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Construction Parliamentary update - 18 June 2010

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

PLANNING

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has hosted a briefing this week for newly elected Labour MPs. Former president David Tuffin discussed the work of the RICS in the context of public spending, social housing, PFI schemes and the housing renewal programme (16 June).

A study has found that planning applications for commercial developments fell by 15 per cent over the past year. Law firm EMW Picton Howell found planning applications lodged in England fell from 25,600 to 21,729 between April 2008 and 31 March 2009 (14 June).

CONSTRUCTION

A Glenigan repor hast found that the number and value of construction projects on hold has fallen to the lowest levels in two years. The report found that 198 projects stopped in May, a fall of 73 per cent from May 2009 (17 June).

The Queen’s Birthday Honours List has been announced, with former Crossrail chairman Doug Oakervee awarded a CBE for services to Engineering. Institution of Civil Engineers president Dr Jean Venables and Royal Academy of Engineering vice-president Scott Steedman were awarded a CBE for services to civil engineering (17 June).

Communities secretary Eric Pickles called on councils to make every pound go further in the face of the nation’s £156 billion deficit. He referred to some councils having a “supermarket-sized budget and a cornershop mentality” and that local government spends £42 billion a year on outside contracts, including construction (16 June).

Workers at all levels are reported to be seeing high levels of unemployment in the construction industry, including 15,000 building labourers and 14,000 carpenters who have lost their jobs since the start of the recession (16 June).

David Cameron has announced that a government-wide investigation into ‘compensation culture’ will be at the centre of a review into current health and safety laws with Lord Young of Graffham spearheading the review (14 June).

The Republic of Ireland’s construction industry has entered its fourth year of decline, according to the UlsterBank’s index. May’s activity rating was 40, down from April’s 42.5 - below the 50 point mark, which indicates decline (14 June).

REGENERATION

Newcastle is to get an economic and spatial masterplan for the city, including an International Conference and Exhibition Centre and the next phase of development in the Ouseburn cultural quarter (16 June).

The £100 million Penarth Heights Welsh urban regeneration scheme has got back under way. The work to demolish the 1960s estate overlooking Cardiff Bay and build 377 apartments will be completed over eight years (16 June).

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has outlined plans for local government in the capital. While addressing the London Congress of borough leaders, he revealed plans to scrap the London Development Agency, with its role incorporated into the Greater London Authority (GLA). He also announced that devolution of the London region of the Homes & Communities Agency (15 June).

Communities secretary Eric Pickles announced that the Housing & Planning Delivery Grant has been cancelled for this year. The cut is part of a £1.166 billon in grant reductions to Local Authorities (10 June).

HOUSING

A report by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors suggests that the supply of housing in the UK has received a boost from the scrapping of the HIPS scheme (16 June).

There could be a 65 per cent cut in the number of affordable homes built this year, the National Housing Federation has warned. In a letter, CEO David Orr told housing minister Grant Shapps that only 20,390 additional properties would be available this year, leading to difficulties in the delivery of affordable housing (14 June).

The Homes and Communities Agency has announced that it has exceeded its end of year targets by 22 per cent, completing a total of 64,811 new builds against a target of 52,325 (15 June).

Construction Union UCATT has demanded the Government confirms its commitment to the council housebuilding programme (14 June).

EDUCATION

Suffolk County Council has secured a contractor to build the first purpose-built sixth form college in Lowestoft. The £18.5 million college will house 950 pupils and replace existing sixth forms at three high schools in the town (16 June).

HEALTH

A National Audit Office report has suggested most hospital PFI contracts are well managed, but voiced concerns about their long-term value for money (17 June).

TRANSPORT

The CEO of Network Rail Ian Coucher is to step down after eight years with the company and three years in his present role (17 June).

Transport secretary Philip Hammond confirmed the full £16 billion funding package for Crossrail. He said “The government is committed to this project. We have no plans to reduce its scope” (16 June).

Earl Attlee has suggested that the Government may not go ahead with Labour’s plans for further electrification of the UK’s railway system in the near future. Attlee said there were ‘problems’ around spending money on electrifying lines considering the state of public finances (16 June).

Network Rail has announced plans to create more than 300 skilled engineering jobs in the next year to help deliver some of Britain’s most vital rail infrastructure projects, including schemes such as Thameslink, Crossrail and Reading advance (16 June).

Campaign for Better Transport has published their Smarter Cuts report, an in-depth look at the implications for transport following the Government’s deficit reduction programme. The report sets out choices in transport spending and calls on the Government to make cuts “which protect the spending that helps the economy, meets carbon and environmental targets and strengthens communities” (15 June).

A major civil engineering operation for the M74 Completion project has begun in Glasgow, with the largest mobile crane in Europe being used to erect massive steel beams for a road bridge over the River Clyde (15 June).

Transport secretary Philip Hammond has announced that a total of £1.6 billion worth of transport projects may not happen. Any initiative not currently under contract will be suspended until after the autumn when a joint DfT/Treasury decision will be made. Last month, the DfT announced £309 million grants would be cut to Local Authorities this year (11 June).

Transport secretary Philip Hammond has suggested that private companies could be used to fund stations, interchanges and rolling stock along the route of the proposed high speed line. Hammond said all suggestions are being looked at as the Government warned that the project may have to be undertaken in stages due to a shortfall in funding (10 June).