Looking at the bigger picture

Looking at the bigger picture

BLOG · BY TTF CEO David Hopkins · 21 May 2020

The timber industry sits at an intersection between international trade, innovation and regulation, and a shifting global landscape affected by COVID-19.


At this time it has been important to focus on what is in front of you. Every day since lock down businesses have been making tough decisions, to stay open or close, to furlough employees, and balancing supply with uncertain future demand.

Daily press conferences by the Government bring to life both restrictions and new schemes. Demand in some product categories has fell significantly, while others labelled essential, such as packaging have kept sawmills and merchants busy. In the case of garden supplies, demand seemingly surged. But, even now, during this hectic time, we cannot lose sight of the bigger picture.

Post Grenfell is a different world for construction. There are operational changes we need to make as an industry, with regards to Use Class and preservative treatment, which we discussed in today’s webinar with the Wood Protection Agency. As Dame Judith Hackett has repeatedly stated, it is not good enough to wait for regulation.

There are also important policy changes which are going on, including a consultation which closes this weekend, at 11:45pm on 25 May, on the use of combustible materials in and on external walls. Responding to this consultation should be a business priority for you.

The proposal in its current form will significantly affect timber construction, extending the ban from 18 metres to 11 metres. This is a blanket ban on combustibles materials in these buildings. It will create perverse outcomes, excluding safe, sustainable and proven methods of timber construction from the market. You can find out more here.

I strongly encourage all our members, and any other interested parties, to make a submission by building off the argument and position we have provided you, linked here. We cannot emphasise enough the importance of responding. The more of us do so, the better we can preserve the future of timber construction in all its forms.

Finally, I would like to bring back the big ‘B’ word. The Government has been firm that Brexit will go ahead on 31 January 2020, and, this week released the UK Global Tariff regime. It helps bring greater clarity on what the future will look like, but we remain concerned about the effect of a potential no-deal Brexit on imports from the EU.

Trading under the UK Global Tariff regime as proposed with the EU, were there to be a no-deal Brexit, would mean greater barriers with our most significant trading partners. In less than a year this could mean, for example, a 6% tariff on Finnish plywood, leading to significant disruption.

We will be continuing to engage with the Government along with our major partners to advocate for a deal which allows for continued tariff-free trading between the UK and European timber exporters.

As the Prime Minister calls for common sense approaches from people and businesses in the UK, we can only ask they return the favour by taking a similar line in relation to trade, combustibles, COVID-19, and so on. Business must be supported, not just through loans, but with certainty, to allow for planning and investment in all these areas.

Wishing everyone the best for the rest of the week, and the long weekend.