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Autumn Statement: Industry wishlist names 72 projects to ‘unlock’

The construction industry has submitted a list to the government of 72 projects worth tens of billions of pounds it would most like to see “unlocked”.

Construction News can exclusively reveal details of the schemes put forward by the members of seven UK trade bodies (see box below) as part of their Unlocking Growth in UK Construction report ahead of a raft of expected announcements on priority infrastructure projects next week.

The list submitted to the government by the trade bodies includes schemes such as the multi-billion pound High Speed 2 and nuclear plants, as well as smaller schemes including the Trowbridge riverside cinema in Wiltshire and a dental surgery in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

Road and highways schemes feature heavily on the industry’s list of projects it wants to see given government support, making up more than a quarter of the 72 developments (click on map below for further details).

Map of the 72 projects on wishlist

Among them is the £400m Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, which is expected to be targeted by tier one contractors but has been subject to a legal challenge lasting years.

The £1bn A14 Ellington to Fen Ditton project is also included in the list. A Costain/Skanska joint venture had been appointed to the scheme through early contractor involvement, which was scrapped as part of the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review.

Skanska executive vice-president Bill Hocking told Construction News the contractor wants to see the project re-started and would seek to be reappointed if it was, due to its detailed knowledge of the scheme through its early involvement.

EC Harris head of transportation Mark Prior said: “From a transport perspective, the need for ‘quick wins’ should see the government look more favourably upon highways projects, for not only do they deliver rapid economic benefits and create additional jobs, they also offer a particularly attractive cost-return ratio.”

Commercial projects include the redevelopment of Twerton Park in Somerset, home to Bath City Football Club and Rugby Club, the development of Maidstone High Street in Kent and the regeneration of Swindon town centre.

Lend Lease’s planned £1.5bn regeneration of Elephant & Castle also makes the list, with the contractor first appointed as Southwark Council’s development partner in 2007. A new masterplan was unveiled for the scheme last month, while a consultation on the latest proposals was launched this month.

Several major schemes still awaiting clarity over investment, such as EDF Energy’s multi-billion pound Hinkley Point C nuclear plant and the Northern Line Battersea extension, which requires further private funding, are also included.

Many of the infrastructure jobs on the list have undergone consultation. On Tuesday London Underground issued a tender notice for the Bank underground station capacity upgrade, with a new southbound Northern Line running tunnel and concourse part of the £500m proposals.

The government will announce a list of 40 infrastructure projects that will be given priority status in the autumn statement.
Cabinet Office secretary Francis Maude confirmed on Monday that a construction and infrastructure pipeline of work will be published with the statement.

The priority list will include Crossrail, rail electrification schemes and broadband provision; however, both the Prime Minister David Cameron and the chief construction adviser Paul Morrell have indicated in the past week that there will not be new capital funding for schemes in the Treasury statement or the Plan for Growth update.

As a result, the government is expected to announce new ways of attracting pension fund investment to underpin a £50bn growth plan to be unveiled on Tuesday.

The government is also believed to be considering introducing toll lanes as a means to finance new road schemes.

The Unlocking Growth in UK Construction report, based on a survey of member companies in September, found that availability of finance is still the biggest concern for construction firms.

Firms with fewer than 50 employees and larger companies were asked about their perception of the barriers that they faced when trying to deliver new construction activity.

Funding availability was rated as the most important aspect for both smaller (56 per cent) and larger (78 per cent) companies, with planning and demand from clients the next biggest barriers.

The report calls for six measures including rebalancing current and capital expenditure, implementing a VAT reduction to 5 per cent for sustainable domestic upgrades, and new models for infrastructure finance.

Construction Products Association chief executive Michael Ankers said: “The government has identified construction as a key sector in its growth strategy, yet our economic forecasts currently foresee no growth in the industry until 2014.

“Our report’s recommendations are practical measures to boost growth in the industry and the economy, without undermining the plan for deficit reduction, and we urge the government to take them forward.”

For all the news on government announcements around the Autumn Statement, see CN’s dedicated webpage.

Trade bodies back report

The trade bodies who compiled the report were the Association for Consultancy and Engineering; the Civil Engineering Contractors Association; the Construction Products Association; the Federation of Master Builders; the Institution of Civil Engineers; the National Federation of Builders and the Scottish Building Federation.

Members of each trade body were asked to give details of any infrastructure project(s) in their area that, with action from the government, have the potential to be unlocked.

* Construction News top 2011 stories


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