Archive 2016

5 News in Focus Despite EDF giving the project the green light, BSRIA also expressed disappointment following yet another delay for the nuclear plant especially as this now adds more “fuel to the fire” that the government is discouraging renewable energy. Julia Evans, BSRIA chief executive, says: “Recently there has been less than industryfriendly energy U-turns. “Delivering the change that is required to meet the carbon emission targets will require long-term investment from industry. “We now need the new ministers to quickly endorse the decision to show they are serious about industrial strategy and creating our low carbon energy supplies of the future.” And while support for the Heathrow runway expansion has been voiced by construction leaders, the timetable for the decision has also been delayed following Brexit, explains Northey. However, he says: “A relaxation in air quality regulation might lessen one obstacle to its expansion.” In the first of a new industrial strategy committee meeting, May failed to endorse the Northern Powerhouse, instead switching her attention to a “proper industrial strategy”. She said: “We need a proper industrial strategy that focuses on improving productivity, rewarding hard-working people with higher wages and creating more opportunities for young people so that, whatever their background, they go as far as their talents will take them. “We also need a plan to drive growth up and down the country – from rural areas to our great cities,” she said. But Martin Venning, director of the UK Northern Powerhouse conference and exhibition, says the appointment of new Northern Powerhouse minister Andrew Percy and re-appointment of Lord O’Neill as commercial secretary to the treasury are “strong signs of the new government’s commitment” to the Powerhouse. He says construction and infrastructure stand to lose more than most if northern ambitions are watered down and believes the sectors should take inspiration from the UK Northern Powerhouse Outcomes Report, which was published in February. “In that report we published a range of recommendations as next steps for those concerned with ensuring the Powerhouse fulfils its potential,” says Venning. “They included simplified governance encapsulating devolved city regions and central government and revenue raising powers for local government so they can re-invest locally.” As a priority for the new government, Venning would like to see acceleration of plans for both HS2 (including a link to Liverpool) and HS3 to better connect Manchester and Leeds. “It would also be helpful if the new rail minister could give his backing for the Growth Track 360 campaign, which seeks to transform rail transport across North Wales and Cheshire, better linking those regions to Manchester, Leeds and Merseyside,” he says. Dave Mason, executive business director at SES Engineering Services, agrees and says: “Time and time again in recent years, decisions on critical transport and infrastructure spending have been kicked into the long grass. “These delays are significantly slowing our economic growth and this unfortunately sets a culture and expectation that things will stall and fail as opposed to inspiring confidence and a ‘can do’ mentality. “We need our new prime minister to buck that trend immediately to allow the UK to flourish, excite our youth and create the stimulus for growth,” he says. As a firm believer in digital engineering, Venning also expects the prime minister to commit to driving forward the UK’s world-leading capabilities. “The continued alignment and consistency of digital engineering and BIM with public sector requirements is integral, not only to championing the UK’s marketleading expertise, but also to encouraging industry-wide BIM Level 2 adoption.” Labour movement Following her statement “Brexit means Brexit”, construction firms are now looking for May to give them some certainty on the status of their EU workforce, says Karen Kirkham, head of construction at Bircham Dyson Bell. “UK construction businesses need clarity on what is going to happen,” because she says: “The future of the EU workforce has skills and investment implications.” While June saw the highest number of construction projects awarded in 2016 as firms pushed to complete and start new projects before any significant changes took place, Barnaby Redwood, R&D specialist at business performance consultancy Ayming, says: “There is a question mark hanging over the industry about whether Theresa May’s negotiations with the EU will allow for free movement of labour.” “Without it, the cost of labour will increase as the workforce decreases,” he says. Housing Brexit presents a challenge to the housebuilding industry and “it will require bold leadership if the progress that has been made over the last few years isn’t to be lost as a result of any sense of uncertainty within our sector,” says FMB’s Berry. And although the present government has endeavoured to increase the supply of land for new homes “sadly it has failed”, says Chris Noble, managing director of Yorkshire housebuilder Noble Homes, who is hopeful that with May now at the helm “we will begin to see more stability and positive change.” He says: “Currently, the timescale to progress a site from the early planning stages to actually constructing new homes now averages between 24 and 30 months, a dramatic increase of 14 months since the last government was in power. “One of the most cumbersome problems the housebuilding industry is encountering is the number of reports it has to provide during the planning stages, which can have severe financial and practical implications on our ability to continue with a site’s development. “It’s only when these matters are addressed that we can truly take advantage of the land supply that our industry needs and continue building to meet the demands of the public, as well as keep these homes affordable.” Ben Brocklesby, sales and marketing director at British window and door manufacturer Origin, believes the sector needs to start supporting and empowering smaller housebuilders and encouraging a diverse market because “only then will the government meet the demand of first-time buyers as it aims to construct 200,000 new homes by 2020,” he says. Origin’s Homes of the Future report revealed a need to invest in modern methods of construction, a requirement for a fresh approach to the rules on building on Green Belt land, while also encouraging fresh blood into the construction industry. “These need to be a top priority for Theresa May and her cabinet if Britain is to meet the housing requirements of a growing population,” he says. But despite a commitment to deal with housing deficit, May is unlikely to indulge in a massive spree of affordable housebuilding, says Kirkham. “She is though committed to public and infrastructure projects to help overcome the country’s endemic productive problem and the widely predicted economic downturn,” and must now “develop a strategy and implement it quickly,” she says. n

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