CTI brings industry and politics together at Labour conference

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CTI brings industry and politics together at Labour conference

Both national and local politicians now better recognise the benefits of a stronger partnership between government and the timber industry, following a Confederation of Timber Industries sit down with Labour in Brighton to discuss how timber can help solve the housing crisis.

Politicians present included Chi Onwurah, MP, and Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, as well as Councilor Leo Pollak of Southwark, Councilor Heather Johnson of Camden, and Councilor Katherine Dunne of Hounslow.

Each was welcomed by Hamish MacLeod, Director of Public Affairs with BSW Timber, and David Hopkins, Managing Director of the Timber Trade Federation, who elaborated on the recent inquiry into housing by the APPG for the Timber Industries, and answered questions.

On a national scale, CTI was pleased to see Ms Onwurah discuss bringing forward an industrial strategy specifically for timber, which acknowledges the importance of growing UK forests and building sustainably in an evolving green economy.

The successful growth of UK Forestry, which accounts for 40% of the volume traded in the UK, was discussed by Mr MacLeod to the politicians who wanted to know what species are being grown, it’s effect on biodiversity, and visions for the future of UK forestry.

He was able to allay some of the concerns regarding biodiversity by both acknowledging the trade-offs made by commercial forestry, as well as to the advancement of forestry techniques, which uses technology, restrictions on monocultures, and is compelled to grow 15% native forests.

Misconceptions regarding the fire performance of timber were also discussed by Councilor’s Pollak, Dunne and Johnson, who raised the difficulty they face post Grenfell in reassuring residents.

Mr Hopkins pointed out that many residents across the UK already unknowingly live in timber buildings, whether they look to their stairs, windows or the furniture in their living rooms, or even to the frame of their house underneath hidden behind a brick façade – all performing well.

When built well, and within the proper specifications, the evidence did not show any increase in risk to life in homes or apartments built with timber over other materials.

Most of the local politicians had been drawn to attend by the sustainability aspects of building in timber, with the impact of major construction projects in their areas top of mind after each had declared climate emergencies.

The timber industry must engage with local councils who are right now building houses around the country, who can be enthusiastic champions, and are able to make a significant impact through their policies – as had been demonstrated by Hackney.

Follow up and engagement opportunities between the CTI and local councils was raised by both parties, with agreement that more needed to be done to highlight the positive tale of timber in the UK. Reflecting on the event, David Hopkins, Managing Director of the Timber Trade Federation, said:

“We know there is a strong story for the timber industry to tell in terms of construction, skills, and sustainability, and now is the time for businesses to work together to ensure that we align to get a consistent message to all UK politicians – which we will do with this housing report.

“Politicians are interested in building with timber, but it will be up to us to make sure they have the tools and information close to hand to talk to their constituents, and opportunities to work with the housing associations, developers and architects who are determined to change construction.”