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BMF reacts to consequential improvements letter to Chancellor

Any temptation by the Government to introduce a ‘Conservatory Tax’ by the back door should be firmly resisted by ministers if they want an SME-led, private enterprise economic recovery.

That is according to the Builders Merchants’ Federation that today reacted to a story in “The Guardian” (18 January) about a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer asking him to restore the so-called ‘Conservatory Tax’.

Several construction trade organisations urged George Osborne MP to overturn the decision by Cabinet Minister Eric Pickles MP (13 December) to scrap proposed changes to Part L of the Building Regulations. During 2012, his Department of Communities & Local Government (DCLG) sought input on requiring voters to have energy-efficiency consequential improvements carried out when having conservatories, conversions or extensions done – or when replacing boilers or a number of windows.

Brett Amphlett, BMF Policy Manager, said: “The BMF is against consequential improvements under Part L of the Building Regulations. We believe trying to force them on residents is heavy-handed and counter-productive. Anything that makes small works more expensive will affect merchants and their SME customers. At a time when builders, plumbers and allied trades are vital in creating much-needed local growth, consequential improvements are a bad idea”.

Amphlett said the Federation had no quibble with other aspects of the letter. For example, asking the Government to stick to its declared commitment for all new homes and all new non-residential buildings to be zero carbon from 2016 and 2019 respectively. He agreed that better or smarter regulation – and keeping or modifying some of the rules on housing – would permit fairer competition amongst builders and property developers.

“The Federation is not arguing for wholesale cancellation of the Building Regulations. Clear, unambiguous and sensible regulations, standards or codes against which an orderly market can operate and grow for everyone – builder, merchant and manufacturer – are a good thing”.

“Consequential improvements pose a genuine threat to BMF members. Homeowners may find themselves pushed into using the Green Deal to pay for the extra work they will be forced to do. This could compel them to use specialist suppliers or third-party contractors, in addition to – or instead of – their local builder. Alternatively, voters may simply hand the entire project over to big, national businesses – and cut out local merchants and SME firms completely”.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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