How the Housing White Paper aims to fix ‘Britain’s Broken Housing Market’
The start of this month saw the publication of Fixing Our Broken Housing Market, a far reaching White Paper on Britain’s housing market. Its aim is to address the UK’s housing crisis by increasing density in urban centres and the creation of Garden Towns. Greater local authority control over planning applications and more affordable housing are among the other proposals.
The White Paper opens with the line that the UK’s housing market is broken. It also states how fewer young people are getting on the property ladder. To fix Britain’s Broken Housing Market, it suggests speeding up the development time of new schemes from three years on average to two years. It states the need to build houses “in the right places”, which in layperson’s terms could be due to market forces as well as localised plans.
Also part of the prescription is greater transparency in the planning system. That in the context of local infrastructure needs, from health centres to shopping precincts and bus routes. It also proposes greater competition in the housing market. This part of the white paper is traditional post-1980 Conservative Party thinking. That of challenger companies hoping to ruffle the feathers of established incumbents. On the other hand, this could allow for innovative thinking by architects and self-builders.
The White Paper in relation to affordable housing
Towards the end of the paper, the fourth step focuses on affordable housing. An income eligibility cap of £80,000 is proposed (or £90,000 in London) for starter homes, a plan which aims to offer affordable housing for key workers. Another proposal entails the definition of Affordable Private Rented Housing: in other words, rent controls for privately let houses.
The White Paper offers some extra powers for community involvement and the local authority’s role in planning applications. But the paper doesn’t go far enough. There is nothing in the paper about clamping down on bogus landlords (Rachmanism). There are no immediate solutions like rent controls. It is clearly a case of ‘must try harder’: a C- grade in our view.
How Hard Brexit could have a negative impact on construction industry skills
The end of next month could see the triggering of Article 50 by Prime Minister Theresa May. This, being the first part of Britain’s divorce proceedings with the EU, could see the construction industry at a crossroads. The negotiation process, all being well, is set to take two years. What has concerned many EU nationals and businesses is the kind of Brexit terms we may be about to receive.
Among the biggest critics is Balfour Beatty, the well known civil engineering business noted for motorways and railways. The contracting giant expressed its concerns for the future of the rail industry in a recently published paper. It warned that:
“Uncertainty around the free movement of labour in the EU could increase the industry’s recruitment and staffing difficulties as it may no longer be able to handpick highly skilled engineers from other EU countries as is currently the case.”
This is where Hard Brexit is going to make employing people from Mainland Europe and the Republic of Ireland difficult. With the Hard Brexit, there is no freedom of movement. The United Kingdom could only be subject to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. This would also mean severing ties with the European Economic Area countries (all EU Member States plus some outside including Norway and Switzerland), the Customs Union, and the Schengen Agreement. The last enables free trade with the Republic of Ireland and the Isle of Man.
Recently, Balfour Beatty has recruited personnel from Greece and Portugal, who have helped to modernise Britain’s railways. Only 0.2% of applicants came from non-EU countries, citing bureaucracy as its principal issue.
Furthermore, exiting the European Union will exacerbate skills shortages in the rail industry. According to their sources, the average age of rail engineers is 56 years old. This is no good if the future Sir Nigel Gresley is separated by visa and work permit issues as well as the English Channel.
With the House of Lord’s inflicting yet another defeat for Government momentarily securing the rights of EU nationals and with HS2 being given Royal Assent, Balfour Beatty’s fears are well and truly justifiable.
The introduction of CN’s Mind Matters campaign has drawn a great response from the industry. Workers in the industry have shared their experiences which are hugely beneficial for the campaign aiming to tackle high male depression and anxiety impacting their well-being as well as the economy.
Working in the construction industry can lead to many workers feeling stressed, this can also have an effect on their personal life. As the industry is very demanding, when things go wrong this can have a huge psychological effect on their wellbeing. “The construction industry is made up of 2.1 million people in the UK, that’s 6% of the UK workforce. In England & Wales, 1 in 6 workers has experienced depression, anxiety or other stress related problems. This suggests that 350,000 construction workers may be affected. This was a study carried out by the Office of National Statistics in 2009.” (Information obtained from https://www.thenbs.com/knowledge/mental-health-and-wellbeing)
So why are construction industry professionals badly affected?
The construction industry is a very demanding workplace not just for workers but also managers. The pressures caused by the working patterns and demands can have a huge impact on emotional health and wellbeing. As the construction industry is male dominated, there is additional pressure on workers to comply with male stereotypes which often expect men to deal with issues without asking for help, causing them a great deal of stress.
“The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is an award-winning charity dedicated to preventing male suicide, the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK. In 2015, 75% of all UK suicides were male.”
This doesn’t just impact them mentally and physically, it leads to an economic effect as well. “Issues caused by mental health is responsible for people taking off 70 million days off sick per year, the most for any health condition. This is costing the UK economy 70 billion and 100 billion a year.” ( Information obtained from https://www.thenbs.com/knowledge/mental-health-and-wellbeing)
Workers at all levels provided feedback that will benefit the campaign’s success:
“Generally being stressed out in construction is considered to be the norm. There is a perception that if you are not stressed you are not busy enough.”
“I am very happy in my current role; however, I continue to suffer from depression and anxiety in my personal life. If I ever feel down at work currently I do my best to hide this and tend to stay quiet.”
“Any mistake I make, no matter how small, seems so incredibly big and it’s very difficult to get past it. I go home feeling depressed, can’t sleep and think about it for days afterwards. The feeling keeps getting deeper and the problem keeps seeming bigger.”
“In our industry we work long, draining days. It takes a long time to switch off and even when you’re asleep your head is still racing. This is not healthy.”
“I have worked with several people who have suffered mental health issues as a result of stress and other factors either at home or the workplace. In one case a man committed suicide.”
There are many support groups being introduced into the construction industry to help workers deal with any issues they may have. Here are a few charities and support groups to help you or anyone you know dealing with stress at work:
Mainer Associates are responding to new projects in Oxfordshire and are proud to announce that we are opening our third office in the UK at Milton Park. We are excited to continue working on a range of different projects across Milton Park and the wider region. While we look to serve our existing clients in the area, Mainer Associates are aiming to create new contacts as we look to expand further.
The new office is part of the Innovation Centre at Milton Park. Milton Park itself is home to over 340 businesses and over 12,000 workers making it a vibrant and dynamic place to do business. Our presence at Milton Park will enable us to improve delivering integrated sustainability services quickly and directly to clients across the South of England.
Our new address at Milton Park:
Milton Park Innovation Centre
99 Park Drive
We now take enquiries on 01235 854042.
For more information about Milton Park please visit http://www.miltonpark.co.uk/.
A look at ESOS, HM Government’s Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme
Saving energy could be seen as our tithe for saving the environment. More than ever, in our short time on Earth, we need to apply this approach openly and transparently. One idea is ESOS, Her Majesty’s Government’s Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme.
ESOS is the UK’s implementation ofArticle 8, sections 4 to 6 of the European Union’s Energy Efficiency Directive (2012/27/EU) and only time will tell whether this Directive will remain post Brexit. The crux of ESOS is its assessment procedure which takes into account energy consumption across the business, and identifies where savings could be made.
Companies based in the UK, employing more than 250 employees, must comply with the scheme. The scheme not only applies to the company’s on-site activities; an ESOS assessment takes into account the carbon footprint for travel to and from the premises. For example, business travel or commercial vehicles used from one site to another.
Under ESOS, energy includes combustible fuels, heat sources (including surplus heat from industrial processes), electricity, and renewable energy. All energy use is covered. For Combined Heat and Power installations, you only need to record incoming fuel levels.
How ESOS works around your energy requirements
The Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme encourages your business to better manage its energy consumption. After assessment, your company is encouraged to identify energy saving opportunities. Instead of a train journey or a long drive, videoconferencing could be considered for meetings. Smart meters could be installed with improved energy consumption reporting facilities available. And renewable energy solutions could be considered to deliver a proportion of demand.
What’s more, some of the energy saving solutions may require little outlay. Existing computer systems could be used for teleconferencing, your next meeting could be a Skype or Facetime call away. Smart meters can be added to your premises free of change. All you need to do is contact your electricity supplier.
ESOS is about continuous development rather than a short term fix. It highlights opportunities for businesses and those that get on board with that process rather than seeing it as red tape, will get the most out.
High demand sees increased shelf space for solar energy products
Almost a year ago, after three years, IKEA stopped selling solar energy products. Last April, they had a change of heart and reinstated them. Their two month hiatus coincided with a change of supplier. Before November 2015, their supplier of solar panels was Hanenergy. Their present-day supplier is Solarcentury.
By January 2017, sales picked up. Demand for its range of sustainable energy products have risen by 13.3%. This has included LED lighting, water meters and rechargeable batteries, as well as residential solar energy systems. As to how much of the 13.3% rise in sales were solar panels remains to be seen.
Solar energy has consolidated itself as a renewable form of energy for commercial and residential properties. Recent incentives have made PV renewable energy popular with households. IKEA’s success is in spite of HM Government cuts to the feed-in tariff. Their PV renewable energy systems were first sold in three IKEA stores: Lakeside, Birmingham, and Glasgow and soon, all of its UK stores will have the full range.
The solar panels sold in IKEA stores today are more efficient than those supplied by Hanenergy. Theirs were made of thin film, which lacked the energy efficiency and reliability of the polycrystalline and monocrystalline panels offered by Solarcentury.
Solarcentury were formed in 1998 and are one of the oldest companies in the field of renewable energy. Their solar systems have been erected on more than a thousand sites around the world. The company is headed by Frans van der Heuvel with its founding director is Jeremy Leggett, noted for his columns in The Guardian and the Financial Times.
IKEA and Solarcentury are a good fit in terms of their approach to renewable energy. Solarcentury have worked with communities to expand the uptake of solar energy. IKEA have greened their stores with solar panels on some of their branches. And, for the first time in the company’s history, Ikea has a zero waste to landfill figure, paving the way for other retailers.
Are renewable energy options on the back burner?
With only two months to go till the proposed triggering of Article 50, would it fair to say that climate change and environmentally friendly energy solutions are being overlooked? The last week hasn’t been a good one for the state of our pale blue dot. Firstly, America has a president whose contempt for the environment appears visible from outer space. With the United States having the second highest emissions levels after China, the potential sacking of climate change scientists and budget cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency would potentially have a far reaching impact on global emissions.
Our Prime Minister met Trump at the White House, trying (we think) to engineer a trade deal, while over on the Fylde Coast, we have seen the first vehicles getting ready to start test drills on Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site. With Prime Minister, Theresa May hoping to get Article 50 triggered by the end of March, where could we be going in 2017 and beyond?
Brexit and environmental standards
Many improvements in environmental standards have been driven the EU. In the large part, it is anticipated that EU benchmarks for environmental standards will remain part of the UK’s Stature Books. The Great Repeal Bill will incorporate elements of the EU’s directives, and will convert these requirements in to British Law. This will see the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972. In spite of the reassurances proposed in the forthcoming bill, any subsequent amendments post Brexit are subject to change and Parliament will have the power to retain some directives and scrap others.
With the uncertainty of Brexit, banks have considered moving to other EU Member States with France and the Republic of Ireland favoured bases. Nissan is in limbo over continued UK investment. IKEA, whom we have covered in a previous post, isn’t sure about its continued expansion into renewable energy. Standing between the furniture giant’s £524 million green energy fund is the Government’s approach to environmentally friendly energy sources. On The Huffington Post website, Joanna Yarrow, IKEA UK’s Head of Sustainability said: “the UK’s ‘political context’ does not encourage investment in renewables.” She also added that:
“I would say that over the last five or six years it has become increasingly difficult to invest in renewable energy production in the UK, and that for a large organisation like IKEA which has the resources to invest, it would be great for the UK to benefit from it.”
Brexit or no Brexit, if you have looked at energy related stories over the last six months, there seems to have been more column inches devoted to Hinkley Point’s forthcoming multi-billion pound nuclear reactor. Or hydraulic fracturing in Kirby Misperton and Preston New Road.
With Britain yet to decide on which of the EU Directives it will maintain, canwe trust the government to retain, all the environmental benefits we have gained from EU membership? Will our beaches still be clean? Will there still be incentives driving the renewable energy sector? While the UK is by no means the highest generator of renewable energy across Europe, we have seen a three fold increase in renewable energy generation from 2004-2014.
Will Brexit be seen as an opportunity to cement our future energy security through the mix of renewable energy solutions or will we revert to more controversial options.
The UK economy held up well in the run up to the Brexit vote but the Pound has suffered since then when compared to all major economies.
The Office of National Statistics (ONS) revised the estimate for the second quarter up to 0.7% growth, from the original ﬁgure of 0.6% following strong results in July and August.
The value of Sterling continued to fall after the referendum and is the worst performing major currency as markets reacted to the possibility of the UK leaving the single market.
While the construction sector has seen a fall since the referendum result it is not all doom and gloom as the sector shows resilience in difficult times.
Comparing August output levels with the same period in 2015, an increase of 0.2% was seen and while most sectors in construction saw a decrease, private commercial work increased by 1.5%. Infrastructure and public housing output saw the largest declines of 5.1% and 6.3% respectively.
Mainer Associates are delighted to announce that we are now fully signed up to Barbour ABI for all regions and all sectors within England Wales and Scotland.
In a move to develop our marketing capabilities, we decided that the services provided by Barbour ABI are ideal for marketing a business like ours to our current and potential client base.
Barbour ABI is a leading provider of construction intelligence services. With a team of in-house research specialists and a dedicated lead economist, it provides commercially relevant insight and unique analysis of trends and developments within the building and construction industry. Barbour ABI is the chosen provider of industry data and indicators for Government bodies including the Ofﬁce for National Statistics and the UK Government’s Construction and Infrastructure Pipeline, which outlines future construction and infrastructure projects where public funding is agreed. Barbour ABI also provides data for independent organisations, such as the Construction Products Association.
We look forward to working closely with Barbour ABI to ensure we get the most out of their services.
Mainer Associates have undertaken a Code for Sustainable Homes assessment on West Lancashire Borough Council’s new revival scheme. The £8 million development includes 42 new dwellings, all of which were awarded a Code Level 3 certificate.
Dwellings at Firbeck will provide local families with everything they need. All houses and flats proved to be energy efficient, demonstrating significant improvement in fabric energy efficiency. They are equipped with smart meters that not only monitor energy consumption, but let users know what the costs of their habits are, therefore encouraging further savings.
The houses are suitable for start-ups in need of an office. All dwellings were provided with a home office with required services (telephone points, sockets, internet connection). Dwellings have also been designed to ensure that plenty of daylight can provide users with a healthy environment while working from home.
Houses are equipped with appropriate general and recycling waste bins. Home users receive support from West Lancashire Borough Council who look after their needs and ensure that all waste types are appropriately segregated and picked up, thus reducing the impact of the development on the environment. Compost bins have also been provided in private gardens. Organic waste can get taken away, or can be used by those with a green finger.
Keepmoat was contracted to carry out the construction of the dwellings. They successfully ensured that construction waste was kept to a minimum, and ecology surrounding the dwellings was left undisturbed.
The Revival Scheme serves communities in Skelmersdale with the town undergoing significant regeneration works, where there is aim to transform it into an area of thriving business.