Government must send consumers to reputable tradesmen if they wish to take advantage of relaxed planning rules, says TrustMark.

TrustMark, the government-endorsed quality mark for tradesmen, has welcomed plans to boost the building industry and simplify the planning regime, but is urging government and planning departments to signpost homeowners to reputable tradesmen if they are considering taking advantage of the proposed relaxation of planning rules for home extensions.

Liz Male, chairman of TrustMark, said: “There has been much talk of how this new housing plan could help fuel the economy, and there’s no doubt that anything that gets Britain building again is a very good move. But our concern is that relaxing the planning laws on home extensions and other major building projects could end up fuelling the black economy.

“On any building project of this size, homeowners must be particularly well informed and well advised. Through initiatives like this and the forthcoming Green Deal, the risk is that we leave too many people at the mercy of rogue traders and cowboy builders, which they find via telephone directories, leaflets posted through the door or ‘findanyoldbuilder’ websites. If government wishes to deregulate this sector, even for a short period, then it must also help by signposting people to reputable firms and good sources of advice.

TrustMark helps people find local trustworthy firms, as it has more than 21,000 licenced trades on its database. Each firm is on-site inspected and independently checked by experienced specialist inspectors. For example, if you were to search for a builder, you could expect to find one within a few miles of your home, giving homeowners a better-informed choice of local tradesman. Advice is provided online, by telephone and via TrustMark's new 'talk to your tradesman' app.

Male said: "We would always advise anyone considering building an extension, conservatory, loft conversion or other major building work to use a contract with their tradesmen. The free TrustMark app is a particularly important tool that can help with that, prompting you to ask all the right questions."