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UK-specific issues are adding to global shortages

Consultant Says UK Specific Problems Add To Global Shortage

A combination of UK-specific factors may affect the construction sector’s recovery from this year’s pandemic, Aecom warned.

Rising labour costs due to post-Brexit emigration and permanent non-tariff barriers affecting UK construction product imports from the EU are driving up input costs, the consultant said.

The EU is a major source of supply to the UK for a wide range of building materials.

But some EU exporters have stopped supplying the UK due to additional red tape making it commercially unviable, while others have raised prices to cover new non-tariff barriers and additional administrative costs.

CPA data released in January also showed that the EU-born construction sector workforce declined by more than a quarter in the year to Q3 2020.

And while a record 42% drop in UK commercial exports to the EU in January partially recovered in February, exports in the other direction have seen a much weaker recovery.

EU imports rose just £1.2bn in February after a record drop of £6.7bn in January, according to the latest figures from ONS.

The issues have been outlined in Aecom’s market forecast for construction, which predicts bid prices will increase 2.4% from the second quarter of this year to the second quarter of 2022 and 3% over the next 12 months.

UK-specific cost pressures are occurring in the context of global material shortages caused by supply constraints and increased demand, especially in the US.

Steel prices have risen 25% in the 12 months to February this year, but although it had risen with the value of the dollar, the dollar fell out of sync at the end of February.

Aecom said the weakening of the dollar in recent months now runs the risk of driving up the price of steel and other metals further.

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Designs for 46-storey Westfield tower ready

Developer Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW) and Glenn Howells Architects have unveiled the plan for a 46-storey tower next to the Westfield shopping centre, West London.

In 2017, Allies and Morrison was granted outline planning permission for 1,347 homes across three sites on behalf of developer URW, which owns the Westfield shopping centre and the surrounding land. Under the previous plans, the scheme was set to have 1,100 homes across eight blocks.

Glenn Howells has now submitted revised outline plan for the site, which would see 1,760 homes provided across nine blocks, the scheme would also feature a 34-storey tower, a 24-storey block and two 19-storey blocks.

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PAS 9980: Building fire safety assessment standard, consultation launched

A public consultation process for a new code of practice for fire risk appraisal, assessment of external wall construction and cladding of existing apartment blocks has been initiated.

The British Standards Institution is seeking information from people in the building, fire, housing and security industries, as well as consumers and residents.

The new standard, PAS 9980 (Fire risk appraisal and assessment of external wall construction and cladding of existing blocks of flats – Code of practice), will give guidance on undertaking a fire risk appraisal and assessment (FRAA) of the external wall construction of a multi-storey residential building.

The standard is intended for use by fire engineers and other building professionals tasked with advising on the fire risk of external wall construction of existing blocks of flats.

The consultation runs until 20 May, and the standard is due to be published in September.

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Plans for Birmingham health & science campus approved

Green light for the construction of a £210m campus dedicated to health and life science businesses in Birmingham.

The £210m Birmingham Health Innovation Campus will see 133,000 square feet of laboratory and office space built at the site in Selly Oak. The work is set to begin this summer, the developer, Bruntwood SciTech, expects the first phase of the project to be completed in 2023. A main contractor has not yet been formally appointed.

The campus is part of a larger masterplan for the area, which could see 657,000 square foot of office and lab space built over the next decade.

The campus project has received £11m of funding from the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) through the Local Fund and the Government’s Getting Building Fund.

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Approval for Network Homes’ 1,000-home project in London

Housing association Network Homes has been given the green light for nearly 1,000-home scheme that will be developed next to Northwick Park Hospital in north-west London.

The scheme is the second phase of a £450m development, the first phase, consisting of 654 homes, was given approval in December last year.

This second phase, with 1,600 homes across 19 buildings, will include student facilities, commercial space and a nursery on the site. It will also include 40% affordable homes.

The land development between Northwick Park Hospital and the adjacent park is led by a partnership between Network Homes, Northwest London Hospital NHS Trust, the University of Westminster and  the City Council. These four organisations have been awarded £500,000 from the One Public Estate programme, a scheme to encourage public sector organisations to make better use of their land.

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Dorset firm Cutler Bros. Ltd fined after worker falls through skylight

Dorset’s construction firm Cutler Bros. Ltd and its director were sentenced after a worker fell through a skylight.

On 22 February 2019, a self-employed labourer was fitting roof sheets to a newly constructed steel-framed barn. The worker fell through a fragile skylight and dropped almost 4m to the floor below. He suffered head and facial injuries, was knocked unconscious and spent nearly two weeks in hospital.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the work had not been correctly planned, with workers operating near a fragile roof without having sufficient platforms and guardrails.

Cutler Bros. Ltd was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,600 after pleading guilty to breaking Work at Height Regulations 2005. Company director Roger Martin Cutler also pleaded guilty, and was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,200.

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Green light for 15-storey tower paves the way for AHMM Southwark tube project

Southwark council has approved a 15-storey residential tower project, which paves the way for a major office scheme to be built above Southwark tube station in South London borough.

At the end of last month the council voted unanimously to approve the Bell Phillips Architects-designed tower. The building will provide 25 homes on the existing Styles House Estate.

The project will require the demolition of existing buildings including the Platform Southwark building, a housing studio space, an art gallery and a theatre.

The council’s green light to the Styles House Estate tower now clears the path for Transport for London (TfL) to progress its plans for the over-station development, which would provide office space with retail space on the ground floor.

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WW2 bomb damages homes after controlled explosion

Specialist have been sent to inspect properties damaged by the controlled detonation of a 1,000kg Second World War bomb, found on an Exeter construction site.

The bomb was unearthed by contractor Urbn Construction on Friday, prompting a call out of a Royal Navy bomb disposal team to make the place safe. Up to 400 tonnes of sand was placed at the site to mitigate the explosion.

Police had evacuated 2,600 homes and 1,400 students were told to leave their halls of residence as a safety precaution.

However, and despite the safety measures, windows were blown out and cracks reported in a number of buildings following the detonation on Glenthorne Road close to an Exeter University campus.

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Step forward for Everton’s new stadium plans

Everton’s plans for a new £ 500m stadium took a step forward after Liverpool’s city council voted unanimously to approve the proposal.

The council’s planning committee all voted in favour of the scheme in a virtual meeting, concluding that the benefits of the 53,000-seat stadium outweighed any potential harm to its grade II-listed site at Bramley-Moore Dock on the banks of the river Mersey.

The final decision on whether to build the stadium is now in the hands of Secretary of State Robert Jenrick, who has a 21-day deadline to respond.

If given the green light, the general contractor Laing O’Rourke is expected to start construction later this year, with Everton hoping to host games at the stadium by 2024.

The new stadium has been designed by US architect Dan Meis.

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M&E: Bristol-based firm goes into liquidation

M&E specialist firm has ceased trading and is set to go into liquidation.

In its latest accounts for the 18-month period ending July 31st 2019, Priddy Engineering Services held liquid assets valued at £1.8m. At the same time, Priddy’s debt to creditors exceeded its current assets, with £1.9m due to be paid within one year.

This period has been challenging for the business for three main reasons:

– In 2018, the company undertook major unnamed projects that proved to be “problematical”.

-Secondly, protracted and unresolved Brexit negotiations in early 2019 had a severe impact on the company’s ability to secure new contracts as clients delayed decisions and, in some cases, cancelled projects.

-Thirdly, an unidentified client on five of the company’s projects going into administration and leaving a significant bad debt charge.

Begbies Traynor is handling the liquidation of the company, which is set to take place on 25th of February.

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