Thatching guidelines have been relaxed due to the failure of last year’s harvest of long-stemmed wheat straw, which has led to thatching straw doubling in price as the critical shortage becomes apparent.

Britain’s 60,000 thatched properties include around 30,000 that are listed. Planning authorities and English Heritage have, until now, insisted that wheat straw is used for repairs and re-roofing. Water reed could only be used in East Anglia, where it is grown.

Last summer’s rains meant that only about 30 per cent of the expected harvest could be used, and now The National Society of Master Thatchers (NSMT) says that that small quantity has been used up.

Thatching straw has now doubled in price, from £600 to £1,500 per tonne. English Heritage is now urging planners to allow the use of triticale or thatch imported from eastern Europe.

‘English Heritage is aware that the current straw shortage is causing problems to both home owners and thatchers,’ said English Heritage in a statement.

‘Our advice is always to respect local tradition and to use like-for-like material but in the current circumstance of a shortage of wheat straw we have advised local councils to consider triticale and imported wheat straw as possible alternatives.’

Marjorie Sanders of NSMT said: ‘Even if we have the very best harvest on the planet this year it will all go in a flash because we have so many properties waiting.

‘The position following the very poor harvest this summer has now created a critical shortfall in the supply of cereal straw.’

Thatching guidelines have therefore been relaxed due to the failure of last year’s harvest of long-stemmed wheat straw. This has also led to thatching straw doubling in price.

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