A round-up of all the construction news from Westminster this week, brought to you by the Madano Partnership
The House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee launched a report examining the draft National Policy Statement (NPS) on Waste Water saying that ministers must radically improve the policy statement. The Committee argues that the Government should set out a strong set of general principles for decision makers to apply to any waste water project once a specific application is made and criticises the NPS for focusing on two specific London projects, the Thames Tunnel and replacement of a sewage treatment works in North East London (5 April).
Construction Minister Mark Prisk MP has said that the Government will consider extending its infrastructure projects pipeline beyond two years once the scheme is up and running. Construction News reports that the minister would like to see the programme “move beyond two years” but that departments across Whitehall would have to be engaged in the process before an extension could be implemented (7 April).
According to the latest Markit/CIPS UK Construction PMI index activity in the UK construction industry rose to 56.4 in March, close to February’s eight-month high of 56.5 and ahead of the average prediction of City analysts who were expecting a reading of 54.8 (5 April).
The Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) has slashed fines against leading construction recruitment agencies found guilty of price fixing. Fines of £39.27 million were handed out to six firms in September 2009 following a probe by the Office of Fair Trading. But those fines were cut to £14 million after the tribunal ruled that the turnover calculations used to assess the penalties were flawed. The OFT is considering to appeal against the decision (1 April).
The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) launched the Government’s FirstBuy Prospectus setting out more details on the new equity loan affordable home ownership scheme announced in the Budget. The £210 million scheme offers an equity loan jointly funded by the HCA and the house builder to help first time buyers who could not otherwise afford to buy a home of their own. The scheme aims to help over 10,000 buyers and support economic growth by giving house builders the confidence to progress developments, with the first homes being available this Summer (5 April).
The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) announced a programme of public sector land releases that could see up to 8,000 homes built across the Midlands in the next three to five years. The Midlands Local Land Initiative aims to take a long-term, structured approach to the phasing of public land releases to increase housing supply and secure new developments (31 March).
The James review into capital spending in education has been delayed again and will not be published until May. PPP Bulletin suggests the delay has been caused by ‘political considerations’, with the review rumoured to include a new PFI model which ministers are uncomfortable with supporting following recent criticism of PFI initiatives (6 April).
An alliance of environmental charities has called on the Government to reconsider its approach to the London to Birmingham high speed rail line because charities believe there has not been enough consultation on the HS2 scheme. The alliance includes groups such as the Campaign to Protect Rural England, RSPB and Greenpeace, with their joint Right Lines Charter setting out four principles ‘for doing High Speed Rail well’. The charter calls for a national transport strategy, better future-proofing of big transport proposals, effective public participation and a more strategic approach to minimising adverse impacts (7 April).
Speaking at the Highways Term Maintenance Association’s annual conference, Dr Neil Bentley, Deputy Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said that the Government lacks a strategic vision for the UK road network. Dr Bentley called on the Government to unlock the full potential of private capital and innovative finance mechanisms, including tax-incremental financing (TIF) schemes, to support investment in the UK’s road network (6 April).
OLYMPICS AND 2012
The shortlist for the purchase and long-term management of the Olympic Village has been announced with Delancey & Qatari Diar, Hutchison Whampoa Limited and Wellcome Trust asked to submit their best and final offers. The Olympic Village will deliver 2,818 new homes after the London 2012 Games, including 1,379 new homes already purchased by Triathlon Homes, which will become affordable housing. A final decision on which of the three shortlisted organisations will purchase the Village is expected to be made in the summer (6 April).
The new organisation to manage property and associated infrastructure, the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) has formally begun its work to deliver better strategic management of the defence estate. The DIO brings the majority of military and civilian personnel working on estate and infrastructure activity across the MOD into one single organisation and will also have responsibility for managing the department’s PFI deals. The majority of staff have been transferred across from Defence Estates, and the Government claims the move will save £1.2 billion over the first four years (1 April).