The great British build

The UK Timber Frame Association is among the many trade bodies supporting the Federation of Master Builders’ Get Britain Building campaign, which launched at Westminster in February.

THE CAMPAIGN has drawn up a 10- point plan to breathe new life into the beleaguered construction sector. Throwing his weight behind the campaign, UK Timber Frame Association (UKTFA) chairman Geoff Arnold said: “The UK timber frame industry supports the FMB’s 10-point plan to get Britain building. The economy is in deep trauma, and all industry bodies should unite together. Our particular sector is made up of several hundred UK firms, large and small, involved in the design, manufacture and construction of timber frame buildings. We provide thousands of jobs for UK workers and for UK manufacturing. Although the longer term outlook for our industry is very positive because of the country’s continued commitment to sustainable building, our members have been badly affected by the credit crunch and lack of liquidity in the banking sector.

“In particular, we have seen our housing clients slash their build programmes, so that
output levels are the lowest for decades – at just the time when this country desperately needs more new homes to ease social deprivation and enable mobility in the workforce.

“Although timber frame construction is well placed for the upturn when it comes, we have grave concerns about the loss of skills in the construction industry that is happening right now. This will have a huge impact on our capability to respond to more favourable market conditions in the future.

“We back this campaign because of the fiscal incentives it proposes to get Britain building again. We urge all parts of the construction industry to collaborate more closely, promote our strengths and successes, to put aside old squabbles and to work together – not in a protectionist way that excludes practical support and international cooperation, but in a way that recognises our interdependence, mutual interests and the needs of UK plc.”

The nine-year-old UKTFA was launched in January 2002 with the aim of providing a strong, unified voice for the UK industry. It promotes timber frame to both the construction industry and the public provides both technical and consumer information and guidance, and aims to ensure that all sectors of UK construction fully exploit the benefits of timber frame - speed of erection, thermal and acoustic excellence, durability, environmental friendliness, aesthetic quality and design flexibility.

Timber Frame’s environmental credentials are particularly relevant as specifiers and
procurers increasingly emphasise the need for sustainability in construction. The UKTFA has offices in London and Alloa, Scotland, and is the single organisation speaking for timber frame in the UK. It now comprises over 300 member companies including timber frame manufacturers, industry suppliers, architects and engineers, builders and contractors, erectors and other trade associations.

The UKTFA is genuinely able to speak for the timber frame industry as it represents over 85 per cent of UK Timber Frame manufacture. This sector has a turnover of over £582 million and a 22.1 per cent share of the UK housing market. It anticipates further penetration for timber frame of the UK housing sector by the end of 2009, with market share forecast to climb above 26 per cent by 2010.

Lining up alongside the UKTFA and the Federation of Master Builders in support of the campaign are the British Precast and Builders’ Merchants Federations, the Modern Masonry Alliance and the union Unite. With around 30 more organisations, trade bodies and concerned industry parties signed up to the campaign, the organisers claim it represents the biggest coalition in construction history.

Beyond the sector itself, the campaign has also received support in parliament. Shadow construction minister Mark Prisk, Mp, said at the launch: “The time for talking is over, the industry cannot wait. We need action now.” LibDem Lorely Burt, MP, expressed similar sentiments, albeit more poetically, when she added: “The construction industry is like a road accident victim, bleeding at the side of the road.” The big question on everone’s lips now is presumably: “Can the big Brown ambulance get there in time to save it?’

1. Ensure responsible lending to prudent borrowers coupled with the reintroduction
of mortgage interest tax relief
2. Cut VAT from 17.5 per cent (15 per cent for the next 13 months) to five per cent
for all building repair and maintenance work (PDF 157 KB)
3. Develop and implement a coherent strategy to deal with the UK’s existing housing stock both in terms of helping to create more homes and making the UK’s existing stock more energy efficient
4. Set targets for all local authorities to fast track the planning process to release and designate land for social housing
5. Simplify the planning system
6. Produce an implementation plan to show the precise timings and location of public spending on schools, hospitals and prisons to ensure that projects are completed in 2009 and 2010 respectively
7. Introduce a section 106 agreement holiday and then subsequently cap the value of section 106 agreements. Abandon the proposed Community Infrastructure Levy
8. Reduce the regulatory and fiscal burden
9. Reform stamp duty so that only have higher rates of stamp duty apply to the proportion of the house price which is in the relevant band i.e. a graduated tax like income tax
10.Reintroduce empty property rate relief