The construction products regulator will be a division of the Office for Product Safety & Standards within the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and have an initial £10m to get going.
The introduction of a new tier of bureaucracy has been deemed necessary because of the failure of the construction industry to regulate itself, as proven by the nationwide cladding scandal that was exposed by the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire.
Time and again products have been used in buildings, including high-rise residential buildings, that have supposedly been independently certified as fit for purpose, only for the whole system of certification to have been exposed as a sham.
The job of the new national construction products regulator is to make sure that structures are built only from safe materials.
The announcement follows recommendations in the Dame Judith Hackitt Review that industry and government must ensure that construction products are properly tested, certified, labelled and marketed. That review was commissioned in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017.
The regulator for construction products will have the power to remove any product from the market that presents a significant safety risk and prosecute any companies who flout the rules on product safety, the government said.
The Ministry of Housing said: “This follows recent testimony to the Grenfell Inquiry that shone a light on the dishonest practice by some manufacturers of construction products, including deliberate attempts to game the system and rig the results of safety tests.”
The regulator will have strong enforcement powers, including the ability to conduct its own product-testing when investigating concerns, the ministry said.
This move marks the next stage of the government’s post-Grenfell overhaul of regulatory systems. The progress on regulatory reform includes the publication of the draft Building Safety Bill in July 2020 and a new Building Safety Regulator that is already up and running in shadow form with the Health & Safety Executive.
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “The Grenfell Inquiry has heard deeply disturbing allegations of malpractice by some construction product manufacturers and their employees, and of the weaknesses of the present product testing regime.
“We are establishing a national regulator to address these concerns and a review into testing to ensure our national approach is fit for purpose. We will continue to listen to the evidence emerging in the Inquiry, and await the judge’s ultimate recommendation – but it is already clear that action is required now and that is what we are doing.”
Business minister Paul Scully added: “We all remember the tragic scenes at Grenfell Tower, and the entirely justified anger which so many of us in London and throughout the UK continue to feel at the failings it exposed.
“This must never happen again, which is why we are launching a new national regulator for construction materials, informed by the expertise that already exists within the Office for Product Safety and Standards.”
Dame Judith Hackitt, chair of the independent review of building regulations and fire safety, said: “This is another really important step in delivering the new regulatory system for building safety. The evidence of poor practice and lack of enforcement in the past has been laid bare. As the industry itself starts to address its shortcomings I see a real opportunity to make great progress in conjunction with the national regulator.”
The new regulator will operate within the Office for Product Safety & Standards (OPSS) which will be expanded and given an initial £10m in funding to establish the new function. It will work with the new Building Safety Regulator and local authority trading standards to ‘encourage and enforce’ compliance.
The government has also commissioned an independent review to examine weaknesses in previous testing regimes for construction products, and to recommend how abuse of the testing system can be prevented. It has commissioned a report with recommendations for delivery later this year.
Construction activity is back on the rise after a stutter in output growth at the end of last year. Construction output resumes growth after 2.6% fall at the end of 2020 New work increased by 1.7% in January driven by private commercial and infrastructure, which grew by 4.5% and 3.1% respectively, according to fresh data from the Office of National Statistics. But small falls in repair and maintenance activity reduced the overall monthly growth rate to 0.9%. Construction is the only sector of the economy still growing according to the new economic data. The industry still has some ground to cover to return to pre-Covid new work levels, which are 6.4% down on the benchmark February 2020 level, although the infrastructure sector passed this point last August. Commercial activity starts to rise from its slumber Mark Robinson, group chief executive at public procurement specialist SCAPE, said: “The construction industry continues to cement its position at the forefront of the UK’s economic recovery, with the latest output figures hopefully confirming the dips seen in previous months were a temporary setback. “In contrast to previous economic crises, the next few years represent an opportunity to accelerate public investment in transformative, urban regeneration projects that will ultimately improve communities. “With the Chancellor’s Budget having set the agenda – including a sustained commitment to infrastructure investment – the public sector and construction industry must work..
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled the UK’s first freeport areas as part of his push to drive investment-led regeneration in the regions. Teesside freeport alone could create18,000 jobs over the next five years and increase inward investment by £1.4bn. New freeport hub plans can now move forward at East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe and Harwich, Humber, Liverpool City Region, Plymouth, Solent, Thames and Teesside. The free trade zones are designated areas where the normal tax and tariff rules do not apply. This allows goods to be imported, manufactured and re-exported without being subject to checks, paperwork, or import taxes. The wide package of tax reliefs also apply to purchasing land, constructing or renovating buildings, investing in new plant and machinery assets and on employer national insurance contributions. Streamlined planning processes and government funding will also boost redevelopment and promote regeneration and innovation. Sunak said the move would stimulate construction and transport links bringing big regional benefits. He also announced £1bn for 45 New Town deals and committed to move part of the Treasury to a new campus in Darlington. New Town deals The Government also confirmed £135m to progress the A66 Trans-Pennine upgrade to get spades in the ground by 2024. Regional spending pledges To support Government’s Build Back Better plans across the country, Leeds will become home to the UK’s first infrastructure investment bank. The bank will have £12bn to release,..
Proposals for the second half of a new town in Waterbeach, north of Cambridge, have secured planning approval. South Cambridgeshire District Council’s planning committee voted to support outline proposals from RLW Estates for up to 4,500 more homes. The application covers land between the former Waterbeach airfield and barracks to the west, and the Fen Line railway that links Cambridge to Ely and the east. 30% of the new homes will be for affordable rent, shared ownership or intermediate rent. The plans also show community facilities including a secondary school, primary schools, community centres and playing fields. RLW Estates is a consortium comprising Royal London, St John’s College Cambridge and Turnstone Estates. Their plans are associated with improvements to public transport, including a relocated Waterbeach Railway Station. Proposals to move the station onto the site were approved by the council in 2018. A separate planning application from Urban & Civic, for 6,500 homes on the western part of the site closest to the A10, was given outline planning permission in May 2019. The district council is working with neighbouring authorities on transport planning. An upgrade of the A10 between Milton and Waterbeach is one of the options on the table. South Cambridgeshire District Council’s lead cabinet member for planning, Tumi Hawkins, said: “We know traffic on the A10 is a concern and financial contributions from this development will support measures..
Planning permission has been granted for development of a major industrial and commercial development in Bowling, West Dunbartonshire. The £34m Glasgow City Region City Deal project will see the former ExxonMobil site transformed into a mixed-use development that will include storage, distribution, industrial, business and office space. Plans detail office and industrial development located in Eastfield, business in Centrefield and storage and distribution in the Westfield areas. The project is expected to generate 670 jobs during the construction and to provide up to 980 full-time jobs when complete. Granting of the application by the council’s planning committee follows an agreement reached with ExxonMobil last October under which the site will be remediated and then transferred to the Council. The 150-acre site is currently undergoing extensive remediation by ExxonMobil to prepare it, and the council will start work when this is complete. In addition, the works will also include a number of road improvements connecting to the site, including the creation of a new 1.95km relief link road in West Dunbartonshire; 1.32km of upgrades to the A814; a new junction on the A82 at Dumbuck; a remodelled junction on the A82 at Dunglass; a new under-bridge of the Glasgow-Dumbarton Railway at the west access to the site with a new railway over bridge for eastern access; and enhanced routing of the National Cycle Network Route 7. The Council will also undertake..
Glasgow City Council has approved an investment plan aimed at building over 4,400 affordable homes over the next five years. The city’s Strategic Housing Investment Plan (SHIP) for 2021-26 will see grant funding of £469.71m made available with the aim of building the additional homes. The Glasgow SHIP outlines the city's priorities and resources available for investing in housing to achieve the ambitions and housing supply targets of the Glasgow Housing Strategy (GHS). The GHS has two main themes: increasing the supply and improving the quality of housing available to the people of Glasgow, and improving access to appropriate housing. The strategy also has six strategic priorities: new-build housing and area regeneration; the management, maintenance and improvement of existing housing; raising standards in the private rented sector; the tackling of fuel poverty, energy inefficiency and climate change; improved access to housing across all tenures; and the promotion of health and wellbeing. The new SHIP takes into account the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, in particular the 36 affordable housing development sites that were closed temporarily during the initial lockdown, with a subsequent average project delay of around three months. A key focus of the SHIP is to ensure the delivery of those sites in Glasgow identified as having strategic importance. The 2021-26 SHIP for Glasgow was developed through consultation in October 2020 with the council's housing partners, including housing associations,..
Developer Gazeley has secured approval from North West Leicestershire District Council to develop the 68-acre site. Until 2004 the site was a coal lounge, coal preparation and disposal point but is now disused. Most of it is identified as suitable for employment provision in the district’s local plan. Representations against the application included concerns about the size and scale of the building, the traffic and the impact on air quality. Councillor Nigel Smith, chair of the council’s planning committee, said: “This was a difficult decision for the committee but on balance the opportunity to bring new jobs to North West Leicestershire on land already earmarked for employment provision proved decisive. “The last nine months have been very difficult nationally, but this development offers a real economic boost for our district and new jobs for local people in the coming years of recovery from Covid-19.”
The party wants to build a modern, zero-carbon network that is affordable and accessible to all. The Rail for All programme should be a central part of Scotland’s green recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, said the party’s transport spokesperson John Finnie. “The Scottish Greens are proposing the biggest rail investment programme Scotland has ever seen,” he said. “Our fully-costed £22 billion plan would transform Scotland’s railway, building a modern, zero-carbon network that is affordable and accessible to all. Rail for All is about making rail the natural choice for every journey, whether you’re commuting, travelling for business or leisure.” The key principle of the Rail for All programme is to make the rail network accessible to everyone. The party’s aim is, as far as realistically possible, for every town with a population of over 5,000 to be connected to the network. That would see new stations developed across the country, with existing lines upgraded, and previously closed lines given a new lease of life. “The investment would also be a central component of Scotland’s green recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, creating thousands of quality, unionised jobs whilst delivering the infrastructure so necessary to tackle the climate emergency,” he said. In addition, the Scottish Greens are proposing that one publicly owned rail operator is formed, by re-integrating ScotRail and Network Rail (Scotland). Government decision-making processes – which the party said are..
Up to 60 students will be accommodated in the new development’s studio flats, which will be built over three and four storeys, and feature several communal areas and facilities. The £6m development is targeted at students at Brighton’s Screen & Film School – Alumno plans a movie theme for the building to appeal to them – but other students will also be accepted. Sustainability measures will include solar panels, low-energy lighting and high-efficiency heating. Construction is scheduled to start in spring 2021 with completion planned for summer 2022. “This project, which has been beautifully designed by Greenaway Architects, went through a thorough and lengthy consultation process with Brighton and Hove council in terms of the overall design, streetscape elevation treatment, layouts and amenities for the students,” said Alumno managing director David Campbell. “Lewes Road is known as Brighton’s Academic Corridor due to its strategic location near to a number of higher education establishments, including Brighton and Sussex Universities, making it the ideal site for a student residence.”
The new funding includes £760m for the next phase of East West Rail to reinstate direct rail services between Bicester and Bletchley for the first time since 1968. It also includes £34m to progress plans to reopen the Northumberland line between Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Ashington, which closed to passengers in 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts. The works between Bicester and Bletchley in this phase of the project (Western Section Phase 2) will include the construction of a new stations at Winslow, as well as enhancements to existing stations along the route, including Bletchley. By 2025, two trains per hour will run between Oxford and Milton Keynes via Bletchley, the Department for Transport said. Simon Blanchflower, chief executive of the East West Railway Company, said: “This funding will enable us to get on with the construction work that will connect communities who live on the East West Rail link. We are committed to improving connectivity across the Oxford-Cambridge arc, and fully recognise our responsibility to ensure that it is delivered in a way that minimises disruption, supports the regional economy, maximises benefits and supports jobs across the region.” The first section of the East West Rail, between Oxford and Bicester (Western Section Phase 1), was completed in December 2016 and saw an upgrade of the existing rail line between Oxford and Bicester to facilitate future East West Rail services. It..
The surge in build to rent projects looks set to continue with the number of homes presently in the planning pipeline 22% ahead of last year. Research from the British Property Federation shows the sector remained particularly resilient during the Covid pandemic last year. The number of completed build-to-rent homes increased by 23% in 2020 with build-to-rent accounting for 4% of all new homes, and around a fifth of all new homes in London, in the final quarter of 2020. Build to rent continues to accelerate new housing supply outside of London, outstripping the capital in both current and future supply. But the number of new homes in planning has stabilised in the capital with just a 2% rise as it competes with the regions for investment. Every region of the UK recorded positive growth in future supply, with the planning pipeline in Northern Ireland increasing the most significantly. The East of England and Scotland ranked second and third, respectively. With 32,395 build-to-rent homes – complete, under construction or in planning – the North West still boasts the largest number of build-to-rent homes outside of London. While build-to-rent homes under construction in the North East, North West and South West slowed in the final quarter significant increases in the number of homes in planning, suggests a healthy future pipeline for the sector in these regions. Ian Fletcher, Director of Real Estate..
The Department for Education has named the schools projects that will be brought forward in the first wave of its £1bn rebuilding and improvement programme. The first round will include 50 school rebuilding projects plus 21 new free schools. The schools include primary, secondary and specials as well as a sixth form college in West Yorkshire, with more than 70% of the schools in the North and Midlands. 50 rebuild and improvement projects Birmingham King Edward VI Handsworth Wood Girls’ Academy Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Oak Academy Cambridgeshire Sawston Village College Coventry Cardinal Newman Catholic School Coundon Court West Coventry Academy Derbyshire Somerlea Park Junior School Wilsthorpe School Doncaster Ash Hill Academy Ridgewood School Essex The King Edmund School Gloucestershire Katharine Lady Berkeley’s School Thomas Keble School Hammersmith and Fulham Fulham Cross Academy Hampshire Bay House School Hertfordshire Pinewood School Kingston Upon Thames Coombe Boys’ School Kirklees Greenhead College Lancashire Lytham St Annes High School Tarleton Academy Whitworth Community High School Leicester Catherine Infant School Leicestershire The Castle Rock School Manchester Sandilands Primary School North Tyneside Whitley Bay High School Nottinghamshire Sutton Bonington Primary School Yeoman Park Academy Rochdale Kingsway Park High School Littleborough Community Primary School Newhouse Academy Sefton Deyes High School Shropshire Belvidere School St. Helens Longton Lane Community Primary School Wombourne High School Sunderland Farringdon Community Academy Sutton Greenshaw High School Trafford St John Vianney School Wakefield..
It's reported that rising workloads mean civils contractors are now “recruiting for recovery.” The latest Civil Engineering Contractors Association’s quarterly workload trends survey shows that after two successive quarters of falls, workloads rose in 2020 Q4. Order books increased for 20% of firms in the last quarter of 2020 – the highest balance in three years. And nearly half of all firms expect headcount to rise in the coming year – the highest balance in almost six years. CECA Chief Executive Alasdair Reisner said: “These survey results show that the infrastructure sector is primed to drive the recovery from Covid-19 in 2021. “As one of the few sectors that has been able to continue working safely throughout the pandemic, we have already seen the strategic importance of the construction and infrastructure sectors to the whole economy. “Now that CECA members’ workloads are increasing and order books are growing, we will see the sector deliver much-needed job creation in all parts of the UK. “Given the UK Government’s stated intention to ‘Build, Build, Build’, coupled with its aspiration to ‘level up’ the economy, there has perhaps never been a better time to enter our industry, which will be at the vanguard of our national recovery from Covid-19 as our members deliver the key infrastructure businesses and communities rely upon.”
CODE Co-Living has submitted plans for three building elements: one of 12 storeys, a second of 16 storeys, and the tallest reaching 36 storeys. At almost 117m tall, the main tower would be 16m taller than Sheffield’s current title holder and edge above a 114m tall student scheme currently under construction in Leeds – which is set to be the county’s tallest. The co-living development will provide 1,370 private studio flats for rent, available for both students and non-students. Substantial communal spaces are also incorporated, including dining and café facilities, a 50-piece gymnasium, cinema room, private study spaces and a large first floor south-facing outdoor roof terrace. The building will be operated on a build-to-rent basis, owned and operated by the developer. Nearly 140 flats will be affordable rent for non-students – more than the number of affordable homes delivered across the entire city last year. It will be located on a prominent site to the side of the Vita building, just off Charter Row and close to The Light Cinema complex. Jamie Lewis of CODE, said: “We have been looking for a site in Sheffield for several years. From the outside, it is clear that the city is going places with Heart of the City II and developments on The Moor transforming the city centre. We want to be a part of this.” He added: “We have worked hard..
Latest figures collected by the Joint Industry Board on behalf of trade body ECA and Unite the Union show the rate of RIDDOR-reportable accidents fell once again last year to 164 per 100,000 employees. No fatalities were reported during 2018 and the rate of major accidents was also lower than in 2017 at just over 52/100,000. The main causes of injury were falls, slips and trips and there was one reportable injury due to electric shock. Steve Brawley, Chief Executive of the JIB said: It's very encouraging to report that the rate of reportable accidents in our industry continues to fall, and it means that the rate of these accidents is now, remarkably, only slightly more than 10% of what it was in 2001, the year we started to collect data. The 2018 figures mean that the accident rate has fallen nearly 90% since 2001, which is a great achievement. In fact, the number of RIDDOR-reportable “ in a sample of over 13,500 operatives “ is now so low that in 2019 we will be asking companies for additional details of any â€˜over one day accidents. While these accidents are not RIDDOR-reportable, this will give us more data to work with in future.
Thousands of construction companies are facing a 20% drop in cash flow when VAT changes come into force in October. Government experts believe 150,000 firms could be hit by the reverse charge. The changes mean companies in the construction supply chain will no longer receive their 20% VAT payment when they submit bills, the VAT cash will instead be paid direct to HMRC by the customer receiving the service who will reclaim it in the normal way. One worried specialist with a Â£50m turnover told the reporters: We've estimated that for us as a tier two contractor this will have a negative impact on cash of £2.3m. If you are already running at the limit of lending and can't get more money from your bank and HMRC just plough on as they usually do you could be screwed. Tier twos are already net providers of free credit to Tier one contractors and now we won't be getting that VAT cash in from Tier ones. HMRC has introduced the change to combat missing trader fraud where companies charge and collect VAT payments then disappear owing the tax man. Payroll companies were braced to be hit hard by the changes but they have now been granted an exemption. HMRC said: Employment businesses who supply staff and who are responsible for paying the temporary workers they supply, are not subject to the reverse charge.
A revolving door of senior managers is being blamed for causing financial problems at major construction companies. Industry experts believe the merry-go-round of senior staff is often the root cause of contract problems. One senior figure told reporters: definitely a pattern we are seeing more and more of. You get these people who come in to roles like regional directors who then start chasing work to make their division look healthy to the main board. Experienced staff below them will have their reservations but no-one can really stop the new person in charge. The directors are often incentivised with bonuses for winning new work so the order books fill up with jobs which aren't purely focused on the bottom line. The nature of construction is that those schemes take years to work through and often by that time the directors have moved on to another company. They often leave behind a pile of problems but just walk into a new job. It's a bit like being a football manager. Once that's on your CV you always seem to get a new job no matter how poor your track record is. Obviously it's not the only issue causing problems in construction but it's a real factor and something which will continue to be a problem until a new generation of talent comes through. We've hired supposedly big names from major..
Officials from the Cabinet Office have written to firms to remind them of the new rules on prompt payment, which come into force this autumn. Minister for Implementation, Oliver Dowden, said: “Prompt payment is critical for all companies helping to deliver public services, particularly small businesses which are the backbone of our economy. “That’s why, from September, if government contractors are late with supplier payments, they could be prevented from winning public contracts until they clean up their act.” Under the new rules, suppliers who bid for government contracts above £5m per annum, who cannot show they are paying 95% of invoices within 60 days, risk being prevented from securing government contracts. The new measures follow further moves to level the playing field for small businesses, including an ambition to pay 90% of the government’s undisputed invoices from SMEs within five days. Suppliers that are not being paid on time are also able to raise complaints and concerns directly to the government through the Public Procurement Review Service.
House builders are being hampered by a shortage of construction materials including roof tiles, bricks and blocks. It has been reported that sites across the country are flagging-up shortages as an increasing problem. One industry source said: “Bricks and blocks are in short supply but the real problem is sourcing enough roof tiles. “Firms are having to look further afield to Europe for potential suppliers now because the domestic supply is stretched to the limit.” The issue was flagged-up by Taylor Wimpey in its results yesterday. The firm said: “Availability of materials is generally in line with demand but there remain pinch points with key products such as bricks, blocks and roof tiles. “The cost of these key products has risen significantly and whilst other material costs have been stable in 2017 we are experiencing more cost pressure coming into 2018. “The Group has agreed product lines and volumes with key suppliers to mitigate long lead times and shortages.” Persimmon also announced this week that it is building an in-house roof tile production plant which is expected to come on stream later this year. The UK’s largest house builder already has its own brick manufacturing plant. Persimmon said: “We recognise that with the continued increase in industry output the availability of skilled trade resources and some key materials to support further growth continues to be a constraint.”
24-hour protest against IR35 proposed A national day of action against is being proposed by a campaigner. Contractor Mike Gibson, of Changeir35.com, believes a 24-hour event should be used to protest against the of the being extended to the private sector. “[At this early] planning stage”, he said “[the event involves] a march to the Houses of Parliament, a few speeches and a petition [delivered]….to 10 Downing Street.” “The intent is to show the volume of support for and send a clear message that .” Gibson will also build and upload a directory of MPs’ responses to , to record their stance on the rule and create a log of the arguments for and against . But another IR35 critic, Graham Fisher, thinks that despite a consultation on the extension being , officials have likely already decided that it will go ahead. “Our general view is that HM Treasury and HMRC are not accepting any evidence pointing to the public sector changes being anything other than a . “If HMRC continues on their current course we should expect the same to be introduced into the ”. Fisher, who is managing director of accountants Orange Genie added: “In the unlikely event that they recognise the failure of the public sector implementation, any changes might be delayed to 2020.”