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Construction Parliamentary Update - 02 July 2010

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

The National Audit Office (NAO) published a report into PFI housing schemes. The report criticised the Communities and Local Government department (CLG) for failing to assess projects value for money and argued that alternative methods of funding would be better (25 June).

The Communities and Local Government department (CLG) announced that a new fast track system for decision making on major infrastructure projects will replace the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC). Ministers will take decisions on new infrastructure projects such as airports, wind-farms and nuclear power stations (29 June).
The Welsh Assembly unveiled its report into the planning application process in Wales, the research identified no need for any fundamental changes (29 June).

The Chief Executive of Specialist Engineering Contractors Group Rudi Klein called on the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne to cut waste in construction rather than capital spending in order to achieve savings. He criticised plans for a mandatory “Fair Payment” code saying it will force small companies working on public projects to focus on getting paid rather than working with public sector customers to deliver well-designed projects on time and on budget (29 June).

Kier Group, who last year found themselves with a £17.9 million fine following an Office of Fair Trading (OFT) anti-trust investigation, this week launched its appeal claiming the fine was discriminatory and ‘above levels necessary for deterrence’. Kier is one of 25 contractors starting appeal hearings into the fines (28 June).

The Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians ( UCATT) rejected Health and Safety Executive (HSE) research into whether existing voluntary guidance of Director’s Duties is effective. UCATT claims that the research is fundamentally flawed (29 June).

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reported that the number of construction workers killed at work has fallen by 21 per cent since last year (30 June).

The Carbon Sub-Group of the Strategic Forum for Construction asked the Constructing Excellence Sustainability Task Group to develop a project-based assessment methodology for the use of energy. The project will enable organisations in the construction sector to assess the extent to which they are able to respond to the challenge of the low carbon economy in their project delivery (30 June).

It was announced that the £150 million Project Jennifer regeneration scheme in Liverpool will go ahead despite objections from Tesco following its own application for a 90,000 sq ft store, which was blocked after a public enquiry (30 June).
The Communities and Local Government department (CLG) announced that the coalition Government plans to replace Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) with local enterprise partnerships formed by councils and local business leaders (29 June).

Housing Minister Grant Shapps confirmed that the coalition Government will introduce legislation allowing the creation of Local Housing Trusts. Under the proposed plans Local Housing Trusts would have to show they have the support of the local community for planned housing developments, and would have to meet some basic planning criteria - but would not need to lodge specific planning applications. Any profits made from new developments would have to be reinvested in the local community, and the land would remain with the housing trust - regardless of what happened to the houses built on top (29 June).
The Scottish Government announced that it is committing funding of £21 million, with local housing associations providing another £12 million to build 209 homes in the biggest development of low cost homes ever built in the North East of Scotland (28 June).

Northern Ireland Education Minister Caitiona Ruane told the Northern Ireland Assembly that she has made a decision on which 69 schools are to get the go ahead for new buildings; however she refused to divulge the list of schools affected (29 June).

Oldham Council formally announced the preferred bidder for its £175 million Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme which will see 8 schools and a pupil referral unit improved and a new school built (29 June).

Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond, set the deadline of August for High Speed 2 to propose a comprehensive business case for diverting the high-speed London to Birmingham route via Heathrow to make a direct link with High Speed 1 (25 June).

Conservative MP for St. Albans Anne Main called for new legislation to be passed to address the issue of unadopted roads. An adopted road becomes a ‘highway maintainable at public expense’ - roads on new housing developments are under the ownership of the developer until they are brought up to an acceptable standard for adoption. Many home owners are unaware of the status of their road until they contact their council with a problem (25 June).

The Major of London Boris Johnson confirmed that Tube Lines officially transferred from shareholders Bechtel and Amey to Transport for London (TfL), which means Tube Lines os now a wholly owned subsidiary of TfL (28 June).
Speaking at the annual London Rail conference, Robbie Burns, programme director for Crossrail, called on businesses to make their voices heard and support capital investment in transport schemes such as Thameslink and Crossrail, claiming such projects pay for themselves ‘time and time again’ (29 June).

The Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, hinted at cuts to the £6 billion prison building programme in a speech given at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies he condemned the ‘bang ‘em up’ approach to prison sentencing (30 June).

Defence Estates approved plans for the Next Generation Estates Contract (NGEC) programme to run for the next 10 years. The plans will see Defence Estates run just four regional prime contracts which will be limited to routine maintenance and occasionally small works up to £3.9 million. Most construction work will be let through the new Core Frameworks of pre-approved suppliers for major new-build projects that are likely to be divided regionally (29 June).