Last updateThu, 08 Feb 2024 10am

MPs urge DCLG to retain sustainable homes code

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has been urged by a committee of MPs to reconsider plans to axe the Code for Sustainable Homes, describing it as “a policy that has driven up home building standards and helped to create a thriving sustainable building industry in the UK.”

The chair of the Commons Environmental Audit Committee said: “The Secretary of State should think again before demolishing the Code for Sustainable Homes. The policy has been a big success in driving up home building standards, delivering local choice and supporting green exports. Building materials manufacturers in the UK told us that they use the code as a green kitemark when they sell their products abroad.”

The cross-party committee criticised the Department for its decision to remove local authorities’ discretion to set high standards on energy and water saving—using the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH)—in favour of a lowest-common-denominator national standard.

Top judge to speak at construction law meeting

Picture of Mr Justice Ramsey for Your Expert Witness storyOne of the country’s leading authorities on construction law will be speaking at an event chaired by a partner at Oxford law firm Blake Lapthorn later this month. The Hon Mr Justice Ramsey will speak at a joint meeting of the Society of Construction Law and the Thames Valley Branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.

A graduate of Oriel College, Oxford, Mr Justice Ramsey was appointed as a High Court judge in 2005. In 2007 he was appointed for three years as judge in charge of the Technology and Construction Court, the specialist arm of the High Court for dealing with construction disputes.

He will speak about the latest thinking in construction law and how the courts interpret it, under the heading Statutory Difference: Why an Arbitration Act but no Adjudication Act?

New advice service helps Natural England to gain service standard

Photo of a pipistrelle for Your Expert Witness storyIn August, Natural England was awarded the Cabinet Office Customer Service Excellence Standard. The standard tests an organisation against 57 components, with a particular focus on delivery, timeliness, information, professionalism, staff attitudes and customer insight.

Natural England is a statutory consultee on environmental assessment processes and many development proposals, including that of Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects and the transport network. It is also a statutory consultee on Development Plans, Local Development Frameworks, Neighbourhood Development Plans and Orders and Community Right to Build Orders.

The agency has recently introduced new and improved services to provide non-statutory advice related to planning proposals, supported by the introduction of charges.

The service aims to give developers the chance to tap into the expertise of case officers and wildlife advisers who will be able to highlight potential environmental impacts at an early stage and provide advice on possible solutions, potentially saving time and money in the planning process while also securing good outcomes for the natural environment.

Pre-application advice for planning proposals

Known as the Discretionary Advice Service (DAS), it is geared towards cases with the potential for significant impact on protected sites, landscapes and species, or which could bring environmental gain. An initial level of advice is offered free of charge to help identify key issues and opportunities on a development proposal. The customer would then have the option of paying for further access to Natural England’s expert advice to help in the development of their proposals.

Industry experts reward construction’s finest

John Humphrys presenting award for The Shard for Your Expert Witness storyOn 1 October the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane hosted one of the most notable award ceremonies of the year. Around 900 construction industry leaders gathered to celebrate the 2013 British Construction Industry Awards.

The secretariat for the awards is provided by New Civil Engineer, whose editorial director Antony Oliver commented: “Once again the British Construction Industry Awards have demonstrated that quality design and construction remains central to public and private sector infrastructure clients' ambitions. As they strive to deliver better services to customers while reducing the cost of operating and maintaining assets, it is very clear that investment up front to improve the design and construction process pays massive dividends in the long run.”

There was a large number of entries and the competition was tough. The judges had the difficult task of deciding who would be walking away with the coveted awards. The rigorous judging process included a visit to every shortlisted entrant in the building and civil engineering project categories by members of the expert judging panel.

Asbestos fear for mother as council takes 18 months to fix roof

picture of asbestos coating for Your Expert Witness storyA report in a Gloucestershire newspaper regarding a council tenant who had to wait 18 months for the council to mend her roof, despite the fact that she feared the presence of asbestos would cause health problems for her children, has prompted a comment from a law firm that specialises in asbestos claims.

The case was reported in the Gazette Series of titles and concerned a council house in Stroud which had developed a leaky roof in 2011. The young woman who had lived there with her two children since 2009 reported the matter, and was concerned that the asbestos in the ceiling may have been disturbed by the crumbling of the ceiling, which in turn was caused by a leaking roof.

She was quoted in the local Gazette as saying: “When I first moved into the property I was told by the council that there was some asbestos in the ceiling but unless it was damaged it was at a safe level. This obviously all changed when the ceiling in my hallway started to crumble away because of the damp.”