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Construction National blog: 10/04/2012

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Following on the heels of the Budget came the much-heralded National Planning Policy Framework, or NPPF: THE hot topic among construction news stories.

It had been flagged in the Budget, before which it had been attacked by an ‘unholy alliance’ of The National Trust and Friends of the Earth for its proposed presumption in favour of ‘sustainable development’ and its (later amended) failure to favour brownfield development.

In the ends nobody was happy, which state of affairs on another subject His Honour Lord Jackson stated could mean it was broadly right. In essence those who favour lots of development welcomed the new framework, although they think that there is still too much restriction; those who don’t, didn’t. They think there is far too little restriction, meaning the entire countryside is on the brink of being dug up and built on.

One area that will almost certainly see a fall in applications is the building of extensions to listed properties. This magazine’s sister publication, Ecclesiastical and Heritage World, will be examining in some depth what the introduction of VAT will mean to the sector. What no-one disagrees with, however, is that a 50-page framework for making planning decisions is better than 3,000 pages.

One of the ‘in’ terms in construction news circles is building information management – BIM. It even has its own trade show. As acronyms go it’s certainly one if the least inspiring; which is a shame, as the development of integrated IT systems covering the entire build process is crucial to a modern construction industry.

In the words of an article published last November in the paper edition of Construction National, BIM is more than just 3D CAD. To find out more go to BIM Show Live at the Business Design Centre in London on 9-10 May.

On a less-than-encouraging note, the HSE has reported that one fifth of sites visited in a national construction site safety initiative failed the safety check. What is even more alarming is that the figure showed “a slight improvement”! Falls from height are a major cause of death or injury in what is one of the country’s most dangerous industries (celebrity ice dancing does not count) and for 20% of companies not to taking the issue seriously enough is a scandal.

One safety issue that has been clarified concerns non-licensed work with asbestos. The changes are in response to an EC view that the UK had not fully implemented the EU Directive on working with the substance. The changes are minor and do not mean a mass exodus of consultants from the Construction Directory on this site.

Chris Stokes