Government pumps cash into £93m Aston Expressway repairs

The Government has agreed to fund the £93m strengthening and repair programme to a key viaduct on northern section of the Aston Expressway between the city centre and the M6 motorway.

The Tame Valley Viaduct, which carried about 80,000 vehicles a day, was starting to show signs of deterioration.

Without government funding, the viaduct would need weight and width restrictions within a few years and, over time, the link could potentially face full closure.

The Government is putting £72m into the project which is expected to cost £93.5m with the remaining funding coming from Birmingham City Council and the Local Growth Fund.

Work is due to start on an extensive strengthening programme next year with structure remaining open to traffic throughout. The vast project is expected to take nearly five years to complete.

Proposals involve major strengthening and refurbishment works on the viaduct, ensuring it can continue to carry heavy vehicles. It will remain open to traffic throughout the duration of works.

There are also plans to apply a protective anti-corrosion paint system to the structure alongside other general refurbishments, preserving the longevity of the viaduct and minimising the need for future work.

 

 

Peel sets out vast Chatham Docks regen plan

Developer Peel L&P has set out its plans for further major investment in the redevelopment of Chatham Docks Industrial Estate in Kent.

A masterplan released by the developer outlines its new ambition to build 3,600 homes and a 1m sq ft new employment zone at the 90-acre riverside site.


Peel L&P masterplan vision for Chatham Docks. Key:  Green – public open space; Green arrows – connectivity; Red and Orange – residential; Blue – employment space

Overall, the scheme has the potential to deliver 1.9m sq ft of floorspace which is similar to the scale of Peel L&P’s MediaCityUK development in Salford Quays.

Peel L&P has been investing in Medway for over a decade at its Chatham Waters development.

Since 2011, Peel L&P has pumped £125m into the redevelopment of the brownfield site, creating around 400 new homes, with a further 550 to be built over the next four years including 237 affordable homes and a new care home.

Waterfront UTC, and Mast & Rigging pub and restaurant. There is a further £500m to be invested over the next four years in Chatham Waters specifically on green community areas and an events zone.

James Whittaker, Executive Director of Development at Peel L&P said: “The vision is for a mixed-use sustainable community with a large employment area focusing on the digital, creative and health sectors along with a mix of homes including affordable homes, family housing, build to rent, open market and elderly living.

“The waterfront is a beautiful place, we have the chance to maximise this and create a community benefit that means all can enjoy the health and wellbeing advantages associated with this.”


Map depicting Chatham Waters and future redevelopment at Chatham Docks Industrial Estate


Completed residential, education and public realm at Peel L&P’s Chatham Waters

 

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Keltbray wins two more tunnel HS2 shafts

Keltbray has secured a £12m extension to its current C1 Shaft contract for the HS2 Align joint venture.

The deal builds on awards for the first two ventilation shafts on the project in August at Chalfont St Peter and Chalfont St Giles.

Taken together the two double sets of shaft excavation jobs are worth over £26m.

The next two ventilation shafts along HS2’s 10 mile tunnel drives through the Chiltern Hills are located at Amersham and Little Missenden.

Excavation of the shaft in Amersham will be to a depth of 55m.

Keltbray’s works include internal shaft construction works to build slip-formed concrete cores and lining walls, reinforced concrete works at the base of the shafts, to create a collar structure to enable the TBMs to pass through the base of the shaft.

 

£100m landmark Portsmouth Uni project approved

The University of Portsmouth has gained planning for its £100m Victoria Park major teaching building.

The 12-storey Victoria Park Academic Building project is being tendered on a single-stage design and build basis with the University hoping to make an award in February to start work in Spring 2022.

BAM, Bowmer & Kirkland, Kier, Morgan Sindall, Vinci and Wates are understood to be in the bidding for the project.

Designs by architect Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and MEP consultant Buro Happold have been developed to RIBA Design Stage 4. These are targeting a top BREEAM rating of ‘Outstanding’.

Photovoltaic panels cover the angled roof, producing renewable power and a high performing façade will manage heat and light.


Park Room – view into social learning landings

Once complete in 2024, the building will house the Faculty of Business & Law and part of the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences.

Accommodation will also include a ground floor café and event space and restaurant on the top floor with roof terrace.

New academic building facilities

250-seat and 500-seat lecture theatresTwo 150-seat flat classroomsCourt room, laboratories and a video production suiteGround floor events and exhibition spaceOffices and meeting roomsRoof terrace and sky restaurant

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JCB workers get £750 Christmas bonus

JCB workers are being given a £750 Christmas bonus.

The bonus will be paid to more than 6,000 employees – including agency staff with over 12 months’ service – working at JCB’s 11 plants in Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Wrexham.

JCB CEO Graeme Macdonald said: “This year we will produce a record number of machines and this bonus rewards a tremendous team effort. We are still facing severe challenges caused by unprecedented supply chain disruption which is impacting on production, and we expect this to continue for the first six months of next year.”

Toby Bell, 27,  is a Business Degree Apprentice at JCB’s World HQ in Rocester, Staffs, and this is his first JCB Christmas bonus.

He said: “It’s a big motivator to get rewarded like this and a real boost. It’s really kind of JCB to give us a Christmas bonus and to be recognised for the hard work everyone has put in this year.”

Early Careers Scheme Leader Holly Broadhurst, 27, of Leek, said: “This has come as a really fantastic surprise. It’s tremendous that everyone’s hard work and dedication has been rewarded.”

Backhoe Loader Team Leader Kevin Pickles, 40, of Mickleover, near Derby, added: “It’s brilliant. Everyone is buzzing in the factory today. It’s going to give my two kids, Freddie, five and Amelia, two, a great Christmas.”

Backhoe Loader Production Support Specialist Kait Williams, 21, of Church Leigh, near Uttoxeter, added “It’s brilliant news. This bonus is going to give everyone a great Christmas.”

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Midgard bags world’s tallest octagonal resi tower job

JRL-owned main contractor Midgard has scooped the job to construct the world’s tallest pure octagonal residential building at the Paradise site in Birmingham.

Under a 44-month contract Hertfordshire-based Midgard will now demolish the existing 77 Paradise Circus Queensway office building ahead of starting work on the 49-storey building.

Singaporean real estate developer City Developments Limited (CDL) has just bought the scheme, which will cost £110m to develop including land cost.

The team leading Paradise Birmingham, MEPC, will remain as the development manager of the 155m building.

Construction will involve installing a 179m tower crane on site in the first half of 2022 – the tallest tower crane ever used in the city and the same height as the Gherkin in London.

Designed by Birmingham-based Glenn Howells Architects, the 155m tall tower will provide up to 370 new build to rent homes and marks the latest phase of the £700m Paradise scheme, so far delivered by BAM and Sir Robert McAlpine.


Prefabricated elements including the facade and modern methods of construction will contribute to a lower embodied design for the Octagon

Neil McGinty, UK development director at CDL, said: “We are delighted to collaborate with MEPC to develop the visionary Octagon residential tower, which will transform Birmingham’s skyline.

“Since we made our foray into the UK BTR segment in 2019 with the acquisition of The Junction in Leeds, we have been looking for opportunities to grow our portfolio strategically through the development of iconic BTR residential landmarks.

“Our investment in the Paradise project allows us the unique opportunity to actively participate in the rejuvenation of the Birmingham city region.”


Under the Glen Howells design eight flats on each floor will boast uninterrupted views

 

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M Group buys Babcock power lines arm for £50m

Infrastructure specialist contractor M Group Services has bought Babcock’s Overhead Line Power business for £50m.

Following the acquisition, the business will be rebranded to form part of Morrison Energy Services, sitting alongside and enhancing existing electricity, gas and green energy capabilities.

In latest accounts to March 2021, the power business reported total revenues of £70m and pre-tax profit around £7m before allocated overheads.

The overhead line electric transmission and distribution business counts among its clients including National Grid, Scottish Power Energy Networks and Western Power Distribution.

Jim Arnold, Chief Executive M Group Services, said: “It is important for us to deliver sustainable growth both organically and through acquisitions and we are pleased to strategically enhance our capabilities with this acquisition which provides the means to accelerate our growth by delivering a greater breadth of electricity transmission services to our clients.

“The culture, capabilities and reputation that have become synonymous with this business make it a perfect fit for us. We are delighted to welcome David Maddocks and his team to M Group Services.”

David Maddocks, Director of Babcock Power, added: “I am extremely excited to be joining M Group Services. Our overhead line capability compliments the existing range of services and provides a solid platform to grow in a market that has great opportunity for expansion.”

This acquisition takes the total number of strategic acquisitions made by M Group Services to 15 since December 2016.

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Balfour Beatty US arm to pay £49m over military housing fraud

Balfour Beatty’s US operation has been ordered to pay out £49m after pleading guilty to major fraud on its military housing maintenance contract.

The Balfour Beatty Communities pay-out is made up of £25m in fines and £24m in damages relating to its military housing contract at 21 Air Force, 18 Navy, and 16 Army bases across the United States, in which tens of thousands of service members and their families lived.

As part of the settlement with the US Department for Justice, BBC pleaded guilty to one count of fraud and has agreed to the appointment of an independent compliance monitor for a three-year period, while it has also been placed on probation for three years.

According to court documents, from around 2013 to around 2019, Balfour Beatty Communities staff falsified performance information for incentive fee requests at various military housing projects.

Specifically, BBC staff altered or manipulated data in property management software and destroyed and falsified resident comment cards to falsely inflate performance to obtain pay performance incentive fees that BBC had not earned.

US Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said: “Instead of promptly repairing housing for U.S. service members as required, BBC lied about the repairs to pocket millions of dollars in performance bonuses.”

“This pervasive fraud was a consequence of BBC’s broken corporate culture, which valued profit over the welfare of servicemembers.

“Today’s global resolution sends a clear message to companies that if they do not maintain adequate compliance programs, voluntarily self-disclose misconduct, and fully cooperate with the government, they will pay a price that outweighs the profits they once reaped.”

In a statement today Balfour said:  “Balfour Beatty is committed to the highest standards of ethical conduct. 

“The wrongdoing that took place is completely contrary to the way the company expects its people to behave.

“The company apologises for the actions of Communities to all its stakeholders. It has been made clear to all employees that breaches of policies, procedures, or law will not be tolerated.

“Communities welcomes the appointment of the independent compliance monitor and looks forward to a constructive engagement.”


In 2019, the Balfour Beatty undertook an in-depth review of operations at Communities and, as a result, introduced a series of changes to prevent misconduct from occurring in the future.

These involved therestructuring of the Communities management team including the additional appointment of several key executives and aChief Compliance Officer for the US. 

It said: “Communities also has enhanced its ethics and compliance training for all employees and has made significant improvements to the maintenance work order processing system, underpinned by enhanced controls and protocols that are aimed to prevent misuse and strengthen oversight.”

 

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52 jobs axed as industrial coating specialist goes under

Staffordshire-based specialist Industrial Coating Services has fallen into administration with the loss of 52 jobs.

ICS, which specialised in the surface preparation and application of protective coatings, suffered from critical cash flow issues arising from a sustained period of working on loss-making contracted work.

Since last year ICS was working on the major Wandsworth Bridge refurbishment in London which is now due to be completed next summer after further additional critical works were identified on the structure.

The original contract with VolkerLaser is understood to have been secured for around £3m.

The business, which operated from an industrial paint shop building in Rugeley, was marketed for sale prior to the administrators’ appointment, but a buyer could not be found.

Ben Jones from administrators FRP Advisory , said: “Without significant investment or the prospect of new ownership, ICS was unable to trade through its difficulties and continue as a going concern.

“All trading and operations have ceased. Regrettably, all of the 52 employees have been made redundant, although a small number will continue to support the administrators with their statutory duties. ”

 

 

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Building collapses after foundation blunders

A building contractor has been prosecuted after carrying out unsafe excavation works which resulted in the partial collapse of a residential building.

Manchester Crown Court heard how on 14 August 2019, Iproject Cheshire Limited had been carrying out refurbishment works on a building in Didsbury.

Employees of the company undermined the foundations while digging out the ground around the building causing a partial collapse. There were no injuries or fatalities, but the collapse presented a risk to life.

An HSE investigation found that the company failed to properly plan or carry out the work safely. A risk assessment into the excavations had not been carried out. There was no safe system of work in place and the work had not been sufficiently supervised.

Iproject Cheshire Limited of Stockport pleaded guilty to safety breaches and was fined £31,500 and ordered to pay costs of £13,500.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector David Argument said: “This was a very serious incident, and it is fortunate that nobody was injured as a result of it.

“This incident could have been prevented if the company had carried out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment prior to commencing work on the excavations and by properly supervising the work.”

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