29 March 2021

Green Homes Grant closure will harm retrofit industry

The National Federation of Builders (NFB) is disappointed to hear the news that the Green Homes Grant is to end on 31 March 2021.

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the National Federation of Builders (NFB), said: “In order to access this scheme, thousands of small businesses jumped through costly hoops to win this work. Closing it with four days’ notice is completely disrespectful and some small businesses will close because of it.”

Even before the scheme began, the NFB repeatedly warned civil servants about the issues which would plague successful implementation and were advised that concerns should be brought up after the scheme began.  Yet even in the final weeks, NFB’s solutions to the failings of the Green Homes Grant were ignored.

The Government cannot dwell on this failure and it is time to move on and ensure that next time, industry is at the heart of retrofitting policy. This is why NFB is backing the National Retrofit Strategy (NRS).

The NRS still requires a retrofit industry to be established because a major flaw of the Green Homes Grant was that too few companies were accredited to do the insulation and air tightening works which made a move to electric energy worthwhile.

The Government must therefore remove the barriers to entry it set through the Green Homes Grant, and allow companies doing internationally accredited retrofit works, such as EnerPHit, to win work while they meet the new UK PAS2035 standard.

Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing and planning policy at the NFB and who sits on the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), Repair, Maintenance and Improvement taskforce, said: “Had anybody listened to industry, this could have been a successful scheme. The Government needs to create a market environment for retrofitting works and understand that there isn’t yet the skilled workforce in every area to complete retrofitting works at the standard the Government set.

Once it has a pathway to upskill industry, it must seek out professionals already doing these works and in the early days, allow them access to any accredited retrofitting works. It also needs to reform planning so these works can more easily go ahead.

It must also offer market, not just tax payer funded incentives. We recommend a stamp duty rebate on homes which new homeowners can get to EPC C within two years, as well as an exemption on the most energy efficient new homes. It should also offer a VAT cut on our 9 million traditional and heritage buildings; as this will build a highly skilled workforce and stimulate the most innovative retrofitting solutions.

With these four very simple policy changes, our COP 26 blushes will be spared, industry trust will start to be rebuilt and the NRS, which is our best opportunity for change, will start from the best position possible.”