As I write this article the UK is due to leave the European Union on January 31, but what does this actually mean?

Assuming the withdrawal agreement is ratified by both the UK and the EU then it is very much ‘business as usual’ during the transition period. This runs to the end of December 2020 or possibly even beyond, during which time the UK will remain in the EU single market and customs union. So, for the immediate future there will be no changes to customs procedures, duty rates or the validity of UK Notified Bodies, CE marking will remain unchanged and the UKCA mark still seems a long way off. The UK is also obliged to adopt much of the EU legislation that is due for implementation during the transition period.

Housing demand

Since the new Conservative government came into power there has been a glimmer of hope on the housing front thanks to the ‘Boris bounce’ in the economy. Housebuilder share prices increased and Rightmove reported that demand from prospective buyers increased by 28% in the four days immediately after the election. These are all positive indications that the time is right for progress. Let’s hope it does not take long to trigger an increase in building pace at site level.

Glenigan’s ‘Construction under the Conservatives’ forecast for 2020-2021 predicts a 9% increase in private housing, while affordable housing is also set to be strengthened over the next two years.

Like many other industry bodies, the TRA has called on the government to deliver on its manifesto promises. Housing was high on the government’s lobbying agenda and it promised to help first-time buyers and to boost new housebuilding. TRA members are a vital part of the housing supply chain, therefore urging the government to act quickly to stimulate housebuilding will be essential for the trussed rafter and metal web joist sector in 2020.

Our members are also poised to support growth in affordable housing, via local housing associations, where they can deliver the large volumes required while maintaining a high-quality roofing solution that can be quickly installed.

Modern methods of construction (MMC) will play a vital role in meeting government housing targets. And as the climate crisis demands more focus, the TRA is pushing for new housebuilding programmes to be linked to the UK’s zero carbon aims. The timber engineering supply chain is a valuable link within the construction industry and is ready to provide support across numerous policy areas.

The TRA has encouraged all members to contact their local politicians to help drive these changes forward. A standard letter is available to members through the TRA website should they wish to invite politicians to their business. This will not only put the timber sector in the spotlight, but it will help to increase the understanding of politicians, and their advisers, as to what the sector can provide at a local and a national level.

Skills in Timber

To continue to support the broader construction industry, the timber sector needs to address its own skills shortage. This will be a major focus for the TRA throughout 2020.

There are a number of projects under way, which will break cover soon, aimed at encouraging young people into timber engineering. As a high-tech but sustainable industry there are many roles to choose from, but it’s up to us to ensure that the next generation is aware of the career opportunities our industry can offer.

TRA events

TRA events continue to be a popular way to share knowledge with members, encourage networking and an opportunity to make membership decisions to drive the TRA forward.

The TRA AGM will take place on May 21 at Jurys Inn Hinckley Island. Last year’s AGM was very well received, with a great line up of interesting and engaging speakers. This year’s will include another superb agenda, ensuring all attendees take something beneficial back to their businesses.

No matter what 2020 has in store, the TRA will continue to support members with industry knowledge, advice on good practice, health and safety and encouraging new recruits into the sector.