Friday 30 October 2015

CDM 2015 - Principal Designer

In an article from Construction Manager, the HSE’s chief inspector of construction feels that:

Six months after the shake-up of CDM 2015 and with the transitional arrangements ending today (6 October), the HSE’s chief inspector of construction has told Construction Manager that the revised regulations are “bedding in well” and designers are “on a journey” to fulfilling their new responsibilities.

Well, that is certainly one way of looking at it!

The other way could be that as a practice whose clients are domestic homeowners simply wanting to improve their home; the last thing our clients need is to pay for something (as obviously professionals like us have to charge for their time and expertise) they do not want or need. Our clients already know the risks at their home; such as living on a busy road, overhead cables, underground pipes, etc, etc. They do not need a report telling them this information and neither do the builders. Builders know the risks associated with the construction of an extension or conversion.

Quite why CDM 2015 has been applied to domestic projects is not as simple as it seems. Yes, more people are sadly injured or worse on domestic building sites than commercial ones. Of course they are! There are always vastly more domestic projects happening than commercial projects, and therefore obviously more people get injured on domestic building sites than on commercial ones.

A couple of examples:

If, 80% of drivers drove blue cars and only 20% drove red ones then obviously there would be more road traffic incidents involving blue cars than red ones. But it would not mean that people driving blue cars are more dangerous than those driving the red ones; that would be a false statistic.

In any joinery or cabinetmaking workshop there are more machine saws than any other type of machines. There could be the rip saw, the cross-cut saw, the dimension saw, the band saw, the fret saw and others. However, there would likely only be one mortiser, lathe, sander, over-hand planner, thickness planner, spindle molder, vacuum press and such like. So, guess which type of machine is involved with the most incidents? Yes, that is right; sawing machines obviously! There are more of them in the workshop. Therefore, stating that saws are more dangerous than other machines would be based upon a false statistic.

There is an old saying that you can prove anything with statistics and a cynical person might think that the HSE has applied CDM 2015 to domestic projects so as to create work for itself! Especially as we have just come through one of the worse recessions ever - the construction industry is always the first to suffer and to recover.

Many in the industry believe that CDM 2015 has been applied to domestic projects based upon false statistics that need further examination or to be seen in proportion.

There is no denying that CDM 2015 is here and needs to be adhered to and we just hope that proportionality is applied and that common sense prevails.

You can read the full Construction Manager article here

Thursday 10 September 2015

South Downs National Park

In another excellent article, Roger Milne from the Planning Portal highlights the potential changes in the South Downs National Park - see below.

I regularly work with the planning authorities that SDNP delegate powers to and I hope the changes are for the better of us all - architects, planners and the people that really matter; the clients.

New policies that set the course for development across one of the largest planning authority areas in England are out for consultation now the South Downs National Park Authority has published its so-called preferred options strategy.

The proposed local plan for the park, which covers large parts of Hampshire, East and West Sussex, seeks to put landscapes first while still serving the needs of communities and the local economy.

When the plan is adopted (expected to be in 2017) it will be the first time that a single set of planning policies have been applied across the 1,600 square kilometres area of the UK’s newest national park.

Trevor Beattie, the authority’s chief executive, said: “Our landscapes are the reason the South Downs became a National Park so they must sit at the heart of every planning decision we make.”

The strategy allowed for 4,596 new homes over the next 17 years. Of those, 1,840 would be affordable. The plan identifies 20 potential sites for new development including three strategic brownfield sites: Shoreham Cement Works in Upper Beeding, the former Syngenta site in Fernhurst, and the North Street Quarter and Eastgate area of Lewes.

Significant new housing development is expected with 700 homes in Petersfield (Hampshire), some 835 homes in Lewes (East Sussex) and around 150 homes in Petworth (West Sussex).

Roger Milne

Friday 10 July 2015

Brownfield Sites

In another excellent article by Roger Milne (see below) we see the George Osborne may well finally be the man to enable more houses to be built where people want to and have to live. The simple fact is that we need more houses and we have only used a fraction of the land that is suitable (not including Green belt, farming, etc, etc) to be built upon. The reason we are short of suitable (in all ways - size and location) housing is because planning authorities will not free up land for house building.

Chancellor George Osborne promised a further raft of planning reforms when he delivered his summer budget this week, but exactly what will not be unveiled until Friday 10 July.

In his budget speech Osborne insisted the administration remained wedded to the development of a ‘Northern Powerhouse’. He confirmed new powers for the new elected mayor of Greater Manchester and the creation of city-wide land commission.

He committed £30m to establish Transport for the North as a statutory body with statutory responsibilities.

Osborne launched a transport devolution package for the North which will include working on an Oyster-style smart and integrated ticketing system across bus, tram metro and rail services covering the North’s mayor-led city regions.

Osborne said the government was working towards further devolution deals with the Sheffield City region, Liverpool City region and Leeds, West Yorkshire and partner authorities.

A devolution deal is also progressing involving Cornwall and there are ambitious proposals for a “strong and coherent” West Midlands combined authority and proposals for two from East Midland authorities.

The Chancellor announced the government would invite bids for a new round of Enterprise Zones. It has pledged continuing support – and a further £90m – to help coastal areas via the Coastal Communities Fund which will carry on until 2020. The administration has published a discussion paper on regional airports.

In addition, the government has promised to introduce a “new approach” to station redevelopment and commercial land sales on the rail network building on the experience of regenerating land around Kings Cross Station and Stratford in east London.

Ministers will establish a dedicated body to focus on “pursuing opportunities to realise value from public land and property assets in the rail network to both maximise the benefit to local communities and reduce the burden of public debt”.

Friday 3 July 2015

Tidal Power

In an interesting article that leads on from my last blog entry. Oxford University has been researching the uses of tidal power. See for more details.

Being an island nation, we have a good amount of tides that could be a useful source of power.

Monday 22 June 2015

To frack or not to frack

In another interesting artcile by Roger Milne (see below), Lancashire County Council have approved a site on the Flyde coast.

What do not understand is why big companies are wasting money and resources on new or today's technology to find yesterday's fuel when they should investing money in renewable energy such as solar photovoltaic cells, wind farms, wave power and such like.

With modern buildings being built to higher and higher standards of efficiency, and some already having solar panels on the buildings that put energy back into grid the pursuit of gas and oil seems pointless to me.

Also, renewable energies give much greater freedom to a country and break any hold that another country may have over the supply of energies such as gas and oil.

Lancashire County Council planners have recommended that test fracking should be allowed at one of two sites on the Fylde coast.

This follows applications from energy company Cuadrilla to use fracking to extract shale gas at Little Plumpton and Roseacre Wood.

The application for Little Plumpton has been recommended for approval. Roseacre Wood has been recommended for refusal because of the impact on road safety caused by increased lorry traffic.

If approved it would be the first time a planning authority has backed an application to frack, drill and test flow the gas and the first fracking since tests near Blackpool in 2011 which caused small earth tremors.

In a separate but related development, the Environment Agency is consulting on environmental permits to allow Third Energy to carry out test-fracking at a site near the village of Kirby Misperton in Ryedale, North Yorkshire. A planning application is due to be submitted to the county council shortly.

Meanwhile, the government has denied that fracking applications will receive less environmental scrutiny from the public following proposals from the Environment Agency to introduce standardised testing for both conventional and unconventional oil and gas wells.

In a joint statement from the Department for Energy and Climate Change and the Environment Agency, the government insisted: “The process for operators to apply for a fracking permit has not changed. Any operator wanting to undertake fracking needs to apply for an environmental permit, conduct an environmental impact assessment and apply for planning permission. This is open to full public consultation.”

Thursday 19 March 2015

Planning News Roundup

Some interesting news this week from the Planning Portal.

Monday 16 March 2015

Degree Apprenticeships

Having recently seen our apprentice become qualified I read this with great interest:

The Construction Index
Construction News
Fri March 13th 2015

Chartered surveying is one of nine degree apprenticeships that the government has announced in addition to four that have previously been developed. The previous ones include construction.

The latest ones are more engineering focused and include electronic systems engineering, aerospace engineering, aerospace software development, defence systems engineering and, er, public relations.

The idea of degree apprenticeships is that they combine aspects of higher and vocational education, in much the same way as a traditional sandwich course placement.

Groups of businesses, universities and colleges are developing vocational degree courses that allow people to combine both academic study from a traditional university degree with practical experience.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Degree apprenticeships will give people a great head start, combining a full degree with the real practical skills gained in work and the financial security of a regular pay packet. They will bring the world of business and the world of education closer together, and let us build the high-level technical skills needed for the jobs of the future. I want to see many more businesses and universities begin to offer them.”

Higher apprentices are already able study to degree level as part of their apprenticeship but degree apprenticeships will go further, the government said. They will involve a degree as an integral part of the apprenticeship, co-designed by employers so that it is relevant for the skills industry requires.

As with other apprenticeships, the cost of course fees are shared between government and employers, meaning that the apprentice can earn a full bachelors or even masters degree without paying any fees.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) welcomed the move. External affairs director Kim Worts said: “RICS is delighted to be part of new apprenticeship reforms. For the first time we will provide degree apprenticeships for trainee surveyors, leading to chartered status (MRICS).”

The first chartered surveying degree apprenticeships will be open to entrants from September 2015 in England. Surveying apprentices will undertake a part-time undergraduate degree and gain in-work experience and training over a period of four to five years.

Engineering Employers Federation chief executive Terry Scuoler said: “There has been a noticeable gap in higher-level provision that combines both vocational and academic learning, and degree apprenticeships are the opportunity to fill this gap. For employers and learners alike, degree apprenticeships are a good step forward. Learners earn while they learn to a degree level and employers have access to relevant, responsive, highly-skilled employees.”

Organisations involved in developing the chartered surveying degree apprenticeship scheme are: Gardiner and Theobald, Axis, DTZ, Faithorn Farrell Timms, DSB Construction Consultants, Valuation Office Agency, Transport for London, EC Harris, Martin Arnold Associates, Collier & Madge, CBRE, Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, London Southbank University and Birmingham City University.

To read more see HERE

Thursday 5 February 2015

From Apprentice to Technician

Without a shadow of doubt, one of the huge joys of the past 2 years has been taking the rough diamond that was our apprentice and helping her become the polished jewel that is now our technician.

Saturday 31 January 2015

Is AutoCAD about to die?!

Is AutoCAD about to die?!

This is not something I ever expected to hear. I've been using AutoCAD since 1989 (yes, I that old or I was just an early adopter) and have been a fan ever since. But in recent years the price has rocketed. So, imagine my delight when I found progeCAD from and check it out. I've been using AutoCAD LT 2010 for the last few years and after trialling progeCAD on a project I can tell you that it works in exactly the same way - all the commands; everything and I mean everything. All the favourite commands, the command line, the icons, EVERYTHING!!!

I've tested several AutoCAD alternative over the years (including DoubleCAD and TurboCAD LTE) and I can safely say that progeCAD (which is Swiss by the way and so likely to stay around) is the best.

Plus with the current version of AutoCAD LT retailing at over £1200.00 and the annual licence option running at £285.00, just what do Autodesk think they're doing. LT is supposed to stand for 'light version'. £1250.00?!!! That isn't light. What Autodesk need to do is release a light version of their light version!

Where as progeCAD is £186.75 and it's 3D!!!

You can read more about the engine that powers progeCAD at and on other website.

Friday 30 January 2015

Councils Face Loosing Powers

'Councils face losing powers for not using brownfield sites' In their role as local planning authorities, will be penalised if they do not meet yearly targets on fast-tracking brownfield sites for dev: Inside Housing.CO.UK News
29 January 2015 | By Daniel Douglas

The government plans to take away councils’ planning powers if they fail to use enough local development orders to boost the building of homes on brownfield land.

Councils, in their role as local planning authorities, will be penalised if they do not meet yearly targets on fast-tracking brownfield sites for development

A government consultation, launched yesterday, proposes using ‘local development orders’ – a way of speeding up planning permission on sites – to catalyse house building on brownfield sites. The government wants 9 out of 10 suitable brownfield sites to have a local development order in place by 2020.

Councils that do not meet this target will be found to be ‘under-performing’, meaning developers can submit applications directly to the Planning Inspectorate, going over the head of the council.

An alternative proposal is that councils not meeting the target will be ‘unable to claim the existence of an up to date five year supply of land for housing’, meaning that, under the National Planning Policy Framework, the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ kicks in, again allowing developers to push through development more easily.

The government says that there is enough suitable brownfield land available to build 200,000 homes. The Department for Communities and Local Government in August launched a £5m fund for councils to use to put local development orders in place for brownfield sites. The DCLG was unable to confirm how much of this fund has been allocated.

Some experts warn that this places another burden on overwhelmed planning departments and may take resources away from more important strategic planning.

Sarah Davis, policy adviser at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said: ‘A concern we have is that the drive for this use of brownfield sites, while welcome, may take focus and resources off the bigger picture.

‘It may be a potential problem if it means local planning authorities losing sight of the bigger issues of suitability of sites regarding all of the questions around infrastructure, urban planning, capacity of local resources and so on.’

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: ‘We are slightly concerned that, as local authorities are so lacking in resources right now, it is going to be difficult for them to implement this policy.’

The consultation runs until 11 March.$LINK_KEYWORD$&dm_i=1HH2,35GGR,FYUWO8,BAJ36,1

Thursday 29 January 2015

Straight Distinctions for apprentice

Yep, that's right our apprentice (well, make that Junior Architectural Technician) got straight Distinctions in her BTEC National in Construction. Well done Jasmine, we're all so very proud of you!