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Product testing chaos will hold back housebuilding, warns CLC

The CE mark can continue to be used on products until 2023 (Image: Claudiodivizia/Dreamstime.com)

Lack of capacity in product testing could lead to the delay in construction of 150,000 homes in a single year, the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) is warning the government.

Andy Mitchell, chair of the CLC, has written to Michael Gove, the secretary of state for Levelling Up Housing and Communities (DLUHC), urging government to help boost product testing capacity.

The product testing crisis has been brought about by the introduction of the new UKCA mark, which has replaced the old CE mark following Brexit. The transition period has already been extended to January 2023, but the CLC says that lack of test capacity to ensure products conform with the new certification will lead to a severe shortage of materials.

In the letter Mitchell says: “Our main cause of concern is that for a significant range of construction products there is limited or no capacity for these tests to be carried out in line with the UK Construction Product Regulations.

CLC points to evidence it has been collating from construction product manufacturers that numerous common and essential products such as radiators, glass, passive fire protection, glues and sealants will be adversely affected by a lack of UK testing capability. If the current situation prevails, these products will not be available on the UK market after the January 2023 deadline.

The letter continues: “The inability to certify radiators in the UK, for instance, could delay the construction of over 150,000 homes in a single year and will also delay the switch to low carbon heating.

“The consequences are clearly damaging not only to the UK construction sector but also to the government’s ambitions around housebuilding, infrastructure, building safety and net zero in the built environment.”

The CLC has put forward a series of steps it is urging government to take. These include:

  • Verify the current capability of the certification and testing sector in the UK as a first priority step;
  • Establish the commercial viability for investment in increased capability, with support if necessary for niche but essential areas;
  • Work with UKAS to find faster ways to bring new certification bodies on-stream;
  • Allow subcontracting of testing and certification, if necessary, using overseas bodies;
  • Allow the use of existing certifications on a temporary basis to allow time to gain UK-based approvals;
  • Allow more flexibility on the current regulations if only on a transitional basis. There is a further opportunity for government to support the transition to the UKCA mark.

“In conclusion,” says the letter, “continuing risks associated with the implementation of the UKCA mark on the UK supply chain – already disrupted by the pandemic, product and raw material shortages, increased energy costs and skills shortages – are of great concern to the Construction Leadership Council and our numerous industry partners.

“There are steps that can be taken to mitigate these risks, but action is needed now. The extension of the deadline to January 2023 is not sufficient to prevent significant disruption.”

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