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Are you getting stuck on red tape? Top tips to make it more manageable

Housing is one of the top national policy challenges of our time, yet builders and developers are becoming stifled by red tape. In an industry calling out for new homes, this can really hinder those in construction, small to medium builders and developers in particular, delaying them pushing off the starting block, let alone completing their build. Steve Mansour, CEO of CRL, looks at ways to clear a path through the confusion.


So what is red tape? Previous reports have referred to this as the “complexity, unpredictability and inconsistency” of Britain’s planning system and we concur. We have defined it further as the planning process, i.e. plan tariffs, the length of time to achieve a planning decision and the associated costs. In our recent survey[1], this was one of the main barriers hindering SME builders and developers’ ability to build. 

In fact, 57% of those surveyed cited “the planning process” as the single biggest challenge faced last year. What’s more, a similar number (50%) believe this will continue to be the main hurdle in 2018.  

The fact that SMEs are continuously being held back by the planning system, which in turn causes delays to their builds and an increase in costs, has been well documented. Only last year, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) released figures that 49% of respondents rated this as the main constraint on their ability to build more homes[2].

Yet, this red tape can often refer to the colour of a window sill, the protection of slow worms or having to meet other taxing demands before they can start work. Each condition can require pages of official documentation and hours of work to comply. To be clear here, we’re not suggesting cutting corners.

In fact, we believe it’s important to get the job done quicker, to higher standards, without cutting corners, but simply cutting out the unnecessary red tape. How, you ask? Here are some tips that we hope will help either cut through red tape, or make dealing with it more manageable:

1. Stay up-to-date with regulation

There are several websites full of useful facts and information on compliance. There’s really no need to be an expert, though knowing your key responsibilities and any regulatory changes will definitely help.

2. Stick to your schedule

We know some work depends on external factors. If your contractor fails to come to work, odds are your building schedule will lag behind. But you can set aside time or specific days in the month to focus on big tasks like doing the books.

3. Organise your paperwork

Don’t let it pile up. Try to do a bit of paperwork every day, rather than letting it stack up until it turns into a paper mountain that could compete with Everest.

4. Work with a like-minded company

Loyalty is important but sometimes is just a way of wasting time and energy. If that company you’re working with – whether an insurer or a bank – is strangling you with bureaucracy, then maybe it’s time for a change. Some companies, like CRL, strive to tackle red tape bit by bit. Construction can be complicated enough without tripping over extra obstacles. Work only with companies who make your life easier!

5. Share knowledge

And share your experience with others in your industry. Trade associations are a good source of construction specific advice to help you stay informed on best practice and issues around compliance. The construction sector is, after all, like one big family.

6. Focus on what’s important

Get your construction business moving by prioritising. It’s always a good idea to plan ahead, keeping in mind important deadlines like VAT and fee payments, or planning permissions. This way you’ll feel more in control. We know this can be tricky so the next point might help…

7. Adopt new technology

The construction industry is now facing important changes that will shape its future. Maybe it’s time to ride this new-technologies wave and adopt software that can save you time and money. There are plenty of apps and technology that will assist you with tasks like banking, budgeting, or scheduling. All of them could make your business more streamlined and efficient. Identify what causes the biggest headache in your business and outsource this task whenever possible.

8. Become a member

Membership groups like the Forum of Private Business and the Federation of Small Businesses will give you regular email updates on legal, tax and HR issues as well as advice helplines and industry guidance. Membership typically starts at around £15 a month. Plus, rubber stamp your reputation by joining a professional network, which can offer credibility, support and generous benefits. Click here to find out what CRL’s approved network can offer.

For more top tips and advice, visit www.c-r-l.com/redtape.


[1] 92 small to medium CRL customers surveyed, January 2018

[2] https://www.fmb.org.uk/media/35090/fmb-house-builders-survey-2017.pdf