NHTG on adult ‘upskilling’ support for stonemasonry

The National Heritage Training Group (NHTG) has reported on a new scheme which helps with banker masonry skills; Adult Upskilling Support.

NHTG writes:
Stone Train have recently received great news from the CITB who have set up an initiative called Adult Upskilling Support.  This scheme provides the funding of NVQ assessment up to £3,000 per person (which will cover the full cost of assessment) for employees who have recently passed a college diploma in Banker Masonry. Eligible firms will need to be CITB registered.

View more information

NHTG news

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Moorlands District Council planning vote claim probed by police

The BBC reports that police are reviewing allegations the leader of a Staffordshire council’s planning group abused his position as Michael Worthington, chairman of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council’s planning committee, was caught on camera saying he was ‘under instructions. to vote a certain way.

Last month, Mr Worthington voted to approve an application to build up to 10 new homes on the site of Endon Riding School, near Endon, even though officers had recommended it be refused. It was approved by seven votes to four.

Planning Portal Blog

BBC new item

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Planning Futures ‘think tank’ launched

A new think tank dealing with planning has been launched by a former Conservative party candidate Hannah David. 

The Facebook page for Planning Futures describes the organisation as follows: ‘The conversation about planning has become as stagnant as the planning process itself.  Planning Futures exists to nurture a new conversation about planning.’ 

View the Planning Futures website and find out more about their planned research activities, events and education programmes at http://planningfutures.org

Follow the Planning Futures Facebook page

Planning Portal Blog 

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RIBA in partnership helps change CLC decision

A campaign partnership, that includes the RIBA, which encouraged greater industry representation on the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), has had its case accepted by the government. 

RIBA writes:
The government has accepted the case for wider industry representation on its streamlined Construction Leadership Council and has added new members to speak for consultants and the supply chain – including BDP chairman David Cash.  The CLC was downsized dramatically in July when it was announced that membership would fall from 30 to 12.  The news coincided with the government’s decision not to replace chief construction adviser Peter Hansford when his term ends in November.

Then RIBA President Stephen Hodder added his voice to industry concerns over the new shape of the CLC, which initially looked as if industry supply side members would be restricted to major contractors only. He said that the CLC should be informed by the whole of the industry, including architects and other professional services.

This week the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills named five new CLC members. Alongside BDP chairman David Cash are fellow consultant Simon Rawlinson from EC Harris and the construction industry’s Strategic Forum, Mike Chaldecott from Saint-Gobain, Stephen Stone from Crest Nicholson, and Morrisroe Construction founder Brian Morrisroe.

Co-chaired by skills minister Nick Boles and HS2 chief Sir David Higgins, the revamped CLC is due to meet in October with 13 members.

Read the news release

View previous IHBC NewsBlogs on this issue

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IHBC hosted by ‘CECHI’, with launch of Euro-network ‘FEMP’!

TransTrustWebsiteIHBC officers were hosted as contributors to the conclusion of a EU-funded project ‘Celebrating European Cultural Intangible Heritage for Social Inclusion and Active Citizenship’ (CECHI) in Banffy Castle, Cluj, Romania, on 19 September, an event marked also by the foundation of a rejuvenated network, FEMP – Federation Européenne pour les Métiers du Patrimoine – led by the project partners: Union Rempart, France; Institut du Patrimoine Wallon, Brussels, and project leaders the Transylvania Trust, Romania.

Among the invited delegates and UK contributors to the round table discussions were IHBC President, David McDonald and IHBC Director, Seán O’Reilly. They joined other UK guests: architect Andrew Shepherd, IHBC member and a long-standing contributor in the courses at Banffy, for the SPAB; Bob Kindred MBE, private consultant and, inter alia, IHBC’s Education Vice Chair, as well as Lucy Hockley, of the Weald and Downland. The programme was organised and led by IHBC member David Baxter, Director of Built Heritage Conservation Training Centre (BHCT) at Banffy and Co-ordinator of the CECHI project that funded this free event.

Following the conference and launch, David McDonald said: ‘It was a great privilege to be welcomed, hosted and offered these excellent learning and networking opportunities funded within a European project developed by the Transylvania Trust and its partners, especially when the issue of built heritage traditions is so central to our member interests.’

‘The project itself, ‘CECIH’ – ‘Celebrating European Cultural Intangible Heritage for Social Inclusion and Active Citizenship’ – tied together the diverse and rich benefits that arise when we work together to conserve the built and historic environment. Registering those benefits at European level – and with European funding – across the three partner countries is clearly a huge achievement.’

‘The additional benefit, attending the launch of the renewed FEMP, a revived European network partnership supported by Council of Europe funding, made the programme especially relevant to the IHBC’s current and future plans.’

IHBC Director Sean O’Reilly said: ‘These initiatives fit very well with our members’ aspirations to learn, shape and advise on conservation issues from the most informed of foundations. Looking beyond the borders of the UK – and to countries without the heritage infrastructure we have enjoyed until so very recently – will help us better prepare for and respond to the kind of radical re-structuring that are members have, and probably will continue, to face.’

‘The added benefit is that this experience allows the institute to inform other countries of our own standards, practices and infrastructure. That way we can share our learning and hopefully do our jobs better, whatever the threats and cuts our sector and members face’.

The Transylvania Trust writes:
On 19-20th of September 2015 at Bánffy Castle in Bontida (Cluj County, Romania) an international conference dedicated to ‘Celebrating European Cultural Intangible Heritage for Social Inclusion and Active Citizenship’ was held, supported by the European Union.

The programme of the conference includes the presentation and promotion of the results of the partners (Transylvania Trust, RO, Institut du Patrimoine Wallon, BE and Union Rempart, FR), a roundtable-discussion on the heritage crafts skills with the involvement of specialists from UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Romania and a field trip study at Rimetea… The organisers cover the accommodation, catering and transport of the participants in the order of the registrations.

Built Heritage Conservation Training Centre website

Transylvania Trust news

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UK heritage index launched by RSA

The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts… (RSA) has created a ‘heritage index’, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), that reveals trends in the care of heritage assets as well as looking at the numbers of assets in each local authority area of the UK- this is the such first index to bring together data and measure heritage activity levels.

The RSA writes:
Britain’s heritage is much-loved but its immense value and potential is being underused in some places, according to a new heritage index published today by the independent RSA think-tank.

Produced in collaboration with the Heritage Lottery Fund, the new index reveals for the first time which areas could make better use of their heritage assets in order to drive local identity, improve residents’ well-being and increase levels of tourism. Set out by local authority districts in England, Scotland and Wales, the index ranks which areas enjoy the most physical heritage assets – but also measures local ‘heritage activity’ – such as museum attendance, rates of volunteering and investment in local heritage organisations.

The index shows that there are some unexpected ‘star performers’ when it comes to levels of local participation and volunteering. Whilst the City of London and Kensington & Chelsea predictably top the asset charts – it’s Scarborough, South Lakeland (in the Lake District) and Norwich that take the top three spots in terms of ‘heritage activity’.

The index also reveals which places have the most ‘heritage potential’ – with high levels of assets but lower levels of current activity. These include places such as Islington in London, Bury in Lancashire, Dudley in the Black Country, and Moray in Scotland and Newport in Wales.

The index revealed:

  • No Correlation between heritage scores and deprivation or prosperity: When comparing the heritage scores of all 325 English districts against the Index of Multiple Deprivation – the RSA found there to be no correlation. Several places were found to be rich in local heritage and involvement despite being relatively poor communities, including Hartlepool, Portsmouth, Burnley, Newport and Dundee, and rural areas such as Barrow-In-Furness in Cumbria and Ceredigion in West Wales. Despite facing high levels of deprivation, Blackpool (28th), Burnley (30th) and Southend (32nd) are among the top 10% of authorities across England’s 325 local authorities.
  • Coastal areas are doing well: 10 of the top twenty 20 districts in the England Heritage Index have a coastline. RSA researchers found that coastal areas such as Cornwall, North Devon, Scarborough and the Lincolnshire coast have been able to capitalise on heritage assets by generating high levels of activity. In Cornwall, their efforts have meant that oysters, sardines, pasties and clotted cream have all achieved protected status, whilst Whitby has made great use of its gothic abbey by hosting horror film festivals.
  • No heritage ‘divide’: A dynamic heritage scene exists equally in the cities as the countryside. While towns and cities have the densest concentrations of listed buildings and industrial history, rural areas contain an abundance of natural heritage. Similarly the north-south divide is also very narrow – with the index revealing that within each region there are pockets of strong heritage assets and activities.
  • Strong impact on well-being: Comparing the RSA’s analysis with ONS statistics on well-being, in areas which scored highly for activity (rather than assets) in the Heritage Index, residents on average tended to report higher levels of well-being.

Set out for all 379 local authority districts in England, Scotland and Wales, the index brings together over 100 data sets, with a range of indicators including nature reserves, heritage open days, archaeological groups, blue plaques, pubs that have been given protection as community assets, and even European designated local foods such as Cornish Pasties or Melton Mowbray pork pies.

The RSA and the HLF aim to use the index to challenge local communities, businesses and cultural leaders to make greater use of their heritage in order to grow their economies and improve local residents’ wellbeing.

With many areas set to make challenging decisions about where to focus their resources, and certain metropolitan areas preparing for increased devolved powers from Whitehall, the RSA and the HLF will spend the next six months examining how heritage can play a greater role in developing area’s economic, cultural and social strategies.

Commenting on the Index, Chief Executive of the RSA Matthew Taylor said: ‘The UK’s heritage is much-loved but its immense value is being ignored. If leaders don’t assess heritage assets, find it hard to describe what they are and don’t know who best to talk to about them, it’s hardly surprising that their heart-felt enthusiasm for the history and identity of their places is not manifest in a convincing local heritage strategy. The challenge for local authorities is to raise their sights from protecting history (although this is vital) to the possibility of heritage being at the heart of the conversation about a place’s future. The heritage sector too should develop an understanding of wider place challenges, and be willing to engage in hard choices about which aspects of heritage are the strongest in terms of local identity today and tomorrow. The sector must also begin to convincingly argue that what it is holding out is not a begging bowl but an untapped asset.’

Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Carole Souter said: ‘We hope this new Index will help communities to better understand their heritage; identify its potential; and capitalise on what make their areas distinctive. We hope it will encourage debate about what heritage is and how it is best recognised and properly exploited in local plans.’

Commenting on the Heritage Index, RSA Associate Director, Jonathan Schifferes said: ‘A comparison between local areas’ heritage should generate a healthy debate about how to make the most of heritage. Today we have an unprecedented amount of data available relating to heritage – but many local communities struggle to access information and put it to use. The Heritage Index helps – showing relative strengths and weaknesses across a broad definition of heritage, letting us see where strengths could be consolidated and capitalized upon; or areas where under-performance might be addressed. While we appreciate that local heritage can often difficult to quantify and record, what’s important is building public awareness about what’s valued and why – what’s missing and what should be there. The goal is a shared and richer understanding of what makes a place unique.’

Explore the data in full

Find out more about the RSA

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Debate on changes for environmental protection in NI

Northern Ireland (NI) Environment Minister has announced that a national debate will be launched on the need for an independent environment protection agency, ahead of changes and restructuring planned for next May.

The Department of the Environment Northern Ireland (DoENI) writes:
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan today announced that he intends to start a debate on the need for an independent environment protection agency.   The Minister believes that the present streamlining of government departments offers a unique opportunity for this agency to be created.

Speaking in the NI Assembly, Minister Mark H Durkan said: ‘With such radical changes to our departmental structures next May, I think that the time is right to create an independent environment protection agency. After all, there will not actually be a Department of the Environment after May. DOE will be no more. Its functions are being transferred across a number of departments. Further, most jurisdictions on these islands and Europe have some form of independent environment protection body. They have successfully demonstrated the advantages of a clear separation of roles and responsibilities between central government departments and those responsible for overseeing and implementing protection and regulatory responsibilities.

‘I have reached the clear conclusion that our present governance models are in need of radical review and this needs to be done quickly. In my view, an independent all-island environment protection agency is the best way forward. This will allow us to pool resources and build on collaborative work already being taken forward through the North South Ministerial Council.’

The Minister concluded: ‘As a first step, I now intend to open up a debate about an independent body in the North, within the Assembly and Executive, so that this can be factored into restructuring plans that are underway.

View the press release

View the NI Assembly recording of the debate

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Independent review for planning in Scotland

The Scottish Government has announced that a three person expert panel will oversee an independent review of the Scottish Planning System

The Scottish Government writes:
An independent panel has been set up to carry out a game-changing review of Scotland’s planning system, Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil announced today.

The three person panel, chaired by Crawford Beveridge, will be tasked with bringing together ideas to achieve a quicker, more accessible and efficient planning process.

Mr Beveridge will work together with Petra Biberbach of Planning Aid Scotland (PAS) and John Hamilton of the Scottish Property Federation. The individual panel members are widely respected for their expertise and will bring a good range of experience to the review which will consider six key issues:

  • Development planning;
  • Housing delivery;
  • Planning for infrastructure;
  • Further improvements to development management;
  • Leadership, resourcing and skills; and
  • Community engagement.

Mr Neil said: ‘I’m delighted to announce the independent panel for the planning review and the members who will be able to provide an objective and strategic perspective. There has already been significant planning performance improvement as a result of previous modernisation, but I believe that more can be done by all stakeholders so planning plays a more positive and effective role in creating high quality places for current and future generations, while respecting local democracy. As set out in the Programme for Government, published earlier this month, this review will look at wide-ranging issues affecting the planning system, including how planning is resourced and how we can streamline and improve our system in Scotland. It will aim to increase delivery of high quality housing developments, by delivering a quicker, more accessible and efficient process, and it will reinforce our commitment to a fair and open planning system that works for everyone, especially local communities.

‘There will be opportunities for all stakeholders to play a positive role in the process to ensure their views are heard and taken into account and I encourage everyone to get involved in this review. The panel’s findings will drive our continuing work to ensure planning does all it can to support sustainable economic growth across the country.’

Following the independent review, which is due to report in Spring 2016, Scottish Ministers will look to work closely with COSLA, Heads of Planning Scotland and all those with an interest in the planning system, to take forward a reform programme that will be informed by the findings of the review.

Cllr Stephen Hagan, COSLA Spokesperson for Planning said:

‘Last month I had a lively and highly constructive debate on planning modernisation with council leaders. The issues covered included the need to strengthen local democracy through the planning system, the need to integrate and not centralise the local planning process and the cost of resourcing the planning system locally. Leaders agreed there is a lot that needs to change in policy, practice and perception terms with planning locally. We all have a part to play in delivering positive change for our local communities. COSLA therefore welcome the proposal by the Cabinet Secretary for a further consultation on the modernisation of Planning legislation and regulation by an independent panel and will play a full and constructive part in the review.’

View the BEFS blog on a need for participative urban renewal in the planning system

Scottish Gov news

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Consultation on changes to environmental challenges cost protection regime

A leading planning barrister, Jenny Wigley of No 5 Chambers, has warned that the government’s latest consultation on cost protection rules in environmental challenges could ‘drastically reduce the costs certainty currently afforded to judicial review claimants’, as a consultation is launchd with a closing date of 10 December.

The current limits in relation to costs liability are £5,000 for individual claimants and £10,000 for organisations. The liability of the defendant is limited to £35,000. Proposals now out for consultation could raise the standard cost caps to £10,000 for individuals, £20,000 for organisations and reduce the reciprocal cap to £25,000.

The Ministry of Justice has also started consulting on the scope of the regime in terms of the types of cases that are eligible for costs protection and whether the regime should be extended to apply to certain reviews under statute like recovered appeals.

See the consultation

UK Parliament Consultations

Planning Portal Blog

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Basement bill has first reading

A bill to help local planning authorities restrict the size and depth of basement development has had its first reading in the House of Commons, with the proposed legislation being drawn up by Westminster North Labour MP Karen Buck.

UK Parliament – Bills

Planning Portal Blog

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Wiltshire industrial chimney for demolition

An industrial chimney – just short of the height of the spire at Salisbury Cathedral – that has loomed over part of Wiltshire’s countryside for decades is to be demolished.

The Westbury cement works were constructed in the early 1960s and mothballed in 2009, and to attract investors the non-operational parts of the site, including the 122 metre-high chimney, are to be cleared.

The structure will be brought down by a series of controlled explosions, site owners Tarmac said.

BBC news report

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Design Council: Design contributes £72bn to UK economy

Headline figures from a new report issued by the Design Council reveals that design contributes £72bn to the UK economy, equating to 7.7% of GVA.

The Design Council writes:
This year is Design Council’s 70th anniversary, and fittingly, yesterday the government’s Global Investment Conference shone a spotlight on design, creativity and innovation. Prominent international design and innovation figures along with business leaders, the Prime Minister, Chancellor and Mayor of London discussed how Britain’s world-renowned design capabilities boost productivity and deliver real value to the UK economy.

The British government was the first government in the world to recognise the power of design when it set up the Council of Industrial Design, now known as Design Council. The UK now has the largest design sector in Europe and the second largest in the world. Our design expertise is in demand across the globe, attracting inward investment and boosting exports.

Headline figures from Design Council’s new research The Design Economy were released yesterday, showing that design contributes £72bn to the UK economy (7.7% of GVA). Design as a discipline benefits and cuts across the whole UK economy, rather than a single industry. This new evidence is the result of a large research project, led by Design Council in partnership with various organisations. It builds on previous Design Council research, including Design Industry Insights 2010, but takes a wider definition of design by analysing ONS data to better understand the value of design across the UK economy. The design economy is adding jobs at more than three times the national average.

The Design Economy refers to value created by those employed in design roles in a wide variety of industries – from design intensive sectors such as web design or animation, to designers and design-engineers in automotive or aerospace companies.

The design economy is adding jobs at more than three times the national average. 1.6m people (5% of the UK workforce) were employed across the design economy in 2014. Design’s contribution has grown at a faster rate than the UK average. Much of this growth is being propelled by a flourishing digital design sector that has seen GVA grow by 39% from 2009-2013.

The full report with detailed methodology will be launched at the end of October.

Register your interest in receiving news on the report

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Planning and health links: Planner opinion

‘We should be looking at using the built environment to prevent people from getting ill’ states a report on the BRE Cities Convention in the current The Planner online.

View the full article on the Planner website

IHBC NewsBlogs on health

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Stonehenge celebrations: Centenary of purchase @£6,600

English Heritage is marking the 100 year anniversary of the purchase of Stonehenge for £6,600, with special commemorations to recognise this important step in its care and protection. 

English Heritage writes:
One hundred years ago today (21 September 2015), Stonehenge – the most famous prehistoric monument in the world – was sold at auction for £6,600 to a local Wiltshire man, Cecil Chubb. His purchase marked a turning point in the care and protection of the ancient monument and English Heritage, today’s guardian of Stonehenge, is marking the anniversary with re-enactments of the momentous auction throughout the day and with a special commemorative ticket for visitors. Kate Mavor, English Heritage’s Chief Executive, said: ‘Cecil Chubb’s impulse buy marked a turning point in the story of how Stonehenge was transformed from neglected ruin to national treasure. His winning bid set in train a programme of care and conservation for both the monument and the surrounding landscape, one that continues today and whose next major milestone will be the removal of the A303 from the Stonehenge landscape.’

Legend has it that barrister Cecil Chubb went along to the auction in Salisbury to buy a set of dining chairs (as instructed by his wife). Instead he walked out of the Palace Theatre £6,600 lighter and the owner of Lot 15: ‘Stonehenge with about 30 acres, 2 rods, 37 perches of adjoining downland.’ Chubb remarked to a local reporter that he had not intended to acquire the ancient stones ‘but while I was in the room, I thought a Salisbury man ought to buy it, and that is how it was done.’ Asked if he had any plans for the stones, Chubb replied that he had not yet had time to think about it but wanted to assure the public that every means of ‘protecting Stonehenge…would be taken.’

Prior to its purchase, Stonehenge was in a perilous condition. A popular attraction since the Middle Ages, by the 19th century people were regularly chipping the stones for souvenirs and scratching their names on the monument. In 1881, timber props were used to shore up stones considered to be in danger of collapse while in December 1900, an upright sarsen stone fell and the massive horizontal lintel it held in place snapped in two. There was an outcry following which a police constable was appointed, the first organised excavation of Stonehenge got underway, the monument was enclosed by a fence, and an admission charge was introduced towards the upkeep and care of the monument. But the stones remained in a worrying condition with many of them held up with wooden props.

Stonehenge had been owned by the Antrobus family since the early 1800s but when the heir to the Antrobus baronetcy was killed in the opening months of the First World War, the estate was divided into lots and put up for sale via auction. And so at 2pm on 21 September 1915, the Palace Theatre in Salisbury was ‘filled with an interested audience, intending purchasers and spectators’ and in the hands of Messrs Knight, Franck and Rutley, Stonehenge went under the hammer.

‘Surely someone will bid me £5,000 to start with,’ urged the auctioneer, Sir Howard Frank. A hand in the stalls was held up, and in calm, business-like tones it was announced that the first £5,000 bid had been received. Bidding increased by £100 increments from £6,000 until the figure of £6,500 was reached by local man Isaac Crook, whose grandson Richard still farms the fields around Stonehenge today. One more bid was received, ‘the hammer remained aloft for an instant; there was no further offer and it descended with a sharp rap.’ Stonehenge was sold for £6,600 to Cecil Chubb.

Three years later in 1918, Cecil Chubb donated it to the nation, writing, ‘I became the owner of it with a deep sense of pleasure… [but] it has been pressed upon me that the nation would like to have it for its own…’. A special handing-over ceremony took place in October 1918 and Chubb received a knighthood, gaining the local nickname ‘Viscount Stonehenge’.

Thanks to Chubb’s impulse buy and his generosity, Stonehenge had been saved future generations. English Heritage’s predecessors, The Office of Works, began to care for the monument, restoring many of the fallen stones and undertaking a major survey and programme of excavation. Later, a national appeal was made to restore and preserve the surroundings of Stonehenge to its former natural state. The then Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, lent support, George V contributed 20 guineas and the Druids provided 10 guineas. In 1929, 1,500 acres of the surrounding downland were purchased by the Government and vested in the National Trust. In 1986, Stonehenge, the Avebury henge and stone circles, and over 700 other prehistoric monuments in the surrounding area were inscribed in the World Heritage Site List.

The restoration of the Stonehenge landscape continues. In December 2013, English Heritage opened a new visitor centre, 1.5 miles out of sight of the stones, and started to restore the landscape immediately to the north of the stones, removing the unsightly, old visitor centre, grassing over the now closed A344, and re-uniting the ancient processional approach – the Avenue – with the stones. In December 2014, the Government announced that it will be investing in a new tunnel of a least 2.9km to remove the A303 from the Stonehenge landscape, an announcement that English Heritage, Historic England and the National Trust have all welcomed.

EH news

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‘Sign of the times’: HS2 bidding process launched in China

The bidding process for stage 1 of the HS2 rail project was launched by the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne in Chengdu, China this week. 

HM Treasury writes:
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne yesterday (24 September) announced a major new milestone for the government’s High Speed 2 rail project, kick-starting the bidding process for phase one of the mega construction project.

At least seven new contracts will be opened up to companies, with a total combined value of £11.8 billion.  The Chancellor made the announcement at an event in Chengdu, China, aimed at wooing some of China’s biggest investors to be part of the project as well as a raft of other major UK infrastructure projects.  Mr Osborne also announced a new ‘HS2 partnering day’ between British and Chinese firms to explore joining up on bids for contracts, as well as launching the Northern Powerhouse pitch book.  The event is part of a wider five day tour of China by the Chancellor, aimed at deepening cooperation between the two countries and making China the UK’s second largest export market.

HS2 forms a major part of the government’s plan to rebalance the UK economy and build a Northern Powerhouse by providing high speed rail services from London to the Midlands, and the North.  Construction of phase 1 is due to start in 2017, and when opened will slash the travel time between London and Birmingham from 1 hour 21 minutes, to 49 minutes.  Work is also underway on developing plans to transform East-West rail links.

Speaking while travelling on part of China’s vast network of high speed railways the Chancellor said yesterday:  This government is committed to rebalancing our economy and building a Northern Powerhouse, and improving transport links and launching HS2 is key to supporting long-term economic growth across the North and Midlands.  That’s why I’m here in China today opening the bidding process for construction contracts worth £11.8 billion, which will propel HS2 forward.  We are truly entering a golden era of cooperation between our two countries, and it’s crucial that businesses and communities from across the UK feel the full benefit of forging closer economic links with China.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:  HS2 provides an excellent opportunity for businesses across the UK with 25,000 jobs created during construction and 3,000 when up and running.   The start of the procurement process for these significant contracts is a major step towards construction on HS2 getting underway in two years’ time and a massive opportunity to help rebalance our economy long before the trains start running in 2026.

HS2 Ltd chief executive Simon Kirby said:  The start of the civil engineering bidding process is a major milestone for HS2 as we continue to move towards the start of construction in 2017.  Over the next decade, the winners of these contracts will go on to build 230km of bridges, tunnels and earthworks and create thousands of jobs across the construction industry.  Together we will transform intercity rail travel in the UK, build specialist skills and expertise across the country, create at least 2,000 new apprenticeships and build a legacy to inspire the next generation of young engineers.

The government is currently organising an ‘HS2 partnering day’ to give Chinese companies an opportunity to meet UK firms and establish potential partnerships to join up on bids.  The Chancellor is also inviting Chinese participation in the HS2 skills college, which is due to open in 2017.  A skills-swap programme would allow the UK to benefit from China’s expertise as a world leader on High Speed? Rail, and help Chinese investors better understand the UK market.

The Chancellor is also encouraging Chinese companies to take part in an HS2 ‘regeneration tour’, which would involve visiting areas of huge commercial opportunity in London, the Midlands and the North.  Investors would have the chance to meet with relevant local authorities and visit station sites.  The launch of the bidding process takes the form of a pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) for the ‘Main Civils Works’, ie the surface route and tunnels for phase 1. At this stage suppliers will be allowed to express an interest into all 7 packages.  Following the PQQ, successful applicants will be invited to bid for a maximum of 4 packages at tender stage, with a maximum award of up to 2 contracts per tenderer.  7 contracts are split over 3 geographical areas (North, Central, South), along the phase 1 route from London to Birmingham. There will also be the option for additional contracts covering the route North of Birmingham, subject to ministerial decisions on this later in the year.  The civil contracts are the first tranche of the Main Works Packages and cover surface routes and tunnels. ‘Tranche 2’ comprises stations, and ‘Tranche 3’ comprises railway systems. These will be launched in 2016 and 2017.  Construction works will commence following Royal Assent of the Phase 1 Hybrid Bill which is currently being considered by Parliament.

View the press release

IHBC NewsBlogs on HS2

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Meccano bridge spans the Clarendon dock, Belfast

The worlds largest Meccano structure has been created at the historic Clarendon dock by students and staff from Queen’s University Belfast, with local schoolchildren as part of a science, technology engineering and maths (STEM) educational project. 

Queen’s University Belfast writes:
Officials from Guinness World Records have confirmed that Queen’s Big Bridge Build – a bridge spanning almost 100 feet across Belfast’s Clarendon dock – is the world’s largest Meccano structure.

The Big Bridge Build, a year-long project, is the brainchild of the University’s School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering.  Academics and students created the bridge, with the help of local school children, as part of the university’s outreach programme to encourage more children to think about careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Hundreds of people visited Belfast’s Clarendon Dock over the weekend to marvel at the stunning construction as they waited to hear the official announcement of the World Record bid. The project was made possible with the help of Spin Master Corp, the proud owner and producer of Meccano, as well as McLaughlin & Harvey and Aecom who gave valuable advice to the students as well as assisting with the construction and installation of the bridge across the Clarendon Dock.

The students celebrated their achievement by walking across the bridge for the first time, which was officially declared open by Meccano’s Meccanoid Robot, much to the delight of attending youngsters.

Speaking about the achievement Danny McPolin, Senior Structures Lecturer at Queen’s School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering, said: ‘This event has been a fantastic way to celebrate the student and staff’s incredible work over the past year, but also a chance to show local children more about the exciting courses we offer here at the Queen’s University.  With a growing skill shortage in Civil engineering, we hope that our work will encourage more children to consider the study of civil engineering and other STEM subjects at University level.’

Members of the public who attend the event had the opportunity to speak to students and academics, as well as the event sponsors, who were on hand to discuss the bridge build and civil engineering in general.  Youngsters were also able to create their own Meccano structures in a dedicated Gazebo sponsored by Smyths Toys Superstores.

Ben Varadi, Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer, Spin Master Corp., said: ‘We are truly in awe of this remarkable achievement.  Spin Master is incredibly proud that this timeless and iconic toy, invented over a 100 years ago, continues to inspire the world’s future architects and engineers.’

Paul McCormick, Managing Director, Highways & Bridges, EMEA & India at AECOM, commented: ‘We are proud to have been involved with the Big Bridge Build project and it’s wonderful to seeyoung people getting excited by the fantastic opportunities civil engineering can offer. We hope this event inspires more young people to take up STEM subjects at university level and pursue careers in engineering.’

John McCarey, Chief Engineer at Civil Engineering contractor McLaughlin & Harvey Ltd added: ‘It has been a pleasure to work with Queen’s to support these engineers of the future with this exciting project. We have been involved from the start of their world record attempt, providing them with a contractor’s insight and bringing our technical expertise to the very particular challenges of this brilliant third year design project. To gain the World Record is the Icing on the Cake!’ 

The Guinness World Record ‘Big Bridge Build’ in numbers:

  • Length of Bridge – 28.5 (96ft)
  • Longest Span of Bridge – 14m
  • Height of Bridge – 6m (26ft)
  • Weight – 600kg
  • Pieces of Meccano – 11,000
  • Nuts, bolts, washers – 60,000
  • Total length of Meccano pieces (laid end to end) – 3,835m 

View a video of the build

Queen’s University Belfast news

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