Industry Intel

July: Property industry news headline round-up

Tina Ledger

Graphic Designer

Jul 26, 2022

July has seen many new exciting discoveries and announcements – from a new forest as big as thirty-five football pitches being planned in the North East to the UK’s first two 100% hydrogen-powered homes being showcased in Gateshead.

The Crown Commercial Services have also put contractors on alert for a new £30bn mega construction framework for public spending departments.

This has happened against the backdrop of the effects of COVID-19 and Brexit combining to cause a perfect storm of labour shortages and increased costs to building supplies – putting small businesses in danger. This combination has also meant that several councils have had to scale back their waste collection or cancel certain aspects completely.

Read on to find out about the most salient news stories about the UK’s construction industry over the past month.

Jenrick Gives Unitary Deals Green Light

In a statement to parliament, local government Secretary Robert Jenrick gave the unitary plans the go-ahead on 21st July. The plans will see the two-tier local government system scrapped in all three areas, with local elections held in May 2022.

North Yorkshire and Somerset County Councils will become single unitary councils, while Cumbria will be carved in two. In Cumbria, an East Cumbria unitary will cover Barrow, Eden and South Lakeland, while West Cumbria will be made up of Allerdale, Carlisle and Copeland.

The announcement follows a letter to councils last week from the Secretary of State that outlined options for county devolution deals. Unlike previous policy, it did not insist on local government reorganisation as a condition of devolution.

North Yorkshire is currently made up of the county council, Selby, Harrogate, Craven, Richmondshire, Hambleton, Ryedale and Scarborough. Somerset includes the county, South Somerset, West Somerset and Taunton, Sedgemoor, and Mendip. They will each become a single unitary.

For more information, click here.

Staff Shortages Lead To Councils Suspending Waste Collection

Many councils have declared an emergency situation after large numbers of staff have been told to self-isolate via the COVID-19 app. This has been made worse by a national shortage of 100,000 HGV drivers as a result of Brexit.

Derbyshire Dales District Council has been forced to suspend all food waste collections, and Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council has moved its weekly bin collections to fortnightly for most households. Derby City Council has also been forced to delay some collections and suspend its garden waste collections as well.

Cllr Mark Houlbrook, Doncaster Council’s portfolio holder for sustainability and waste, said: “It is a balancing act to safeguard everyone’s safety against the risks of COVID-19 and making sure the bins are collected. However, as we have fewer staff members, this will mean that black and blue (recycling) bin collections will be prioritised.”

For more information, click here.

Research Finds Affordable Housing Is UK’s Most Poorly Performing Measure

The latest edition of the L&G Rebuilding Britain Index shows that housing, jobs, and economic prosperity continue to be the worst-performing measures for the second consecutive quarter.

It found London, the South East of England, and the South West of England are falling significantly behind the rest of the UK on access to quality affordable housing.

Wales and the North East of England remain behind on jobs and economic prosperity, according to the Index.

Nigel Wilson, CEO at Legal & General, said, “It is clear that the longer we wait in bringing forward further significant schemes, the greater the risk of existing inequalities between and within our communities deepening further.”

The index also found that only a quarter of people across the UK (24%) agree that there is local investment making a discernible impact where it is most needed.

For more information, click here.

UK’s First Battery Gigaplant Given Planning Permission

The facility will be developed on the former power station site in Cambois by Britishvolt and will create nearly 3,000 jobs. The facility will have the capacity to produce 300,000 electric vehicle battery packs each year.

The gigaplant has a production capacity more than three times that of other recently announced schemes, all of which are only at the early stages of design and planning.

Council leader Glen Sanderson said, “We’re absolutely delighted this gigaplant has been granted planning permission. It’s a real game changer for Northumberland. It’s fantastic news – not just for the local area, but the wider county and the whole region. It’s the biggest investment in living memory.”

For more information, click here.

500 Hectares Of Trees To Be Planted

Newcastle, Gateshead, North and South Tyneside, Sunderland and Durham have joined forces with environmental organisations to plant a new forest by 2025.

This will be carried out in partnership with Defra and England Community Forests, with the ultimate aim of increasing canopy coverage across the North East to 30% by 2050.

This huge project – the equivalent of planting thirty-five football pitches – will be supported by the £640m Nature for Climate Fund and £480,000 in funding from Defra’s Nature for Climate Fund.

Cllr Penny-Evans said, “If trees are planted in the right place, we know that we can reduce the risk of flooding, create new habitat for wildlife, improve air quality, provide positive impacts on human health and well-being, boost the economy, provide new jobs, provide timber for sustainable building and energy production and store thousands of tonnes of carbon.”

For more information, click here.

Three Councils Testing Simplified Planning Apps

An app for council planners – BoPS – will help speed up the processing of permitted development applications. Another app – RIPA – will enable homeowners and developers to check whether their planning application can be quickly approved.

The apps have been created by Buckinghamshire Councils, Lambeth Councils, and Southwark Council as part of the Government’s drive towards a fully digital planning system.

Cllr David Renard, local government association planning spokesperson, said, “We support measures to make the planning system more accessible and efficient. These new apps are another tool to make it easier for residents to engage in the planning process, which will also help councils to track applications for permitted development across their area.”

For more information, click here.

Government Puts Firms On Alert for £30Bn Mega Framework

The Crown Commercial Services has put contractors on alert for a new £30bn mega construction framework for public spending departments.

Bidding will start in September for places on the bundled up framework, which will include races for places on the fourth-generation NHS ProCure 23 (P23) framework, MoD airfield works, and major construction projects valued at more than £80m.

P23 will be a key element of the big new contractor contest, accounting for over £17bn of spend over four years to 2025. Building on past iterations, P23 is hoped to bring the latest best practice in construction methods to the NHS and focuses on delivering greener facilities, reducing carbon emissions, and promoting social value.

The present P22 arrangement is shared by six firms: BAM, Galliford Try, Graham, Tilbury Douglas, Kier and Vinci/Sir Robert McAlpine joint venture IHP.

Now the plan is to split P23 into three value-based lots:

1. for projects less than £20m;

2. for projects £20m – £70m;

3. for projects valued at over £70m+.

The new smaller projects lot will be split geographically across the seven NHS England regions to open up opportunities for more regional and medium-sized firms and increase delivery capacity.

For more information, click here.

New Homes Left Unfinished And Businesses In Crisis Through Building Supply Shortage

There has been a shortage of a number of building materials, including cement, timber, and mortar thought to have been caused by a perfect storm of the knock-on effects of Brexit and Coronavirus.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said, “a lack of supplies is having a big impact on the industry. Particularly the smaller builders, they’re the ones struggling to obtain the materials needed, and in some cases, small builders are actually saying they’re concerned about the viability of their business.”

For more information, click here.

Highways England Challenges Aims To Reach Zero-Carbon By 2040

Highways England has challenged contractors and suppliers to reduce carbon year-on-year to deliver net-zero road maintenance and construction by 2040.

As part of this target, Highways England aims to start its first net-zero road enhancement scheme by 2025 and replace all street lighting with LED alternatives within just six years.

It also wants its contractors to switch all construction plants and compounds to zero emissions by 2030 under the challenge set out in a new roadmap to zero.

The target for construction and maintenance forms part of the three-pronged green roadmap to take the highways network to net-zero operation and upkeep by 2050.

This will involve Highways England achieving net-zero for its own operations by 2030, net-zero road maintenance and construction by 2040, and supporting net-zero travel on our roads by 2050.

To switch the country towards all new cars and vans being zero-emission by 2030, the Government has said it will invest over a billion pounds to accelerate the rollout of charging infrastructure.

For more information, click here.

EWS1 Forms No Longer Be Required For Buildings Less Than 18 Metres

The EWS1 form was introduced in 2019 in response to the Grenfell Tower fire, which killed seventy-two people in 2017. It was intended to consistently record what assessments have been carried out on the external wall construction of residential buildings.

The decision comes after an expert panel commissioned by the government found there was no systemic risk of fire in smaller blocks.

Instead, the government is recommending a more proportionate and evidence-based approach to fire safety. It said risk should be managed through measures such as alarm systems or sprinklers and that the overwhelming majority of medium and low-rise buildings (those under 18 metres) with cladding should not require expensive remediation.

The government said the move would unlock the housing market. Lenders HSBC, Barclays and Lloyds voiced their support and are updating their practices to implement the new approach.

For more information, click here.

Clarion Named Development Partner For 1,000 Acre Plan In Essex

Giant housing association Clarion has been appointed development partner for the £3bn Tendring Colchester Borders Garden Community Project, which is expected to deliver up to 9,000 homes.

Latimer, the commercial development arm of the 125,000 home group, will act as master developer alongside housebuilder Mersea Homes on the joint project for Tendring District Council, Colchester Borough Council, and Essex County Council.

The 1,000-acre scheme will include 30% affordable housing and have a gross development value of more than £3bn.

For more information, click here.

New Design Codes For Councils Launched

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has announced a national guide to place more emphasis on beauty.

Under the plans, councils will be expected to develop an illustrated design guide that sets the standard for a local area, with input from local people.

A National Model Design Code is to be published today to help councils achieve this, providing guidance on all aspects of new development.

The National Planning Policy Framework will also be updated to place more emphasis on beauty, place-making, the environment, and sustainable development.

The updated framework will set an expectation that good quality design should be approved and includes a commitment to ensure all streets are lined with trees.

According to the government, this will be the first time since 1947 the word beauty has been specifically included in planning rules.

Jenrick said: “This is about putting communities – not developers – in the driving seat to ensure good quality design is the norm, and the return to a sense of stewardship – to building greener, enduringly popular homes and places that stand the test of time in every sense.”

Paul Miner, Head of Land Use and Planning at Countryside Charity CPRE, said the prioritisation of design codes and creation of the Office for Place was a “hugely welcome” step.

For more information, click here.

UK’s First 100% Hydrogen-Fuelled Demonstration Homes Open

The UK’s first homes with household gas appliances fuelled entirely by hydrogen have been officially opened by Energy Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan at Northern Gas Networks’ innovation site in Low Thornley, Gateshead.

The two semi-detached homes have been built in a partnership between gas distributors Cadent and Northern Gas Networks (NGN) and the Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to provide the public with the opportunity to experience a zero-emission gas-fuelled home of the future.

Unlike natural gas, which is responsible for over 30% of carbon emissions, hydrogen produces no carbon at the point of use. For the first time, the hydrogen house will give members of the public a glimpse into a hydrogen-fuelled future, enabling them to interact with a range of hydrogen-fed appliances, including boilers, hobs, cookers, fires and a barbecue.

The hydrogen house project is aligned with a larger scheme detailed in the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan, which also includes establishing a Hydrogen Neighbourhood and developing plans for a potential Hydrogen Town before the end of this decade.

For more information, click here.

New Chartered Institute Of Housing (CIH) President Jo Richardson Unveils New “Homeful” Campaign

The Homeful Campaign – which seeks to build on the success of the response to homelessness and rough sleeping during the pandemic, exploring housing-led approaches to resolve and prevent homelessness – was revealed by Richardson ahead of her becoming president last week.

The campaign will include the UK’s largest co-produced action research project, which will include people who have experienced homelessness, housing providers, homeless organisations, partner agencies, charities, and housing residents across the country to collect data, analyse findings, and share learning across all parts of the UK.

Gavin Smart, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said, “As housing professionals and organisations, we know that by collaborating across the sector, we can do more to resolve and prevent homelessness throughout the UK. The Homeful campaign will be our opportunity to highlight good practice, share learning widely, and embed some of the lessons we learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s our opportunity to work together to end homelessness for good.”

For more information, click here.

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Graphic Designer

Tina Ledger

Being such a people person makes Tina exceptionally good at her job. She not only can relate to most people in one way or another, but she also genuinely enjoys hearing about other people’s experiences. Couple that with her creativity, resilience and ability to flourish under pressure, and you’ve got yourself a cracking Graphic Designer.

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