More affordable housing approved

House building starts hit 7-year highThe number of affordable homes in Scotland has increased by 26% on the previous year, bringing the total number of approvals over the year to 8,067.

Official statistics published this week show that during 2015-16, the number of new house builds started, across the public and private sector, rose to 16,910, a 4% increase on the previous year and the highest number of starts since 2008-9.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said the figures showed good early progress towards delivering the Scottish Government’s ambitious target of delivering 50,000 affordable homes over the next five years.

Speaking ahead of a visit to a new housing development in Edinburgh which will provide 236 affordable homes in the city, Mr Stewart said: “We have an excellent track record on housing. The number of affordable home completions from April 2007 to end March 2016 was 60,704 – on average 24% more per year than the 38,015 delivered between April 2000 and March 2007.

“In the previous session of Parliament, we exceeded our target of delivering 30,000 affordable homes, and our bold and ambitious More Homes Scotland approach will build on that achievement.

“We have committed to investing over £3 billion to deliver at least 50,000 affordable homes over the next five years. This is accompanied by increased housing subsidy levels and a new Rural Housing Fund to boost the supply of affordable rural housing.

“We’ve also helped stimulate growing confidence in the private housing market and supported people into home ownership, in particular through our £500 million Help to Buy (Scotland) scheme.”

New Bill will boost growth and house building

Government welcomes house building boostMeasures in the new Neighbourhood Planning Bill will support more house building and provide support to local developments, the Housing and Planning Minister announced this week.

The Bill will speed up and strengthen the popular neighbourhood planning process by simplifying how plans can be revised as local circumstances change and ensure that plans come into force sooner once approved by local people.

Housing and Planning Minister Gavin Barwell said: “The Prime Minister has been absolutely clear that we need to build more homes and this Bill is the first of a number of measures to deliver on that.

“We have already built more than 900,000 homes since 2010 and now this Bill will help speed up delivery of the further new homes our country needs and ensure our foot is still firmly on the pedal.

“We’re also going further than ever before to speed up neighbourhood planning which puts power in the hands of local people to decide where development gets built.”

There will also be a simplifying of the compulsory purchase order process to make it clearer, fairer and faster.

Further Bill measures will ensure that planning conditions which require developers to take action before work starts are only used where strictly necessary, but in a way that ensures important heritage and environmental safeguards remain in place, so that once a developer has planning permission they can get on and start building as soon as possible.

This government is determined to boost home building and is taking forward the boldest ambition for housing in a generation, with a pledge to deliver one million new homes and a doubling of the housing budget to £20 billion.

New technology helping Network Rail redevelop Liverpool Lime Street

New technology helping Network Rail redevelop Liverpool Lime StreetNetwork Rail is using virtual reality technology to save time and money and improve safety as it prepares to redevelop one of Britain’s major stations.

Liverpool Lime Street will undergo major work to transform it into a station to meet the needs of the growing numbers of passengers who use it every year.

As part of Network Rail’s Railway Upgrade Plan, £340 million is being spent across Merseyside to improve the railway for passengers, including changing the layout and length of Lime Street’s platforms to accommodate more and longer trains and upgrading signalling to make it more reliable.

The virtual reality technology has enabled Network Rail to carry out 4D virtual modelling to prepare for the work, reducing the amount of time needed on track and the potential to impact on train services.

Safety and efficiency of work is improved as virtual reality enables planners to avoid overlaps between different engineering teams as well as identifying potential risks and hazards which could potentially impact on reopening the railway on time.

Graeme Whitehead, Liverpool Lime Street project manager, said:  “On major projects, where you have people laying track, moving bridges and installing electrical wires overhead, all at the same time, we need precise planning to avoid overlaps that could potentially cause projects to overrun or risk the safety of those working. 

Using this state-of-the-art technology we can spot those clashes before they happen making the project safer and more efficient. This delivers benefits for passengers, taxpayers and our orange army of engineers.”

Simon Wray, managing director of Specialist Project Integration, the company which developed the software, said: “Liverpool Lime Street is the first rail project in Britain to have a virtual reality model at its core.

A unique feature of the system is that it works on multiple formats including mobile devices. Liverpool Lime Street is also the first project to use Oculus Rift virtual reality technology, which allows for a fully immersive experience for training and engagement.”

Lovell starts £7.1m Essex housing scheme

Lovell wins £7.1m Essex housing schemeUttlesford District Council has chosen partnership housing specialist Lovell to undertake a £7.1 million redevelopment programme for an Essex sheltered housing scheme.

A ground-breaking ceremony has officially marked the start of construction on the project which will transform Reynolds Court in Newport, near Saffron Walden, into a purpose-built modern complex.

The existing sheltered housing is being replaced with 41 brand-new apartments for affordable rent – made up of 34 one-bedroom and seven two-bedroom homes – as well as new communal facilities including a communal lounge and a garden room, hair and beauty salon and a guest suite.

The first phase of demolition and site clearance has already been carried out. The demolition programme is being undertaken in two stages enabling existing tenants to stay at the sheltered housing scheme while it is being rebuilt.

The new complex is designed to achieve a ‘Very Good’ rating when assessed using the BREEAM system for measuring buildings’ sustainability. Energy-saving and environmentally-friendly features include underfloor heating and a sedum green ‘living roof’ which reduces rainwater runoff and provides a habitat for wildlife.

Lovell regional director Simon Medler says: “We are extremely pleased to have started work on these high-quality and modern homes and modern communal facilities for Reynolds Court.

Our team has extensive experience of delivering sheltered housing to an extremely high standard and are excited to be working on this scheme which will bring about real improvements for local residents.”

Balfour Beatty gets £35m Perth Transport contract

Balfour Beatty gets £35m Perth Transport contractBalfour Beatty has been awarded a £35 million contract to deliver the first phase of the Perth Transport Futures Project, which will support growth in Scotland’s third fastest developing region.

Balfour Beatty will create a new grade separated junction on the A9 dual carriageway as well as a new link road enabling access to development land to the west of the city.

This is the first of four phases of the Perth Transport Futures project which aims to alleviate congestion, enhance accessibility to the city and unlock £500 million of economic growth for the local economy.

Hector Macaulay, Balfour Beatty Regional Managing Director, Scotland, said: “Delivery of this project will provide significant opportunities for local sub-contractors and suppliers, ensuring that the Perth and Kinross community not only benefits from greatly improved infrastructure, but also from the added economic benefit delivered through this scheme.”

Mark Robinson, Scape Group Chief Executive, said: “Through our National Civil Engineering and Infrastructure framework, Balfour Beatty and Perth and Kinross Councils have already formed a close partnership and this will help to ensure a streamlined and efficient first phase of the Perth Transport Futures Project.

Through the framework, the council is investing in the local economy and delivering added value for local residents as well as new opportunities for local SMEs, further enhancing growth in this rapidly developing region.”

The works are due to commence in September 2016, with completion expected in Spring 2019. The scheme will employ around 100 people and will provide a number of apprenticeship opportunities. 

Wates reaches financial close on £63.5m job

Wates reaches financial close on £63.5m jobWates Construction has signed a contract to deliver a new multi-million pound state-of-the-art food and health research centre at Norwich Research Park, marking a significant step in the business’ growth in East Anglia.

The £63.5 million construction element of this project will see Wates build a new five-storey development that will bring together research teams from the Institute of Food Research (IFR), the University of East Anglia and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Designed by architects, NBBJ, the scheme will comprise a variety of specialist laboratories, lecture theatres and offices. Photovoltaic panels and ground source heat pumps have been incorporated into the building design to enhance energy efficiency.

The work adds to Wates’ growing East Anglia project portfolio and extends the business’ presence in the region’s science and research sector. Current projects also include the University of Cambridge’s North West Cambridge Development.

Wates has made a commitment to create opportunities for on-site industry skills training throughout the work, which is expected to include apprenticeship positions and partnership working with Norwich-based schools and colleges.

Ian Vickers, Managing Director at Wates Construction, said: “This project is undoubtedly significant for the development of science but it is also set to be an incredible catalyst for the region in terms of creating opportunities for local people.

At peak periods our site team will stand at 350 and this, along with our investment in skills training and our engagement with a local supply chain, will further contribute to the local economic benefit of this fantastic scheme.”

£29m Lincoln investment to boost economic growth

£29m Lincoln investment to boost economic growthA new bus station and 1,000 space car park will be built in Lincoln helping to deliver jobs, growth and opportunity, after the government committed to fund the project.

The £29 million scheme will help improve city centre journeys for people living, working or visiting the town and deliver a boost to the economy.

Delivering transport upgrades that help people get around and get on is a key part of the government’s plan for transport.

The scheme is expected to create up to 200 jobs in the city, and deliver an economic boost worth £9 million a year.

The major investment is being made after the Transport Secretary approved plans for a new eastern bypass earlier this year. The council is now working to secure funding and make the plans a reality.

There will also be improvements to Lincoln Central railway station and a pedestrianised plaza connecting the bus and rail stations.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones said: “A new bus station, car park and upgraded railway station will be a huge benefit to people who live and work in Lincoln, and those who visit the city.

Better transport facilities don’t just help people get around, they help them get on – connecting them to jobs, opportunities and helping deliver economic growth.”

The Department for Transport (DfT) is providing £11 million towards the project, with the City of Lincoln Council providing £16 million and the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership contributing £2 million.