Industry eye

You have to admire the current government's plans to cut bureaucracy – until you realise that this is causing major delays on a raft of new laws and regulations. And that means uncertainty and inaction, the last things we need in the current economic climate.

Take the deeply sexy - and pretty crucial - area of drainage. Changes relating to both foul and surface water are afoot thanks to the Flood and Water Management Act 2010. While the changes to the foul water standard in England have been delayed and delayed (the Welsh government got so fed up of waiting they went it alone), details of the new surface water rules remain a mystery.

This makes things a bit tricky for housing developers, trying to plan ahead and work out what they need to do with their drains and how much it will cost. Buying land at the moment is risky, one land buyer for a major housebuilder told me, because the new surface water regs could require developers to create natural features like ponds, reed beds and ditches to manage surface water. Down go your housing densities – and profit.

Manufacturers who want to launch new products are also in limbo, waiting for new regulations until they can be totally sure what's required. Business units with overseas head offices are getting their knuckles wrapped: 'where's that return on investment you promised me?'

But it's the local authorities I feel really sorry for. These guys are trying to write their flood management strategies, having to leave big bits blank. And they're supposed to be planning how they will take on responsibility for these sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) without any proper detail.

Another big area of inaction relates to energy efficiency. David Cameron's election claims that his would be the 'greenest government ever' seem to have been conveniently forgotten in the drive to create positive headlines about cutting red tape.

There was a plan that all new houses had to be zero carbon (whatever that means) by 2016, and all buildings by 2019. But now the Government isn't sure whether that will be enforced. In fact, we're not even sure about the changes to part L of the Building Regulations which were due to happen sometime this year.

Then there's the debacle of the Green Deal. The idea is that householders will take out a loan at just under 7% to pay for energy upgrades with the load paid back from savings in energy bills. They might end up paying less on their bills – but they might not.

All those firms, big and small, who were gearing up to upgrade homes under the Green Deal have suffered a series of set-backs. First the launch date slipped – from October last year to the end of January. And then the plans to force homeowners who were having substantial works done to upgrade on energy efficiency were axed after the Daily Mail dubbed it the Conservatory Tax.

With this stick removed, the Government needs to come up with some pretty juicy carrots in order to tempt homeowners into this supposed deal. And meanwhile, it's the firms right at the bottom of the supply chain who are going out of business.

Energy minister Greg Barker was quoted in Building recently saying the industry needs to come up with more innovative products and solutions to drive energy efficiency. But without firm timetables, who can take the risk of investing in R&D?

This article has been written for Industry Image by Kristina Smith, who is a freelance construction writer and editor.