The Week That Was - 8 December 2023

Published on 08 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 £3.9bn funding boost to accelerate Transpennine Route Upgrade project

The Transpennine Route Upgrade will provide accessible stations, a fully electrified line and more frequent services on the Manchester-Huddersfield-Leeds-York route. The total project cost is estimated at £11.5bn and is estimated to complete in the mid 2030s.  

The Government has recently invested a further £3.9bn into the upgrade, increasing its total investment to £6.9bn.  The £3.9bn boost in funding will see the number of tracks doubled from 2 to 4 between Huddersfield and Ravensthorpe, which will enable faster trains to overtake slower services and freight journeys. 

Rail Minister Huw Merriman praised the latest funding news: "today's announcement demonstrates this Government's commitment to delivering its Network North plan which will improve journeys, help to level up regions and grow the economy."

You can read more on this here

A court can stay proceedings to allow or order parties to take part in external dispute resolution including mediation

On 29 November 2023, the Court of Appeal in James Churchill v Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, ruled that it was lawful for a court to stay proceedings whilst the parties took part in ADR (either voluntarily or as ordered by the court).  This was under the condition that "the order made does not impair the very essence of the claimant's right to proceed to a judicial hearing and is proportionate to achieving the legitimate aim of settling the dispute fairly, quickly and at reasonable cost."

This decision, and the rationale behind it, further demonstrate the courts' focus on resolving matters via ADR where appropriate. It confirms the strong expectations for parties to consider ADR at all stages and particularly during pre-action correspondence.

For more information, please see here.

 Scottish Government publishes research on homeowner attitudes to potential new regulatory net zero heating and energy efficiency standards

The Scottish Government conducted a study to identify the barriers for the implementation of the UK Government's Heat and Buildings Strategy. 

The strategy set out a roadmap for combatting emissions in homes and businesses.  It intends to replace equipment which relies on fossil fuels with ground heat pumps and other technology including hydrogen boilers from 2035. 

The study investigated homeowner's attitudes to Scotland's proposals to implement their equivalent of the Heat and Building Strategy.  This included the barriers to achieving Net Zero and the fairest approach to implementing it. 

Whilst many did not understand the term "Net Zero", or how it could be implemented in practice, it was generally considered to be pivotal in combatting climate change.  However, key barriers to entry included the cost of complying and not being able to see a clear, personal financial benefit from property upgrades.  This attitude may change in England where there are suggestions of removing levies from electric bills to reduce the cost of running such equipment. 

For more information, see here
New building control regime announced in Wales

The Welsh Government issued a press release on 28 November committing to the remediation of all higher risk buildings in Wales which are affected by fire safety issues.  This commitment applies to all residential buildings over 11 metres, regardless of whether cladding is installed. 

The press release announced that a new building control regime in Wales will come into force in April 2024, and will restrict the oversight of new higher risk buildings to local authority building control.  The Welsh Government will set up a register of building control professionals from January 2024, in anticipation of the new regime.  As part of the registration conditions, building inspectors and approvers must have their competence verified by a third-party scheme, and must comply with new standards, codes and rules.

The Welsh Government also confirmed that RICS will publish updated cladding valuation guidance to include Wales.

For more information, see here.
Approved change to concrete 'recipe' to slash carbon emissions

The British Standards Institution has published changes to concrete standards which could save 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year if adopted across all UK construction sites.

The new concrete ‘recipe’ blends finely ground limestone from UK quarries with other materials such as fly ash and ground granulated blast furnace slag.  Concrete and cement manufacturing in the UK accounts for 7.7m tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, equating to 1.5% of total carbon emissions.  With the new standards now available, the CEM I content in concrete can be replaced with up to 20% of limestone powder.  For every 5% of limestone powder added, a 5% CO2 reduction can be delivered per tonne of concrete, according to MPA UK Concrete, the group representing the UK concrete industry.

You can read more here.
P.P O’Connor blows down four iconic cooling towers

Four iconic cooling towers at Cheshire’s Fiddlers Ferry power station were brought down in a single explosive demolition by civil engineering and groundworks specialists P.P. O’Connor.  Demolition debris will be processed and recycled on site for future development.

Developer Peel NRE now owns the site and has lodged a planning application with Warrington Council to redevelop part of the wider 820-acre site into 1.4m sq. ft. of logistics space across four buildings.  The first phase will involve four industrial buildings and service yards totalling 1.4m sq. ft. of floorspace, supporting around 500 construction jobs a year during the build phase.  Later phases of the project will include a new neighbourhood to the east of the former power station that could include 1,760 family homes supported by a new primary school, shops, and a GP surgery.

To read more and watch the explosive demolition video, please click here.

Authors for this week's edition: Kiran Singarda, Hannah Kendall, Chris Wilkie 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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