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The week that was - 23 February 2024

Published on 23 February 2024

Welcome to the week that was, a round-up of key events in the construction sector over the last seven days.

High Court dismisses Stonehenge tunnel challenge 

Campaigners have lost a Court challenge against the Government's plans to build a tunnel on the A303 near Stonehenge. 

The campaign group Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site had previously succeeded in blocking progress of the scheme in July 2021, when the High Court quashed the Government's plans over concerns regarding the environmental impact on the site.  However, the scheme was re-approved last year by the Department for Transport, with the benefits said to outweigh the harm to heritage assets.  

The judge, Mr Justice Holgate, ruled many parts of the campaigners' case to be 'unarguable', but one issue relating to the Department for Transport's approach to an environmental impact assessment remains to be determined, preventing an immediate start to the works. 

For more information, please see here

Building control system said to be on the verge of collapse

Building control chiefs warn that local councils will not be able to offer inspections from April as the Government's new competence regime comes into force. 

As part of the post-Grenfell industry changes, the Building Safety Regulator requires all building control professionals to be registered and to prove their competence by 6 April 2024.  It is understood that at least 4,500 qualified inspectors are required to cope with current workloads, but trade body LABC has warned the Government that nowhere near that number will be available by the deadline and the entire system may collapse without a 6-month delay. 

If the plans are not delayed, the LABC has warned that local authorities will "cease to be able to undertake a building control function", meaning ongoing projects will not be inspected, and stop and compliance notices will not be served. 

For more information, please see here

HSE investigates death of worker at Everton Stadium

The HSE has taken over a criminal investigation from Merseyside Police into the death of a worker at Everton Stadium.  The deceased died after being crushed between a scissor ladder and a beam, according to reports from the opening of an inquest into his death.  He was working on the project as a ventilation engineer for Widnes-based subcontractor Mersey Vent.

The HSE is investigating whether H&S regulations were breached on site. HSE inspector John Padfield said: “We have been a part of this inquiry from the outset and we will continue to thoroughly investigate Michael’s tragic death as the lead agency. This will aim to establish if there have been any breaches of health and safety law."

The incident happened in August last year and saw work suspended for 9 days. 

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Work starts on tallest residential tower in London

The Bankside Yards scheme is underway in London, which includes London's tallest residential tower standing at 50 storeys high.  The scheme is led by an international real estate consortium led by Native Land, and will contain 250 apartments.  The tower is due for completion in 2026.  Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group will open its third London hotel at Bankside Yards in 2028 – a 38-storey, 171-bed, 5-star hotel with 70 branded residences.

The scheme is said to be the UK's first fossil-fuel free mixed-use development.

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Adjudication jurisdiction decision in the Technology and Construction Court (TCC)

In Bellway Homes Ltd v Surgo Construction, the TCC considered whether an adjudicator's award, where the underlying adjudication included both a ‘smash and grab’ dispute and ‘true value’ dispute, should be enforced. The underlying adjudication concerned a payment dispute between the contractor (Bellway Homes, the Claimant) and the subcontractor, (Surgo Construction, the Defendant), in which the Claimant was awarded the sums sought. The Defendant challenged the Adjudicator's decision on the basis that multiple disputes had been referred to adjudication without consent and then determined without jurisdiction. 

The TCC found that there was in reality only one dispute which related in essence to the issue of the Defendant's failure to pay sums due under the payment application. The fact the Claimant advanced different arguments about the basis on which the sums were due to it did not mean there were multiple disputes. Summary judgment was therefore granted to the Claimant for the sums claimed. 

You can read more here.

Government urged to clarify nuclear SMR strategy

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has expressed concerns about the Government's position on small modular reactors (SMRs). SMRs are nuclear reactors with a smaller generating capacity than traditional power reactors. SMRs produce a large amount of low carbon electricity and are easily transported due to their smaller size, compared to a conventional nuclear power reactor. 

Whilst the Government has pledged hundreds of millions of pounds in support of SMR projects, the EAC is concerned that its roadmap lacks clarity, and it is unclear exactly how much nuclear capacity might be commissioned by 2050. It is also unclear how SMRs will be integrated with renewable energy sources for achieving decarbonisation goals. 

You can read more here.

Authors for this week's edition: Harry Langford-Collins, Laura Sponti and Ciara Stewart

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.