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Construction Parliamentary Update - 14 October 2011

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


Value of UK M&As rockets to £434m

The value of UK construction mergers and acquisitions reached £434 million in the third quarter of 2011, compared with just £20m in the same period last year, according to the latest research from Grant Thornton. The consultancy’s M&A tracker reveals there were 23 deals during the last quarter, compared with 24 much smaller agreements over the same period last year. (12 October)

Hilary Benn takes Shadow Communities brief

Labour MP Hilary Benn has replaced Caroline Flint as the shadow secretary of state for communities and local government, as part of a wide ranging re-shuffle by leader Ed Miliband. Mr Benn joins from the shadow leader of the house role and he will now be responsible for taking on Eric Pickles at the dispatch box and overseeing Labour’s Housing, planning, regeneration, building regulations and local government policy development. Under the previous labour government he held posts including environment secretary and international development secretary. (10 October)


New shadow housing secretary vows to put council housing ‘centre stage’

Labour’s new shadow housing minister has said the party would restore regional planning if put in power at the next election. Jack Dromey, who was confirmed as shadow to housing minister Grant Shapps on Monday, told Building magazine that he had been asked by Labour leader Ed Miliband to put “housing centre stage” as Labour looks to rebuild support. Dromey, a former union official also said that Labour would put a new era of council house building at the centre of his policies. (12 October)

Home Builders Federation warns of ‘house building ice age’

The Home Builders Federation (HBF) has warned the government that it must press on with its planning reforms, or risk a “house building ice age”. HBF executive chairman Stewart Baseley said the “complete and utter nonsense” of the anti-development lobby must be dismissed or a generation of people will be unable to access the housing market. Lobbyists and environmental charities have called for the final version of the National Planning and Policy Framework (NPPF) to exclude a presumption in favour of sustainable development, saying it should be delayed until local authorities have suitable housing plans in place. (12 October)

Shapps: New funding boost for homeless hostels

Housing Minister Grant Shapps today announced a major cash boost to improve homeless hostels across the country. £37.5m funding for the Homelessness Change Programme has been allocated to help 37 projects improve facilities for rough sleepers and provide almost 1,200 extra bed spaces, including over 320 extra beds in the London area, as well as helping people find employment. But speaking at the No Second Night Out Conference, Mr Shapps said that in view of the high demand for the funding, a further £5million will be allocated to the Homelessness Change Programme, with further allocations to be announced very shortly. He added that this funding will be for councils, charities and housing associations to help transform the lives of people sleeping rough, helping them break the cycle of homelessness and get their lives back on track. (12 October)

RICS reports ‘flat’ housing market

The housing market flat lined in September according to the latest data from the RICS, showing a range of market indicators barely moving from their August figures. The monthly survey of estate agents found that a slightly larger number of surveyors reported house price falls, edging the percentage balance down from -24 to -27. The number of new buyer enquiries edged up slightly, while the number of instructions from sellers decreased marginally. The sales to stock ratio, the number of homes on agents’ books and the average number of sales all remained virtually unchanged in the month, supporting fears that the traditional seasonal boost to the market hasn’t been forthcoming. (11 October)


TfL launches £1.8 billion framework deal

Transport for London has published a tender notice for an eight-year framework agreement for highway maintenance worth up to £1.8 billion. The contract, for highways maintenance, improvement schemes and civil engineering associated with traffic signals across London, will be used by Transport for London, as well as other Greater London Authority agencies including the London Development Agency, London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, Metropolitan Police Authority, London boroughs and the City of London. (7 October)

Highways Agency seeks ten contractors for £1.12bn framework

Up to 10 contractors are set to vie for a slice of a new £1.12 billion Highways Agency framework. The north and south asset support framework will run for three years and covers surfacing works, bridgeworks, technology-related works, highway maintenance, strengthening and improvement works, and general roadworks delivered outside existing contracts. Up to £637m will be spent in the North, with up to £485m to be set aside for the South. The Highways Agency will deliver the improvement schemes via either one framework with two lots, or two separate frameworks for north and south with five contractors invited forward for each framework. (7 October)


Olympic site developers to ‘build now, pay later’

Developers of the first of the 6,800 homes to be built on the site of the London Olympic Games after 2012 are set to get “build now, pay later” access to the land. Duncan Innes, executive director of real estate at the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC), said it was his intention to allow developers of the 960-home first phase of redevelopment to get access to the land without having to pay the OPLC for it up front. Innes’ comments come as the OPLC this week submitted an outline planning application for 6,800 homes across four distinct neighbourhoods on the Olympic site to the Olympic Delivery Authority, called the “legacy communities plan”. (7 October)


Industry welcomes nuclear report findings

The nuclear industry has welcomed the final report of chief nuclear inspector Dr Mike Weightman into the lessons for the UK from the Japanese nuclear disaster at Fukushima. Dr Weightman’s report, published yesterday, endorsed his interim findings, arguably giving the green light for a new generation of nuclear power stations. In particular his report highlighted two findings of his interim report, that “Flooding risks are unlikely to prevent construction of new nuclear power stations at potential development sites in the UK over the next few years,” and that: “There is no need to change the present siting strategies for new nuclear power stations in the UK.” (11 October)


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