Sustainable Development? ?Regulate Finance Not House Builders? Argues Professor Benfield

Professor Benfield of The Benfield Att Group argues that in order to meet the UK Governments targets for climate change they must regulate the Finance Industry NOT Housebuilders.

London ? 2nd March 2007 - ?REGULATION OF THE HOUSEBUILDING INDUSTRY is becoming so overwhelming that it threatens efficiency, output and prices?, Professor Dr Michael Benfield told an audience at Earl?s Court?s ?Future Build? event, today. With building, planning, and a range of other regulatory measures all set to increase as Government redoubles its efforts to meet its climate change objectives, ?The time has come?, he argued, ??to consider lightening the load on house builders by making other agencies responsible for housing performance.?

Acknowledging that it could be a double-edged sword, he threw down a challenge to Ministers to be more imaginative in their Policy and Regulatory thinking. ?Stop falling back on blunt instruments with which to clobber house-builders. Stop blaming them for past Government failures. Instead, start thinking outside the box. Rather than trying to command and direct the minutiae of construction and development, start thinking about targeting those who can influence both design improvements and demand from the house-buying public, like mortgage lenders.? he suggested.

Pointing out that the real problems of energy and other wastes that Ministers are trying to address lies more with the UK?s circa 85%+ of pre-1990 housing stock, rather than the 1% added each year by new homes, he highlighted the fact that the way people use their homes is equally, if not more, important than the way they are built.

?I?m tired of hearing the likes of Blair, Brown, Prescott, and their various Ministers and Shadows crying in their beards that no one knew that we would face these issues.? he stated. ?They were identified way back in the 70?s. I even worked on potential solutions as a house-builder, but no one wanted to listen, least of all mortgage lenders. Until comparatively recently they, amongst others, have been major obstacles to research and development. Play it safe. Don?t take risks. Be ?conventional?, has been their maxim.? he claimed.

Acknowledging that they have done this in order to protect the funds of investors and other providers, Professor Benfield suggested that the time might have arrived to make them more responsible to their borrowers, linking this with society as a whole. ?Requiring them to consider the total annual costs of household provision, not just mortgage repayments, would greatly affect the way homes are both built and used?, he argued, adding that if this were applied to the existing housing stock as well as new homes, it would create a tidal shift in the way house-buyers assessed and chose their first, or next, homes.

Arguing that such thinking should extend beyond lenders to all those who have an impact on annual running and maintenance costs - like local councils, utility providers, and even service facilities ? Professor Benfield considers that this could have greater and more beneficial impact than what, he feels, will become increasingly difficult to apply and control industry regulation.

?Government has already bastardised Town & Country Planning almost beyond recognition. It is now failing us dismally, so much so that I no longer ask ?Is it fit for purpose??, but ?What is its purpose?? Changes to Building Regulations, the introduction of the new Code for Sustainable Development, revision of the Construction Design and Management Regulations, increasingly stringent Health & Safety Regulations ? all with pre-advice that they are going to be further ?strengthened? in the near future ? are beginning to test the entire industry to the limit.? he said.

?The whole sector ? from planning officers and building inspectors, to architects and builders - already faces a desperate shortage of technical and professional, as well as craft, competence and expertise. The quantum steps in what is now being introduced require not only the development of new training courses for new entrants, but also major re-learning exercises and qualifications for old hands who must update their skills. With many of the big national house-builders already recognising the difficulties, how are smaller builders, responsible for 75% of housing output* - and the individual self builders of around 20,000 homes a year going to cope? Against this background, I repeat that the time has come for others to take part of the load?, he argued.

Notes to Editors:

? Housing Stats ? 75% based on top 3 companies (Barratt Developments, Persimmon and Wimpey) accounting for 25% of new builds in 2006.
Source: building.co.uk, and specific company websites.

? Futurebuild - The UK?s largest event dedicated to offsite construction. It attracts the major suppliers of offsite building products and services and brings together professionals from all parts of the sector. 27th Feb ? 1st March 2007, Earls Court 2.

? Professor Michael Benfield ? The UK?s leading sustainable development professional and academic:

- Proactive environmentalist and sustainable construction expert
- Doctor of European Planning & Development Systems
- Visiting Professor of Civil & Construction Engineering, University of Wales
- Managing Director of leading UK timber frame group: The Benfield ATT Group
- Board member of the UK New Homes Marketing Board
- Co-founder of The Green Party
- Build the UK?s first private development of timber frame homes
- Chair of the Knowledge Hub of the Wales Forest Business Partnership
- Served at Director levels in substantial property, marketing and contracting firms

For more information:

Please call Kelvin Godhard or Ann-Marie Russell in the
Marketing Department @ The Benfield ATT Group
on 01291 437050 or marketing ( @ ) benfieldatt dot co.uk

###


Contact Details

Company Name: Benfield Att
Issued By: Ann-marie Russell
Phone: 01291 437 050
Address:
Zip: NP26 5PR
Website: Visit the website

by Ann-marie Russell (few years ago!)

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