Plans unveiled for revised £27bn Crossrail 2 scheme

Plans unveiled for revised £27bn Crossrail 2 schemeTransport for London is driving forward plans for the £27 billion Crossrail 2 rail scheme as it seeks to get Government approval next spring.

The next step in taking forward this vital new Crossrail 2 railway is the launch of a public consultation today on more detailed plans for the project, which could bring huge economic benefits across the UK.

Benefits from the project would be felt across the UK, supporting thousands of new homes and jobs in the building trades.

Some 200,000 new homes and 200,000 new jobs could be supported by the scheme, through the housing and economic growth it would support, with 60,000 full-time jobs also being supported through the construction and operation of Crossrail 2.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson MP, said: “Crossrail 2 will be a vital new transport link that will significantly improve capacity on the rail network into and out of London. It will also provide a major boost for jobs, new homes and economic growth here in the Capital and far beyond.”

Michele Dix, TfL’s Managing Director of Crossrail 2, said: “Crossrail 2 will provide a UK-wide economic boost supporting hundreds of thousands of new homes and jobs. It is also vital to meet the demands of London’s rapidly growing population.”

Government announces major plan to get Britain building

Government unveils major plan to get Britain buildingPlanning rules on brownfield sites are being removed to free up land for the building of new homes, paving the way for thousands of jobs in the construction industry.

The housing budget is directed towards new ‘low cost homes for sale’ for first-time buyers and housing association tenants given the right-to-buy to increase home ownership and construction.

Another improvement is about the existing 89 Local Authority pension funds which will be pooled into half a dozen British Wealth Funds, each with assets of over £25 billion. This step will save millions of pounds every year in costs and fees. The new funds will develop the expertise to invest in infrastructure.

The government will bring forward sales of land, buildings and other assets the government bought or built, raising up to £5 billion over the course of this Parliament. The funds from these sales will be recycled to help fund new infrastructure projects.

A new independent National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) is being created today (5 October 2015). It will be charged with offering unbiased analysis of the UK’s long-term infrastructure needs.

Commenting on the National Infrastructure Commission the Chancellor, George Osborne, said: “The Commission will calmly and dispassionately assess the future infrastructure needs of the country and it will hold any government’s feet to the fire if it fails to deliver.

“I am delighted that the former Cabinet Minister and Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis has agreed to be the Commission’s first Chair and help us create Britain’s plan for the future.”

Government commitment to extend Birmingham city centre Enterprise Zone

Government commitment to extend Birmingham city centre Enterprise ZoneThe Government is planning to extend the Birmipngham city centre Enterrise Zone to cover the whole of the development zone around the HS2 scheme.

The extension would be a huge boost for the region and a key enabler of the plan to further drive local growth, create new jobs and boost economic prosperity.

Since the launch of the national Enterprise Zone (EZ) initiative in 2011, the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP), in partnership with Birmingham City Council, has been pioneering approaches to unlocking development, stimulating investment and delivering jobs.

This proactive approach to enabling development has seen 938 jobs, 60,700 sq metres of floorspace and £203m of private sector investment attracted to the EZ since 2011.

A further 2,000 jobs and 70,000 sq metres of floorspace will come forward in 2015/16. Major long term development schemes are also being boosted as a direct result of the EZ with work on the £500m Paradise development, which will see 10,000 jobs and 170,000 sq metres of floorspace, commencing in 2015.

Public transport improvements are also being targeted as part of the EZ Investment Plan, with the £37.95m extension of the Midland Metro tram system to Centenary Square and the £30m city centre public realm improvement programme.

With the EZ extension in place exciting new regeneration and development schemes will be triggered. The location of the EZ extension, to include the Birmingham Curzon development zone, will provide a catalyst to unlocking development, attracting significant inward investment and generating additional jobs.

By extending the EZ to cover the Birmingham Curzon area, further commitments will be made to delivering major investments in local infrastructure which could see more than 50,000 jobs and £1.7bn of private investment attracted to the region.

Liz Peace CBE, chair of the Birmingham Curzon Regeneration Company Shadow Board, said: “The extension of the Enterprise Zone in terms of both time and geographical coverage will be hugely valuable for us in enabling investment in infrastructure and unlocking growth in the Curzon area.

We will be able to make long term plans that will support further local investment across a much wider area – and that will be really important as we seek to maximise the local economic benefits from High Speed 2.”

Government’s green record under the Coalition

Government's green record in the last 5 yearsAs the election results are paving the way for the newly elected Government, we present you with the verdict from Willmott Dixon‘s Energy Managing Director, Rob Lambe, on the Coalitions ‘green’ record in the last 5 years.

1. Rate the Coalition government’s record on sustainability out of 10, and explain why you’ve chosen this number.

I’d give this Government a 5/10 on the basis that progress has been hampered by a lack of joined up policy and mixed messages to the markets preventing investment.

2. What do you think was the Coalition’s single biggest achievement in sustainability, and what single thing has it failed to do?

The coalition deserves credit for continuing to support the Climate Change Act and tackling the UK’s emissions target. The biggest disappointment was cutting the Energy Company Obligation. It was a populist move designed to address concerns about rising energy prices, but actually it just resulted in many more people continuing to live in fuel poverty, and making the market for home energy efficiency significantly less attractive.

3. What green initiatives would you like to see kept or revived by the new government?

I’d be keen to see the new government retain departmental carbon budgets – it’s an important way of ensuring that climate change is kept front of mind for all central government departments, and is playing a significant role in helping us meet our emissions targets.

4. What would you hope to see from the next government on sustainability?

Simple – make energy efficiency an infrastructure priority. Improving the existing housing stock would yield £1.27 in tax revenue, increase GDP by around £3.20 for every £1 invested and create around 108,000 new jobs – and that’s not to mention the social benefits.

5. What would you like to see from the construction industry to improve its sustainability record?

I think our industry needs to engage better with clients. We often hear them say sustainability isn’t a priority – but if you start talking about reduced energy bills or lower running costs, then of course they’re interested. We just need to frame the issues differently.

Regional growth fund investment reaches £4bn

Regional growth fund investment reaches £4 billionThe government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF) has now put more than £1 billion in the hands of businesses, which in turn has leveraged nearly £3 billion in private sector investment, Business Secretary Vince Cable announced today.

The fund has also created and safeguarded more than 100,000 direct jobs in the English regions to-date. The news means the fund is now on track to deliver the 573,000 jobs it is projected to deliver by the end of the decade.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “So far, the Regional Growth Fund has secured £4 billion investment in companies across England – this is a great achievement, helping people and businesses across the country and there is still more to come.

It is proof that RGF is playing a pivotal role in developing innovative technologies; providing highly skilled jobs and giving businesses the confidence to invest in the UK.”

Universities, Science and Cities Minister Greg Clark said: “RGF is a great example of how business and government can work together to create the long-term, highly skilled jobs that are fuelling our recovery and growing our economy.

So far we have supported over 8,000 companies across the country to help them expand, take advantage of new markets and reach their full potential.”

Government cuts taxes on new homes and boosts small builders

Government cuts taxes on new homes and boosts small buildersEric Pickles has offered a boost to the country’s small house builders, slashing the cost to them of building a new home by as much as £140,000.

The Communities Secretary said the move would help restore the sector which was hit by the 2008 crash, and boosting local jobs and constructions.

Figures from the National Housebuilding Council have suggested that the number of small and medium-sized builders has halved, from 6,167 in 1997 to 2,832 by 2012.

Plans announced today will boost England’s builders, making clear that most “Section 106” charges should not be sought from the smallest housebuilders – specifically on sites of 10 homes or fewer, including self-build, extensions and annexes.

Mr Pickles also confirmed that in very rural areas, sites of 5 homes or fewer should not face the charge.

He also launched a £25 million fund to boost development finance for small builders.

Eric Pickles said: “Small builders are being hammered by charges, which have undermined the building industry, cut jobs and forced up the cost of housing. By getting rid of these 5 and 6-figure charges, we will build more homes and help provide more low-cost and market housing.

This will also be a massive boost to the self-build and custom-build sector. Overnight in many parts of England, it will be cheaper to build an extension, a family annex or just build your own home. Our long-term economic plan is helping hard-working people.

Protecting small builders

It is estimated that the policy will save, on average, £15,000 in Section 106 charges per home in England – with some councils charging up to £145,000 on single properties.

Further savings will be made from tariffs councils can use to charge more than £15,000 per home over and above any housing contributions.

Taken together, these changes will provide 6-figure savings for small-scale developers in some parts of the country.

This will also support the nation’s self-builders – ensuring any builder helping to turn someone’s dream home into a reality, or build an extension to an existing property, doesn’t get lumbered with Section 106 charges, mirroring what the government has already done on exempting them from community infrastructure levy.

Unlocking stalled smaller sites

Mr Pickles also announced plans for a new £25 million fund to unlock construction on micro-building sites between 5 and 15 homes.

These sites have local support and planning permission secured, but have struggled to get restarted after being mothballed during the downturn.

This new funding will come in the form of loans, which the developer will repay on completion and sale of the homes.

Plans for £70m Exeter leisure centre unveiled

Plans for £70m Exeter leisure centre unveiledCrown Estate and TH Real Estate is set to invest £70 million in Exeter city centre, adding a leisure extension to its existing Princesshay retail development.

Princesshay Leisure will redevelop the bus and coach station, creating 180,000sq ft of new leisure space including a new cinema, restaurants and cafes. The site will be adjacent to a proposed council-led swimming pool and sports facility.

The new development would be designed to complement and enhance the wide range of shopping and dining options already available to customers at Princesshay, which include leading brands.

Princesshay Leisure would sit alongside the Council’s proposed leisure centre, which would deliver a new swimming pool and sports facilities.

John Grinnell, Development Manager for the Princesshay Leisure scheme, said: “Our proposals will transform a tired, run-down site, providing a range of entertainment and dining options to complement Princesshay’s already popular retail and leisure offer.

These plans will help strengthen Princesshay’s position, as the south west’s premier shopping and leisure destination, at the same time as creating hundreds of new jobs and facilitating major improvements to the city’s infrastructure and public spaces.

We are looking forward to meeting Exeter’s shoppers, businesses and residents and hearing their views about regenerating this important gateway to city centre.”

Moving? Your solar can move with you

Moving  Your solar can move with you.Businesses and factories will be able to take their solar panels with them when they relocate, allowing them to continue to reap the benefits of lower bills under proposed changes planned by government.

In a consultation launched today, the government is seeking views on removing a barrier for building-mounted solar PV by allowing medium and large installations to be moved between buildings without loss of Feed in Tariff payments.

With an estimated 250,000 hectares of south facing commercial rooftops – the equivalent of 350,000 football pitches – there is massive potential in the UK to turn our buildings into power stations, helping to cut energy bills, reduce pressure on the grid and create jobs.

Launching the consultation, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Energy, Amber Rudd said: “Around 900 businesses already use solar PV – but I want to see more generating their own electricity.

There’s potential for significant growth in this area so it’s vital that we remove the barriers which prevent businesses from benefiting.

If there’s more rooftop solar we’ll see job creation as well as helping us deliver the clean, reliable energy supplies that the country needs at the lowest possible cost to consumers.

Solar increasingly offers efficient and cost effective onsite generation opportunities to both businesses and domestic consumers.”

At the moment if a FIT accredited installation is moved it becomes ineligible for further support. This can act as a significant deterrent to landlords and tenants who cannot guarantee to have the long-term ownership or lease of a building.

Allowing the panels and the tariff to move with their owner will increase flexibility and make solar PV a much more attractive investment.

Smaller manufacturers’ growth continues

Smaller manufacturers' growth continuesSmall and medium-sized (SME) manufacturers’ output grew over the last three months according to the CBI’s latest SME Trends Survey.

The survey shows that demand for the goods made by the 406 manufacturers surveyed was stronger at home than abroad.

Domestic orders rose for the fifth quarter in a row in the three months to October, while export orders fell sharply, despite firms expecting modest improvement.

Prospects for the next three months are better. Firms predict export orders will stabilise and domestic orders will continue to grow.

There was more good news on jobs, with numbers employed rising briskly for the third quarter in a row. And, employment is expected to go on rising over the next three months, though at a slightly slower pace.

Fears that a lack of skilled workers will hold back firms’ ability to meet demand reduced, though concern is still above its long-run average.

Rain Newton-Smith, CBI Director of Economics, said: “It’s reassuring to see smaller manufacturers sharing in the continuing recovery, with optimism, output and jobs all rising over the last three months. Sales in the strengthening UK market are looking good but firms are finding export orders much harder to secure.

International political instability and weak growth in the Eurozone is holding back overseas demand.

But, sentiment is still improving and firms expect overall orders and output to expand at a healthier pace over the next three months.”

Key findings – three months to October

  • 26% of small & medium sized enterprise (SME) manufacturers said they were more optimistic than three months ago, while 16% said they were less optimistic. The rounded balance of +9% is the weakest since July 2013 when it was also +9%

  • 28% said their volume of output was up, and 19% said it was down, giving a balance of +9%, which compares with +15% in the previous quarter.

  • 36% said their domestic orders were up, while 22% said they were down, a balance of +14%                       

  • 12% said export orders rose over the past three months, 26% said they fell, leaving a rounded balance of -13% the weakest since October 2012 when the balance was -21%

  • The balance for expected export orders over the next three months was +4% and for expected domestic orders was +17%

  • 29% are employing more people than three months ago, 12% less. The resulting balance of +17% compares with +24% in the three months to July

  • The balance for employment expectations over the next three months is +10%

Five design teams shortlisted for Bristol’s arena

Five design teams shortlisted for Bristol’s arenaBristol’s Mayor, George Ferguson, has announced a shortlist of five experienced design teams for the building of 12,000 capacity Bristol Arena, located in the city’s Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone.

The announcement of the shortlisted design teams followed a Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) International Design Competition that was launched in August.

Over 30 teams from across the world, expressed interest in designing the cultural venue that will be located close to Bristol Temple Meads Station and is due to open towards the end of 2017.

The multi-disciplinary teams include architects and engineers and all have experience of delivering major venues in the UK or overseas. They will now work on their design proposals for the Bristol Arena which will be submitted in January 2015.

A public exhibition of all five design proposals will take place in January prior to a decision being made in March.

Mayor George Ferguson said: “I am confident that the new arena will provide one of the very best experiences for audiences and major acts and that it will make a huge contribution to the regeneration of the Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone.

This takes us a couple of major steps closer to a 2017 delivery of this much needed venue for the city region.”

Colin Skellet Chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership said:“The level of interest in the new arena is excellent, with a strong shortlist of design teams demonstrating the extent of the ambition.

This important development will bring economic benefits, jobs and growth to the city region.”

The Bristol Arena is due to open towards the end 2017 and will be located in the Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone.