NHBC chief set to lead best-practice group trying to widen membership to include speculative builders.
National House Building Council chairman Sir Michael Pickard is tipped to become chairman of the Housing Forum set up to implement Egan report recommendations.

The forum is deputy prime minister John Prescott's vehicle for implementing the Egan report in the housebuilding sector.

Sir Michael said: "I have been approached and meetings are in progress but nothing is finalised." When asked if he would accept the appointment, Sir Michael said: "It's a consideration, but no final decision has been made yet." He added: "If one was involved in the forum, it would be on the basis of a broader relationship between the two [speculative and social housebuilding] sectors." An official announcement is expected next week. If Sir Michael declines, it could be a second snub for the forum, after speculation that Marks & Spencer chairman Sir Richard Greenbury turned down the role of its figurehead.

The Housing Forum refused to comment on its approach to Sir Michael. However, the forum's shadow board, which has been set up ahead of an official board, is keen to widen its membership so it includes more than social housebuilders. A forum insider said: "The appointment is to send a message to the entire housing industry, both social and speculative. We want to change the forum's membership and broaden it to ensure speculative housebuilders are with us." Paul Pedley, group managing director of Redrow, added: "It's very encouraging if it can attract someone of the calibre of Sir Michael. It will definitely encourage private housebuilders to get involved in the forum." Part of the forum's remit is to set targets to improve efficiency in the construction process and sustainability of new-build homes.

It will also be responsible for allocating Housing Corporation funds for Egan demonstration projects in the social housebuilding sector.

The shadow board has already allocated £24m to 41 social housebuilding projects for assessment as demonstration projects.

Judith Harrison, project director with the forum, said: "The Housing Corporation is working towards prioritising its funding for schemes that incorporate the Egan principles." Harrison added that she expected a number of submissions for demonstration status from speculative housebuilders over the coming months.

"A number of demonstration projects will be funded by the private sector. They are very much involved on board," she said.

Harrison said a number of speculative housebuilders were already involved in the forum, including Berkeley, Countryside and Willmott Dixon.

In addition to housebuilders, the forum's board will also include architects, planners and a representative from the Housing Corporation.

It is funded jointly by the DETR and the Housing Corporation and industry representatives paying for membership.