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Draft recovery plan for Scottish industry released

Scottish construction needs urgent steps to establish a clear pipeline of work and more working practices that raise productivity as well as keeping workers safe, according to a new plan.

The Scottish Construction Leadership Forum (CLF), a group established by sector leadership group Construction Scotland and the Scottish Government, has released a draft plan for the industry’s recovery, on which it is asking for feedback.

During the coronavirus emergency, the majority of Scotland’s construction sites were shut down completely prior to a phased reopening that began in mid-May.

According to the CLF, activity in Scotland’s construction sector during June was still 28.6 per cent lower than a year before.

The draft plan calls for urgent steps to establish:

  • A clear pipeline of work on fair commercial terms
  • Support for continued employment as well as people left unemployed by the crisis
  • Working practices that protect worker safety but raise productivity

The draft is due to be revised after an initial feedback phase closes on 15 September.

Gatwick puts off pier expansion until 2022

Gatwick has confirmed that the largest plank of its airport construction programme has been suspended until at least 2022.

The planned doubling in size of Pier 6, one of the buildings where aircraft dock, has been put on hold as a result of declining income due to the coronavirus crisis. Bechtel was appointed delivery partner on the £180m project, designed to accommodate an increase in passenger numbers, in 2017.

In a statement, Gatwick said that enabling works – including realigning taxiways and stands – had been completed this year and construction works had started, but the main job has now been postponed.

Gatwick, which is majority-owned by Vinci, reported a £343.9m pre-tax loss for the first six months of 2020. It made a £59.4m profit in the same period last year.

Crossrail overspend to reach £1.1bn as new opening date announced

Crossrail will cost an extra £450m to complete and will not be ready to open until 2022.
The project board announced this morning that the rail line, originally due to open in 2018, needs £1.1bn more than was announced in December 2018 to bring work to completion. In November last year it was announced it would need between £400m and £650m more to complete than was stated in 2018, but today this figure has risen further still.
The latest estimate means the scheme will cost more than £18bn in total to complete, having been budgeted at £15bn prior to 2018.
How the extra money will be raised has not yet been determined, with talks having taken place between Transport for London (TfL) and the Department for Transport since November. No conclusion has been reached but extra TfL borrowing was suggested earlier this year.
A period of intensive construction activity is being carried out this month and next, in a bid to complete remaining construction works so that trial running of trains can commence.
As well as the increase in funding needed to complete the project, delays were projected to cost TfL at least £500m in lost revenue from passenger use too. The transport operator has since had to be bailed out by Whitehall this year amid declining revenues during the pandemic. A number of other proposed construction projects, including the tramlink extension from Colliers Wood to Sutton and an expansion of South Kensington underground station, have been put on hold as a result.

More than 1,000 homes planned for historic barracks

The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) has agreed to sell a 14.85-hectare site in west London to Inland Homes. The brownfield developer aims to build over 1,000 homes on the historic Cavalry Barracks site in Hounslow, with a gross developed value of £600m.

The barracks, 2km west of Hounslow town centre and 4.5km from Heathrow, includes open playing fields and a parade ground, with the tallest building currently five storeys.

Military use of the location dates back to 1793 and the barracks currently boasts 14 Grade II-listed buildings as well as 19 locally-listed buildings. In July last year Hounslow Council adopted a supplementary planning document laying out restrictions on the redevelopment of the site. It includes an advisory “concept plan” for 1,000 homes in buildings of two to five storeys in a layout that retains the site’s central open spaces.

The developer expects to take over the site from military use in August 2021, and intends to submit a planning application for its mixed-use scheme including 1,000 homes, within the next six months.

Supply shortages crept up at the end of July

More contractors reported problems with material supplies in the last two weeks of July, data from the Office for National Statistics has revealed.

The proportion of firms reporting problems crept up to 37 per cent in the fortnight ending 26 July, up from 34 per cent the previous fortnight. This was broadly equal to the proportion reporting problems at the end of June, but down from 46 per cent that suffered supply issues at the end of May.

The construction industry now has a greater proportion of firms struggling to get materials than any other sector in the UK. The next worst-affected area of the economy is the healthcare sector, where 33 per cent of firms reported supply problems in the fortnight ending 26 July.

Increased supply shortages do not appear to have translated into higher prices, according to the ONS data. The proportion of firms reporting price increases actually dropped to 20 per cent in the last two weeks of the month, from 21 per cent in the previous two weeks.

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.