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New Builds Booming!

Berkeley Group says its prospects have been boosted by the government’s Help to Buy scheme

Housebuilder Berkeley Group has said it expects to complete 30% more homes this year than during the 2007 market peak.

It has credited the government’s Help to Buy scheme with boosting the property market and speeding up the number of new homes being built.

The firm’s forecast comes shortly after the chancellor’s decision to extend the equity loan scheme for new homes until 2020, in England at least.

Shares in UK housebuilders rose sharply on the news on Monday.

An extra £6bn would be put into the English Help to Buy scheme, George Osborne said at the weekend, allowing a further 120,000 new homes to be built.

The extension, from its current end date of December 2016, will be confirmed in Wednesday’s Budget.

Berkeley Group said its forward sales of new homes were worth more than £1.9bn by the end of February, up from £1.75bn at the end of October last year.

It said most of the demand was coming from London and the south of England.

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Firms of all sizes are being invited to prequalify for a massive new building framework covering council jobs in London.

The London Construction Programme Works and Major Works framework will be open to all 33 London Boroughs and is due to come into force at the start of 2015.

It has been given an estimated pipeline of work of anywhere between £1bn and £4bn over the next four years.

But as an untested arrangement, it is still open to question how much the cash-strapped public sector will be able to deliver.

A meet the buyer event will be staged on the 10 March to set out plans for four-year framework, which is broken down into 30 lots covering five London sub-regions.

Each region will be banded into projects up to £1m, £1m-£5m and over £5m, covering new-build housing or separate lots for other building like schools and health care projects.

Eight contractors are intended to be included on each lot in each sub-region except the £100,000 to £1m lots where up to 10 contractors may be appointed.

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The “Walkie Talkie” and “Cheesegrater” are nicknames for just two of the latest bizarrely-shaped tower blocks to appear on London’s skyline, to mixed reaction and sometimes unexpected consequences. The “Boomerang” and “Scalpel” are next in the pipeline. But are these modern-day monoliths good for the capital?

On an unseasonably hot September morning, Martin Lindsay parked his Jaguar on Eastcheap, in the City of London.

Two hours later, he returned to find parts of his car – including its wing mirror and badge – had melted.

It transpired the sun reflecting from the nearly-built 37-storey “Walkie Talkie” – nicknamed such because of its distinctive shape – was to blame.

A 60-storey residential skyscraper in Nine Elms, south-west London, has been approved

Within days, Eastcheap was not only under the full glare of the sun, but also the world’s media – who were reporting smouldering bicycle seats, singed doormats and even eggs being fried on the street.

The “Walkie Talkie” was not the only skyscraper to unexpectedly hit the headlines this year.

Elsewhere, the observation deck on The Shard – western Europe’s tallest building at 310m (1,016ft) – opened, while the Leadenhall Building, dubbed the “Cheesegrater”, because of its distinctive wedge shape, became the second tallest building in the City of London at 224m (734ft).

But are these new additions to the skyline an improvement?

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Boris says ‘keep skateboarding under the Southbank’

London mayor Boris Johnson has said he will support Feilden Clegg Bradley’s (FCBS) £120 million Southbank Centre overhaul – but only if controversial plans to remove the skatepark are abandoned

Britain’s construction sector has enjoyed its strongest pick-up in business since before the financial crisis plunged the industry deep intorecession, according to the latest in a string of upbeat economic reports.

House builders were at the forefront of the sector’s resurgence as they saw activity grow at the fastest pace for a decade last month, according to the Markit/CIPS UK Construction PMI.

Civil engineers and commercial construction firms also helped the sector claw back some of the ground lost during its slump and companies across the sector took on more staff as new work flowed in. The survey’s headline activity index rose more than expected to 62.6 after 59.4 in October. That marked the seventh month of growth and beat a forecast for a slowdown to 59 in a Reuters poll of economists.

“Construction activity continues to spring back to life during the final months of 2013,” said Tim Moore, senior economist at survey compilers Markit.

“That said, construction growth is still coming from a low base as output levels rebound from a deep and protracted double-dip recession that only really ended this summer.”

While economists and policymakers will want to see the survey’s rosy picture confirmed in official data in coming months, it is a welcome boost to chancellor George Osborne as he prepares to present his autumn statement plans for growth, spending and taxes on Thursday.

The construction report follows a much stronger than expected Markit survey on Monday from the manufacturing sector, which makes up around a tenth of the UK economy. That poll suggested new orders were growing at the fastest pace for 20 years and that manufacturers were creating 5,000 new jobs a month.

In the smaller construction sector, there were also multi-year highs for key measures. Output, employment and new work all rose at their fastest pace since 2007. Anecdotal evidence from the survey, which is sent to some 170 construction companies, suggested business was being helped by rising confidence in the economic outlook and improving credit conditions. Confidence among builders about the business outlook was the highest for four years.

 

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