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Industry leaders call for emergency plan to save UK construction

The Construction Leadership Council has written to the prime minister setting out essential actions to secure the future of the sector.

Research last week showed that without further support nearly half of all companies in the sector face potential failure in the next three months.

Today, in a letter to the prime minister, the Construction Leadership Council has asked the government to implement measures to save cash-strapped companies in the construction supply chain:

Suspend PAYE and CIS tax due to HMRC in April and May for construction and consultancy firms and workers with no financial penalty;

Defer/cancel Apprenticeship Levy payments for the duration of the crisis;

Government to advise all public sector clients, regulated utilities, and firms in the private sector to expedite cash flow throughout the supply chain;

Support the directors of micro-businesses, who currently fall between the support provided by the Job Retention Scheme and assistance for the self-employed;

Direct all government bodies to release all retention monies;

Extend the £25k SME business continuity grants scheme to the construction sector.

In addition, the sector has asked for clear and visible encouragement that the production of building materials continues where possible, and that electrical, plumbing, and general builders’ merchants remain open so that the industry can function.

Andy Mitchell, co-chair of the Construction Leadership Council, said: “The construction industry is a key strategic sector of the UK economy and is playing a vital role in building and maintaining NHS estates, enabling the transport sector to function, and keeping the lights on in homes around the country.

“It is not an either/or question. The UK economy requires a functioning construction sector that can operate safely during this crisis and will rely upon construction workers and companies to get Britain building once we’ve won the war against Covid-19.

“We are calling on the government to take these steps not only to save jobs and companies in the long term, but to ensure our sector can continue to function throughout the weeks and months to come.

“The UK government’s response to this crisis has been bold and necessary. It is time now for it to roll out emergency measures to protect UK construction directly, which is a sector of national strategic importance in good times as well as bad.”

The letter was written by the Construction Leadership Council with support from National Federation of Builders, Civil Engineering Contractors, Build UK, Association for Consultancy & Engineering, Electrical Contractors Association (ECA), Home Builders Federations, Federation of Master Builders, British Property Federation, Construction Products Association, and Construction Industry Council (on behalf of 35 professional institutions and associations).

By Rob O’Connor

Source: Infrastructure Intelligence

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Boris Johnson under pressure to stop non-essential construction work amid coronavirus crisis

Boris Johnson is under growing pressure to stop non-essential construction workers heading to building sites as the country attempts to tackle the spread of coronavirus.

The Prime Minister has faced calls from across the political spectrum for more stringent rules so workers are not placed at risk, and public transport is not overwhelmed.

In an address to the nation on Monday, Mr Johnson told people not to leave their homes and go to work unless “absolutely necessary”.

Stopping non-essential construction would still see building work on new hospitals take place, but would halt the building of new homes.

Asked at PMQs by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn why construction sites had not yet been closed, Mr Johnson said: “Everybody should work at home unless they must go to work.

“If a construction company is continuing, then they must do so in accordance with advice from Public Health England.

Earlier on Wednesday, Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick said work on building sites can continue but workers should practice social distancing.

On Tuesday, Downing Street said that construction work should continue if it can be done following Public Health England (PHE) and industry guidance.

A day later, Mr Jenrick told ITV News: “If your employer thinks they cannot follow those guidelines then they should not be operating just as they shouldn’t be breaching any other form of health and safety guidance or regulation.

“So there’s an important duty on employers to consider whether they can operate within those guidelines and if they can’t then unfortunately they are going to have to temporarily close.”

Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade Barry Gardiner called for construction workers to be supported with “at least the living wage” when not working.

He told ITV News: “People need to know that they are going to have – at minimum – a living wage, then they know they can do the right things by themselves and the right thing by the wider public.

“But you cannot self-isolate on a building site, you cannot self-isolate and observe the social distancing measures if you are on a building site or a hairdresser or the many, many self employed professions.”

On Tuesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said those who cannot work from home, including key workers in the NHS and social care, should go to work “to keep the country running”.

The Health Secretary said construction workers were among those who could continue to work as long as they could remain two metres apart at all times.

But some builders and construction workers have said they feel “angry and unprotected” going to work, while others are under pressure from employers to go in.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s office said the Government must act urgently to get more people staying at home following construction workers reporting to building sites and images of packed Tube trains appearing on social media.

It comes as housebuilder Taylor Wimpey said on Tuesday that it has closed its construction sites, show homes and sale sites due to coronavirus.

Transport for London (TfL) has also said work on its Crossrail sites was being temporarily suspended – but that essential maintenance of the transport network will continue.

Conservative former cabinet minister Sir Iain Duncan Smith added his voice to the calls for non-essential building work to be stopped, telling BBC Two’s Newsnight: “I think the balance is where we should delete some of those construction workers from going to work and focus only on the emergency requirements.”

Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, told the programme: “This decision about allowing non-essential work appears to be taken for economic reasons when actually – when you’re in the middle of a global pandemic – health reasons alone really should be guiding all decision making.”

One of the reasons construction workers are still attending building sites is because they are self-employed.

The Government is also under intense pressure to set out a financial support package for self-employed workers – measures senior Conservative MP Sir Iain said were soon to be announced.

“I believe the Government has reached a conclusion about that, the best way to do it is to look back over the average for the year but that does leave out some who haven’t been self-employed for over a year,” he told Newsnight.

Source: ITV

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Finance provider secures £15m funding to help boost housebuilding

Manchester-based Assetz Capital has become the first property-focused marketplace platform to receive funding from British Business Investments (BBI), a commercial subsidiary of the British Business Bank.

The £15m commitment from British Business Investments will support in excess of £100m of new lending to smaller businesses and smaller housing developers, helping them grow, as well as helping fuel the development of new homes across the UK.

The funding will be used for development finance loans and SME commercial mortgages originated by Assetz Capital.

Stuart Law, Assetz Capital CEO, said: “Assetz Capital was founded to help resolve the housing crisis and create a fairer lending landscape by providing funding to SMEs and property developers who were no longer being fully supported by traditional banks.

“To date, we’ve lent more than £1bn to UK businesses, providing over £100m of much-needed gross income to a community of 38,000 retail and institutional investors in the process.

“The support of British Business Investments is a further milestone in this mission, and we are grateful for their new backing towards our continuing commitment to addressing the housing crisis and SME funding gap.”

He added: “It’s a testament to the impact that can be delivered by Assetz Capital and a welcome addition to our growing stream of institutional funding sources, including other banks and investment funds.”

Catherine Lewis La Torre, British Business Investments CEO, said: “This £15m commitment to Assetz Capital supports British Business Investments’ objective to increase the diversity and supply of finance for smaller businesses across the UK.

“By providing finance to smaller housebuilders, we’re able to help them to fulfil their growth plans and increase the country’s new housing stock.”

Since being founded as a FinTech start-up in 2013, Assetz Capital has lent more than £1bn to smaller businesses and housebuilders, becoming one of the UK’s largest marketplace lenders in the process. It has funded the development of 4,846 homes across the UK.

In addition to funding housing developments, Assetz Capital funds care home construction, purpose-built student accommodation and provides commercial mortgages across a broad range of businesses – all with property as security for the loan.

By Neil Hodgson

Source: The Business Desk

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1.2 million homes need to be built to close the housing gap

The UK housing market is facing grave challenges, according to a recent, in-depth report by the BBC. The Housing Brief points to a figure of a 1.2-million gap of new homes needed to accommodate everyone who currently needs a home. The inability to get on, or progress up the housing ladder is hardly just due to people’s inability to find the best mortgage rate or save up for a deposit.

A 2019 study by Heriot-Watt University estimates that closing this housing gap would take about 15 years at current building rates – and that’s provided that nothing changes, for example that the population doesn’t suddenly expand, or that private building firms don’t build less housing than they do now.

The number of new dwellings added to the UK housing market stood at 275,000 last year, but, as the report explains, this by itself might not be enough to resolve the UK housing crisis by 2030. The current household growth forecast suggests that, even if we are to close the current housing gap in 15 years’ time, by 2035, we will once again have a housing shortage of four million homes. Besides, there is no guarantee that building new homes per se will make them suitable for people’s needs, especially where it comes to affordability.

The lack of new social housing being built is hitting families at risk of homelessness particularly hard: councils are struggling to find suitable accommodation for the increasing number of people struggling to rent privately, with the number of homeless families in the UK standing at 140,000. Only 5,000 of them are rough sleepers, with the rest sleeping in shelters, on friends’ sofas, and in temporary accommodation.

The recommendation of the report is clear: the government can increase housing supply by funding local councils to build more social housing. It also suggests that subsidising private developers could incentivise them to build more affordable housing – although similar schemes in the past haven’t yielded the expected results.

A number of other recommendations from think tanks and research bodies are collected in the report, many of them pointing to the need for regulating private development, the need for further schemes to help young people onto the property ladder, and increasing housing benefit for those struggling to rent privately.

BY ANNA COTTRELL

Source: Real Homes

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New build starts fall in 2019

The number of new build starts fell by 7% to 157,550 in the year to September 2019, signalling that the government is failing to meet its housebuilding targets.

On a more positive note completions rose by 9% to 177,980 – however that is still well short of the government’s aim to deliver 300,000 homes a year.

Clive Docwra, managing director of leading construction consulting and design agency McBains, said: “The government has set a target of delivering a million homes in the next five years, yet today’s figures show that the construction industry is way off meeting those rates on current trends.

“Annual new build starts in the year to September 2019 saw a decrease of 7% on the previous year, and while completions totalled close to 178,000, we need to be building more than 200,000 homes each year to meet the government’s ambitions.

“Last month’s Queen’s Speech contained lots of detail on demand-side measures – such as first-time buyers being offered a discount on purchases – but nothing on the supply side.

“The government needs to set out how it intends to boost housebuilding and increase the supply of new homes needed to tackle the housing crisis, such as freeing up more land to build and cutting red tape on planning.”

New build dwelling starts in England were estimated at 39,510 in Q4 2019, a 2% increase compared to the previous three months and an 11% increase on a year earlier.

Completions were estimated at 46,000, a 2% increase from the previous quarter and 11% higher than a year ago.

BY RYAN BEMBRIDGE

Source: Property Wire

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Plans to build 400 homes on land near Nuneaton’s largest tip

A decision on whether 400 homes could be built on land near to Nuneaton’s largest tip will be made in the New Year.

New plans have been submitted to Nuneaton and Bedworth Council to build a mini housing estate on land off Tuttle Hill.

A target decision date of February 14, 2020 has been set for the plans, which are the second to be submitted.

It was in May last year that proposals were first sent to the Town Hall, but they did not ever get to the stage where they were debated.

This followed a public consultation in November 2017, when plans for a local centre which would include uses such as a ‘canalside’ pub, doctors surgery, shops, a coffee shop and small hotel were on the table.

However, the latest proposals are simply for up to 400 homes to be built, with two access points off Tuttle Hill, landscaping, open space and two new bridges over the Coventry Canal.

What the plans show

The homes will be split into phases and be built to the right of the entrance to the tip.

It includes the current building, used as offices, at the main entrance.

There are new bridges over the canal and an access point at the side of the new development.

What happens next?

Residents can look at the plans and make comments during public consultation, which will run until December 10.

They can be viewed on the council’s website, searching for planning application number 035595.

Once the public consultation is over, any comments will be reviewed before the target decision date in the middle of February.

It is likely that the plans will be debated by the Town Hall’s planning applications committee.

By Claire Harrison

Source: Coventry Telegraph

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New build homes drive UK housing supply increase

UK housing supply soared in the year to the end of March driven by an increase in the number of new homes being built.

There were 241,130 net additional dwellings, up nine per cent on the previous period, with new build homes accounting for 213,660.

Change of use was the second biggest driver behind the spike in accommodation, creating 29,260 additional dwellings.

In total, 14,107 of the net additions through change of use were made using permitted development rights, meaning full planning permission is not required. Of those, 12,032 were former office buildings converted into residential accommodation.

There were also 5,220 new homes added by converting houses to flats and 940 other gains from caravans and boats

Vadim Toader, founder and chief executive of fintech firm Proportunity, said: “Britain’s failure to build enough homes for the past few decades is a key factor behind the affordability we face today and so today’s figures showing housebuilding is at a record high are welcome news.

“However, years of weak wage growth and a challenging savings environment have taken their toll and so many still need a helping hand to get on to the housing ladder”.

“The industry must build on this success, and cannot rest on its laurels,” Andrew Southern, chairman of property developer Southern Grove, added.

“The property market is crying out for more new homes, the demand is there and local authorities, particularly in the cities, need to be open to creative ways of encouraging more affordable schemes in high density areas.”

By Jessica Clark

Source: City AM

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Controversial Armagh housing scheme to be recommended for approval

A controversial plan for a new housing development in the Ashley area of Armagh is to be recommended for approval two years after proposals were first revealed.

As Armagh I reported in November 2017, an application had been submitted to build 47 houses at a cost close to £3.5 million.

Amended plans were brought forward almost a year later with a new application on a smaller scale.

And it is this – consisting of a total of 38 properties – which planning officials at Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council are poised to recommend for approval.

The new development would have access from Ashley Gardens.

It is described currently as a site made up of “agricultural lands”.

The exact location is given as “lands at Ashley Park (adjacent and west of No’s 7-9 11 12 14-16 Ashley Gardens adjacent and south of No’s 2 3 4 and 4a Ashley Heights adjacent and east of No’s 88 90 92 94 96 and 98 Newry Road and adjacent and north of No’s 8 10 12 and 14 Ashley Avenue)”.

A total of 13 objections had been received in response to the original application, some from the same objectors.

The applicant behind the proposals is Silverbridge-based Blackgate Development Ltd.

The development would consist of two-storey semi-detached and detached homes.

Among those objecting are residents who feel their properties will be impacted upon as they are living in bungalows.

One wrote that they were “deeply unhappy and distressed” by the proposals and insisted that “the surrounding properties are all bungalows”.

She claimed there would be a “loss of natural light”, “loss of privacy” and “loss of view” if proposals proceeded.

The objections and the amended plans have now been considered and planners are of the view that the scheme should be allowed.

That is the opinion which will be presented to the planning committee of ABC Council when it sits on Wednesday.

Councillors there will be tasked with making final decisions.

By Micheal McKenna

Source: Armagh i

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Build-to-rent sector up 20% in Q3

The build-to-rent sector grew by 20% year-on-year to 148,000 homes in Q3, research from the British Property Federation (BPF) has revealed.

This includes all build-to-rent homes completed, under construction or in planning across the UK.

The number of units in planning has increased by 23% alone to 77,446.

The average size of build-to-rent developments is also growing.

In Q3 2019, the average size of each completed build-to-rent scheme was 133 units, this increases to 245 units for the schemes under construction, while the average size of schemes in the planning system is higher still at 325 units.

Geographically, growth of the sector is spread evenly between London and the regions, with both areas seeing total growth of 20%.

The number of build-to-rent units inside the capital and in the regions is also similar at 63,200 and 60,337 respectively.

However, in terms of units completed the regions saw the biggest increase, with a significant rise of 41% over the year to Q3 2019.

Ian Fletcher, director of real estate policy at the British Property Federation, said: “The build-to-rent sector continues to attract investment and deliver much needed homes.

“Not only do we have an impressive 31% growth in completions between Q3 2018 and Q3 2019, but the pipeline of new projects is also strengthening.

“Right across the country we are seeing growth in the sector, allowing people to access high quality, institutionally-managed rental properties.

“With both Labour and the Conservatives prioritising house building during their recent party conferences, our data shows build-to-rent is making an important contribution to housing delivery and often on difficult to develop and large urban sites.”

Jacqui Daly, director of Savills Residential Research who conducted the research for the BPF, added: “As individual households increasingly cannot afford to access the housing market, particularly once help to buy is withdrawn, so demand for the quality rented homes the sector provides will rise.

“Built-to-rent already makes a significant contribution to housing delivery, and we project this will increase to one in five new homes as more and more people rely on renting.

“This will change the housebuilder model, with bulk sales to investors growing their share of housing delivery.

“In our opinion, in 10 years, the customer lists of housebuilders will see pension funds and life insurers alongside first-time buyers and second steppers.

“Rather than shouldering the full burden of risk, housebuilders will act as master contractors, forging long-term partnerships with landowners and investors.”

By Ryan Fowler

Source: Mortgage Introducer

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Number of new builds registered in England and Wales up almost 8%

There was a 7.9% increase in new builds submitted with the Land Registry for registration in England and Wales in August this year compared to the same month in 2018, official data shows.

Of the 93,574 sales received for registration in August 2019 some 72,806 were freehold, a 4.5% decrease on August 2018, and 12,411 were newly built, a 7.9% increase on August 2018.

The number of detached properties registered reached 22,213, up from the 21,968 recorded in July and 18,523 in June. Semi-detached were the most popular with 25,283 registered in August, up from 24,848 in July and 21,623 in June.

But terraced homes were equally popular with 25,244 registered in August, up from 25,115 registered in July, but this was down on the 21,721 registered in June, the data also shows.

There were 15,565 flats and maisonettes registered in August, down from the 15,915 registered in July but up from the 14,393 registered in June.

The most expensive residential property sold in August was in the City of Westminster for £16.5 million while the cheapest residential property sold in August was in Sunderland for £18,500.

The most expensive commercial sale taking place in August 2019 was in Southwark for £129.3 million and the cheapest commercial sale was in St. Helens for £105.

There were 743 residential properties in England and Wales for £1 million and over registered, of which 410 were in Greater London, five in the West Midlands, six in Greater Manchester and one in Wales.

Source: Property Wire