Farmer Report Prompts Government Response

In October 2016 Mark Farmer published a report Modernise or Die, commissioned by the Construction Leadership Council.

The commission was prompted by concerns from housing and planning ministers as well as skills ministers that productivity and capacity in the sector is undermined by its reliance on subcontractor labour, as well as little investment in skills and innovation.

The Government has recently released a response to the report outlining how they have incorporated the findings and recommendations into policy development.

The response comments on each of Farmer’s recommendations and has influenced the measures in the Housing White Paper to support increased housing supply and has helped inform the review of the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB). The Government also announced their continuation of support for the CITB, to make it more responsive and focused.

Alongside its recommendations to Government, Modernise or Die challenges the industry to develop skills more efficiently, embrace new and more productive ways of working, ensure the quality of design and workmanship, and be more innovative. An ageing workforce, alongside the need to deliver a steep change in housing quality and output and major infrastructure improvements, highlights the importance of rising to this challenge.

Especially interesting is recommendation 8 by Farmer which focuses on off-site construction.

“Government should act to provide an ‘initiation’ stimulus to innovation in the housing sector by promoting the use of pre-manufactured solutions through policy measures. This should be prioritised either through the conditional incentives of institutional development and investment in the private rented sector; the promotion of more pre-manufactured social housebuilding though Registered Providers; direct commissioning of pre-manufactured housing; or a combination of any of the above. It should also consider planning breaks for pre-manufactured approaches.”

The Government responded by announcing over £25 billion of investment to increase housing supply. This investment is across a range of housing tenures that reflect housing needs across the country.

The Government also wants to stimulate innovation and increase the use of modern methods of construction in housing as well as;

• Stimulating growth though its Accelerated Construction programme and Home Builders Fund, as well as wider support for Custom Build, Housing Association and Build to Rent.

• Supporting a joint working group with lenders, valuers and the industry to ensure mortgages are readily available across tested methods of construction.
• Considering how the planning systems is working for modern methods of construction.

• Working with local areas to deliver growth, jobs and build local housing faster.

• Alongside the Home Building Fund, considering the opportunities for off-site firms to access innovation, and growth funding and support and the financial incentives for them to grow.

The Government is determined to ensure more houses are built quicker while maintaining quality, and is keen to work with companies like Elements Europe to achieve goals through innovative construction methods.

Kevin Arthur, Director at Elements Europe commented “The Government’s response is exactly what the industry needs for which we have Mark Farmer to thank in pinpointing timely and realistic recommendations.”

“We strive for innovation here at Elements Europe and we are really pleased that modern methods of construction is growing in its popularity to deliver quality and speed, something which the Government has clearly recognised. The future is bright for off-site construction.”

Image: BCEGI’s residential development in Salford.