Last year, The Construction Centre reported on the Thames Gateway regeneration project announced by Gordon Brown; this is one of the largest regeneration projects the UK has seen in many years and has already caused much concern from both developers and local councils. Plans are already underway for some of the 160,000 houses which will stretch along the Thames for 40 miles to Southend in Essex. However there has been reticence from the building industry to embrace the project due to concerns regarding infrastructure, flooding and profitability.
Other regeneration projects around the country are being completed but developers find what are termed “brownfield” sites less appealing than “greenfield” and tend to seek the latter alternative if available. A brownfield site is disused industrial land and can be problematic in terms of removing contaminated waste and the location is not always a popular residential area. However despite this there have been many successful projects the most notable; Canary Wharf which is now a thriving community. The Construction Centre commented that the key to building a successful development in such areas is to create a community and include all the necessary schooling, sports and recreational facilities which attract both professionals and families. In addition to this good commuter routes and infrastructure would also prove essential to draw people into these areas.
The Construction Centre highlighted that the current housing shortage was only part of the problem for the Government, with the Code for Sustainable Homes not mandatory for private developers many new houses are not being constructed within the guidelines. This pushes the government further away from its 2016 emissions targets and does not encourage the building industry to change its current practices. The Construction Centre urged the government to impose legislation on the construction industry for all new housing developments as the only driver likely to enforce the changes needed to create greener homes.
One of the other major factors which The Construction Centre commented may affect the ability for the government to achieve its housing goals is the national skills shortage which is currently hampering many major developments across the UK. It has been widely reported that many projects have been delayed due to skills shortages and with massive projects such as the Thames Gateway which are long term and localised it is essential for both the government and developers to ensure the skills needed, will be available.
Despite these large scale issues, The Construction Centre.co.uk said it was likely that the regeneration schemes across the UK and particularly the Thames Gateway would eventually prove a success and would provide a significant proportion of the UK housing needed over the next decade. It stated that it was unlikely looking at current trends, that the government would reach the announced target of 3 million new houses by 2020, which would equate to three times the city of Birmingham. The government would need to look at the skills shortage and available land in order to encourage developers to increase the number of new homes built, while also tackling the harder problem of changing building practices to fall in line with the Code for Sustainable homes.
The Construction Centre stated that developers and their shareholders are not unreasonably driven by the incentive of profit. It is thus unlikely that they will produce homes that exceed any mandatory level of sustainability. If they do so, not only does profit suffer, due to the increased costs of sustainability but also pricing inequality against their competitors. The government’s target of 3 million homes therefore should seek to meeting the 2016 emissions targets alongside a coordinated approach and clear policies for all housing projects.
Richard Simmons, Managing Director at The Construction Centre said “The Construction Industry is one of the main drivers of the UK economy and yet it is lagging behind the rest of Europe when it comes to sustainable building and innovation. A significant proportion of the construction work force is from abroad and the UK government can not seem do enough to encourage or promote the construction industry as a thriving career opportunity whether for professionals or labour. Meeting the housing needs of the country is vital but in order to succeed we need the land, the skills, the government and the developers to create real communities with the promise of a greener, healthier and happier lifestyle.”
The Construction Centre.co.uk reiterated it was dedicated promoting the UK building industry through delivering targeted traffic to product manufacturers and connecting people through its national directories of professionals, tradesmen and merchants.