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Construction Parliamentary Update - 31 July 2009

A round up of all the construction news from Westminster this week brought to you by the Madano Partnership.

GENERAL

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) published a booklet that provides a statistical overview of the country’s progress in tackling key economic, social and environmental issues, by bringing together an extensive range of indicators. (30 July)

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, announced proposals for a multi-million pound ‘London Green Fund’ to boost London’s low carbon economy, create jobs and tackle climate change.  The Mayor has committed to provide an initial £4million to develop and kick-start the fund with the intention of attracting co-investment from a range of bodies, such as the EU, philanthropic funds, climate charities and the private sector. (30 July)

Regional Economic Development Minister Rosie Winterton, urged businesses to sign up to the Prompt Payment Code, which aims to encourage better payment performance between businesses following the failure of over 750 business due to late payment. (28 July)

GENERAL PPP/PFI

Northern Ireland Stormont Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson revealed plans to simplify the procurement process for Government construction contracts in an attempt to help struggling building firms. The Construction Industry Forum for Northern Ireland (CIFNI) procurement task force group report cites 25 new measures intended to improve the procurement process. (28 July)

PLANNING

Planning Minister John Healey announced that over 25,000 non domestic planning proposals a year will no longer require a full planning application allowing businesses, shops and schools to make minor alterations to their premises without a lengthy planning process. (30 July)

The British Property Federation (BPF) responded to the Government’s planning policy statement 4 (PPS4) consultation, calling for greater weight to be put on the economic benefit new developments can offer communities. (28 July)

Will Day began his role as Chair of the Sustainable Development Commission. (27 July)

Environment Minister Jane Davidson gave details of £250,000 of funding to support cross-Wales improvements in the delivery of the planning service. The money is part of the funding announced by the Welsh Assembly Government last month, with £1.75million being distributed equally among all 25 local planning authorities in Wales. (27 July)

The Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee published a report entitled `Need and impact: planning for town centres` report. The ‘need test’, seen by many as key to the Government’s policy for protecting town centres from out-of-town development, should remain part of planning guidance alongside the new impact assessment framework, MPs concluded. (24 July)

Housing Minister John Healey announced new guidelines for councils and developers to make the most of the nation’s historic assets like Victorian stations or our network of canal sides for new developments across the country. (24 July)

CONSTRUCTION

Oxfam is set to publish a report on how best to protect workers employed by Gangmasters. (30 July)

Barbour ABI published its Construction Review for the period April-June 2009. (30 July)

Contract prices on building sites fell at their fastest rate since 1991 with the price of new tenders falling 4.9 per cent in the first three months of the year, leading to a 6.4 per cent total year-on-year drop, according to figures by the Building Costs Information Service, a division of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). (29 July)

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published a report of qualitative research amongst ‘hard to reach’ small construction site operators. (24 July)

HOUSING

The Scottish Government announced that up to 96,000 homes in ten council areas across Scotland are to be offered help with making their homes more energy efficient. They will be the first to benefit from a home insulation scheme over the next year costing the Government £15 million. (30 July)

The Scottish Government announced the successful applicants and areas to benefit from the Scottish Government’s £5 million `Rural Homes to Rent` pilot scheme and announced that more rural homes will benefit with a total of £1.5 billion being invested in affordable housing across the country, over the next three years. (29 July)

The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) launched an £84 million construction project to install cavity-wall insulation in social-housing properties. The money will be shared among 46 areas of the country under the Social Housing Energy Saving Programme, part of the Government’s Housing Stimulus Package (Press Release). (29 July)

Figures from Land Registry’s House Price Index showed a modest improvement in the monthly change in house prices in England and Wales. The June increase of 0.1 per cent is the first time monthly change has been positive since January 2008. The annual drop of 14 per cent took the average house price to £153,046. (28 July)

Housing Minister John Healey announced that 270 stalled development projects across the United Kingdom have been shortlisted for a share of £925million. The projects have been identified by the HCA through the Kickstart programme. Construction union UCATT welcomed the launch of the Government’s Kickstart scheme. (27 July)

EDUCATION

The Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) published a report on the renewal of the physical infrastructure of English further education colleges. The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) published a response to the PAC report. UK Contractors Group Director Stephen Ratcliffe said colleges will struggle to attract private finance to rescue their stalled construction projects due to their tight revenue margins. (28 - 29 July)

TRANSPORT

Mayor of London Boris Johnson published an initial prospectus outlining for businesses the Mayor proposals to introduce a Business Rates Supplement levy on larger businesses to help fund Crossrail. (30 July)

Transport Minister Sadiq Khan approved the country’s first ever road works permit scheme. Road user groups, utility companies, bus operators and local authorities will be called to a road works summit hosted by Ministers and a new system of compulsory tests for those working in the highway will be introduced. Mayor of London, Boris Johnson submitted an application for a new `London Permit Scheme` to the Department for Transport (DfT) to help smooth traffic flow in the capital. (28 - 30 July).

Airport operator BAA announced in its in Interim Results that it has made a significant loss at its three London airports in the half-year ending 30 June. The loss tripled from £135.3 million in the same period a year earlier to £545.7 million, despite a 12.8 per cent rise in revenue to £1.16 billion. BAA is still appealing against the Competition Commission’s decision to force it to sell Gatwick. (30 July)

The Transport for London (TfL) board announced its decision to sell East Thames Buses (ETB) to London General Transport Services Limited, part of the Go Ahead Group. (29 July)

London Underground (LU) re-issued an invitation to tender for the re-signalling programme for the Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines (Sub-Surface lines) to boost capacity and reliability on 40 per cent of Tube. LU decided to re-tender the contract last year following the collapse of Metronet in 2007 as the original contract placed by Metronet did not provide the best technical solution or the best value for money. (28 July)

Transport Minister, Sadiq Khan announced that an extra £440 million will be made available to help local authorities modernise their street lighting. Local authorities across England will be able to apply for the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) credits to improve street lighting on their local roads. (24 July)

The Leeds City Council approved a £28 million proposal to expand Leeds Bradford International Airport. (24 July)

OLYMPICS AND 2012

The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) announced a set of 10 milestones, known as ‘the big build: structures’ report, to be achieved during the next phase of constructing the venues and infrastructure for the London 2012 Games. (27 July)

FLOODING

The Local Government Association (LGA) announced that councils across England and Wales have warned of a funding gap being created by new flooding laws as part of the Draft Floods and Water Bill, which will give them responsibility for managing flood risk in their area. (28 July)

WASTE AND UTILITIES

The Environment Agency (EA) announced that successful prosecutions for waste crimes resulted in fines totaling £3 million last year. Offences ranged from storing waste without a license to the large scale flytipping of hazardous waste, and the illegal export of waste for disposal abroad. (30 July)

FUTURE EVENTS

‘Summer 2009’ IEA published their global strategy on energy consumption in buildings

August 2009 Sarah McAdam starts role as Chief Executive of the Commission for Rural Communities

Tuesday 03 August 2009 Local Partnerships to start work

Friday 07 August 2009 HMO and possible planning responses consultation closes

Friday 07 August 2009 Consultation on draft guidance on how to measure and report your greenhouse gas emissions closes

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