Esther McVey tells Tory party conference scheme could tie in with Northern Powerhouse plans

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The housing minister has called for the establishment of a centre for excellence to champion modern methods of construction (MMC) in the north of England.

At a series of appearances at the Conservative party conference in Manchester, Esther McVey gave her backing to off-site methods as a mechanism for boosting housing supply.

At a meeting on Sunday afternoon, organised by the National House-Bulding Council, she said the UK must look at “new forms of building”.

McVey (pictured) said: “It has to be the way forward, it’s not only green but value for money.”

To help capitalise on the emerging concentration of off-site provision in the north of England, she said there should be a centre of excellence in the region.

“We should have that centre for construction and engineering excellence in the north. If you look at modular builders they are in the North-west, the North-east and Yorkshire. You could have an arc connecting where that investment is going.”

The centre of excellence would tie in with the government’s broader Northern Powerhouse initiative, she said.

She told the main conference on Monday: “We can set up in the North a centre of excellence for engineering and modern construction.”

But Jennie Daley, group operations director at Taylor Wimpey, told the same NHBC meeting that off-site should not be viewed as a silver bullet for boosting housing output.

She said: “MMC is part of the solution but it would be wrong to see it as the solution. We will continue to build on a traditional basis.”

Traditional building methods also enable developers to adapt more easily to housing market fluctuations and design issues, Daley said.

She added: “From a design point of view, it [MMC] can drive certain solutions rather than respond to them.”

McVey also told the NHBC meeting that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will be sending ‘A teams’ of planners to help councils struggling to complete their local plans.

“We are going to have an A-team that will helps authorities that need to deliver.”

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