI will take part in, however this is likely to happen in 2024.

There also remained concerns over timber and fire safety, with members of local government highlighting continued anxiety in the firefighting sector. It was agreed the CTI, alongside other industry partners, would look to engage directly with this sector in the new year.

The CTI, together with the entire industry, is looking forward to the publication of the TiC Policy Roadmap being released in the coming weeks.

Read more on the roadmap here.