Manufacturing recovery continues to boost economic growth

Manufacturing recovery continues to boost economic growthGrowth in the UK’s manufacturing sector is continuing to pick up, with orders at their highest level since the start of the financial crisis.

According to the latest CBI monthly Industrial Trends Survey, nearly 400 manufacturers found that total orders rose for the fifth consecutive month, while exports orders also grew strongly.

Meanwhile, output growth for the three months to September rose to its highest rate since August 2011. Output is expected to rise strongly again over the next three months.

With demand building across the UK and globally, stocks have fallen to their lowest level since last November. But inflationary pressures remain muted, with average prices expected to remain relatively steady over the next three months.

Stephen Gifford, CBI Director of Economics, said: “This month’s results show the manufacturing recovery continuing to gather pace.

“Order books are the fullest they’ve been since the start of the financial crisis, and firms are ramping up production to meet demand.

“Firms are more upbeat about growth prospects in the coming quarter than at any time since 1995.”

Key findings of the report include:

·     28% of firms reported that total order books were above normal in September and 19% said they were below, giving a balance of 9%, the highest figure since August 2007 (+9%)

·    23% reported that export order books were above normal in September and 18% that they were below. The resulting of balance of +6% is the strongest since February 2011 (+11%)

·    The volume of output in the three months to September rose at its fastest rate since August 2011 (+19%). 39% of firms said it rose, 21% said it fell, giving a balance of +18%, which was stronger than expected (+10%)

·    Firms expect to increase output at an even faster pace in the next three months: 44% expect to raise output, 11% expect to reduce output, giving a balance of +33%, the strongest expectation since March 1995 (+34%)

·    Stock levels of finished goods dropped to their lowest level in September (+5%) since November 2012 (+5%), while average prices in the next three months are expected to remain stable (+3%)

Work starts on new railway centre in Basingstoke

Work starts on new railway centre in BasingstokeWork has started on a new state-of-the-art signalling and training centre which will control large areas of railway in London and boost the local economy.

Construction work of the new Basingstoke Rail Operating and Training Centre was officially launched last week by Maria Miller, MP for Basingstoke.

The centre is one of 12 being built by Network Rail across the country as part of a new way to signal trains. They will eventually replace more than 800 signal boxes and other operational locations currently in use around the network.

It will use advanced technology to control trains that will help to reduce delays, improve performance, boost capacity and provide better information to passengers travelling between London Waterloo and the south coast on one of the busiest routes in the country.

The Basingstoke ROC will also be an important part of the Network Rail and South West Trains Alliance, providing training and office space for staff working across the route.

Combining operational services with training and office space will deliver a number of efficiencies in construction, maintenance and operation and provides a central location within the route for staff.

Maria Miller, MP for Basingstoke, said: “I very much welcome the significant investment in Basingstoke by Network Rail. It is great to see the start of building of this state-of-the-art signalling and training centre.

“This development will bring huge benefits for Basingstoke with new jobs for local people, new parking facilities and a footbridge. It will improve train services and help to create extra capacity on the railway. It is also a really important investment in the safety and efficiency of the rail network in the region.”

Deputy leader of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, Councillor Ranil Jayawardena, added: “It is great to see work starting on this important regional facility that demonstrates Basingstoke’s key location on the rail network.

“This marks an important chapter in the regeneration of our town centre business district, Basing View, showing the growing interest from major companies in locating here.”

The centre is being built by BAM Construction and is due to be completed by the end of 2014. The first signallers covering the railway along the Dorset coast are due to be working from the building by the end of 2015.

Work gets underway on Devon housing development

Work gets underway on Devon housing developmentPartners have welcomed progress being made on work to build new homes in Devon and pave the way for jobs in the building industry.

Local property developer, Devonshire Homes, has welcomed representatives from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) on site at the residential development at Sector Lane, Axminister.

Construction work is now well underway on the building of more than 40 new homes and construction of new facilities for the town’s football club.

The HCA has supported this initiative with a £1.5 million investment from its Get Britain Building programme, which is supporting house builders by providing access to development finance, unlocking new homes across the country and creating thousands of jobs.

Steve Russell, Interim Managing Director at Devonshire Homes, said: “The HCA provided invaluable support in our bid to secure substantial funding from the Get Britain Building programme and today they have been able to see the development progressing as a result of their commitment.”

The funding is supporting the first phase of 43 new homes at Sector Lane, eight of which will be affordable, while also unlocking the development of new club facilities for Axminster Town Football Club at the new site adjacent to the Cloakham Lawns Sports Club.

HCA Area Manager Steve Jackson said: “This is an important project for us, as it supports the delivery of new homes which are needed in this area as well as unlocking the development of new facilities which the football club has been working hard to bring to the town.”

Charitable Bond to fund regeneration projects

The Scottish GovernmentThe Scottish Government will make innovative use of financial transactions funding by investing £10 million in a Charitable Bond that will create new homes and jobs.

The investment is a reinforcement of the Government’s support for community – led regeneration schemes and will generate more funding for house builders and the trade industry.

As part of the People and Communities Fund, it will lend almost £9 million to a Registered Social Landlord to build 150 affordable homes in Scotland.

The People and Communities Fund supports community-led regeneration to deliver a wide range of employability and preventative action outcomes for the benefit of local people and communities.

The Scottish Government is currently consulting with existing applicants to the People and Communities Fund about going forward via this new funding route.

Speaking at the Local Government and Regeneration Committee, the Minister for Housing and Welfare Margaret Burgess said: “This investment is an innovative way of generating additional funding for Scotland’s most disadvantaged communities.

“It will be used to support projects and services that will benefit our local communities. I’m delighted too that our investment will be helping deliver much-needed affordable housing in Scotland.

“This is the first major investment in Charitable Bonds in the country, this Government is taking the initiative, however with full economic levers we could deliver more support for the poorest communities.”

Tim Jones, Chief Executive of Allia, said: “We’re delighted to see the Government leading the way with what is both the first major Scottish investment and the largest investment in a Charitable Bond to date.

“We hope that many more Scottish companies and individuals will follow their lead and add their own investment to support charities in Scotland.”

Work starts on £250m Accelerated Land Delivery site

Work starts on £250m Accelerated Land Delivery siteConstruction work on a £250 million housing development in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, is set to get underway after a ground breaking ceremony last week.

The new regeneration scheme will see the building of 1,500 new homes and pave the way for new jobs in the building construction industry.

The ceremony included representatives from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), Doncaster Borough Council, housing and regeneration specialists Keepmoat Homes, Strata and the Guinness Partnership.

David Curtis, Executive Director at the HCA and Dave Sheridan, Keepmoat’s CEO was joined by other company representatives to ‘cut the sod’ to mark the start of the first phase of the project, which will see the construction of 329 new homes.

172 homes will be developed by Keepmoat Homes, with a further 132 larger homes delivered in partnership with Strata Homes, along with 25 Custom Build plots being built by Fairgrove Homes. The joint development name for the scheme is known as ‘Dominion’.

David Curtis, Executive Director at the Homes and Communities Agency, said: “It is fantastic that the HCA has been able to ensure that new homes will be built by releasing public land and building the link road.

“The development starting today will protect and create jobs, and create a high quality, sustainable mixed community.

“The partners are offering opportunities for new homes for everyone in these times of housing difficulty helping to ensure that there will be homes to buy, rent or even build yourself.”

Councillor Glyn Jones, Deputy Mayor of Doncaster Council and Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “We are delighted that work is to start on the Carr Lodge site. This is a great location for homes which are vitally needed in Doncaster to address a growing population in the town and help plug the housing shortage gap.

“We need to ensure that new developments are providing the right type of homes and the Carr Lodge development will do just that – they will be affordable and with all the features you would expect in modern homes – and with local amenities close by.”

Victoria Gate development secures planning approval

Victoria Gate development secures planning approvalHammerson, the retail developer behind Victoria Gate in Leeds, has been given the go-ahead for its £130 million development that will create 2,700 construction jobs.

The city council’s plans panel reaches a formal decision yesterday at the Civic Hall in Leeds, marking an important step towards construction work starting on the 37,000 square metre of retail space in Spring 2014.

In addition to the thousands of employment opportunities in the trades, phase one of the Victoria Gate development is also set to generate more than 1,500 retail and hospitality jobs when it opens in Autumn 2016.

As well as housing more than 30 retailers, the development will anchor a 24,000 square metre flagship John Lewis store featuring a striking façade that draws on Leeds’ proud textile heritage.

The John Lewis store will also link to the existing Victoria Quarter in an elegantly designed two street arcade and include a multistory car park for more than 800 cars.

Hammerson’s Director of Retail Development, Robin Dobson, said: “The positive decision from Leeds City Council’s plans panel is a major next step towards getting construction underway in the spring.

“We are fully committed to creating a retail development that will not only reaffirm Leeds’ status as a top retail destination for luxury and aspirational brands in the UK, but will also add value to Leeds’ local economy and community.”

Leeds City Council executive member for the economy and development Councillor Richard Lewis said: “This approval in fantastic news for the city as Victoria Gate is going to provide a huge boost to the Leeds and wider city region economies.

“The scheme will help regenerate that area of the city centre and will complement the well-established Victoria Quarter and the brand new Trinity Leeds to further enhance the exceptional retail offer in the city.

“Victoria Gate will also mean the creation of hundreds of new jobs to help local people and I look forward to seeing work get underway on site in the coming months to bring this development to reality.“

Council gives the go-ahead for Ash Lodge Drive development

Ash Lodge Drive development given the go-aheadGuildford Borough Council has approved plans for the building of 400 new homes as part of the Ash Lodge Drive site development that will create jobs and boost the local economy.

Bewley Homes  and A2 Dominion Enterprises applied for outline planning permission to develop the 22.1 hectare site with access from Ash Lodge Drive and South Lane.

The plans include the development of up to 400 homes, providing open space including a children’s play area and community allotments.

The Council also gave full planning permission for the change of use of a 24 hectare piece of land adjacent to the site. This will change from agricultural land to a Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) to provide access, pathways and associated landscaping for the development.

Cllr Monika Juneja, Lead Councillor for Planning and Governance, says: “The application generated a large number of objections and concerns from the local community. We considered the application and the issues raised thoroughly before approving the plans. When considering objections to an application, we can only look at those made on material planning grounds.

“The development will provide much needed housing, including affordable homes, for local people. A Section 106 agreement will help provide improvements to infrastructure including a health centre, public transport and road improvements. The developer has also indicated their intention to provide funding to improve leisure facilities in the local area.”

The outline planning permission has determined the level of development acceptable for the site. The appearance, layout, scale and landscaping of any housing on the site is subject to further planning applications.

Go-ahead for £120m new housing grant scheme in Wales

Go-ahead for £120m new housing grant scheme in WalesThe Welsh Government has today launched an innovative housing finance scheme that will boost the construction industry and create new jobs in the trades.

The package includes around £120 million of Welsh Government funding over the next 30 years and will contribute directly to the building of over 1000 new affordable homes across Wales.

Twenty Housing Associations are already taking part in the scheme, with coverage across all 22 local authority areas in Wales. Construction work on the first projects will commence in 2013.

Minister for Housing and Regeneration, Carl Sargeant said: “Delivering quality, affordable housing to the people of Wales is my priority and so I am delighted to launch this important and innovative new package today.

“It’s vital that the private and public sectors are supported in building new homes so that we can continue to work towards, and indeed exceed our target of providing 7,500 affordable homes during the term of this Welsh Government.

“This scheme is just the beginning in my search for new ways of increasing housing supply in Wales. Building new homes is important not only in meeting the growing housing need of communities but also as a way of providing work to help people out of poverty and to counter the highly damaging effects of the UK Government’s ‘bedroom tax’.

Jane Hutt, Minister for Finance said: “The Welsh Housing Finance Grant Scheme shows our commitment to finding new and innovative ways of investing in affordable housing across Wales.  As budgets get tighter we have to consider all avenues of funding that are available to us to help us deliver our priorities.

“This scheme is a real example of what can be achieved when the public sector and private sector work together.  Following the success of this initiative, I now hope we can use this type of funding to generate more investment in affordable housing.”

As part of the scheme, M&G Investments are providing the main new source of finance for Wales’s Registered Social Landlords, in light of the lack of long term funding currently available from the banks and building societies.

Mark Davie, Head of Social Housing at M&G Investments said: “We are pleased to support this exciting initiative by the Welsh Government, which sees Welsh housing associations gain access to £153 million of long term funding, in order to meet their house-building goals over the coming years.”

Balfour Beatty secures £87m London commercial contract

Balfour Beatty secures £87m London commercial contractBalfour Beatty has been awarded a £87 million St James’s Market contract which forms part of the overall commercial redevelopment, for the Crown Estate and Oxford Properties.

The scheme will provide 260,000 sq. ft. of new commercial and retail space across two eight-storey blocks between Regent Street and Haymarket, boosting the trades and creating new jobs.

Building construction work is due to start on site this autumn and will be completed in summer 2015.

The first block, situated along Regent Street, includes a retained heritage façade which will be repaired and restored as part of the contract. The second block, adjacent to Haymarket, will incorporate an aesthetic curved glass and Portland Stone wall that will be installed in four by three metre sections using a tower crane.

To manage the safe and efficient delivery of construction activity in a confined and densely populated location, the firm will utilise its 4D Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology capability to create a virtual environment.

This will enable the project team to design out or mitigate potential risks and disruption to the public and other stakeholders before activity begins on site.

On this project, we will also deploy our off-site manufacturing capability to provide modular mechanical and electrical services. This modular off-site approach in a controlled environment reduces time on site, improves safety and reduces the overall construction programme.

Extensive public realm improvements on site will create a new 10,000 sq. ft. piazza including new seating, planters and wall mounted lighting, providing a new social space for visitors, and complementing Westminster City Council and Transport for London’s public realm improvement programme.

Balfour Beatty Chief Executive, Andrew McNaughton said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with The Crown Estate and Oxford Properties to deliver this landmark scheme.

“Working within the Capital invariably presents its challenges but the investment we have made in digital technology and modular construction will come to the fore on this project and we look forward to demonstrating our expertise.”

Early stage contractors to save billions off HS2 project

HS2 ProjectThe HS2 scheme has revealed that procurement savings of £3.5 billion could be made to overall budget by getting contractors on board at early stages of the project.   

The projected savings follow the Government’s pledge that the cost of delivering the scheme, which will link Euston in London, to Birmingham before connecting to Manchester and Leeds, will not exceed £42.6 billion –  £14.4 billion of which is contingency.

Independent analysis recently carried out by KPMG shows that HS2 could boost the UK’s economy by £15 billion per year, and that the regions will be the biggest winners from the project.

HS2 Ltd – the company set up the Government to deliver both phases of the project – is aiming to save potentially 10 per cent by recruiting contractors, such as designers, surveyors and engineers, at the start of the project to work in an integrated way, rather than commissioning contractors on an individual basis as the scheme develops.

Beth West, HS2 Ltd Commercial Director, said: “Complex infrastructures schemes often become gold plated when a lack of co-ordination between contractors leads to parts of it being built to unnecessarily high standards. It can happen if you design your civil engineering before you recruit your contractors. Bringing in all parties early on will cut the overall costs and the risk of cost overruns.

“As part of these plans, we also hope to save hundreds of millions of pounds, if not a billion, by using computer simulations to design projects.”

HS2 will give Britain’s railways much-needed capacity by running up to 18 trains per hours to and from Euston Station, with each carrying as many as 1,100 passengers.