Councils will enable more homes to be built

Councils will enable more homes to be built

Councils can play a greater role in getting the country building and create new jobs in the trades, an independent review has shown.

In their report to the government, Natalie Elphicke and Councillor Keith House argue for councils to be put at the heart of providing more homes across all tenures in their local area.

Under their proposals, councils would become “housing delivery enablers” – assessing the housing need of their area, working with businesses, housing associations and others to provide the homes their residents want and need to build strong and sustainable communities.

In particular, the report urges councils to consider how they can actively support smaller and start-up housing businesses locally – whether with land, finance or training.

Ms Elphicke and Councillor House also urge the government to take steps to support councils as they take on this new role.

Natalie Elphicke said: “All hands are needed on deck. Unlocking councils will help to deliver the homes we need and get more young people onto the housing ladder.

We have talked for a decade. There have been many great reforms. Now it’s time for councils to foster a home-building revolution.”

Councillor Keith House said: “We have seen some inspiring examples of councils driving housing for their areas, particularly where they have set up housing companies to drive forward housebuilding. With skills and confidence, more councils can help to deliver that step-change in housing supply.

Councils will be central to a successful step-change in housebuilding. It’s now time for action not words. Our report sets out how that can happen.”

Win a share of £100k and cut your energy bills

Win a share of £100k and cut your energy bills

A share of £100,000 is up for grabs as part of a new community energy competition launched today by Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Edward Davey.

Community groups and other eligible organisations across England are invited to apply for the funding to develop innovative energy-saving ideas that could help slash energy bills.

Ideas can be anything from hosting an energy advice stall in your local shopping centre, to crowd-funding solar panels for your local church or running a ‘buddy’ programme to help vulnerable households get to grips with their energy bills, switch energy suppliers and save money.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey said: “We’re looking for communities to tell us how they want to take control of the energy they use so they can cut their bills.

Local people will know what works best in their areas, and their ideas will help driving even more investment into local energy projects.”

The competition is open to all community groups that are registered as legal entities – such as local authorities or parish councils, charities, faith groups, social landlords, trusts, community interest companies or co-operatives.

The successful applications will be able to demonstrate the biggest potential drop in energy consumption and bills.

Applications close on 10 February 2015, with the winners due to be announced shortly afterwards. Successful applicants will need to deliver their idea by the end of March 2015.

Visit the Community energy webpage for more information or to apply.

Record funding for seaside towns to kick-start jobs and boost the trades

Record funding for seaside towns to kick-start jobs and boost the trades

Seaside attractions across England are to benefit from a record £36 million government investment to boost growth in coastal areas.

Blackpool’s iconic illuminations are one of many seaside attractions across England to benefit from a record £36 million government investment to boost growth in coastal areas.

The money – from the Coastal Communities Fund – will support projects that will create nearly 3,000 jobs and almost 1,500 apprenticeships and training places.

Coastal Communities Minister Penny Mordaunt said: “Backing our coastal towns so they can rise up and drive forward their local economies is a key part of our long-term economic plan to secure a brighter future for Britain.

This money will help create jobs, boost skills and open up new business opportunities, benefitting hard-working people in coastal communities across the country.

These fantastic projects demonstrate the creativity, enterprise and passion needed to help seaside towns become year round destinations that people are proud to live and work in.”

Supporting coastal communities to unlock their enormous potential, boost local economies and contribute to the wider area is an important part of the government’s long-term economic plan.

Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: “I created the Coastal Communities Fund because, as someone who grew up on a small island, I know how much difference targeted investment can make to people’s lives.

Overall, hundreds of communities across the UK will benefit, creating jobs and making sure that some of our most remote and fragile communities share in the economic recovery.”

Projects to benefit include:

Blackpool’s world famous illuminations receive nearly £2 million to help create new light shows that will become a major tourist attraction and create and support nearly 550 new jobs

Tate St Ives will get £3.8 million to help extend the art gallery so it can welcome 76,000 new visitors a year to the area and create more than 200 local jobs

a cycle and walking path in Dawlish linking the town centre with the iconic Exe Estuary Trail tourist route and designed to increase visitor numbers will receive £1.3 million and create more than 35 local jobs

Scarborough’s historic market will get £2.7 million to refurbish the market and create space for 30 new businesses creating more than 80 jobs and apprenticeships

Balfour Beatty appointed for £120m Essex Uni housing project

Balfour Beatty appointed preferred bidder for £120m Essex Uni housing project

Balfour Beatty, the international infrastructure group, announces today that it has been appointed preferred bidder for the University of Sussex‘s East Slope Residences project.

In partnership, alongside the University, Balfour Beatty will design, build, finance and operate the project under a 50 year contract that will boost the local economy and create new jobs.

Subject to planning approval, the project will replace an existing 600 bed facility on the University’s campus with a new living space comprising 2,000 new bedrooms in a range of formats including townhouses and some with ensuite facilities.

It will also incorporate innovative student amenities such as social hubs and new student union facilities. Construction is anticipated to start in 2016, and would be delivered by Balfour Beatty’s UK construction services business.

Balfour Beatty’s investment business has achieved considerable success in the student accommodation market, developing a portfolio of 15 projects (including those currently at preferred bidder), across the UK, US and Australia.

Leo Quinn, Balfour Beatty Group Chief Executive, said: “Following the revaluation of the portfolio last week, this project demonstrates the continued value our Investments business brings to the whole Group. We look forward to supporting the University with their growth ambitions and delivering on their sustainability targets.”

Government and industry creating growth for the UK

Government and industry creating pipeline of growth for the UK

Skills Minister Nick Boles has announced £1.1 million of government funding to match £1.7 million of industry investment to help create a legacy of engineering jobs and skills from major projects.

The project brings together industry leaders, including Crossrail-linked employers, working on major tunnelling and underground construction projects. It follows a successful bid from the group for funding through the government’s Employer Ownership Pilot.

Skills Minister Nick Boles said: “Our investment in major infrastructure projects has established the UK as a world-leader in tunnelling and underground construction.

Crossrail alone is supporting in the region of 55,000 jobs and with other major projects planned we want to go even further, to create a jobs legacy for future generations and give the industry the skills it needs to dig deeper and further.”

This project will create a new industry partnership involving tunnelling and underground construction employers, to generate lasting benefits for current and future engineers.

Part of the partnership’s work will see the creation of a new Industry Advisory Panel (IAP), representing all Crossrail-linked employers and future large tunnelling employers, working together to identify ways to grow the industry.

Terry Morgan, Crossrail Chairman said: The volume of tunnelling and underground construction work taking place in the UK over the next decade is unprecedented.

Crossrail, in partnership with its principal contractors, has delivered the most significant injection of new skills in a generation. It is essential that we continue to grow the industry’s talent base to ensure Britain remains at the forefront of major infrastructure delivery.”

More than £460 billion of public and private investment will be made into the UK’s economic infrastructure by 2020.

Government schemes make winter warmer for one million homes

Government schemes make winter warmer for one million homes

By the end of November, the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) and Green Deal package had delivered new boilers, windows and insulation to 1,021,000 homes.

A substantial part of work under ECO helped people with chilly, damp homes at risk of fuel poverty and also had an impact in rural areas where leaky properties can cost over the odds to heat.

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey said: “Helping to make one million homes in Britain warmer through energy efficiency is great news – and to hit our target early is even better.

One million extra homes already have permanently lower energy bills – whether that’s thanks to better insulation or more effective boilers. The challenge now is to continue this drive – and our next instalment of the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund is coming soon.”

Energy and Climate Change Minister Amber Rudd said:“More than one million homes across the country – including over 28,000 homes in rural areas – are enjoying a warmer, cheaper and greener winter thanks to our policies.

I want to see energy companies continue to deliver their obligations so more people can reap the benefits and stay warm this winter and every winter.”

The new figures were revealed in today’s statistical report on the government’s home energy efficiency programmes, covering the period up to the end of November.

On top of extending ECO to 2017, the 1 million milestone comes a month after the government allocated £24 million to help over 5,000 homes receive up to £4000 back for installing solid wall insulation, through the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund.

Up to a further £6 million is still up for grabs – homeowners can apply for up to £1600 if they install two measures from a list of home improvements under the fund.

This £30 million fund is part of an additional £100 million pot announced in October 2014, with the next release expected in February 2015. This is all on top of the £450 million already set aside for household energy efficiency over 2014-7.

In addition, a new £25 million grant announced as part of the Autumn Statement will see an extra 8000 low-income households benefit from first-time central heating for off gas grid homes.

Government kick-starts building of new business centre

Government kick-starts building of new business centre

An iconic former flour mill at the heart of London’s Royal Docks Enterprise Zone is set to be transformed into a vibrant centre for business and enterprise , Local Growth Minister Penny Mordaunt announced this week.

The transformation will deliver 5 million square feet of business and retail space, more than 20,000 new jobs, 3,000 new homes and contribute £260 million each year to the London economy.

The Millennium Mills site has been out of use since the early 1980s but work has now begun to demolish parts of the interiors and rid the building of asbestos contamination. The funding will fast track its renovation by five years and make it ready to welcome the next generation of start-up businesses by 2017.

Redevelopment of the 450,000 square feet land-mark, one of the last remaining heritage buildings on the River Thames, forms the centrepiece of a wider £3.5 billion project to transform the Silvertown Quays part of the Royal Docks from the industrial to the digital age.

It is the latest in a string of exciting investments at London’s Royal Docks Enterprise Zone, including plans to create the UK’s largest floating village at Royal Victoria Dock and the ABP business port at Royal Albert Dock.

The Local Growth Minister visited the site with London’s Deputy Mayor for housing and Land, Richard Blakeway, to see how work was progressing.

She said: “It’s great to see work starting on Millennium Mills at London’s Enterprise Zone. This iconic building, once a symbol of decline, will be the centrepiece of a thriving new business district that will create thousands of new jobs and bring prosperity back to the docks.

That’s why we are investing £12 million to kick-start this project. It’s all part of a long-term economic plan that is driving business forward and delivering real benefits to hard-working people.”

The £12m funding has granted through the Government’s Building Foundations for Growth Enterprise Zones Capital Grant fund.

European investment to support economic growth

Welsh Government

Wales and Ireland are set to benefit from a unique £80 million European programme that will help strengthen economic links between the two countries.

The investment for the Ireland Wales programme 2014-2020 was announced today by the Welsh Government Minister for Finance and Government Business, Jane Hutt, during a meeting of the National Assembly for Wales’ Enterprise and Business Committee.

The programme will see Welsh and Irish partners working together on collaborative and innovative projects in the areas of innovation, climate change, cultural and natural resources, heritage and tourism.

Welsh Government Finance Minister, Jane Hutt, said:”I’m delighted to announce that the European Commission has agreed in principle a new £80 million Ireland-Wales Co-operation programme, with formal approval expected in the coming weeks.

Wales is perfectly located for doing business with Ireland and provides a link to the UK market and Europe beyond.

There are also strong synergies between Irish aspirations and those of the Welsh Government on driving sustainable economic growth and jobs for our two Nations.

We will continue to work together to explore effective co-operation opportunities in an increasingly global economic and, indeed, social environment.”

Managed by the Welsh Government in partnership with Irish authorities, including the Southern Regional Assembly and Irish Government, people and communities within the south-east region of Ireland and the north and west of Wales areas will benefit from the EU funding programme.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Mr Brendan Howlin, said that: “This investment will, once more, further underline the increasing importance we all attach to the growing collaboration across the Ireland-Wales maritime border and will allow us to build on the considerable achievements of previous and current programmes”.

Apprentices rebuild town’s historic buildings and boost growth

Apprentices rebuild town's historic buildings and boost growth

A group of construction students have renovated two abandoned Luton properties – including an iconic hat factory – under a revolutionary training scheme backed by celebrity builder Tommy Walsh.

Engineering Real Results, the largest trades training organisation in the UK, has spent months buying up neglected and derelict properties in a multi-million pound move which gives young tradespeople work opportunities and essential skills in the trades.

The scheme allows students to comply with Government rules which demand apprentices carry out 100 hours practical training.

The rule has forced apprentices onto the streets begging for unpaid work for decades. Now they can complete their qualifications in weeks rather than years.

Dr Jan Telensky, the financial angel behind the scheme said there have been thousands of new construction jobs this year as builders attempt to meet Government targets – but apprentices who spent years learning to become plumbers, gas fitters, bricklayers and electrician have been missing out because of the legislation.

He said: “Our own apprentices were losing out. This new scheme, New Vocational Quickstart, involves renovating properties across the country and enables them to get there NVQ in just weeks instead of years.”

The company has also been buying properties in Watford, Cardiff, Southampton, Featherstone in Yorkshire, Livingstone, West Lothian, Cardiff, Basildon and Wolverhampton.

And in an unprecedented move to help young families get onto the housing ladder Dr Telensky hopes to offer some of the properties for sale at discounted prices to the students who worked on them.

A spokesman for Brighter Homes, part of the Engineering Real Results organisation, set up to supply practical training for students, said: “We are committed to getting students into work and if we can help them get onto the housing ladder too that would be brilliant.”

Chairman of BPEC, the NVQ certification organisation and charity, Frank Glover said: “For too long you could study to get into the industry and then you had to find an employer and that wasn’t always easy. The red tape creates a blockage in the labour market. But this scheme is a fantastic solution, it allows people to get real hands-on experience.”

Paul Senior, chairman of the National Federation of Builders, also backed the scheme, saying: “Anything to provide training and experience to young construction students is a very good thing. The industry is very dependent on up-to-date skills and experience and we welcome innovative solutions such as Engineering Real Results.”

Willmott Dixon helps residential development project

Willmott Dixon

Willmott Dixon has followed up its recent deal to cross-fund Brentford FC’s new stadium by developing 1,000 homes with a similar arrangement that will allow a Hertfordshire school to build much needed new facilities.

The company was chosen by Cornerstone for a deal with Cheshunt School to cross-fund a range of enhancements by developing 88 homes within the school site in Broxbourne, subject to the necessary planning consents.

The homes will be created by Prime Place, Willmott Dixon’s private sale brand, and provide a mix of apartments and a range of family homes of up to four bedrooms.

Proceeds raised by the housing development will be used to enhance the school with modern facilities such as a new technology block providing better accommodation to teach science, design & technology, creative arts and ICT.

The school will also have a remodelled main classroom block to create a new entrance lobby, staircases and new circulation route, plus an updated admin block to link with the new technology facility.

The additional scope includes improving the sports fields with new changing facilities, while a second phase will see the provision of a new school and community sports hall with dedicated entrance and parking.

It’s another example of how Willmott Dixon’s development model is delivering new public facilities at no cost to the taxpayer. The company is also working with Westminster City Council to create two new leisure facilities at no cost to the council by cross-funding them with over 100 new homes.