The First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones has set out his government’s five-year plan to deliver more jobs through a stronger economy while building a united and sustainable Wales.
The First Minister said the Welsh Government’s Programme for Government, Taking Wales Forward, makes clear that the government’s focus will be on driving improvement in the Welsh economy.
The First Minister also confirmed that the Welsh Government’s key pledges have been maintained despite the uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote, including the commitment to create at least 100,000 all-age apprenticeships and the development of the South Wales Metro.
Mr Jones said: “Taking Wales Forward outlines our key priorities for delivering those improvements. They are ambitious measures, aimed at making a difference for everyone, at every stage in their lives.
“Together we can build a Wales that is more confident, more equal, better skilled and more resilient. As a country we have punched above our weight, and now we are ready to do more.
“I want to see a Wales which is prosperous and secure, healthy and active, ambitious and learning, united and connected. This is the Wales we are determined to build over the coming five years.”
Lovell has appointed Lee Woodfine as project director for The Mill: an £100 million urban village set to bring 800 new homes and boost the building trades.
Construction work will start later this year on the development at Canton which is being created by a partnership of the Tirion Group, Cadwyn and Lovell.
Lee’s appointment sees him return to Lovell after previously working with the company in South Wales for nearly a decade, leaving in 2010.
His 20-year construction career has also included senior management roles with residential developer Kier Living, developer Sennybridge and construction services company ISG.
Lee, who lives in Blackwood, Caerphilly, said: “I’m delighted to be working on this fantastic development which will significantly extend the available choice of new-build homes for sale and for rent in Cardiff, through the creation of a brand-new riverside community. The Mill will be a superb place to live.”
Later this year, Lovell will start construction work of the new homes at The Mill which is set to transform the 53-acre former Arjo Wiggins Paper Mill site.
One of Wales’ biggest urban regeneration projects, the construction programme is expected to create over 1,000 jobs, many for people living locally, as well as significant training opportunities.
Birmingham City Council has signed a deal with the fifth-largest property developer in China that could be worth up to £2bn to the local economy.
As part of the agreement, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange-listed company Country Garden will explore large-scale investment opportunities in Birmingham, with particular focus around HS2.
It also agreed to work with the council to deliver large numbers of new homes.
Council leader John Clancy signed the joint statement of investment commitment with Country Garden on a week-long trade mission to China.
Cllr Clancy said: “The landscape has inevitably changed post-Brexit and Birmingham is already out of the starting blocks. That’s why I’m here selling our city to many of China’s leading investors.
“This agreement is about bringing good jobs and quality homes to Birmingham.
“Country Garden has a proven track record of building homes at pace and scale. They have played a major role over the last 20 years, as housebuilders have met the massive demands of China’s rapidly expanding economy.”
Founded in 1992, Country Garden has developed 300 high-end township developments, 54 five-star hotels and more than 2.5 million properties.
Country Garden founder and chairman Yang Guoqiang added: “I have been impressed with Birmingham’s ambition and huge potential.
“We have a proven track record in delivering quality housing at a scale to match Birmingham’s ambitions and with major projects coming to the city, including the forthcoming High Speed two project, these are exciting times for Country Garden and Birmingham.”
Plans to redevelop the Sheerwater Estate scheme near Woking with 922 homes and community facilities have been given the go-ahead by the local council.
The regeneration scheme is a joint venture between Balfour Beatty and Pinnacle housing association for Woking Borough Council, paving the way for new jobs in the construction trades.
Phase one of the four phase scheme is expected to get underway later next year and consists of nearly 100 new homes and a leisure centre.
Cllr David Bittleston, Woking Borough Councils Portfolio Holder for Strategic Housing Development, said: “The decision to grant planning consent is crucial to the regeneration of Sheerwater.
“The scale and nature of the overall development, as well as detailed plans of the first phase of residential development and community leisure facilities, have been established and rigorously tested against local and national planning policy.
“It is my belief that the regeneration of Sheerwater will make a significant improvement to the quality of life for existing and new residents of Sheerwater.
“The new housing stock, roads, community and leisure facilities will all ensure the area is a sustainable and desirable place to live for years to come.”
Ambitious plans to build a Northern Powerhouse remain a key government priority, two of the key ministers tasked with driving forward the work confirmed this week.
Commercial Secretary to the Treasury Jim O’Neill and Northern Powerhouse Minister Andrew Percy, both proud Northerners, will lead the work across the whole of government to help make the north a powerhouse for the UK economy once again and build on the strong progress of the last two years.
The ministers’ comments come ahead of the first official tour by Mr Percy to the North since his appointment and today he will visit Hull, Manchester and Liverpool to hear for himself how devolving greater power from Whitehall to Town Halls and greater investment is already leading to the creation of jobs and stronger economic growth.
Key achievements for the Northern Powerhouse to date include:
- five historic devolution deals have been agreed across the Northern Powerhouse – in Sheffield, Greater Manchester, North-East, Tees Valley and Liverpool
- 55% of the population of the Northern Powerhouse will vote in an elected Mayor next year, giving each area a powerful new voice in national life
- major investment in transport has been committed including a new rail franchise on the Northern network delivering 2,000 extra services each week, £200 million for Transport for the North and a £60 million package for exploring work on HS3
- attracting foreign investment – there has been 127% growth in the number of foreign direct investment projects in the Northern Powerhouse over the last two years with the North-West outperforming every other region in the UK
- the employment rate in the Northern Powerhouse is close to its record high, and since June 2014 unemployment has fallen faster in the North than in the South
Commercial Secretary to the Treasury Jim O’Neill said: “Making our great northern towns and cities a powerhouse for the economy once again is the reason I joined government, and there is evidence everywhere you look that our plans have already made a real impact.
It is fantastic to be able to continue to champion the Northern Powerhouse within the very heart of government and there will be no let-up in our commitment to fuel the local economy through encouraging foreign investment, improving transport and creating new jobs.”
Northern Powerhouse Minister Andrew Percy said: “Building the Northern Powerhouse is a long-term government priority and central to our plans to rebalance the economy.
As a proud Northerner, I am determined to ensure that people in every part of the North – from large cities to small rural communities – enjoy greater control over their lives and stronger, more sustainable economic growth.
That’s why this government will continue to support major investments to unlock the potential of the North and ensure that every area benefits from a growing economy.”
The average time for a planning decision to be made on major developments has fallen by 17% on the previous year, paving the way for the building trades.
Annual statistics published this week show decision times for local and major applications have reduced, meaning more housing and business developments can start to build sooner.
Planning Minister Kevin Stewart welcomed the statistics, but said more must be done to improve planning performance.
The average decision time for major developments in 2015-16 reduced by more than 6 weeks on the previous year, while major housing development decisions are now almost two weeks faster than in 2013-14.
Decisions made on local housing applications also reduced by almost a week compared to the previous year.
Mr Stewart said:“Effective planning is crucial to promoting sustainable economic growth and ultimately to helping build more homes. Speeding up the planning system is a vital part of this.
“These statistics are very encouraging, particularly at a time where we are looking at the best ways to reform and improve our planning system.
“The reduction in decision making timescales can only be a good thing – it means we are open for business and helping create certainty within the building sector.”
Lovell has been chosen to deliver a £7.4 million housing redevelopment programme for housing association, Greenfields Community Housing, who are based in Braintree, Essex.
The scheme will see the demolition of 40 unsustainable 1950s concrete-framed Unity homes in Kelvedon, Essex, which will be replaced with 64 modern houses and flats in Church Road, Croft Road and Thorne Road.
The redevelopment work, set to start this autumn, will create 36 houses, 27 flats and one bungalow, with the first new homes set to be handed over in spring 2017.
Five of the homes will be available on a shared ownership basis, with the rest being available for affordable rent.
Andy Allocca, new business and project manager at Greenfields, says: “Helping to create and maintain thriving communities is at the heart of what we do. These properties will last for generations to come, and I look forward to handing the residents the keys to their new homes.”
Unity properties are system-built homes of non-traditional construction with a concrete frame and cladding, which were built in the post-war perio
Hard to insulate and heat, they are prone to damp and condensation. Lovell’s experience in redeveloping Unity houses includes an ongoing £13.6 million scheme for Orbit Homes in Suffolk, which will provide 164 new homes.
Construction work has started on the first new homes to be built through a £320 million, 1,500-home regeneration programme set to transform three council estates in Woolwich, south-east London.
Representatives from the Royal Borough of Greenwich, partnership housing developer Lovell and asra Housing Group, gathered at the former Connaught estate to mark the beginning of building work.
The first new homes, at the renamed Trinity Walk, are now under construction by the Lovell team. The ground-breaking event followed the completion of demolition work which began at the estate last October.
The redevelopment will see 684 energy-efficient new homes built at Trinity Walk, including 239 affordable properties. The first new affordable homes are due to be completed in late Spring 2017 with the first completed housing for sale expected to be finished later the same year.
The 12-year scheme is set to create important job and training opportunities locally including a significant number of apprenticeships.
Cllr Danny Thorpe, cabinet member for Regeneration and Transport, said: “The Connaught Estate regeneration project is bringing state-of-the-art, energy efficient homes to the borough while also sparking job creation and economic growth.
“Through a dedicated programme of investment, partnership working and house-building, we are truly changing the face of this borough for our residents.”
Lovell regional director Michael O’Farrell commented: “This is a huge project bringing major benefits for local people including modern new housing, and open spaces. The construction programme will also boost the local economy by creating valuable job and training opportunities.”
Miller Homes and Wates Developments have joined forces to form a new housebuilder joint venture which will boost the construction trades in Southern England.
Two joint ventures between the companies have already been established in Didcot in Oxfordshire and Southwater in West Sussex, paving the way for new business opportunities.
At Didcot, Miller Homes and Wates will create a 163 unit residential development, featuring 114 two, three and four bedroom properties as well as 49 affordable homes and apartments, as part of the Great Western Park consortium project.
Construction has already begun on site with sales due to commence in late summer. Once complete, the project will feature new amenities, including retail and community facilities.
At Southwater, a reserved matters application has been submitted for 193 properties in the village, which is located south of Horsham.
The proposals, which currently have outline planning consent, will include 40% affordable homes and have been well considered to help the area meet its housing need.
Tracey Lee, Regional Operations Director for Miller Homes Southern, added: “We are pleased to be working in partnership with Wates Developments, combining the strengths of both organisations through an innovative business model to bring forward new residential development in Southern England. We are confident this will provide a platform for developing further opportunities together.”
Kier has been named as preferred bidder to deliver a new £53.5m student accommodation scheme for the University of Northampton.
Forming part of the University’s new £330 million Waterside campus, the development will provide 1,166 student bedrooms through a mix of four-storey townhouses and five-storey cluster flats. It will also house a 32-bed teaching hotel, commercial and ancillary space.
Construction on the scheme is due to begin later this year with completion scheduled for 2017. The first students are expected to move into the houses and flats at the start of the academic year in September.
This contract is the latest in a number of projects Kier has delivered in the area recently, and extends its excellent relationship with the University of Northampton.
Kier also recently completed the ‘Lincoln Gateway’ scheme for the University of Lincoln which provides accommodation for 519 students.
Mark Dady, managing director at Kier, said: “Being awarded this scheme is testament to the relationship we’ve built with the University over the past few years and we’re pleased to see this continue.
“We have a strong presence in Northampton and we’re looking forward to delivering another important scheme in the area. Kier has extensive experience in providing student accommodation across the country and this project gives us the opportunity to further enhance that.”
University of Northampton Vice Chancellor, Professor Nick Petford, said: “The University are delighted to announce the appointment of Kier to build the residential area at the Waterside Campus.
“Kier understands the local area and the way in which this will be a catalyst for regeneration in Northampton. The University, Kier and the other contractors developing the campus, are determined to create the maximum positive social impact for communities across the town and county.”