Friday, April 17, 2009

Surgo Construction sees 435% profit increase

Surgo Construction has seen pre-tax profit surge by 435% to just over ВЈ3m for the year ended 31 October 2008.

The increase came despite a much more modest 6.4% rise in turnover to ВЈ54.8m.

The contractor, based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, said margins were "out-performing all previous years".

But the firm, which was known as Bowey Construction until the company decided to change its name in 2004, warned that the current trading environment was “certainly tougher than this time 12 months ago with procurement levels notably lower.”

Despite this, the company described its order book as "strong", with work in hand for the year in excess of ВЈ45m from a projected sales turnover of ВЈ61m.

The highest-paid director received a pay rise of almost 57%, taking his wage packet to ВЈ586,314 for the year. Meanwhile contributions of ВЈ15,550 were paid into his pension pot.

Sir Robert McAlpine is Newarthill's top earner

Newarthill's contracting arm, branded as Sir Robert McAlpine, has reclaimed its place as the company's top profit generator.

Contracting activities produced an operating profit of almost ВЈ43m for the year ended 31 October 2008, on a turnover of ВЈ1.25bn.

That put it comfortably ahead of Newarthill's wind energy arm, which posted an operating loss of ВЈ2.8m as it suffered the ill-effects of the credit crunch in the US.

Last year the wind energy arm was the company's top earner, ahead of Sir Robert McAlpine, with an operating profit of ВЈ27.1m, compared to the ВЈ24.7m generated by the contracting arm.

In a review of the business, directors described McAlpine's performance as “another satisfactory year”. It added that the bulk of its £1.25bn turnover came from the retail, commercial, education and leisure sectors.


Sir Robert McAlpine is Newarthills top earner


The review added that the contractor's forward order book, which includes a contract to design and build the £547m main stadium for the London 2012 Olympics, is at a “high level”.

Overall turnover for the Newarthill group stood at nearly ВЈ1.7bn for the year, down slightly from just over ВЈ1.8bn for the previous year. Meanwhile pre-tax profit dropped 28% from ВЈ45.9m in 2007 to just over ВЈ33m in 2008.

Cash and short term deposits at the company stood at ВЈ302m, with continuing investment in PFI and wind energy causing total bank debt to rise to ВЈ589m.

The company employed an average number of 2,937 people for the year, while the highest-paid director received £1,242,643 – a 56% pay rise on the previous year.

Pay freeze for small builders

Thousands of construction workers at small and medium sized firms will not get a pay rise this year.

Negotiations under the Building and Allied Trades Joint Industrial Council (BATJIC) for 2009/10 have resulted in no increase to the pay, allowances, and conditions agreement which expires in June.

Rates introduced in June 2008 will remain in place for a further year. 

Speaking for the employers’ side, Richard Diment, Director-General of the FMB said: "The FMB regrets that these negotiations have been concluded without being able to agree some form of increase. However, it has become clear that conditions are not going to improve sufficiently for any form of increase to be possible for this year, and there is clearly a need to provide certainty on wages for firms pricing for what little work there is out there.


Pay freeze for small builders


"The reality of the situation is that the trading environment for FMB members is so dire, that we are simply not in any position to assist hard pressed workers with any aspect of their claim. We did explore a number of options with our partners at Unite, but the economy has fallen so far and so fast, that we were rapidly pushed past the point where we could consider even modest improvements.

"The bottom line is that firms are desperately trying to hang on to their workers and it would be irresponsible of us to make it more difficult for them do so by raising wages at this time of massive economic uncertainty and rapid growth in informal economy competition."

Commenting for the workers side, Bob Blackman, National Secretary for Construction at Unite, said: "I am extremely disappointed that no increases have been possible for this year. BATJIC has a long record of delivering real improvements in pay and conditions for construction workers and it is a real shame that we have not been able to deliver improvements for our members this year.  We are hoping that conditions improve sufficiently for agreement to be reached next year for the 2010/11 pay round"

The current basic hourly rates (based on a 39 hour week) are:

S/NVQ3 Qualified Operative  ВЈ10.41 
S/NVQ2 Qualified Operative  ВЈ8.95 
Adult General Operative         ВЈ7.73 


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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Piling rig falls across Tokyo road - PHOTO

Six people were hurt when a piling rig fell across three lanes of National Route 20 in central Tokyo on Tuesday.

Piling rig falls across Tokyo road - PHOTO

Local news sources said strong winds may have been a factor in toppling the 28-metre high rig.

The accident occurred at a construction site in the Kojimachi district in Chiyoda Ward. The piling rig, owned by Taiyo Kiso Co., fell over at around 11 am while pulling up a 6-tonne column for the basement of a 19-storey building under construction.

The machine injured two pedestrians, three people who were in a truck on the six-lane road, also known as Shinjuku Dori, and the rig's 38-year-old operator when it fell, the police said.

A woman in her 60s remained unconscious after being knocked down by the pile driver, and its operator suffered serious injuries.

Strong winds were blowing at the time, and the piling rig appeared to tilt in the wind, a passerby who witnessed the accident said.


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Hammerson gets go-ahead for £150m Southampton scheme

Developer Hammerson has gained outline planning permission for the ВЈ150m Watermark WestQuay development in the heart of Southampton.

The plan is to build 250,000 sq ft of retail, 200 flats, a 150-room hotel and multiplex cinema and a big public square surrounded by restaurants and cafes, and a 150-room hotel.

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Consultants demand extra cash from MPs

Consultants are being urged to write to their local MPs in a bid to boost spending on infrastructure projects.

Trade body ACE is urging its 800 member firms to contact their local MPs and has also written to the construction minister at the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, Ian Pearson MP.

Nelson Ogunshakin, ACE’s chief executive, said: "It’s important we’re clear - ACE is not in the frame of mind to stir up or cause trouble - but the consultancy and engineering sector is in great need of the injection of finances it has been promised. For every day that passes, another project gets delayed or more redundancies are announced. It’s time to stop the rot”.

ACE’s letter highlights the fact that construction contributes around £100bn to the UK economy annually and points out that construction activity contracted by 20 per cent during the last quarter of 2008.


Consultants demand extra cash from MPs


ACE has called on the government to:

•    Use its influence over banks to ensure private investment in construction resumes;
•    Quickly implement necessary reforms to prevent waste and duplication in public procurement in light of the difficulties of the Learning and Skills Council, M60 PFI and the Building Schools for the Future programme, which is two years behind schedule;
•    Commit to underwriting capital projects;
•    Put in place reforms to planning procedures;
•    Ensure delivery agencies carry through their investment programmes.

Ogunshakin said: "There is no getting away from the fact that some tough questions are being asked of ACE members and consultancy and engineering in general in this current economic climate. ACE sees it as part of its role to work as hard as it can to find the answers to these questions, and the government has to show that it is receptive to any progressive steps to improve the sector’s and the economy’s chances of a quick recovery".

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Housing first-time buyers return but need 25 per cent deposit

Mortgage lending edged up 4 per cent in February, helped by a 7 per cent rise in loans to first time buyers, according the Council of Mortgage Lenders.

Tight lending constraints remain a barrier to most first-time buyers with most typically providing a deposit of 25% in February, a new record.

But frst-time buyers are returning to the housing market with 9,400 loans made in February - a 7% monthly increase. The figure is still significantly less than the 17,400 in February 2008.

General lending activity remains very weak compared to historical levels, running at around one-third of the average February total of 76,000 loans for house purchase between 2002 and 2007.

First-time buyers typically borrowed 2.95 times their income, down from three times in January. The average first-time buyer loan was ВЈ95,000, down from ВЈ97,000 in January and ВЈ114,000 in February last year.


Housing first-time buyers return but need 25 per cent deposit


This decline reflects the change in house prices over the same period and the growth in the size of first-time buyer deposits.

Lower income multiples and mortgage rates have made affordability considerably easier for those able to get a mortgage. Interest payments consumed 15.4% of the average first-time buyer’s income in February, down from 20.1% in February 2008 and the lowest proportion since June 2004.

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JCB optimistic as new factory opens

The decline in plant sales may be levelling out, according to Matthew Taylor the chief operating officer of JCB Group.

“There is no sign of an upturn yet, but I hope we have reached the bottom,” he told CJ.

Speaking later at the opening of JCB’s new £40m heavy products factory, Taylor said the UK market for the heavier tracked and wheeled excavators produced at the new factory was 40% lower last year than in 2007. Although the new 8,000 machines per year capacity factory is currently running at a very low level, it still brings with it improved production efficiency, higher build quality and a new six-stage paint finish.

Machines built at the factory are now given three hot tests instead of two and machining tolerances have been tightened to 35 microns. This has allowed JCB to double the warranty period on the 25 machine types built at the factory, to two years/3,000 hours.  


JCB optimistic as new factory opens


One of the first machines to benefit from the longer warranty will be production versions of the JS360 first shown at Conexpo. The 36t machine’s 268kN of bucket breakout is said to be best in class and the fuel economy of its 212kW Isuzu engine some 6% better than the competition.

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Workers shun fry-ups on Costain's ВЈ76m Welsh roads job

Construction workers employed on Costain's ВЈ76m Church Village bypass project in South Wales are eschewing fry-ups and bacon butties in favour of more healthy food.

Site caterers Akita Duggan and Paula O’Donovan, who took on a contract to feed 250 hungry workers two weeks ago said they have already noticed that their customers' appetites were different from what they expected.

Akita Duggan told “We are not selling as many [fry-ups] as we thought.

“A lot of the builders are on diets because they are just as vain as the rest of us and they are members of a diet club, which has a weigh-in on site every Thursday.

“They compete to see who’s lost the most weight every week and even check on each other to see if anyone’s been cheating.”

The pair have now set up a salad bar offering wholegrain rice, shredded cabbage, grated carrot, coleslaw and celery.

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Carillion halts work on Wales' tallest tower over payment row

Carillion has halted work on Wales’ tallest residential after a payment row flared up.

The 123 apartment tower in Meridian Quay, Swansea is two months away from being finished.

Carillion downed tools on the 29-storey, ВЈ70m development and now developer Ferrara Quay is looking for another contractor to finish the job.

The Tower project was originally approved in December 2004, but suffered delays at the outset with the scheduled start date of February 2005 pushed back by another 18 months.

A spokeswoman for Carillion told the Western Mail: “We did exercise the right to terminate the contract on Friday, April 3, in relation to payment.

“But we cannot go into this because of commercial sensitivity.


Carillion halts work on Wales tallest tower over payment row


“We were pretty close to the end of the work and had about two months to go.”

The spokeswoman said there were in the region of 100 workers on site and 50 people remain on site to remove tools and other equipment.

“We cannot, literally, just pull away,” she said.

Carillion had gradually uncovered the wraps of the building in four-storey sections, the first being in December 2008, showing the familiar white facade and tinted windows featured in six smaller apartment blocks surrounding the Tower, which also has six commercial units and a restaurant on the 27th to 29th floors.

A spokeswoman for Ferrara Quay said that a dispute arose in recent weeks between Ferrara Quay and Carillion.

She added that a resolution could not be found and as a consequence Carillion exercised determined the building contract on Friday, April 3.

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HCA to build 'at least' 50,000 new affordable homes next year

Homes & Communities Agency (HCA) boss Sir Bob Kerslake has pledged that his organisation will deliver at least 50,000 new affordable homes in 2009/10 despite difficult market conditions.

The HCA chief executive made the prediction as he unveiled the agency's preliminary end-of-year results.

Kerslake said that the body, which began operating on 1 December after inheriting English Partnerships and the Housing Corporation, delivered 50,000 new, affordable homes. It also met its target to invest ВЈ3.9bn on its national housing and regeneration programme.

"It's a tough market out there. To deliver these results is a credit to all of the sector that is involved but no-one is under any illusion that the year ahead is going to be a challenging year," he said.


HCA to build at least 50,000 new affordable homes next year


But he added that he was confident that the agency would be able to deliver at least as many houses in 2009/10 as it had in 2008/09, although he could not give precise numbers until it has a reached a funding settlement with the government.

The homes are likely to be a mix of rent-to-buy and low cost homeownership (LCHO) homes, although the mix of rent-to-buy homes is likely to increase, as housing associations become more wary of building LCHO homes.

HCA 2008/09 preliminary outturns:

National Affordable Housing Programme:

Completions, Rent - 27,501 (105% of target) Completions, LCHO - 19,743 (91% of target) Starts on site, Rent - 30,389 (101% of target) Starts on site, LCHO - 10,787 (77% of target)

Property and Regeneration:

Brownfield Land Reclaimed - 327 Housing Starts Commissioned - 3,144 Housing Completions - 6,201 Employment Floorspace (Sq m) - 452,378 Private sector investment (ВЈm) - 1,025

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Hitachi eyes sites for £100m UK factory

Hitachi plans to open a new ВЈ100m factory to build 1,400 new intercity train carriages.

Sites at Sheffield, Gateshead and Ashby de la Zouch, in Leicestershire are being looked as potential locations by the Japanese engineering giant. 

Production would start well before 2013.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

PC Harrington turnover breaks ВЈ200m barrier

PC Harrington's annual turnover grew 37% to break the ВЈ200m barrier for the year ended 31 May 2008.

Turnover for the year was nearly ВЈ202m, up from ВЈ147m in the previous year.

Meanwhile pre-tax profit increased by nearly 60% from just under ВЈ8.0m to ВЈ12.7m - a return of 6.3%.

The group's activities are supported by its subsidiaries, which include:

PC Harrington Contractors HTC Plant Hire P&E Harrington Plant Hire Slipform International Structural Systems UK

The bulk of the group's turnover was accounted for by PC Harrington Contractors, which saw a 32% rise to ВЈ151.5m. Pre-tax profit stood at ВЈ7.5m - a 64% increase on the previous year.

The highest-paid director of PC Harrington Contractors received ВЈ327,382 for the year, up from ВЈ280,823 in 2007.


PC Harrington turnover breaks ВЈ200m barrier


But the company has warned that the figures for the year to 31 May 2009 are unlikely to be anything like as sparkling.

It said that its "success had taken a downturn" recently, as it pleaded guilty to health and safety breaches at the City of London Magistrates Court in relation to a fatal accident at Wembley in 2004.

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Development Corporation to review Maze prison site

A development corporation is to be set up to review what to do with the 360-acre site of the former Maze prison in Northern Ireland.

The move follows a decision last year not to build a ВЈ140m national sports stadium there.

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness issued a joint statement, announcing a review into the future of the site.

In it they said they were committed to exploiting it to the full, particularly given the current economic climate.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Builder benefits cheat ordered to repay ВЈ21,000 of fraudulent claims

A builder has today been ordered to pay back ВЈ21,000 of fraudulently claimed benefits collected over nine years.

According to WalesOnline, William Blackmore, 60, of Llanrumney, Cardiff, admitted 37 counts of falsely claiming benefits while working full-time as a labourer and driver for Scimitar Construction Ltd between 1998 and 2007.

At Cardiff Crown Court, Blackmore was given a 36-week jail sentence suspended for 12 months and ordered to complete 240 hours of community service. He has also been ordered to pay back ВЈ21,557.05. minus ВЈ207 he has paid already, in ВЈ50 weekly instalments. It will take nine years to pay the balance in full.

When Blackmore failed to notify the Department for Work and Pensions about his change of circumstances, he “simply buried his head in the sand” according to Helen Roddick, mitigating. “Initially this was a genuine claim in May of 1998 when he was not working.


Builder benefits cheat ordered to repay ВЈ21,000 of fraudulent claims


“However, of course, the defendant is realistic that the offence was made over a long period of time and there was plenty of opportunity during that time to put the matter right.”

Recorder Christopher Clee QC, sentencing, said: “You know that you should not have been receiving this money and it is not the first time you have done it. Can I suggest that you do pay this money back.”

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Top 5 construction tenders - 9 April 2009

This week's top 5 construction tenders include a ВЈ29m college campus in Alloa, highways works and associated bus station improvements worth ВЈ24m in Liverpool and ВЈ10m worth of housing maintenance in Kent. The details are only a a summary of what is on offer, for the full OJEU click on the link.

Falkirk: College campus

Value: ВЈ29m The Forth Valley College of further and higher education is advertising for a contractor to build two new college campuses in Alloa and Stirling. Procurement will involve a two stage design and build contract with separate building contracts for each college or sectional completion. If sectional comlpetion is chosen, the Alloa campus will be section one with Stirling going ahead 12 months later. Deadline: 11 MayADVERTISEMENT

Top 5 construction tenders - 9 April 2009


Liverpool: Bus station redevelopment

Value: ВЈ24m Neptune Developments is looking for a contractor to redevelop Wolverhampton interchange, a bus station in Liverpool. The works include upgrading roads and the diversion of services. The highway works are to enable to redevelopment of the existing bus station with links to the train station, which will be redeveloped at a later date. Neptune Developments may also ask the contractor to incorporate a five storey commercial block. Deadline: 5 May

London: Housing maintenance

Value: ВЈ10.5m Southern Housing Group wishes to procure a contractor to provide day to day maintenance and repair services for 2000 properties in Kent. The deal will run for seven years and will include fully reactive repairs and maintenance. Deadline: 5 May

North Shields: Quay construction

Value: ВЈ6m North Shields Fish Quay Company is advertising for a contractor to perform quay frontage works. Deadline: 20 April

Slough: Art centre

Value: ВЈ3.75m Slough Borough Council intends to procure the construction of a new centre of excellence for art and media at Baylis Court School, Slough. The two storey building will include specialist lighting and sound installations for the drama and dance studios, and the media suite. External works are also required to link the new building to the existing entrances. Deadline: 15 May

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MPG Group takes Peppiatt to court in ВЈ380,000 payment row

Specialist cladding and fit-out contractor MPG Group is lining up for a ВЈ380,000 court battle with Peppiatt Contracts following a row over payment.

MPG Group, formerly MPG Contracts, is seeking to enforce an earlier decision by adjudicator Tony Bingham in relation to work it did in 2007 for Peppiatt on St George's ВЈ200m Imperial Wharf development in Fulham, London.

MPG was contracted to carry out the supply and installation of ceiling, dry-lining and fire-stopping works at the development.

But after the subcontractor began work in April 2007, a dispute arose over the payment.

The issue went to adjudication, and the adjudicator found in favour of MPG. But MPG has been unable to recover all of the cash it claims it was owed.

It has now lodged a claim for a total of ВЈ382,618.08 including interest and costs in the Technology and Construction Court.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Crossrail announces winners on ВЈ100m enabling works frameworks

Crossrail has named a total of 17 contractors on its enabling works framework.

The framework covers four areas: site facilities, demolition, civil structures and utilities. It covers the entire network.

Each framework agreement will run for four years.

The contractors on each section of the framework are:


Balfour Beatty Carillion Civil Engineering Costain/Skanska Construction joint venture J Murphy and Sons Kier Construction Laing O’Rourke Construction Morgan Est


Bam Nuttall Brown & Mason John F Hunt Demolition Keltbray Kier Construction Laing O’Rourke Construction McGee Group PJ Carey


Clancy Docwra Costain/Skanska Construction joint venture J Murphy and Sons Laing O’Rourke Construction McNicholas Morgan EstADVERTISEMENT

Crossrail announces winners on ВЈ100m enabling works frameworks


Site facilities:

Bam Nuttall Fitzpatrick Contractors Select Plant Hire

Enabling works are already underway at Tottenham Court Road and the Isle of Dogs.

The next phase of enabling works will start later this year.

Crossrail engineering director Dr David Anderson said: “The delivery of Crossrail is moving ahead at speed. Following the appointment of the programme partner and selection of the project delivery partner we are now able to confirm which companies have been short-listed to tender for the next phase of enabling works contracts required across the Crossrail route.

“We are looking forward to working closely with these selected companies to ensure that Crossrail will be fully prepared to commence main construction of the railway next year.”

Hanson to open ВЈ50m factory

Materials giant Hanson is to open a new ВЈ50m brick factory in the Midlands.

The firm has seen orders fall 40% and has some 12-months of stock in its yards but it believes there is still “pent up demand” to be satisfied by its new automated facility.

Chief executive Patrick O’Shea predicted the market would “deteriorate further” but was confident that the company would be in a position to respond once demand returned. 

He said that despite the financial problems at parent HeidelbergCement there was still support for its investment. “This is replacing old technology with new,” he added. “The direction hasn’t been there to close things down. When the market returns we will need to be ready. Our job is to promote best practice.”


Hanson to open ВЈ50m factory


The new plant will employ just 28 people and have the capacity to produce 100m bricks a year, with the possibility of doubling capacity with further investment.

It has been built on brownfield land and will feature a host of sustainable features, helping it achieve a BREEAM very good rating.

Managing director David Szymanski said: “This significant investment in the most modern brick plant in Europe emphasises out commitment to the future of the industry and will ensure we stay ahead of the field when the recovery kicks in.

“The long-term clay reserves at Measham coupled with a highly efficient, low-cost production process puts us in a very strong position both now and into the future.”

Crossrail announces winners on ВЈ100m enabling works frameworks

ВЈ674m PFI funding for Sheffield roads

The government has signed ВЈ674m of Private bridging finance Initiative (PFI) funding to improve roads in Sheffield.

The award is the largest PFI award ever granted to a local authority and will allow Sheffield City Council to carry out improvements and maintenance to local roads over the next 25 years.

Work will include:

road surface improvement and maintenance footway and cycleway maintenance bridges and other structures street lighting improvement and maintenance upgrades to traffic signals, signs, street nameplates and road markings planting of trees along the roadside street cleaning and grounds maintenance winter maintenance

Sheffield Council will now start procurement arrangements by issuing a notice in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU). Work is scheduled to start in 2011.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sixth form college schemes set to transfer to BSF

More than  fifty sixth form college schemes worth an estimated ВЈ1.5bn could be transferred into the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme from the stricken Learning and Skills Council’s college building programme.

From next year capital funding for sixth form colleges will transfer to the control of Partnerships for Schools (PfS), which oversees the BSF programme. The move, tipped by CJ last September, could see 54 sixth form schemes transferred to the BSF programme. The schemes, ranging in value from ВЈ25m to ВЈ80m, are currently stalled under the troubled  Learning and Skills Council's (LSC's) Building Colleges for the Future programme.

Confirming the transfer Jim Knight said: “In “Raising Expectations: enabling the system to deliver” (published March 2008), we stated our intention to bring sixth form colleges within the scope of the Building Schools for the Future programme, so that they can be part of securing the area-wide entitlement. This remains our position, and we are considering the details along with the key partner organisations involved.”


Sixth form college schemes set to transfer to BSF


The transfer will take the pressure off the Learning and Skills Council’s college building programme which is struggling with a funding shortfall of ВЈ3bn. At least 150 further education and sixth form college schemes, including 78 approved schemes, have been halted after the funding crisis was revealed. Sir Andrew Foster was asked to investigate how the LSC approved so many schemes without the necessary funding. His findings, published earlier this week, cited poor management to be at the heart of the programme's crisis.

Observers say the sixth form colleges could be delivered under the PfS National Academy framework programme. One Academy contractor said: “The size of sixth form colleges makes them ideal for delivery under the framework.” The Sixth Form Colleges Forum welcomed the transfer. Executive chairman David Igoe said: "The framework seems an ideal way of delivering these schemes."

The Forum is to meet with the LSC and the Department of Children Schools and Families later this month to discuss the capital transfer.

Three hundred further education colleges will remain under the LSC programme, overseen by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

The LSC said this week it is also carrying out a review  of its programme in the light of Sir Andrew's findings, which also call for a needs-based rather than demand-led approach. A team of property specialists will be brought in to assess each scheme.

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Value of housing development land halves in a year

The value of housing development land in the UK halved during 2008, according to research from property agents Knight Frank.

The cost of development land fell by 15% during the final quarter, and lost 50% of its value during the whole of 2008.

Urban building land in the Yorkshire and Humber region experienced the steepest drop вЂ“ 64% during the year.

The price of development land in inner and outer London dropped 25% in the final quarter of the year.

Knight Frank said that only extremely well-located sites, or land that was suitable for larger family homes, were attracting interest.

Many house builders are looking to dispose of land that is "superfluous to requirements" due to the housing market downturn, the report added. But supply has still fallen as other landowners wait for the market to improve before selling sites.


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Black & Veatch site named UK's 'most considerate'

A Black & Veatch Ltd project has been identified as the UK's Most Considerate Site 2009 by the Considerate Constructors Scheme for its Glenfarg Water Treatment Works project in Scotland.

Steve Mason and George Smart, both project managers on the site, collected the award. 

Mason explained that the award was achieved as a result of close collaboration with the local community. Preliminary consultations were carried out before going on site, followed up by regular meetings with locals.

From the start of operations the site team arranged work programmes to keep any disruption to a minimum, including the re-scheduling of some major works to coincide with school holiday times.

Clean, safe and well-signed passage was observed to be in place around the works area and a well-constructed traffic plan was constantly updated to meet the changing needs of community.


Black & Veatch site named UKs most considerate


In addition, the site team involved themselves in a number of community-support initiatives including school projects and fund-raising for the village hall.

Of the 7,000 sites visited as part of the scheme 560 received awards, across nine days of presentations in Edinburgh, Manchester and London. The Gold Award was given to 64 sites.

Norman Reed, chairman of the Considerate Constructors Scheme, commented: "In this difficult economic climate, it is encouraging and gratifying to be able to reward sites for their extremely high standards of considerate site practice."

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£2.3bn stalled college building programme faces further delays

More than 140 stalled college schemes face further delays under a second review, this time by The Learning and Skills Council (LSC).

The LSC, which manages the Building Colleges for the Future (BCF) programme on behalf of the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), revealed this week that it was planning “ a review of the whole programme"  in response to an earlier review by Sir Andrew Foster. Sir Andrew's review, published this week, criticised the LSC and DIUS for poor management of the programme. The BCF programme suffered a funding crisis in December last year which left 144 college schemes in limbo.

The LSC will hire an external team of property specialists to help review all BCF schemes in the pipeline.  Once on board the property specialists will begin by running the rule over the 79 BCF schemes already approved in principle.  A total of 144 schemes are on hold. An LSC spokeswoman said: “There will be a review of the whole programme." She said she did not know how long it would take. She added: “Contractors will be informed as soon as possible when timescales for projects are known.”


£2.3bn stalled college building programme faces further delays


The Association of Colleges called for a "quick, clear and fair resolution" to the delay. Chief executive Martin Doel added: “This building programme remains an ideal candidate for further investment: it will provide a significant stimulus to the economy, construction companies across the country are ready to start work and completed college projects have a proven track record of finishing on time and on budget."

The new LSC chief executive Geoff Russell this week appointed David Hughes, LSC London director, to oversee the capital programme. Russell said each scheme will be re-examined and prioritised according to need rather than demand. He added: “I am appointing an external team of property specialists to assist in ensuring that the information held by the LSC is accurate and comprehensive and a sound basis for taking future decisions.”

Tax Tips: Loss on home sale can’t be deducted
College construction delays hundreds of jobs at risk, Atkins warns
TDOT agrees to pay $5.7M for state to replace wetlands

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Crossrail redesign removes shafts from central tunnel

Crossrail has reached agreement with the London Fire Brigade (LFB) to remove eight shafts from the central tunnel design. As a result, the impact of the construction is expected to be lessened.

Following an assessment of Crossrail's fire and evacuation strategy, LFB agreed that the shafts could be removed, reducing construction works impacts, including lorry journeys, in these areas.

In addition, a number of properties in Hanbury Street will no longer need to be compulsorily purchased and demolished.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, welcomed the decision which will particularly benefit communities in East London where four of the permanent shafts were due to be located. 

The permanent access and ventilation shafts would typically be around 9m in diameter, with a structure on top the size of a one- or two- storey building.


Crossrail redesign removes shafts from central tunnel


The news may also be welcomed by Lord Berkeley, chairman of the Rail Freight Group, who called for Crossrail to reopen disused Royal Mail tunnels under London to shift spoil from the project and avert traffic chaos in the capital.


TDOT agrees to pay $5.7M for state to replace wetlands
‘200 trucks a day’ in central London during Crossrail

Wirral contractor recycles paint pots into garden furniture

A Wirral-based painting contractor is recycling its plastic paint pots into garden furniture and claims this to be a UK-first.

The 50,000 paint pots that Hankinson use annually no longer got for landfill thanks to a pioneering process.

With the help of ICI Paints, Hankinson bosses identified Knowsley’s Avanti Waste Management as a partner and set about working together to develop uses for the left-over cans.

As a result, all plastic paint pots are turned into items such as garden furniture.

Stephen Hankinson, chief executive, said: “We are all impacted by environmental consequences of global climate change. As a company we had to make our own commitment and not just rely on others to make a difference.


Wirral contractor recycles paint pots into garden furniture


“It was important to reduce the large number of waste paint cans going to landfill and find a better way to deal with the disposal of left-over paint and solvents.”

Left-over water based paint is now converted into compost while a process called Pyrolysis turn oil-based paint into energy which is used to fuel power generators and turbines.

A confidentiality clause was signed between Avanti and Hankinson while the ground-breaking processes were trialed.

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22 firms win place on £150m Welsh framework

Leadbitter, Lovell, Stradform, and Wates are among 22 firms on a ВЈ150m framework to deliver affordable housing across Wales.

Contractors, developers, architects, engineers and construction design management co-ordinators are all working together on the Syniad Development Framework.

The Syniad consortium comprises Wales & West Housing Association, Linc-Cymru Housing Association and the Pennaf Housing Group. The framework will last four to five years.

Anne Hinchey, chief executive of Wales & West Housing Association, said on behalf of the Syniad Consortium: “At a time when the Welsh economy is suffering, this offers tangible reassurance and a degree of certainty to the construction industry.


22 firms win place on £150m Welsh framework


“The Syniad Framework will operate across 20 local authority areas and provide construction skills training, local supply chain initiatives and deliver new affordable housing solutions to meet local housing requirements. 

“We look forward to working with existing and new partners under the framework.”

The full list of contractors and consultants working under the new Syniad Development Framework, and who were represented at the workshop, is as follows:

Wates Group
Anwyl Construction
Pendragon Design & Build
Leadbitter Construction
Ainsley Gommon
Powell Dobson Associates
Munro Associates
Pentan Partnership
WYG Environmental Planning
Willdig Lammie Partnership
Quattro Design
Rider Levett Bucknall
Strongs Partnership
Davis Langdon
Faithful & Gould
Bingham Hall Partnership
Bay Associates Consulting

Rok Building and Mitie among 17 vying for £40m framework
Even in slump, firms find way for bonuses

Friday, April 3, 2009

Private housing starts plunge 72% in latest NHBC figures

Private housing starts for the three months to the end of February 2009 have plunged 72% against the same period last year, according to the latest National House Building Council figures.

Other gloomy findings from the NHBC statistics for the three months from December 2008 to February 2009 include:

Across the combined private and public sectors, the NHBC received 14,537 new home applications - 59% down from the same period a year ago (35,733). New build completions in the combined private and public sectors totalled 26,918 - 32% lower (39,499). The average number of daily sales of new homes in the UK was 333 - a drop of 37% (525).

NHBC chief executive Imtiaz Farookhi said: "With the number of applications to start new homes in the public sector remaining broadly consistent in recent months, our statistics suggest that house builders are increasingly relying on public sector work in the downturn. 


Private housing starts plunge 72% in latest NHBC figures


"However, with public spending continuing to be squeezed, much greater intervention is required to increase building in the private sector, in particular encouraging private sector house builders to participate in joint delivery schemes, such as those proposed by the Homes and Communities Agency."  

Private Medicare plans get new rules
Mitie says outsourcing market is still attractive
House building falls by 59%

'200 trucks a day' in central London during Crossrail

Lord Berkeley has called for Crossrail to reopen disused Royal Mail tunnels under London to shift spoil from the project and avert traffic chaos in the Capital.

He warned the present plan to dispose of spoil from massive station excavations by lorry threatened traffic gridlock as hundreds of trucks a day are expected to pass through London's busy West End.

Lord Berkeley, who is also chairman of the Rail Freight Group, said: "More than 200 truck movements a day will be needed to shift the spoil from the station excavations like Tottenham Court Road. This will create traffic chaos in London. 

He was speaking at the annual parliamentary reception of the Construction Product Association attended by senior politicians and members of the construction industry.


200 trucks a day in central London during Crossrail


He told "It makes much more sense to use the network of disused Royal Mail tunnels to convey the the tunnelling waste away below the streets of London. The old mail tunnels happen to run very close to the big station sites at Bond Street, Farringdon and Tottenham Court Road.

"It wouldn't take much extra tunnelling to link up the sites and then run converyors or small spoil trains along the former mail train tracks."

He added: "How do you put a price on the cost of running 200 lorries a day through the already congested streets of London."

It is understood the option to reopen the mail tunnels was considered by Crossrail but was rejected in favour of shifting muck by lorry.

Doug Oakervee, Crossrail chairman, is understood to be in favour of the plan to reduce traffic congestion but the rest of the project's board are understood to be against reopening the mail tunnels.

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Carlisle contractor Story buys theme park

Carlisle construction company Story Group has bought Lancashire theme park Camelot out of receivership.

Chief executive Fred Story plans to build houses on the land in the long term, reports the Business Gazette. The theme park, off the M6 at Charnock Richard, near Chorley, had been in receivership since February, but will reopen for this summer.

Joint receiver Lee Ross, of Grant Thornton, said: “This deal has secured more than 150 jobs [at the theme park] in the short term while the new owners submit a planning application for an alternative use for the site.”

Story Group recently made 18 of its staff redundant, blaming the "economic climate".

The firm, which has divisions in construction, house building and rail engineering, turned over ВЈ68.5m and made a ВЈ4.2m pre-tax profit in the financial year to March 2008.

It is also involved with a planned ВЈ120m Marina Village in Barrow, according to the Gazette.

Story, a former Carlisle United owner, established the firm in 1987.

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BAM secures ВЈ150m-plus Edinburgh children's hospital

BAM Construction has held off four rivals to scoop a ВЈ150m-plus framework deal to build the new Royal Hospital for Sick Children in the Little France area of Edinburgh.

Work on site for client NHS Lothian is expected to begin next year, for completion in 2012.

The contract was procured under the new Framework Scotland arrangements now being used for healthcare project north of the border. 

The other contenders were Laing O'Rourke, Interserve, Morrison and a Robertson/Dawn Health joint venture. 

Jackie Sansbury, NHS Lothian's director of strategic planning, said: "We had a difficult choice to make as all of the five principal supply chain partners shortlisted made major efforts.

"But we are confident that BAM will help us deliver a landmark hospital."


BAM secures ВЈ150m-plus Edinburgh childrens hospital


The new hospital will be almost twice the size of the present hospital for sick children, which was built in 1895 and will be linked to, but separate from, the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

Ken McAlpine, construction director of BAM's Scottish operation, claimed: "There are very few projects of this scale and nature, not just in the UK but across the world."

The Edinburgh deal is BAM's second major success under the framework agreement. The first was the ВЈ80m Royal Infirmary in Dumfries.



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Bellevue Center developer asks for year delay for overhaul
Morgan Est wins new Edinburgh Airport contract

Thursday, April 2, 2009

House building falls by 59%

Applications to build new homes dropped 59% in the three months to February compared to the same period a year ago.

Figures released today by the NHBC show they received 14,537 applications to start new homes in the combined private and public sectors during the last quarter compared to 35,733 last time.

NHBC's Chief Executive, Imtiaz Farookhi, said: "The private sector continues to be worst affected, with applications to build new homes in this sector almost three quarters lower in the three months to the end of February than the same period a year ago.

"With the number of applications to start new homes in the public sector remaining broadly consistent in recent months, our statistics suggest that house builders are increasingly relying on public sector work in the downturn.


House building falls by 59%


"However, with public spending continuing to be squeezed, much greater intervention is required to increase building in the private sector, in particular encouraging private sector house builders to participate in joint delivery schemes, such as those proposed by the Homes and Communities Agency."

Of the 14,537 applications to start new homes in the combined private and public sectors during the three months to the end of February, 7,931 related to private sector activity (i.e. excluding housing associations) - 72% lower than the same three-month period a year ago (28,533).

Public sector figures for the three months to the end of February totalled 6,606 - 8% lower than the same period a year ago (7,200).

New build completions in the combined private and public sectors totalled 26,918 in the three months to the end of February - 32% lower than the same period a year ago (39,499).

The average number of daily sales of new homes in the UK from December 2008 to February 2009 was 333 - 37% lower than the same period a year ago (525).

Mitie says outsourcing market is still attractive
VantagePointe development planned

Funding doubt over Olympics construction training centre

A training centre aimed at providing East Londoners with skills for Olympic construction jobs may not be built due to a funding shortfall.

The National Skills Academy for Construction in Leytonstone was supposed to be completed this year, reports the Waltham Forest Guardian.

But following the spending freeze by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), which also threatens the National Construction College, an application for a ВЈ5.9m grant to fund construction of the centre now looks in jeopardy.

A spokeswoman for the LSC said: “This project was approved in principle but it has not yet had approval in full.

“The LSC is currently consulting with the Association of Colleges and other key sector organisations on proposals and a strategy for prioritisation for future projects.”


Funding doubt over Olympics construction training centre


The site is currently empty. A number of “potentially hazardous hollow areas” have been discovered", according to the Guardian, which are currently being filled.

The land is owned by energy firm and Olympic sponsor EDF, which signed a 10-year lease in May 2008.

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Tuition increase is likely this fall
Toyota’s U.S. sales lag GM’s for March, year to date

Welsh trade contractor meets Barack Obama

A Cardiff construction boss has had a week to remember after meeting his political hero Barack Obama last night.

Allan Meek runs ventilation specialist Smoke Control Services and linked-up with the president thanks to his daughter Rosie.

Rosie stars in Channel 4's shipwrecked and works part time in London's Selfridges where she sold a member of the President's staff a pair of sunglasses earlier this week.

The White House man offered Rosie a pair of tickets for Obama's speech at the American School In London last night and she immediately offered one to her father.

Meek and his daughter met the President and his wife Michelle, shook their hands and welcomed them to London.

Meek said: "It was like something out of Goodfellas with all the secret service men in suits running around talking into their walkie talkies.


Welsh trade contractor meets Barack Obama


"It was a real privilege to meet such an inspiring man and his wife, who is even more beautiful in the flesh.

"Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity to talk to him about the smoke control systems they use in the White House – maybe I’ll save that for our next meeting!

"I still can’t believe I got so close to the US President. He’s a very charismatic man and I can see why his American approval rates are so high at the moment."

GM, Chrysler aren’t viable, White House says
Byrne Bros bags ВЈ50m Shard concrete frame deal

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

ВЈ800m data centre for Scotland

Plans for an ВЈ800m data centre near Lockerbie in Scotland were submitted to Dumfries and Galloway Council today.

The proposals include a new business centre and 750 homes and will create 1,000 construction jobs during the ten-year build programme.

Lockerbie Data Centres is behind plans for the ВЈ800m Peelhouses Data Centre and Sustainable Village development.

Lockerbie Data Centres is a wholly owned subsidiary of Robison and Davidson (Holdings) which has been involved in building projects for schools, factories, medical centres and nuclear power stations.

A data centre is used to house computer systems and associated components, such as telecommunications and storage systems.Businesses and public sector organisations are currently moving these facilities out of their offices and into separate purpose-built data centres where the equipment is maintained under optimum conditions and managed by specialists.


ВЈ800m data centre for Scotland


Global demand for data centres is growing at 15% per annum, while the available capacity is growing at 5%.

In addition to the proposed two hundred and fifty thousand square metre Internet Data Centre, the development will include a new business park providing around twenty thousand square metres of hi-tech office space to attract internet companies to the area creating up to a thousand new jobs, and up to 750 new homes of mixed tenure will be incorporated into a traditional south of Scotland village format which will provide a sustainable living environment.

David King, Project Director of Lockerbie Data Centres Ltd said: "We are delighted to be lodging an application for one of the most exciting projects currently taking place in Scotland. And with a new business park and housing this is a major regeneration programme that will be of considerable benefit to Dumfries and Galloway.  Feedback from the local community and a number of key people has been extremely positive and we would like to thank all those involved for their continuing support. We want to provide something encouraging for Lockerbie, with the support of the Council that will put Dumfries and Galloway firmly on the map as world leaders in data centre provision."

£17m sewage scheme for Scottish Highlands beauty spot
People in Business

Hundreds of Scottish home repair workers left in limbo

Hundreds of workers employed to provide repairs and maintenance to Glasgow Housing Association are in limbo after work on the project stalled.

Connaught was due to take on the 235 workers from the council-controlled City Building yesterday. But the BBC reported that Connaught has balked at the size of the pension liability of the new staff. They now have no official employer.

Staff turned up for induction training with Connaught at Hampden stadium on Monday. But they were told that this would not go ahead.

Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) held a meeting with City Building and Connaught and Monday night and said it would continue to mediate until the situation was resolved.

Connaught said it had learned of the pension liabilities it would need to take on for the new staff relatively late. It said they were "significantly higher than had previously been indicated".

A spokesman added: "“We are continuing to pursue all possible avenues to bring this situation to a resolution as quickly as possible, in order to provide peace of mind for tenants and that staff that were to be transferred to us.”


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GM says 7,500 took buyouts, including 310 at Spring Hill

French Caterpillar execs held captive in 'bossnapping' episode

The French arm of equipment manufacturer Caterpillar has been hit by an incident of "bossnapping".

Four of the firm's executives were detained by their employees in a protest over redundancy pay, according to the Times.

Caterpillar is making 733 job cuts in France. Unions want a minimum €30,000 in redundancy pay but Caterpillar is only prepared to pay €10,000

Nicolas Polutnik, the director of the group's factory in Grenoble, south east France, was held along with three senior managers, according to unions demanding a renegotiation with management.

A fifth manager chose to stay with them even though he was free to go.

This is the third incident of "bossnapping" in a month, according to the paper.

Benoi Nicolas, representative of the left-wing Confederation Generale du Travail union, said: "We are holding them in the director's office and we are talking with them so that they agree to open a works council meeting un unblock the negotiations.

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