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The Week That Was - 19 August 2022

Published on 19 August 2022

Welcome to The Week That Was, a round-up of key events in the construction sector over the last seven days.

HSE imposes fine after inspectors refused access to site

Two Health & Safety Executive (HSE) Inspectors attended a construction site in Scotland on 16 March 2021 after multiple concerns about unsafe work were reported to the HSE last year.  The Inspectors observed unsafe work at height taking place on a steel structure.  They requested entry of the site, but the site controller refused them entry, despite the Inspectors explaining that they had the power to enter the site as part of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (the H&SA).

Police were called and gained entry to the site, allowing the Inspectors to take enforcement action to stop the unsafe work.  Two workers were found to be on the roof of the steel structure and had to be rescued by the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service as they had no safe means of getting down.

The site controller pled guilty to an offence under s.33(1) of the H&SA, and was fined £1,500.

Please see link here or here.

High Court refuses early specific disclosure in proceedings where PD51U applied

The High Court recently refused a claimant's application for early specific disclosure, made after the claim form was issued but before it was served, where the Disclosure Pilot set out in PD 51U applied.

The decision is useful because it considers the purpose of PD51U:

  • The judge noted that the only express provision for "specific disclosure" is in PD 51U.18.1, which can only come after an order for Extended Disclosure.  The court therefore had to consider whether to order early specific disclosure under general case management powers.
  • The judge commented it that it would "rarely make sense" for pre-action disclosure to take place before the pre-action process had been completed. 

The claimant's application sought to place the burden of searching for relevant documents on the defendant, at a time when the defendant would only have a very general idea of what to look for, which is contrary to the purpose of PD 51U.

You can read the full judgment here.

BSA 2022: Government published explanatory notes

The Government has published explanatory notes to the Building Safety Act 2022 (the Act)

The notes comment on how provisions of the Act are intended to work in practice and they provides additional detail on how the Act will affect existing legislation.  They also set out the Act's objectives: to learn lessons from the Grenfell Tower fire and to strengthen the regulatory regime for building safety, through:

  • establishing a new Building Safety Regulator in England to oversee a new, more stringent regime for higher-risk buildings and drive improvements in building safety and performance standards in all buildings;
  • ensuring residents have a stronger voice in the system and establishing additional protections for leaseholders in relation to financing remediation works;
  • increasing access to redress through the Defective Premises Act 1972;
  • driving industry culture change and incentivising compliance;
  • strengthening the Fire Safety Order; and
  • providing a stronger and clearer framework for national oversight of construction products.

 You can view the explanatory notes here.

Southern Construction Framework launches fifth generation

Southern Construction Framework (SCF) has announced the tender for the fifth generation of its SCF Construct Framework. SCF has delivered construction capital projects to over 100 public sector clients.  The fifth generation will operate from May 2023 with an estimated valued of £4.5 billion.

SFC Construct will be available to all public bodies in the South East, London and the South West primarily for projects in excess of £4m. However, it also includes lower value lots for projects in the South West valued between £1m and £5m which SCF hopes will attract more bids from regional contractors.

Tenders are required to be submitted by 13 October 2022.

Full details of the invitation are available here.

ONS Data shows construction output falls

The latest data released by the ONS shows that, following seven consecutive months of growth, monthly construction output decreased by 1.4% in June 2022.  The decrease in volume of monthly construction output in June came from a fall in new work (down 2%) and repair and maintenance (down 0.2%).  However, the level of construction output was above the February 2020 pre-pandemic level.

Total construction new orders also decreased by 10.4% (£1.3 billion) in quarter 2 of 2022 compared with quarter 1 which was the largest fall in construction new order since quarter 4 of 2020.  Meanwhile, prices in the construction industry increased by 9.6% in the 12-month period to June 2022, the strongest price growth since records began in 2014.  However, the ONS stated that its estimates for June 2022 are subject to more uncertainty than usual.

Full details are available here.  

"Combustible" cladding found in almost 90 Scottish schools

Over 5 years have passed since the tragedy of Grenfell Tower, and yet a Freedom of Information request has revealed that 88 school buildings still have the same or similar types of combustible cladding that was used at Grenfell.

The Scottish Government received £971.1million to fix the buildings constructed with the high risk and combustible cladding in 2021/2022.

The Scottish Government recently passed further, new regulations which ban the use of cladding made from high-risk metal cladding on any new building of any height.  A spokesman for the Scottish Government confirmed that "the Scottish Government will continue to work with local authorities and others to assess and, where necessary, remediate buildings to minimise risk".

Please see link here

Authors for this week's edition:  Liz Johnson, Ciara Stewart and Paul Smylie

Disclaimer: The information in this publication is for guidance purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  We attempt to ensure that the content is current as at the date of publication, but we do not guarantee that it remains up to date.  You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.