What does Brexit mean for construction?

Categories: Blog

As the United Kingdom woke up to the news that the public had voted to leave the European Union, many were left wondering what the implications would be for the construction industry. The industry, throughout the campaign, had displayed mixed views on the prospect of Brexit, with particular concern about how it might affect the skills shortage, the import and export of materials, and regulations and standards.

Recent months have seen private sector investors delaying investment decisions ahead of the vote, but with the economical and political uncertainty this trend is continuing while we wait for the government to trigger the fabled Article 50 and begin trade negotiations. Therefore the vote result will undoubtedly continue to affect house building and private sector development in the immediate future.

We have seen evidence of this with many of our suppliers of building materials advising that their prices are set to increase this autumn anywhere in the region of 3-5%, due in large to the value of the pound against the Euro and Dollar post-Brexit. Presently it is estimated that 64% of building materials were imported from the EU and 63% of building materials were exported to the EU*. With Brexit, importers and exporters may now face duties or limits on quantities, which could similarly lead to a shortage of construction materials and see a further increase in costs.

However, Brexit could allow UK public procurement to stipulate the use of ‘UK firms and materials only’, supporting UK-based enterprises. Historically, UK governments have not been in favour of propping up industries in this way, and there is always the potential for retaliation from affected countries. On the positive side, the UK may be able to negotiate and develop its own trade agreements with the EU and other large importing companies, such as those in China and the USA

Brentwood Lofts are working with the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) to ensure we continue to employ and train apprentices to skilled trades; this is vital for businesses across the UK where we could witness higher project costs, as labour demand outstrips supply if immigration is limited.
The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) will be revisiting their ‘Cut the VAT’ campaign, given that the EU barrier to cutting the rate of VAT will, at some point in the future, be removed. This will help support economic growth across the industry and as Members of the FMB, we support this wholly.

Regardless of the Brexit outcome, Brentwood Lofts are committed, as we have been for over 30 years now, to delivering teams of skilled tradesmen and quality building works for our customers, while taking care of our people and ensuring we adapt and grow into an industry post-Brexit, in whatever form it takes.

* Taken from a 2010 study by the Department for Business Skills and Innovation

Planning Applications

Categories: Blog

It can be frustrating after submitting a planning application, having to wait what seems like an inordinate amount of time, for any decision. There are now interesting changes being proposed for planning applications, offering ‘competition’ amongst councils and proposed government approved organisations who would also be instructed to process applications (up to decision pint).

Councils will be able to compete to process planning applications and offer ‘fast track’ application services, much like the Fast Track Passport service, under proposals for a series of pilots now out for consultation.
The administration said the proposals would increase local choice by giving applicants the option of whether to submit their plans to the local council, a competing council or a government-approved organisation, which would process applications up until the decision point.
Councils will also be able to offer the ‘fast track’ planning application service – either through competition pilots or potentially through devolution deals.
However, ministers have stressed that decision making on planning applications would remain with the local council.
These reforms are among other measures outlined by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in a consultation document, which also includes latest thinking on planning charges and detail on potential government intervention when planning authorities fail to produce local plans in a timely fashion.
DCLG has proposed that planning fees should rise in line with inflation and, crucially, performance. One approach could mean that councils which under perform in respect of major applications would not benefit from increased fees.
Another approach canvassed would mean limiting increases to those authorities that are in the top 75 per cent of performance for both the speed and quality of their decisions.
The department is consulting on revised thresholds in respect of major developments and new thresholds for non-major developments.
The department has also confirmed that the government will prioritise intervention over tardy local plan marking where there is under delivery of housing in areas of high housing pressure, where plans have not been kept up to date, where the least progress in plan-making has been made and where “intervention would have the greatest impact in accelerating local plan production”.
Ministers will be checking to see if planning authorities are meeting the timetable they have set themselves, possibly on a six-month basis.
by Planning Portal Content Team on February 25, 2016

New Living Area

Categories: Blog

Happy New Year!

If you are considering a loft conversion this year, the following points should give you good food for thought on the benefits of adding a new living area to your home:

1. A new room utilises space that is often left unused, or for storage of rarely used items – like the Christmas tree and decorations etc! Questions are often raised as to ‘Where will we fit all that ‘stuff’ if we convert the space? The answer is simple, as most conversions will provide storage space in the ‘eaves’ of the roof – the space around the edges of the loft.

2. Per square metre, loft conversions are often cheaper than conventional extensions, as some of the structure of the loft is already in place. In turn, if the property has a small garden, then carrying out a loft conversion means that garden space isn’t lost, as it would be with an extension.

3. The problem of blocking or overshadowing light to neighbouring properties isn’t an issue with loft conversions, as often happens with ground floor extensions. Also, constructing an extension can throw up difficult soil conditions, tree roots, sewers etc, which can often result in extra costs for deeper/reinforced footings.

4. One of the most common reasons for requiring a new room, is for a bedroom and a loft conversion tends to lend itself particularly well to an upper floor, as opposed to an extension, where to achieve the same may require several storeys.

5. A loft conversion project is generally not dependant on weather conditions – it can be carried out at any time of the year, through wintery rain or frost. The only consideration is the dormer when the roof is opened up, but the building of a dormer does not take long and can soon be completely weather proofed, with work continuing inside.

6. Most loft conversions are exempt from planning, which can save time and expense.

7. One of the most satisfying parts of the construction, from our point of view, is when the stairs are installed normally during the last quarter of the build, and our clients can finally visit their new space for the first time. Seeing the space achieved, but also the views that a conversion generally offers from the higher vantage point, is often one of the best aspects of the new space.

All food for thought. If we can help with queries on any aspect of the above, or an other issues, do email us.

Merry Christmas

Categories: Blog

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our clients, from all at Brentwood Lofts.

Pressure on the Government to increase local councils’ planning application fees

Categories: Blog

The Local Government Association (LGA) is stepping up pressure on the Government to allow councils to set their own planning fees.
In 2012 the Chancellor introduced a cap on the amount local councils could charge. However, since then, the LGA has consistently protested that the current nationally-set fees only cover approximately two-thirds of the actual costs in handling applications and that the shortfall is quite considerable – some £450,000 over the past three years, with the cost of planning applications increasing annually by around £150,000.
LGA housing spokesman Peter Box said: “It is unacceptable for communities to keep being forced to spend hundreds of millions each year to cover a third of the cost of all planning applications.
Government should recognise the huge pressure this is placing on already stretched planning departments that are crucial to building the homes and roads that local communities need but which have seen 46 per cent reductions in funding over the past five years.”
He added: “The Spending Review should allow local authorities to recover the actual cost of applications and end such a needless waste of taxpayers’ money when developers are willing to pay more.”
It is therefore looking as if the Treasury will succumb and that an increase in planning application fees may be imminent.

Quote: Roger Milne
Planning Portal

This is interesting – a report on the Federation of Master Builders’ website:

Categories: Blog

Sprinkler

“Sprinklers mandatory in new homes in Wales from 2016″
“Members in Wales should be aware that, under the Domestic Fire Safety Regulations 2013, the installation of fire sprinklers in all new and converted houses and flats in Wales will be mandatory from January 2016. This requirement has already been in place for certain high-risk properties (e.g. care homes, student halls of residence, and certain hostels) since April 2014”

Could be that the rest of the United Kingdom will follow suit in time.

 

 

Additional costs to be taken into consideration, outside of building costs.

Categories: Blog

When budgeting for a loft conversion, (or any other building project) there are additional costs to take into consideration, aside from the quote from your builder.  The current costs (June 2015) are:

Read more

Frequently Asked Question

Categories: Blog

I would like to have a loft conversion. A concern is: as the works are all carried out in the roof and not visible until the stairs go in and we can then go up and have a look at the new space, how do I know that everything has been built properly when the walls are already plasterboarded and plastered?

As an experienced loft conversion company, we have completed hundreds of conversions and each one is built in accordance with plans and engineer’s designs. The process for each project is as follows: from the outset, plans for the loft area are drawn up (whether for planning permission or for submission to Building Control when a project falls within permitted development) and then agreed with the client.

Agreed plans are then forwarded to a Structural Engineer, who will prepare the structural design (ie, steels/beams/materials etc). The plans and engineer’s designs are then submitted to Building Control. At each vital stage of the job (such as joisting, steels, insulation, plumbing etc), a Building Inspector will attend to inspect and sign off each individual component of the project, up to and including the final completion visit, whereafter he/she will issue a completion notice to confirm that all works have complied with strict Regulations/drawings/engineer’s designs.

Thus, the expertise of all professionals concerned, from the drawing board to completion, ensures that the new structure is sound and the building uncompromised.

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The need for new housing

Categories: Blog

We recently received an interesting newsletter from the Federation of Master Builders, on the need for improvement in access to finance and more availability of smaller land parcels, to enable building companies, such as Brentwood Lofts, to compete in the supply of new homes for our local area, in the future: Read more

Regional Heat Winner for the Federation of Master Builder’s Apprentice of the year 2014

Categories: Blog
Red letter day!
We received fantastic news today that one of our apprentices, Ryan, has won the regional heat for the Federation of Master Builder’s Apprentice of the year 2014. Read more
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