The week that was - 16 February 2024

Published on 16 February 2024

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

Register of higher-risk buildings published

The register of higher-risk buildings (held by the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) under the Building Safety Act (BSA) 2022), has been published by the Health and Safety Executive.

Under the BSA, all higher-risk buildings must be registered with the BSR.  This register of information is maintained by the BSR and provides information about the higher-risk buildings, including the heights of the buildings and details of accountable persons. The launch of the new online search service was published, in addition to the register, on 8 February 2024, allowing the public to access the information held by the BSR.

You can find more information here.

Construction among sectors least impacted by AI job threat

In line with the Government's artificial intelligence strategy, a report by the House of Lords' Communications and Digital Committee was published on Friday.  The report identified jobs in the construction sector to be comparatively secure against the job threat posed by AI, and dismissed the risk of a so-called "robot apocalypse".

The Government was encouraged by the report to embrace the technology, as no evidence was found of imminent 'AI-induced unemployment', but that enhanced productivity would come from potential initial disruption as the industry experiences less than 30% of workload support from AI tools.

The report suggested that the Government should consider introducing measures to boost opportunities, address risks and support effective regulatory oversight, particularly to foster open competition and avoid market dominance by established technology giants.

You can find more information here.

WOL (London) LLP v Croydon Investments Ltd and others [2024] EWHC 251 (TCC)

WOL London LLP (C) purchased a block of flats from Croydon Investments (D1) shortly after completion of works.  C alleged that, under the sale and purchase agreement (SPA), D1 was obligated to ensure that defects identified during the rectification period were remedied, and that the notice of completion of making good defects was not issued until they were.  C alleged that D1 failed to do this, leading to late discovery of defects, and a £16 million loss.  C added the contractor (D2) and approved inspector as defendants to the claim under collateral warranties received from them.

D1 made an application to strike out the claim.  D1 argued that, due to the existence of the collateral warranties from D2 and D3, it had no liability to C for rectification of the defects.  The Judge held that the wording of the SPA was clear and was not interrelated with the scope of the warranties.  Under the SPA, D1 was required to comply with its own obligations under the Building Contract, which included ensuring that defects were rectified by D2, and was required to "procure" that D2's obligations were complied with. This imposed an obligation that was "close to a guarantee". D1 further submitted that its liability was limited to snagging rather than all defects, which was also rejected by reference to the wording of the SPA. The application was refused.

To read the full judgment, please click here.

UK’s biggest housebuilder Barratt to buy rival Redrow for £2.5bn

Barratt, the UK's biggest housebuilder, has announced its acquisition of Redrow. The £2.5bn deal will create the largest housebuilder ever seen in the UK, dwarfing other players in the UK market if approved by regulators and shareholders.  The group, to be called 'Barratt Redrow', is forecasted to have a turnover of more than £7bn.

The brand intends to retain its varied portfolio, comprising of Redrow's heritage collection aimed at affluent buyers, alongside David Wilson homes, one of Barratt's more affordable collection of homes.  The companies hope to complete the acquisition in 2025, subject to regulatory and shareholder approval.

You can find more information here.

Quarterly data released for UK Government contracts in Q4 2023

The UK Government awarded a total of £3.8 billion across 1,529 construction contracts in Q4 2023.  This constituted a drop of £4.3 billion from Q3 and was £4.8 billion less than the same period in 2022.  Local government was responsible for the highest volume and total value of construction contracts, awarding £1.7 billion across 917 contracts.  By contrast, central government awarded contracts worth £903 million, across only 153 contracts in total.

Mears was awarded the highest value contract in Q4, with the firm being appointed as A2Dominion's repairs and maintenance contractor for work covering more than 20,000 homes in London, worth £575 million.

The Ministry of Defence was the top buyer in Q4 and awarded the second most valuable contract to Lendlease for infrastructure work at Imjin Barracks, which accounted for 46% of the MOD's total £591 million spend.

To read more, please click here.

Biodiversity net gain rules come into force

In accordance with Environment Act 2021, the mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain Regulations came into force for major developments on 12 February 2024.

The Regulations ensure that habitats for wildlife are left in a measurably better state than they were before the development. As part of the new planning rules, developers will be required to submit biodiversity net gain plans as part of their planning applications before schemes can be approved.  New planning applications for major developments submitted from 12 February 2024 (or from 2 April 2024 for small sites) will be subject to a mandatory condition requiring a biodiversity net gain of at least 10%.

You can find more information here

Authors for this week's edition: Chloe Carter and Sam Holloway

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.

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