Plans unveiled for new 1,200-home Manchester neighbourhood

Plans to build a new 1,200-home mixed-use development in Manchester city centre have been revealed.

Developer Southvalley Estates, which is part of real estate investment and development firm MCR Group, wants to build a mix of townhouses and apartments in mid-rise blocks over the next 10 years, including a 33-storey residential tower as part of the Gasworks New Town development. Two new commercial units, a new park, and new pedestrian lanes will be added to the former Gould Street Gasworks site to the north of the city centre. The development value for the project has not yet been disclosed.

The development will be a phased construction, starting with homes on the corner of Gould Street close to Rochdale Road, with homes set to be completed by 2023. The last piece of the development to be built will be the 33-storey residential tower, which will be completed towards the end of the decade.

Plans approved for 32-storey Leeds student tower

Leeds City Council has granted planning permission for a 32-storey student accommodation tower.

The £100m city centre project at 44 Merrion Street will begin with the demolition of a four-storey 1970s office building vacated last year by Santander bank. The new building, designed by architect SimpsonHaugh, will feature sections of 32 and 10 storeys rising from a four-storey podium and, when completed, will house 660 students.

The project developer is Merrion Street Leeds, a partnership between Real Estate Capital Holdings and development management firm Bloombridge. The partners acquired the site in November 2019.

The building is set to include an “arcade-style” ground floor space as well as a courtyard, mezzanine and roof terraces. Around three quarters of the student accommodation will be arranged in clusters of five bedrooms, with en-suite bathrooms and shared kitchen and dining space, with additional living areas shared between pairs of clusters. Remaining rooms will be self-contained studios. Five per cent of the rooms will be wheelchair accessible.

Highways England opens tenders for £3.6bn framework

Highways England has opened the applications process for its £3.6bn scheme delivery framework.

The six-year contract covers renewal, improvement and small construction scheme works and is designed to provide continuity between the body’s next two roads investment strategy (RIS) periods.

There are up to 161 places to be won on the framework, which is broken down into four bands covering 16 lots. Band A covers general civil engineering while Band B covers road restraint systems and fencing. Both of these are divided into large and smaller regional sub-lots.

Band C of the framework covers road lighting and electrical; structures waterproofing and expansion joints; technology (including traffic signals); structures, structural services and concrete repairs. Band D includes lots relating to design services.

The framework is now open to tenders, with the deadline for submissions set as 10 September.

Scotland ‘should have infrastructure advice body’

Scotland should have its own independent, specialist body to provide strategic advice on infrastructure, a review has concluded.

In a report released today, the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland said the new organisation is needed to “enable an inclusive, net-zero carbon economy and to develop a 30-year infrastructure strategy that is reinforced by a long-term-needs assessment”.

The commission, a body set up for an 18-month period to make recommendations for the next 30 years, said the new advisory body “would sit outside the political decision-making system to enable it to operate in an arms-length and transparent way”. By doing so it would build confidence across the public and private sectors, the report said.

Vinci starts work on £185m Morgan Sindall development

Vinci Construction UK is to start on the £185m Manchester city centre scheme after Morgan Sindall’s urban development company Muse agreed a deal to fund the work.

New Victoria, a mixed-use scheme including 450,000 square foot of residential space, will be located next to the city’s Victoria train station and is a partnership between Muse and Netowrk Rail.

It will feature 520 new homes across two buildings made up of 20 and 25 storeys, including 178 one-bed, 286 two-bed and 56 three-bed apartments on the site. Morgan Sindall announced this morning that an institutional investor is forward funding the residential phase of the scheme for an undisclosed sum.

The residential phase of the scheme is set to be completed in 2023.

Balfour, Bam among firms backing £1.2m scheme to ‘loan out’ employees

Balfour, Bam among firms backing £1.2m scheme to ‘loan out’ employees.

A £1.2m scheme that aims to keep workers in the construction industry has the backing of Balfour Beatty, Mace, Tideway and more than 400 other companies.

The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) said firms would be able to “loan” employees at risk of redundancy to each other as part of its Talent Retention Scheme website.

These loans are meant to encourage workers who are at risk of losing their jobs to stay in the sector in other temporary roles. The site also aims to bring workers who have already been made redundant back into construction jobs, as well as helping people from outside the sector.

Current partners of the scheme also include Bam Nuttall, Bouygues UK, EDF, Keltbray, Taylor Wimpey, Travis Perkins and WSP.

Establishment of the website has been funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to the tune of £1.2m up until the end of the financial year. Zahawi told parliament that costs for the scheme will be supported by industry from April 2021.

A statement from the CLC said the site would be free to use until April 2021 but did not state how it would be used afterwards.

Coventry City announce plans to build new stadium

Coventry City Football Club has announced plans to build a new stadium for the club.

The team and the University of Warwick have formed a partnership that will see the educational institution provide land to Coventry City to build a new stadium.

A statement from the pair said that an exact site has not yet been agreed, but the university will provide land for the ground, likely to be a field on its main campus in south-west Coventry.

The statement added that a new light rail station and link road would be built to give fans access to the ground.

Consultation to be held on Environmental Impact Assessment reform

Consultation to be held on Environmental Impact Assessment reform

The government will launch a consultation in the autumn ahead of planned changes to statutory Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) as the UK leaves the European Union.

In his “build, build, build” speech on 30 June, prime minister Boris Johnson hinted at radical reforms to environmental protections, saying that “newt-counting delays” ahead of construction projects represented “a massive drag on the prosperity” of the UK. The environment secretary George Eustice confirmed a policy paper setting out the government’s approach will be published “shortly”.

Eustice also announced a £5m pilot project to create new ‘Natural Capital and Ecosystem Assessments’ for local authorities. He said the additional assessments are intended to improve “the baseline understanding of habitats and species abundance across the country, in every planning authority” to provide a basis for planning decisions.

Eustice also cited related issues such as inconsistent application of guidelines by different local authorities, and the challenge of monitoring impact over the full lifecycle of large projects, as topics to be addressed.

Highways England was ‘overly optimistic’ on roads improvement plan

Highways England was too optimistic about its previous roads improvement plan, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has said.

A review of the agency over the last five years praised it for delivering the majority of its commitments but noted the “substantial re-planning” of schemes due to start construction in the period. The regulator added that the “capital programme for major improvements proved to be overly optimistic”.

The body was meant to deliver 112 schemes during its first Road Investment Strategy (RIS1) period but, after discussions with the Department for Transport, this was revised to just 73.

Its £27bn RIS2 period is now under way, with many of the schemes from the last five years knocked back into the next five, or beyond. A lack of value for money in the planning stage was cited for delaying eight of those projects.

Grenfell designs approved ‘without being seen by architect or contractor’

Grenfell designs approved ‘without being seen by architect or contractor’

Designs were deemed “approved for construction” by cladding specialist Harley Facades, without being seen by contractor Rydon or Studio E Architects, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has heard.

Simon Lawrence, who was Rydon’s contract manager on the Grenfell Tower refurbishment between 2014 and 2015, was shown emails from 2015 detailing plans for the building. The drawings were marked with an “approved for construction” stamp before Studio E and Rydon had seen or commented on them. In some cases, Rydon was not included in the email chain at all.

When asked by QC for the inquiry Richard Millett why the drawings were marked as approved, Lawrence said: “I don’t think we know why but I would assume that it was a Harley internal process to say it’s ready to go out to be checked, but that would just be my guess.”

When asked to explain this “serious mistake”, Lawrence said he couldn’t as he had left Rydon “long before the as-built [drawings] were complete and issued”. He added: “I would suggest that Studio E has taken an original tender drawing and has just put it in the pack of as-built [drawings] without checking it and updating it.”

Last week, the inquiry heard Rydon did not have a system in place to ensure there were no gaps in design responsibility.

The inquiry continues.