The Construction Leadership Council has written to both the Secretaries of State at the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities urging them to put a brake on the introduction of CA Marking for construction products.
The switch from CE to CA certification has already been delayed and is due to be implemented in January 2023.
However, the CLC has asked Business Secretary Grant Shapps and Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove for a further delay of two years.
In the letter, Construction Products Association chief executive Peter Caplehorn and CLC co-chair Mark Reynolds said: “One area of initial concern we would like to draw your attention to is the decision to move from CE to UK CA marking, effective from January 2023.
“The Construction Products Regulations UK (CPR) were adopted into the UK from the original EU regulations as part of the Brexit negotiations. These regulations are specific to construction products, with separate provisions and definitions from the wider product regulations used in the wider economy.
“The CA mark and transition arrangements from CE remains unclear and the UK testing capacity has not been able to scale up to meet the demands. Not all products are affected but many of the most important to construction are, such as glues and sealants, glass, insulation, radiators and passive fire protection to name a few, which are all necessary to deliver the new homes, schools and hospitals the country needs.
“Approximately 28% of products are imported and half of that from the EU and therefore these products are also affected. As a result, many global manufacturers now regard the UK as just too difficult to do business with, which has resulted in products being withdrawn – impacting on the UK’s ability to deliver completed projects.”
The CLC has previously proposed a number of solutions that can be put in place for the short and medium term, while the complexities are considered and resolved in the longer term.
It has now asked the Government to urgently consider:
- Suspend the implementation of UK CA marking for at least 2 years.
- Establish a joint working party between Government and the Construction sector to plan a transition to the new arrangements.
“Given the current business environment of significant material inflation, increased energy costs and uncertainty, we call for urgent action and intervention to assist the construction sector to remain resilient and deliver upon the current and future needs of the country,” the letter adds.
The CLC points out that only products that have a harmonised standard (now designated standards in the UK) are covered by the CPR.
The UK decided that to gain CA marking construction products with a harmonized /designated standard need to be retested and certified by a body in the UK. The same product is put through the same process to achieve a change from CE to CA at a cost of between several thousand to several hundred thousand pounds by a body in the UK. Some products require several tests.
There are currently about 440 such standards some will cover one product some many products.
In addition, there are an increasing number (approx. 400) of further and updated versions of standards held up in a dispute between the EU commission and CEN-CENLEC, (the standards body) that at some stage will need to be reflected in the UK designated standards list. This is important because these relate to updated standards that are needed to support the latest good practice but can only be unofficially ‘recognised’ at present.
There is relatively limited certification and testing capacity across the UK. The EU has around 770 facilities, the UK around 40. Not all such facilities can test all products. These facilities have come under pressure as the product sector has reacted to achieving CA marking. Manufacturers from further afield also need these facilities and are creating further demand as they try to achieve CA.
For many product groups there is no ability or very limited capacity to undertake this retesting and certification in the UK. The EU has a mature well organised certification and testing environment led by EOTA (European Organisation for Testing Assessment). Standard approaches and guidance documents are organised through this network. The UK bodies have been slow to come together, and leadership is desperately needed.
So far, the UK has not provided any similar support. As a result, over the 2 plus years this has been an issue very little progress has been achieved and no substantial increasing testing or certification capacity in the UK has been created.
The CLC acknowledges the easement issued in the summer allowing existing products (subject to system 3) having a current CE mark and related certification to gain CA status. It said this has reduced the potential impact for now, however, it does not cover new products nor changes to existing products that still remain an issue after the deadline at the end of this year.
It warns there is a risk that the UK in creating its own standards this will further restrict our market resulting in further shortages, delays and increased inflation.