Author Archives: Mairead

Covid-19 hits Laing O’Rourke’s Liverpool hospital: 26 cases on job with 1000 people

Laing O’Rourke confirmed 26 cases of covid in just over a week at its Royal Liverpool Hospital site.

In recent weeks, they have seen an increasing number of positive test results among workers in line with the latest increases in the Liverpool area.

 When a worker tests positive, they ensure they self-isolate immediately. They also implement track and trace procedures and ask the contacts of anyone who has tested positive to leave the project and isolate. Work in the zone where the positive was found is then paused to be deep cleaned before work resumes.

O’Rourke has around 1,000 workers on the job, which remains open, and was originally meant to finish in 2017. It is now due to be completed next year.

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November’s infrastructure growth brings construction work to pre-pandemic levels

The increase in new construction work in November sent the industry’s production to its highest level since January 2020, according to new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS)

The value of all construction work in November hit £14.01bn, the highest level since last January. Growth was led by the infrastructure sector, which saw a 10% jump from October.

November’s worth of work was the highest on record for the infrastructure market (£ 2bn). It was also the only part of the construction sector where production was higher than 12 months earlier.

New data from the ONS also showed that UK’s economy as a whole shrank a 2.6%, after six consecutive months of growth, as England entered its second lockdown.

Infrastructure growth contributed to a 3% increase in all new works in November, helping to offset a 1% drop in repair and maintenance work. Both public housing and non-housing new works decreased in the period. There was modest growth for the private housing and industrial sectors, but private commercial construction remained stable.

November was the seventh consecutive month of production growth for the industry since it fell to a monthly record low of £ 8bn in April during the first lockdown.

PMI data released last week suggested that December was another growth month for the industry. The survey of construction buyers showed evidence that strong demand and supplier constraints had led to price increases.

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Rightmove: Site visits up 30% on same period last year

Rightmove has recorded its busiest new year start ever, despite lockdown restrictions sweeping the UK.

The property website said site visits were up 30% on the same period in 2020, with more than six million daily visits to sites last week.

The number of people contacting estate agents enquiring about a property purchase was an 11% higher, while those asking about a property to rent was up by 22%.

Rightmove said January is usually a busy month, as people make plans to move home at the start of the year, but they didn’t expect this results with so much uncertainty around restrictions. The demand they’ve seen so far is also the highest they’ve ever had in January.

The government has made clear that the housing market would remain open despite the closure of schools, hospitality outlets and most shops during the latest lockdown, but the housing ministry last week warned that regional or national closures of the market would be considered if necessary to manage the spread of the virus.

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Court Collaboration: new 48-storey Birmingham tower approved

Birmingham City Council has given the green-light for one of the biggest buildings in the city, a 48-storey tower.

The build-to-rent scheme will include 454 one and two-bed flats as well as some office space. 3% of the flats will be classified as “affordable”.

Court Collaboration said building works on the Deritend scheme are expected to begin later this year.

The company’s CEO Alex Neale said: “With a high level of ongoing investment and regeneration in this area… we are thrilled to have received planning permission from Birmingham City Council and look forward to starting works on-site in due course.”

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Contractors raise worries about working in lockdown

Major contractors are warning that keeping sites open in the coming weeks might not be as straightforward as previous lockdowns.

On Monday evening, Boris Johnson put England into another national lockdown – the third in just over nine months – to deal with the emergence of a new variant of covid-19 which the government’s scientists have found to be 50% to 70% more infectious. Construction was again spared the prime minister’s stay at home order with sites told to carry on working.

Government figures released on Monday showed there were 26,626 covid patients in hospital in England, up 30% on a week earlier. The peak of admissions in the first wave was 18,374 on 12 April but the country is now 40% above that level.

Sites are still operating under the existing 1m-plus rule on social distancing but one firm said bringing in tougher 2m-plus measures would see productivity hit.

Firms have said they are rotating teams and making sure not all critical staff are on site at the same time in case a job is struck down by a covid outbreak.

Contractors are also grappling with staff having to juggle childcare issues after all primary and secondary schools were shut down following Johnson’s Monday night announcement.

According to the government’s definition, key workers include a range of jobs from healthcare and education staff, supermarket workers and binmen. Any construction workers defined by the criteria is limited to “those constructing or supporting the operation of critical transport and border infrastructure through which supply chains pass”.

Skanska confirmed for Birmingham rail bridge

Job for Network Rail set to help pave way for HS2 route into city centre

Skanska has been confirmed to build a £52m replacement bridge for Network Rail in Birmingham which will eventually pave the way for the HS2 route into the city.

The firm, which is currently looking at making up to 70 people redundant from its Hertfordshire head office, has already been carrying out design and enabling works, worth £14m, for the scheme on the local Stechford to Aston stretch of the railway.

An existing bridge, comprising eight masonry arches and a central steelwork span, will be demolished and will be replaced with a 92m-span steel structure.

The new bridge is due to be finished by September 2022.

UK and EU strike Brexit trade deal

CLC chair hails news and says agreement will bring ‘certainty at a time when it is needed most’

The UK and EU finally agreed a post-Brexit trade deal this afternoon, ending months of negotiations over fishing rights and future business rules.

Today’s agreement comes just over a week before the UK officially leaves the bloc when its transition period out of the EU ends at midnight on 31 December.

The agreements reached will enable construction companies to continue to reliably forecast the cost and availability of products and materials imported from the EU or comprising components made in the EU. The mutual co-operation in respect of reducing technical trade barriers and co-operation at the border will also undoubtedly help to avoid some of the risks of delay and disruption.

In January we will not see the inflationary shock of tariff and quota introductions or the expected currency depreciation associated with a no-deal. This deal delivers certainty at a time when it is needed most.

The deal, which is said to run to 2,000 pages, still needs to be made law by both the European and UK parliaments.

The European parliament is unlikely to sign it off before 1 January – although it is still expected to come into force – while the UK government could summon MPs back from their Christmas breaks next week to vote on the deal, widely expected to pass because of the size of prime minister Boris Johnson’s majority and the fact it is set to be backed by Labour MPs as well.

World’s biggest crane completes record lift at Hinkley

The world’s largest crane, nicknamed Big Carl, has completed its biggest ever lift at Hinkley Point C.

Early on Thursday morning, when the wind was down, the crane carried out a 575 tonne lift as it installed the first of three massive steel rings at the nuclear power plant. The 17-metre tall and 47-metre wide ring was prefabricated at the Somerset site, and on its own weighs 382 tonnes. Gear used to secure the element took the total lift to 575 tonnes. The ring was placed onto 96 hydraulic jacks that lowered it into position.

Big Carl was made by Saerens in Belgium, stands 250 metres tall and moves on rails. EDF said it will eventually lift pieces weighing more than 1,000 tonnes. The ring is one of five pieces that make up the steel containment for each reactor.

Infrastructure key to industry growth next year

But Market View report warns firms to brace for rising costs of materials after Brexit.

Growth in infrastructure will drive the recovery of the construction sector in 2021, according to Mace’s last Market View forecast of the year.

The report called the government’s long-term spending commitments on infrastructure the “main ray of light” for the industry after a feeble recovery of new orders across the construction sector in the third quarter resulted in the weakest pipeline since 2012.

Major projects including HS2, Hinkley Point C, Thames Tideway and Crossrail have already helped infrastructure become the only construction sector in which output in the third quarter was higher than in the first, according to the analysis, while funding of £1.7bn for road projects announced in the government’s recent spending review will also bolster growth.

Heathrow expansion ban lifted

The Supreme Court has lifted a ban on the Heathrow Airport third runway scheme, meaning the project team could seek planning permission for the megaproject.

The ban was issued by the Court of Appeal in February, when judges ruled that the plans had been unlawfully approved by government. They said that Chris Grayling, who approved the scheme as transport secretary in 2018, failed to take into account the UK’s carbon commitments as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

However the Supreme Court today ruled that Grayling did take the Paris Agreement into account and ensured that its obligations were included in the framework for the airport expansion. Judges at the UK’s highest court said that the framework, known as the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS), was structured carefully to ensure that when the project was put forward for development consent, it was compatible with the requirements of the Paris Agreement that were up to date at the time.

The ruling added that future applications for development consent for the scheme will be assessed against emissions targets and environmental policies at the time, rather than any original targets that may now be outdated.

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