STA says garden cities 'must be sustainable'

19 March 2014

The Structural Timber Association (STA) has welcomed chancellor George Osborne’s commitment to building a new garden city at Ebbsfleet in Kent – but has urged him to make sure the houses that are built are sustainable.

Osborne announced his plans for 15,000 houses on the site – plans that had been widely trailed over the weekend – in his budget speech, as well as a similar plan for Barking Riverside.

STA chief executive Andrew Carpenter said: “These large scale projects offer the UK the opportunity to grasp the benefits of building in timber, which is a modern and quick method of construction that will allow the government to tick all the boxes in terms of environmental performance through construction and the life of the buildings. It offers the UK a real chance to be a leader in sustainable construction.”

However Ian McIlwee, chief executive of the British Woodworking Federation (BWF), was more skeptical, describing the Budget as a “mixed bag, with political positioning front and centre”.

He said: the extension of Help to Buy to 2020 – also trailed beforehand – was a “help to build” but was not enough.

He said: “To make a difference we should be looking seriously at public owned housing options. Support for business investment is also welcome, but we are not encouraging investment in our housing stock. Again, the Green Deal didn’t get a mention, nor the option to reduce VAT on refurbishment and repair work, which at 20% still acts as a disincentive and a dampener on the domestic RMI sector.

He added: “There is significant support in the budget for high energy users, but little encouragement for more environmentally sensitive sectors.”