Grimsby's lead role in Westminster construction annual dinner

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 8 Feb 2019

GRIMSBY played a key role in the UK Business Council for Sustainable Development’s annual Westminster Dinner, with town MP Melanie Onn hosting and director Chris Carr speaking.

The organisation works with a cross section of businesses who have an interest in the enviro-economic benefits of such a criteria, and welcomed the Shadow Housing Minister and a leading figure in sector strategy.

Members range from developers to those behind infrastructure, technology, supply chain, logistics and off-site construction elements.

“It was a pleasure to be discussing sustainability in UK industry,” Ms Onn said. “This is not just about issues of the environment but about unlocking long-term economic growth.”

She referred to historic examples of social sustainability, notably Saltaire in Yorkshire, saying that too much development has since been about quick profit.

“We need to rediscover sustainable development in the UK. We must look at a variety of housing types with renewed vigour. Garden towns must capture the essence of the community, we must understand the genuine nature of grass roots planning, where local people are part of the solution, not at the bottom of a ‘top down’ approach to delivery.”

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Although Brexit was never far from anyone’s mind, Ms Onn was careful not to mention the ‘B’ word, instead alluding to it. “We have a huge housing shortage, but also a shortage of builders, supplies and labour, particularly over the next few years. There is a real issue of build quality; two in five people would rather live in an old house than a new one because of quality. So we need to start rebuilding confidence in the industry, build the housing market sustainably and build skills. People want to see businesses with a greater sense of responsibility.”

UKBCSD chief executive Charles Roach endorsed Ms Onn’s speech, asking how – as an industry – members can communicate in a different way so that trust becomes the automatic response, the rule rather than the exception.

He then introduced Mr Carr, managing director of Cleethorpes’ Carr & Carr Builders and national board member of the FMB, council member of the NHBC and CITB, who is a regular contributor to housing strategy.

“What I like about this organisation is that it is run by the business and public sector on a business-like footing - it’s not a dirty word to make a profit,” he said. “But what we all want is to have a larger sustainability footprint for our councils and businesses. As organisations we need to work closer together, share our expertise and good practice. Learn from each other.

“For a start, I know the housing industry could learn so much more from the commercial sector. They are light years ahead when it comes to energy efficiency.”

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Mr Carr focused on conditions for growth, saying we first need to know our assets, “which can either constrain or release potential”, whether these be infrastructure, economic drivers, employment and skills, market capacity, utilities or investment.

“We must look at off site construction, modern methods of construction and smart construction.,” he said. “We must be energy secure, which is where residential can learn so much from our commercial developer colleagues.

“We need advance investment in infrastructure and resources, both public and private and we need more investment in utilities. The SME housing sector, which was once responsible for building so many of the country’s new homes, needs more development funding as the high street banks have stopped nearly all the funding to building companies with less than a £5 million turnover.”

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He concluded by noting a greater willingness from local and national government, to engage with the private sector, with elected members understanding many of the problems and what parts of the structure have broken down.

“They are open to positive suggestions or, as I call it, ‘solution opportunities’. The FMB, with which I am very involved, has now become the first port of call when Government would like to engage with the housing sector and especially the SME/micro developers.

“I want UKBCSD to be the first port of call when Government would like to engage with the larger development sector. This organisation is about maintaining quality and I’ll take quality over quantity any day.”

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