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CN Briefing: Chinese; Northern Powerhouse; Hinkley Point C

“If we don’t embrace them, I think we’ll find ourselves getting left behind.”

That’s the view of one Northern-based contractor when asked what the future holds for Chinese investment across the Northern Powerhouse.

It’s been all change in Westminster since June’s referendum, with even the Northern Powerhouse terminology now looking like something of an anachronism.

Part of that change has been the delay to Hinkley Point C and a perceived shift in attitude towards Chinese investment in the UK, though Theresa May has reportedly had a letter delivered to Chinese president Xi Jinping assuring him of the UK’s commitment to Anglo-Chinese relations.

With the latest nuclear delay came warnings from China’s ambassador that its relationship with the UK was at a “crucial juncture”, leading to speculation that Chinese investment could be at risk.

But in the North, where Chinese investment has bolstered schemes such as Airport City, Middlewood Locks and – most recently – an initial £220m investment in Sheffield, the mood seems different.

Contractors currently working with Chinese investors and firms seem relatively unperturbed by recent developments, particularly the EU referendum.

The fact that Sheffield’s deal was confirmed nearly a month after the Brexit vote is another suggestion that investors are taking a long-term view.

Sheffield Chamber of Commerce said the deal “should remove years of scepticism in one stroke,” and showed that Chinese firms were still interested in investment regardless of whether the UK is a member of the EU.

There are still a significant number of ‘what-ifs’ – not least whether Hinkley could be canned altogether – but contractors in the North remain bullish.

And why wouldn’t they? The relationships and supply chains on a number of major projects were established several years ago, before the EU referendum or Chinese investment in Hinkley Point were even mooted.

On top of that, cities such as Manchester and Sheffield have formed their own independent relationships with Chinese investors and cities, creating a variety of business forums and partnerships with long-term investment in mind.

Short-term doubts may yet turn into longer-term worries, but for now Northern cities are remaining positive.

Dunne deal

Demolition giant Keltbray has confirmed its acquisition of troubled specialist Dunne Group, which the company says will “broaden its portfolio” with further expansion into the concrete frame sector.

Construction News has launched a new survey to investigate the industry’s attitudes towards LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people.

Last year’s survey found that just 7 per cent of LGB employees in construction would recommend the industry as a great place to work, and this is first time that transgender people have been included in the survey.

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