New beginnings

by BMF CEO John Newcomb
24 March 2020

John NewcombAfter six years, we are saying farewell to Peter Hindle MBE who stands down as BMF Chairman at the end of March.

Speaking personally, it was a privilege to work alongside Peter. As a relative newcomer myself, I quickly learned a huge amount about the builders’ merchants’ industry from him. As Chairman, he helped to guide the BMF through a period of significant change and transformation, that ultimately enabled us to create an award-winning trade body that now supports and represents the entire building materials supply chain. The whole BMF team would like to express our sincere thanks to Peter and wish him every health and happiness in future.

Richard Hill, who takes over as Chair on 1 April, has been an active participant in the building materials supply industry for nearly three decades. As well as being an enthusiastic supporter of the BMF, Richard is a member of the Worshipful Company of Builders Merchants currently serving on the Court and will become Master in 2022.

Much of his career has been with ACO, where he is now Vice-Chairman of ACO Technologies plc and a Senior Manager of the global ACO Group. He is also President of the Plastic Pipes Group of the British Plastics Federation and Non-Executive Chair of the Built Environment Trust. 

I am looking forward to an equally successful working relationship with Richard, helping the BMF to meet both current and future challenges, to maintain its position of influence and work to support the full spectrum of our membership.

Housing issues

On the subject of “new beginnings”, the BMF welcomed Chris Pincher MP who has taken on the housing portfolio at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. Mr Pincher comes to domestic policy from the Foreign Office where he was Minister for Europe and the Americas. The diplomatic skills he brings from that role will be put to good use in persuading local authorities to significantly increase the rate of much-needed new house building throughout England.

He will undoubtedly have an unenviable in-tray, but we would like him to focus on two major issues that affect BMF members - narrowing the gap between housing demand and supply, and the decarbonisation of heating and electrification of homes.

The Future Homes Standard consultation, which closed last month, sought views on reducing carbon emissions from new homes built after 2025 by changing Part L and Part F of the Building Regulations. The main proposal is to end gas boiler connections in 6 years’ time in favour of heat pumps, heat networks and direct electric heating. In our response, we acknowledged the logic of heat pumps and heat networks as long as they remained affordable, but highlighted other potential options: hydrogen to replace burning natural gas and direct electric heating from renewable sources will suit different circumstances. And, as our members have pointed out, the first priority is to get the basic structure and fabric of the building right first to confront the performance gap. Irrespective of how stringent standards are, if they are not being met, emissions will continue.

In addition, a major White Paper is due on accelerating planning permission. The Conservatives have a target to build 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s. If this is to be achieved there must be unrelenting political determination to simplify and speed up planning approvals to increase housing completions. The whole thrust must be implementation to enable BMF members to invest confidently in the people and materials and products needed.

These are just two of the key messages within the renewed Get Britain Building campaign, which the BMF is supporting alongside the Federation of Master Builders and the Building Alliance. The campaign is urging the government to get behind SME builders and UK manufacturers and distributors of construction products as it ramps up investment in critical infrastructure, public and commercial buildings and housing.

To find out more, and to add your support, visit

This article first appeared in the March 2020 edition of Builders’ Merchants News