Government rethinks volumetric housing support


Ilke Homes shut its factory in Sherburn in Elmet last summer with debts of more than £300m

Housing minister Lee Rowley disclosed the review in a holding response to a report from the House of Lords on volumetric housing production.

He needs more time to provide a fuller response, he said, because government policy and  support for the sector was being reassessed.

A report from the House of Lords built environment committee in January said: “The government’s approach to modern methods of construction (MMC) is in disarray. Millions of pounds of public money has been invested, but the money has not been backed by a coherent strategy and set of measurable objectives.”

The House of Lords committee enquiry came on the back of the collapse of Ilke Homes and House by Urban Splash last year, coupled with the closure of Legal & General’s prefab housing factory.

Since then, Modulous has entered administration, Sheffield-based Lighthouse has filed intent to appoint administrators and TopHat has mothballed its massive new Corby factory before production had even started.

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Housing minister Lee Rowley yesterday wrote to Lord Moylan, chair of the Lords built environment committee, with what he acknowledged was just a holding response, despite it having been eight weeks since Moylan’s report was published.

The high-profile failure of the 21st century prefab revolution has come despite government support and taxpayer loans to failed enterprises.

Lee Rowley told Lord Moylan: “There are clear questions which now need to be reviewed, and answered in detail, about where the sector currently is, where it is going and what role the state will play in the future.”

He said: “We all have the shared ambition of seeing MMC play a continuing role in the provision of additional homes for the next generation but, at the same, there are clearly broader discussions to have about what can, and what should, be done in the future given the changes the sector has experienced in recent months. For this reason, your report is a valuable contribution to a wider conversation on MMC, as well as being incredibly timely. Given the recent announcements of further industry exits, I would like to give further detailed consideration to the development of MMC policy and how best this department can support the sector and inevitably, that will take some time.”

The minister promised to write back later with “a full update in late spring once we have undertaken further detailed work with the sector”.



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