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Angry sustainability delegates slate 'waste of time' workshop

DELEGATES AT a Construction Industry Environmental Forum workshop last week expressed grave concern over the way the Government and industry are developing key sustainability targets.

The workshop, held at the Royal Academy on Thursday, was intended to generate ideas for the Government's national sustainable development strategy. It was held at the request of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and was made up of more than 40 hand-picked academics, engineers, clients and architects.

But speaking during the workshop's reporting session under condition of anonymity, angry delegates refused to back the initiative. They claimed the workshop had been a 'waste of time' and was too rushed for a proper debate on sustainability targets.

'It frightens me that the ideas from this workshop will go towards Government policy-making. It may only be one strand of the consultation process but it is a very weak strand,' said a director of a major consultant.

'The methodology today has not been very satisfactory and has produced some pretty meaningless results,' added a senior architect.

But DETR business manager for sustainable construction Bruce Sharpe argued that the workshop was valid because it had 'provoked debate'.

'Last Thursday was a part of long and dynamic process. How much weight is attached to the outputs from the workshop is a matter for consideration in the light of other ongoing initiatives,' he added.

This latest row follows criticism last November by environment guru Jonathan Porritt of Sir John Egan's failure to tackle sustainability in construction in his Rethinking construction report (NCE 18 November 1998). Development of the DETR's sustainability target was seen as a way to claw back some environmental credibility for the industry.

The DETR has told industry that it wants firms to sign up to a sustainability strategy by National Construction Week, which starts on 17 April. It hopes to have targets for the whole industry in place by the summer so that they can be fed into the Government's over-arching sustainable development strategy in the autumn.

(See Analysis page 10)

Matthew Jones

The Construction Confederation is holding a conference on Constructing a sustainable environment on 22 March at the International Convention Centre. Tel (0181) 332 7997.

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