Go-ahead for £500m Oxford Westgate centre

Oxford Westgate centre

Work to redevelop Oxford’s Westgate centre with a £500 million shopping complex that will create jobs and build new homes is set get underway in the New Year.

Laing O’Rourke and Sir Robert McAlpine are understood to have submitted bids for the 800,000 sq ft retail-led scheme, which is expected to take three years to build and create tousands of jobs.

The city’s shopping centre overhaul cleared the final planning hurdle yesterday when local councillors granted detailed planning for the scheme to build a new underground car park, shops, restaurants, a cinema and 59 new homes.

Developer Westgate Alliance, a partnership formed by Land Securities and The Crown Estate, are pressing ahead with tender evaluation and are expected to select the winner before the end of the year.

The job involves demolition of the southern part of the Westgate Centre, a multi-storey car park and existing residential accommodation.

This will make way for covered walkways of new retail space in four blocks holding around 70 new shops, anchored by a major John Lewis department store.

Sara Fuge, development manager, Westgate Oxford Alliance, said: “We have been working hard over the last four years with local stakeholders to develop a scheme to deliver a world-class retail and leisure destination for Oxford and now look forward to starting work early next year.’

Work on £7.1m Canterbury College gets underway

Work on £7.1m Canterbury College gets underway

Morgan Sindall is delivering a £7.1 million project to construct a new business and enterprise centre, sports facilities and an art building at Canterbury College‘s Dover Road campus in Kent.

The project comprises the demolition of existing facilities which will make way for two new purpose-built teaching blocks while supporting the local economy.

The new facilities will include 12 new classrooms and a two-storey sports and business building. An adjacent art facility will also be constructed.

The sport and business building will include a brand new sports hall, as well as a state-of-the-art gym suite for use by students and staff.

There will also be break out areas for students and staff as well as IT facilities. The business area will include a venue for business events and training space, providing essential space for local businesses and the college to host events.

The art block will be a modernised sculpture and ceramics studio. A supported learning facility will also be included in the new block, creating a relaxed learning environment for teachers to offer extra support to students.

Morgan Sindall project manager Steve Paine is a former student of Canterbury College, having completed a HNC in Building Studies just over 10 years ago.

Mr Paine said: “This project is particularly special to me as a former pupil of the college and it has been a great experience to return and help to progress the college with the construction of these new facilities that will update and improve the services on offer to staff and students.”

The buildings are being built to the latest environmental standards and will include the use of sustainable energy in the form of roof-mounted solar panels which will generate electricity for use within the building. This is in keeping with the building’s target of achieving a Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM) Excellent rating.

Dave Cook, area director at Morgan Sindall, said: “Great progress is being made on-site at Canterbury College, with a number of milestones coming to the fore over the coming months. The new facilities will be of great benefit to the students, staff and local community and we are delighted to be part of that process.”

£1.1bn EU investment for Wales gets the go-ahead

Welsh GovernmentThe First Minister for Wales, Carwyn Jones, has announced six new investment projects that are receiving Welsh Government support to create more than 1,100 new, high quality jobs for Wales.

Speaking ahead of the summit, the First Minister said: “Inward investment to Wales is at record levels. These six projects are creating a very significant number of new, high quality jobs for Wales.

There’s nothing we can’t do in Wales and that’s what I’ll be telling international investors tomorrow. They won’t just have to take my word for it – today’s announcements are the latest in a steady stream of new and existing investors who continue to choose Wales.”

The six projects creating a total of more than 1,100 new jobs for Wales are:

International business advisory firm Deloitte is set to create up to 700 jobs as it prepares to diversify and expand its business operations Centre of Excellence in the Central Cardiff Enterprise Zone;

London-based Griffin Place Communications (GPC), a new contact centre outsourcer specialising in customer care and lead generation, is set to create more than 300 new jobs in the next 12 months at its new site in Cwmbran;

Raytheon is re-investing and expanding its Special Mission Aircraft facility at its Broughton site on Deeside Enterprise Zone, which will become the HQ for the Airborne Solutions business. The c.£1m investment, which is backed by Welsh Government business finance, will create a Centre of Excellence for design and programme management for UK and international customers, as well as R&D activities that will create  50 highly-skilled jobs;  

London-based Smartpipe Solutions is establishing a software development and research centre in Cwmbran in a Welsh-Government supported investment of over £10m that will create 44 highly skilled IT engineering jobs;

SPTS Technologies, an Orbotech (NASDAQ:ORBK) Welsh anchor company, has been awarded a Welsh Government R&D grant towards a  three-year research project to develop advanced wafer processing solutions for high growth Advanced Packaging applications in the manufacture of the latest generation of integrated circuits and micro electro mechanical systems (MEMS). The project will create 30 full-time R&D roles at Newport;

Global packaging firm Essentra, a FTSE 250 company, opens a new 52,000 sq ft purpose-built packaging manufacturing facility at Imperial Park in Newport tomorrow (Friday November 21), creating more than 20 new jobs.

Prime Minister unvails thausands of new jobs

Prime Minister David CameronPrime Minister David Cameron has announced more than £240 million of new investment across the UK that will create and safeguard 1,800 jobs.

UK and Welsh governments have also joined forces with leading aircraft manufacturer Airbus to announce a joint investment of more than £100 million into research, development and training which will ensure the UK continues to lead the world in aerospace.

Mr Cameron said: “This investment is a vote of confidence in our long-term economic plan and the jobs it will create and safeguard in Wales and across the UK means financial security for more hardworking families.”

Around £64 million of the £100 million plus investment will support research and development through the Aerospace Technology Institute on a range of projects aimed at streamlining manufacturing processes and developing new technologies.

A total of £48 million is being invested in a project at the Broughton plant in North Wales which will develop new systems and technologies for building aircraft wings.

The announcements follow a record year for investment in the UK during 2013 to 2014 with latest UK Trade and Investment figures showing more than 66,000 new jobs created or safeguarded – the highest since 2001 – and 10,000 in Wales alone.

The news comes as work begins on the first phase of a £250 million expansion at Dyson’s hi-tech facility at the Malmesbury site which will create up to 3,000 jobs.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Two months ago I hosted world leaders in Newport for the NATO Summit where we left united in purpose, with a stronger alliance, and better able to keep our people safe.

Today’s investment summit, which will see more than 150 business leaders from international companies gather in Newport, is part of our plan to build on this legacy, attract trade and investment, and secure a brighter future for all of Britain.”

Trade and Investment Minister Lord Livingston said: “This summit provides a great platform to highlight opportunities across the UK. Inward investment to the UK is already at record levels with Wales in particular achieving strong growth.

Investment is flowing from companies around the world into manufacturing, services and infrastructure reflecting the UK’s position as one of the best places to do business in the world.”

Bidding opens for Affordable Homes Programme funding

Bidding opens for Affordable Homes Programme fundingThis week marks the second phase of bidding under the Homes and Communities Agency’s (HCA) £1.7 billion Affordable Homes Programme that will build 43,821 new affordable homes.

The £1.7 billion total investment will make a significant contribution to the government’s ambition for 165,000 new affordable homes by March 2018, while boosting overall housing supply and local economic growth.

As with the initial phase, schemes brought forward for consideration under continuous market engagement (CME) will be subject to rigorous assessment, based on fit with local priorities, value for money and deliverability.

Opening up to bids under this approach will allow housing providers further opportunities to bring forward schemes for delivery during the 2015 to 2018 period.

These will include specialist, supported or rural housing, which can often require a longer lead time, and these, along with schemes making use of advance housing manufacture, are especially encouraged under CME.

HCA Chief Executive Andy Rose said: “We have already set in place a solid delivery programme that puts us on track to make a significant contribution towards government’s aspirations for up to 165,000 new affordable homes by March 2018, while supporting overall housing supply and local people and places.”

Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said: “The government is delivering on affordable housing for the communities and people of this country with more than 200,000 new affordable homes since 2010.

Our latest investment is a clear sign of the government’s continued commitment to increasing the overall housing supply and affordable housing in particular.

As well as building homes this funding is also a key part of our long-term economic plan, creating construction jobs as we deliver a further 165,000 new affordable homes from 2015.”

Moving? Your solar can move with you

Moving  Your solar can move with you.Businesses and factories will be able to take their solar panels with them when they relocate, allowing them to continue to reap the benefits of lower bills under proposed changes planned by government.

In a consultation launched today, the government is seeking views on removing a barrier for building-mounted solar PV by allowing medium and large installations to be moved between buildings without loss of Feed in Tariff payments.

With an estimated 250,000 hectares of south facing commercial rooftops – the equivalent of 350,000 football pitches – there is massive potential in the UK to turn our buildings into power stations, helping to cut energy bills, reduce pressure on the grid and create jobs.

Launching the consultation, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Energy, Amber Rudd said: “Around 900 businesses already use solar PV – but I want to see more generating their own electricity.

There’s potential for significant growth in this area so it’s vital that we remove the barriers which prevent businesses from benefiting.

If there’s more rooftop solar we’ll see job creation as well as helping us deliver the clean, reliable energy supplies that the country needs at the lowest possible cost to consumers.

Solar increasingly offers efficient and cost effective onsite generation opportunities to both businesses and domestic consumers.”

At the moment if a FIT accredited installation is moved it becomes ineligible for further support. This can act as a significant deterrent to landlords and tenants who cannot guarantee to have the long-term ownership or lease of a building.

Allowing the panels and the tariff to move with their owner will increase flexibility and make solar PV a much more attractive investment.

HCA publishes latest set of Housing Statistics

HCAA further 13,040 new homes were started on site, according to the latest housing statistics published by the agency this month.

The statistics show that 3,229 market homes were started, an increase of 26% compared to the same period last year. 9,811 starts (75% of the total) were for affordable homes.

This includes 653 new build homes purchased by the provider at build completion. As these have not previously been reported, excluding them allows a like for like comparison with the same period last year (9,767), which shows that starts for affordable homes were broadly steady (-6%).

This is in line with our expectations and forecasts as the final year of the Spending Period focuses on completions. The 2011 to 2015 Affordable Homes Programme accounted for 49% of starts, while the Affordable Homes Guarantees Programme accounted for 36%.

Affordable housing completions (10,631) also represented 75% of the total reported, equating to an increase of 28% on the same period last year; while the number of market homes completed (3,545) increased by 41%. Taken together, market and affordable housing completions increased by 31% relative to the same period last year.

There were a further 14,515 homes completed with the assistance of the Help to Buy equity loan, demonstrating the impact of this programme in helping people, particularly first time buyers into home ownership.

All of these programmes and homes contribute to overall housing supply and help to meet a range of housing needs in local communities.

HCA Chief Executive, Andy Rose, said: “The housing statistics present the housing starts on site and housing completions delivered by HCA programmes in England, excluding London, with the exception of the Get Britain Building and Build to Rent programmes and Help to Buy equity loan, which the HCA administers on behalf of the Greater London Authority.”