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Construction Parliamentary Update - 17 October

A round up of all the construction news from Westminster over the last seven days brought to you by the Madano Partnership.

GENERAL PPP/PFI/FINANCE/PROCUREMENT

The Yorkshire Post reported that the Conservatives would not scrap Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) if they won the next election, even though RDAs would be subject to a major overhaul which would likely see their powers reduced. RDAs are currently set to be strengthened with more powers over planning and transport as the regional assemblies are scrapped. (10 October)

Centre for Cities published a report claiming that cities need to improve transport links, speed up planning and boost housing to attract innovative businesses and workers. The report called on cities to focus on ‘getting the basics right' as the best way to support innovative businesses, rather than picking ‘gimmicky' initiatives (Press Release). (10 October)

PLANNING

The Planning Bill continued through Committee Stage. The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) the Local Government Association (LGA) and the regeneration agency LACORS campaigned against Clause 151 of the Planning Bill saying it would restrict people’s ability to complain about noise and pollution from infrastructure projects (Press Release; Press Release). (14 – 16 October)

The New Local Government Network (NLGN) published a report arguing that Local Area Agreements (LAAs) were inflexible and should be reorganised to ‘progressively pool local budgets’ (Press Release). (13 October)

The Welsh Assembly Government published a consultation on their review of land management actions under Axis 2 of the Rural Development Plan for Wales 2007 – 2013. The consultation closes on 19 December. (10 October)

CONSTRUCTION

Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) launched a voluntary agreement for the UK construction industry aiming to halve the amount of waste it sends to landfill by 2012. Berkeley Group, Bovis Lend Lease, Laing O’Rourke, Stanhope plc, Defence Estates, SEGRO, and Willmott Dixon have already signed up (Press Release). (16 October)

Mayor of London Boris Johnson announced the appointment of nine new members to the London Skills and Employment Board (LSEB). Sonita Alleyne OBE, Chief Executive, Somethin’ Else; Mariane Frances Cavalli, Principal and Chief Executive, Croydon College; Ian El-Mokadem, Group Managing Director, Compass Group; Richard Gooding OBE, Chief Executive, London City Airport; James Kempton, Leader, Islington Council; Prof. David Latchman, Chairman London Higher and Master of Birkbeck College; Chris Melvin, Chief Executive, Reed in Partnership; Terence Keith Morgan, Chief Executive, Tube Lines; and Martin Stevens, Managing Director, Unimatic Engineers Ltd (Press Release). (14 October)

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) published their quarterly report on the ‘state of trade’ which showed continued harsh conditions in the construction sector. (14 October)

HOUSING AND REGENERATION

Westminster Briefing hosted its yearly Social Housing Conference. (16 October)

Skill Minister Lord Young announced that the Government will earmark more than £93m from its training budget to tackle current and future skills shortages within sectors that included housing (Press Release). (15 October)

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) published a market survey arguing that the sale and rent back sector needs statutory regulation with better protection for consumers (Press Release). (15 October)

The Construction Confederation held its annual Housing Market Intelligence conference. (15 October)

During housing questions in Parliament, the new Housing Minister Margaret Beckett ruled out a new programme to build council houses and expressed support for right to buy (Hansard). (14 October)

The Communities and Local Government Committee announced a new enquiry into ‘Housing and the Credit Crunch.’ The deadline for submissions is Friday 31st October (Committee Website). (14 October)

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) published the house price index for August 2008, as did the Welsh Assembly Government. (14 October)

The Commons Business and Enterprise Committee held a discussion on the role of Regional Development Agencies with Advantage West Midlands, and the East Midlands Development Agency. (14 October)

The Treasury Committee met to discuss the economics of the housing market with Nationwide, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Council of Mortgage Lenders, Professor John Muellbauer, Nuffield College, and Professor David Miles, Imperial College London. David Miles, the Commons Treasury committee that once prices stabilised they could rise very sharply but assuming mortgage interest rates remained "more or less the same", house prices could drop 20 per cent from their 2007 peak. (14 October)

Speaking in the Welsh Assembly, the Welsh deputy minister for regeneration, Leighton Andrews made a statement on strategic regeneration, saying that regeneration should address more clearly the skills and employability of local residents. (14 October)

Prime Minister Gordon Brown asserted that the UK housing sector would bounce back more quickly after the recession because not enough had been built (BBC). (13 October)

The Green Building Council (GBC) published a report which argued that the existing housing stock and particularly old homes had to be made efficient if the UK wishes to meet a target of 80% emissions reductions by 2050 (Press Release; Appendices). (13 October)

The London Planning and Housing Committee met to discuss the implications of the credit crunch on the delivery of affordable housing in London. Members of the committee called for more of the affordable housing budget to be spent on social housing (Press Release). (13 October)

Citizens Advice published figures showing that the number of people seeking help after falling behind with mortgage payments has risen by more than 50% in the last year (Press Release). (10 October)

EDUCATION

During Children, Schools and Families questions In Parliament Schools Minister Ed Balls announced that three more schools would become academies: Unity College, Northamptonshire, sponsored by the Church of England diocese, Rossmore School, Poole, sponsored by the local diocese and Bournemouth University and St Lukes, and Portsmouth, sponsored by the charity ARK, supported by the Church of England diocese. Mr Balls also claimed that it had not been his idea to move Lord Adonis who has been a leading advocate of the academies programme from the education portfolio to transport. (13 October)

Figures revealed by the Conservatives showed that 24 BSF schools under construction were behind schedule, provoking exchanges between schools ministers and their opposition counterparts. A departmental spokesperson said the Government expected the programme to be complete by 2020 (BBC). (13 October)

Partnerships for Schools (PfS) hosted the Times Educational Supplement Education event which they said was aimed at a BSF audience. (10 – 11 October)

TRANSPORT

PPP Arbiter Chris Bolt appeared before the London Transport Committee to address how his cost estimates for London Underground upgrade works ‘resulted in a massive potential funding gap and put planned track and station improvements at risk’ (Press Release; Committee Page; Meeting Video). (16 October)

Transport minister Paul Clark spoke at a Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport conference in London. (16 October)

The Office for National Statistics published an investigation into the location and commuting patterns of part-time and full-time workers in the United Kingdom, including statistics on commuter flows, and commuting patterns as at the 2001 census, and their relationship with modes of transport and types of occupation. (16 October)

The National Audit Office published a report on the Department for Transport's letting rail franchises 2005–2007. It warned that rail passengers are facing above-inflation fare rises despite continuing overcrowding on many services (Press Release; Executive Summary). (15 October)

The Times reported on changes made by the Department of Transport to overcrowding regulations for the “acceptable loading of passengers on trains” to meet targets. The London Transport Committee considered a report on rail overcrowding in London. (15 – 16 October)

The Conservative Transport Spokesperson Theresa Villiers warned BAA to think “very, very carefully” about expanding Stansted Airport (Guardian). (13 October)

OLYMPICS AND 2012

London Mayor Boris Johnson met with the Deputy Mayor of Beijing, Mr Chen Gang to discuss the Olympic legacy (Press Release). (13 October)

WASTE AND UTILITIES

The Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee published the Government's response to the committee’s report on British Waterways. (15 October)

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee held an evidence session into its Waste Strategy for England 2007 enquiry. Witnesses included the Environment Agency, the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) and the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP). (15 October)

DEFENCE

Defence Minister Kevan Jones made a Written Statement to the Commons announcing the Government had awarded the contract for the redevelopment of, and provision of services to, the Basil Hill site in Corsham, Wiltshire to the Inteq Consortium. (13 October)

FUTURE EVENTS

Friday 17 October

Deadline for submissions to the Scottish Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee’s inquiry into high speed rail links.
Monday 20 October

Defra’s consultation on the sustainable use of soil on construction sites ends.

European Parliament sits

Tuesday 21 October

NEW! The Communities and Local Government Committee hear oral evidence from Anthony Mayer, Chair, and Peter Marsh, Chief Executive-designate, Tenant Services Authority

Thursday 23 October

The Defra, Welsh Government and the Environment Agency consultation on waste exemptions from environmental permitting closes.