Construction reports brightest outlook in seven years

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Improving underlying demand and more favourable business conditions have helped business optimism in construction reach its highest level since January 2007.

March data from the Markit/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) signalled a strong overall performance for the UK construction sector, with sharp rises in activity and employment maintained. Although new business growth slipped to a six-month low, construction firms remain highly upbeat about the prospects for output over …

Potholes ‘catch-up cost’ rises to £12bn

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Over two million potholes were filled in England and Wales over last year but the “catch-up cost” has risen to £12bn, with each English authority facing a £90m spend.

The 19th annual local authority road maintenance (ALARM) survey, which is published today, reports that the estimated cost to get the local road network in England and Wales back into reasonable condition has increased to £12bn from £10.5 billion in 2013. …

Construction workers suffer 13.4% drop in real wages

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Construction workers now get just 86p for every pound earned before the crash.

Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show that real hourly wages in construction are some 13.4% below their pre-downturn level.

Average real hourly wages were around 7.6% below their 2008 level in Q4 2013, but there was substantial variation between industries. Those in the finance & business services industry – which experienced higher real wages …

Northamptonshire submits plan for 37,000 new homes

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Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership (NEP) has put forward a plan that would see 37,000 new homes built by 2021.

NEP also aims to strengthen the competitive advantage of the county’s central location by further investment in the transport infrastructure.

The new strategic economic plan was submitted to government this week. It focuses on four key areas business and innovation, employment and skills, infrastructure and connectivity and housing. NEP’s strategy will target …

Civils contractors call for blitz on road repairs

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Civils contractors have said that the growing backlog of work needed to fix potholes should trigger an urgent rethink of the way the repairs are funded.

As well as looking at new funding, the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) has said that there should be a one-off programme of intensive improvements to local roads to cut the long-term maintenance cost and avoid a “congestion time bomb”.

An annual survey of …

Storm-ravaged Dawlish railway reopens

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The south and west region of Devon and Cornwall now has a rail link with the rest of the country once again, following eight weeks of intensive work to repair the storm-ravaged line at Dawlish.

Mark Carne, chief executive, Network Rail, said: “Our army of engineers has done an amazing job of putting back together a railway that was ravaged by the elements. They have overcome every obstacle thrown at …

MPs launch inquiry into planning framework

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MPs have launched an inquiry into the operation of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) after research identified poor practice and ‘horrendous’ behaviour in some local authorities.

The Communities & Local Government Committee launched the inquiry following research findings, that some local planning authorities may be meeting the Government’s planning performance targets despite being ineffective and displaying poor practice.

The research also suggests that, although the NPPF has been broadly …

Willmott Dixon offers to speed payments

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Willmott Dixon is introducing a new system that will enable suppliers to receive payments up to two weeks quicker than the standard payment terms.

In exchange, they will be charged interest of 2% for the period between the two dates.

The EarlyPay scheme will enable those suppliers on 42-day terms to receive their payments 28 days after the valuation date. In the case of suppliers that have 30 day payment …

Commonwealth Games to open with Europe’s biggest live demolition

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Five iconic Glasgow skyscrapers will be demolished live during the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games.

Demolition of the Red Road tower blocks is seen as a bold and dramatic statement of intent from a city focused on regeneration.

The blow-down of five of the six remaining blocks, at one time the tallest residential structures in Europe, will take just 15 seconds and is claimed to be the biggest demolition …

Lafarge and Holcim confirm merger talks

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The worldwide cement and concrete industry faces a shake-up as Lafarge and Holcim are in advanced discussions regarding a possible merger.

The merger would create a business with combined annual sales of €32bn (£26.4bn). Completion is expected by the end of the first half of next year, subject to obtaining regulatory approvals.

The two companies said that the combination could deliver significant benefits to customers, employees and shareholders. They see …