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Last updateFri, 20 Oct 2017 3pm

Are elevated cycleways pie-in-the-sky, and is a link to Ireland a bridge too far?

Construction National blog logoIn contrast to my post last month, when the story on infrastructure projects was all about small-scale local activity, this week the emphasis has been on ideas for BIG infrastructure projects – some completely off the wall, but others with a modicum of practicality about them.

It was all down to a series of articles on the Beeb website detailing some of the dreams of architects and planners. First out of the blocks were five ideas which were postulated by their proponents to “improve life in the UK”. The first clutch all seemed to build on existing or past entities to help us get around: a tunnel at Welwyn North, a motorway for the east, a bridge to the Isle of Wight (my favourite), a Channel road tunnel and trams for Liverpool and Leeds.

The latter doesn’t seem to be anything special – we have them in Manchester, Sheffield and famously Blackpool, so why not all the major cities? The idea is for the systems in Liverpool and Leeds to replace the hugely expensive HS2 project and is being supported by the think tank the New Economics Foundation.

The author of its report on the plan, David Theiss, said: “Our research shows the government is backing the wrong horse. Instead of pouring billions of pounds into a single line that will take twenty years to complete we should be spreading our bets on a wider range of transport investments that offer better value for money.”

Read more: Are elevated cycleways pie-in-the-sky, and is a link to Ireland a bridge too far?

There is optimism in the air and an architectural superstar on TV

Construction National blog logoThe construction industry is finally turning the corner, according to the latest RICS Construction Market Survey, with new projects on the rise in most parts of the country. Even Northern Ireland registered a modest rise. The region has been stubbornly resisting the urge to pick up even when there were signs of growth elsewhere.

According to the RICS: “Since the start of 2013…activity has slowly begun to pick up. During the second quarter of the year a net balance of 21% more surveyors reported rises in workloads, the most positive reading in over six years. While consistently falling activity has meant that projects are still generally speaking thin on the ground, this upturn may suggest that the worst could now be over for the sector.”

The institution’s chief economist Simon Rubinsohn did sound a note of caution: “It is clearly good news that the amount of construction taking place across the country seems to have turned a corner. But this modest improvement comes after a long period of contraction and many businesses in the sector are still struggling to keep their heads above water.”

Wouldn’t do to get carried away, would it?

Read more: There is optimism in the air and an architectural superstar on TV

Bandwagons role as the site managers gird their loins for the fray

Getting Britain building is still the BIG IDEA, with the encouragement of housing developments at the forefront.

Accordingly, the Homes and Communities Agency – part of the Department for Just About Everything – has announced the release of a new tranche of public land for development. It is part of a programme that will see land with capacity for up to 100,000 homes released for development by 2015.

The announcement coincided with the announcement that the shake-up of the planning process trumpeted by the DCLG will commence later this month. Henceforth, only major developments, some designated developments and Listed Building Consent, will require Design and Access Statements.

It appears that the number of developments receiving planning consent is already on the rise. The aforementioned HCA quoted a Home Builders Federation report showing the number of consents rose from 118,723 to 144,427 since the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) came into force last year. 

Read more: Bandwagons role as the site managers gird their loins for the fray

There’s a lot going on in the North – and the South. And Happy Birthday, Baron Rogers of Riverside!

Logo for Construction National blogWhile engaging in some background research for an article on regional construction activity in the North West, I came across the intriguing fact that there are no fewer than 50 regeneration projects going on in Cumbria alone. That is astonishing. At a time when activity is said to be at a low ebb, with funding dried up and bank lending non-existent, a small rural county in the far North West is virtually re-inventing itself.

How can this be? It is a reflection of an issue the RICS has been banging on about for some time: that the most effective and beneficial infrastructure projects are small in scale and local in scope, employing small businesses that in turn employ local people.

Read more: There’s a lot going on in the North – and the South. And Happy Birthday, Baron Rogers of Riverside!

Pickles ups the ante and the Lords look for legacy, but not in the architects’ statistics

Today the House of Lords Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Committee quizzed former Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell and Ken Livingstone, who was Mayor of London when the successful bid was made.

The Committee has a number of issues to investigate regarding both the sporting and infrastructure ‘legacy’. Ken admitted as long ago as 2008 that the reason he “trapped” the then-Labour Government into the bid was to attract the billions of pounds of public investment into the area of East London that was earmarked for the site. The development of what was for a long time a derelict part of the capital has been a major achievement.

Read more: Pickles ups the ante and the Lords look for legacy, but not in the architects’ statistics