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The Week That Was - 22 December 2023

Published on 22 December 2023

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

Government provides £1.25bn boost to Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund

Social housing contractors have welcomed the Government's latest funding boost which will see approximately £2.5bn used for insulating or retrofitting 140,000 homes between 2025 and 2028.

Derek Horrocks, Chair of the National Home Decarbonisation Group which represents all major social housing contractors, commented on the announcement: "this is something we called for and will give us that longer term to develop the area-based approach and use the economies of scale it affords.

Mr Horrocks pointed to the impact that such government funding has had to date, citing that "nearly 50% of properties in England now have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) of C – up from just 14% in 2010."

Click here to read more. 

Court clarifies that works in a tidal river are still in England

In the recent case of Van Elle Limited v Keynvor Morlift Limited [2023] EWHC 3137 (TCC), the court was asked to decide whether, following a decision against the defendant in adjudication, the adjudicator had held jurisdiction in line with the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 Pt II. Parties to a construction contract as defined by this Act have a statutory right to refer a dispute to adjudication.  

The court held the defendant could not argue that the contract for piling works was out of jurisdiction because the river was tidal.  The works were held to be construction works under the act and references to "the land" under s.105(1) includes land covered by water and land covered by inland waters up to the baseline which, in the case of rivers such as the river Fowey, extended to the mouth of such rivers. 

The full judgment can be found here

Housing Secretary announces reduction in housing target 

Michael Gove has announced a change in how the Government will measure local housing targets, stating that targets based on local needs would "remain the basis" of the system.  However, these targets would now be an advisory target, allowing councils a "sensitive adjustment in meeting targets, not their abandonment".  He added that "opposition to developments was not unreasonable and that policy needed to cater to local concerns.

Kate Henderson, the Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, commented that "these changes, which effectively relax local housing targets, will result in fewer homes; and measures to get councils building and approving applications, whilst positive, won't be enough to offset this risk […] Without urgent action, by the end of the next Parliament nearly five million households will be living in unaffordable homes and 150,000 children will be facing homelessness". 

Kate Henderson's full statement can be read here.

ONS reports construction output is down 0.5% in October

The Office of National Statistics has reported that monthly construction output is estimated to have decreased by 0.5% in October 2023, following an increase of 0.4% in September 2023.  The decrease in output has largely come from a fall in new work, which has fallen by 1.7%.  However, this was partially offset by an increase in repair and maintenance (up 1.3%) on the month.  

Across the construction market, three out of the nine sectors saw a fall in output in October 2023, with the main decreases coming from new private housing and private commercial work, which fell 5.2% and 1.2% respectively.  Industry sources have suggested that heavy rainfall and strong winds caused by Storm Babet and Storm Ciaran throughout October led to delays in many of the planned projects which contributed to the decrease in output.  

Further information can be found here.

Defra launch their 'Timber Construction Roadmap' 

The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs has published its policy paper on the Timber in Construction Roadmap.  It plans to introduce a new statutory tree and woodland cover target, thereby committing to increasing the tree canopy and woodland cover in England to 16.5% by 2050.  For this, it has allocated £7.6 million to develop new technologies and working practices that will support timber grown in England. 

Rebecca Pow, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Nature, commented "the built environment is responsible for approximately 25% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions.  Reducing these emissions is a priority for government, in order to deliver our carbon budgets and net zero target.  The Net Zero Strategy set out our plans for decarbonising whilst growing the economy, and further detail was published in Powering Up Britain earlier this year."

The full timber in construction roadmap can be found here.

RIBA Future Trends Survey shows a slight improvement in the outlook for architects

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has published its findings for November in its monthly Future Trends Survey, in which it assesses business and employment trends.  The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index remained negative for the fifth consecutive month at -6, but has shown some improvement by rising two basis points since the previous month. A negative balance indicates an overall expectation of falling workloads among architects.

RIBA report that, whilst all workload sectors have still posted a negative workload index this month, they have all still seen an improvement since October.  Across the regions the picture remains mixed: most regions have maintained their pessimistic outlook, whilst others have reported an improved or consistent outlook.  The profession remains in a difficult position, with twenty two percent of architects still reporting personal underemployment in November. 

The full RIBA Future Trends Survey can be found here.

Authors for this week's edition: Gareth Jenkins and Hannah Kendall

TWTW will be taking a break for Christmas. Our next edition will be out on 5 January 2024. Everyone in the Construction Team here at RPC wishes you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

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.