Get ready for a new and improved transport link between Hertfordshire and West Essex, providing a welcome boost to the region.

Plans for a new sustainable and futuristic transport network – the Hertfordshire-Essex Rapid Transit (HERT) – were revealed by Hertfordshire County Council in June. There will be a programme of ‘public engagement’ events this autumn, Herts County Council said, so that local communities, civic groups, businesses and other organisations can get involved in the process of deciding what is needed.

The HERT aims to improve the passenger transport network through an “accessible, reliable and affordable east-west system” that could completely transform travel in Herts and Essex. It will connect people to where they live, work, study and visit across both counties – and in a more environmentally friendly way that will help support the local economies.

Investment in this transport link is essential because the region is undergoing a great deal of economic and social change.  Within the next 15 years Herts is working towards 100,000 new jobs and more than 100,000 new homes to meet local needs and, as a result, there will been an increased demand on schools, health, social care and the existing road and rail network.

It’s not yet decided whether the mode of transit will be bus, tram or train, but the designated route will run east-west along the A414 corridor between Hemel Hempstead and West Watford, with those routes joining just south of St Albans, then to Harlow in Essex and onwards to Stansted Airport. It’s expected that the HERT will provide greater convenience, reliability and frequency than a traditional bus service.

At TP Group, we’re excited that plans include the development of transport hubs, connecting planned cycling and walking routes to the HERT network. We agree that an integrated system will help to reduce congestion and pollution and improve the air quality for the residents of Hertfordshire and Essex.

As a Southeast based company, we’re committed to delivering great service across the Herts and Essex region and beyond, and will watch developments of the HERT project with interest. A new public transport system that can support the prosperous growth of our communities is to be welcomed.

More information about the HERT project is available at: www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/HERT

The TP Group is one of the UK’s leading multi-disciplinary contractors operating across London, the Southeast and the Home Counties. Contact us today for advice on your project.

The developers of the £3.5bn London Resort theme park, currently in the planning phase, are giving ‘serious consideration’ to housing contractors on cruise ships moored on the Thames.

The fact that this novel idea is being given credence is reflective of the southeast’s housing shortage. There simply aren’t enough rental properties available to provide accommodation to the 2,000 trade workers required for a project of this magnitude. Therefore – should the project go ahead – it seems some kind of innovative solution will have to be found.

Trade unions are questioning whether cruise ships are the answer, however.

While living on the river might sound like a pleasant idea, unions warn that the ships could become ‘floating prisons’ to the various builders, carpenters, electricians and engineers that they would house.

Jerry Swain, Unite’s national officer for construction, said, “it is essential that the cruise ships don’t in reality become an expensive prison.

“At the moment, due to Covid-19, there is a huge surplus of cruise ships but, when that market recovers, it would be immoral to force workers into clapped-out hulks.”

He added that would be essential for workers to “leave the ship and visit the local community” should the idea come to fruition.

During the development of Hinkley Point C in Somerset, some 500 construction workers were stationed in a 500-bed onsite campus.

The project’s rural location meant that workers’ accommodation was in similarly short supply and thus purpose-built accommodation was deemed necessary. However, a 2019 newspaper article reported that isolation at the site resulted in poor mental health conditions for many of the contractors that were stationed there.

Plans for the London Resort theme park place the site in Kent, on the bank of the Thames. Cruise ships would be moored across the river near Tilbury, Essex, and developers say that they have received “several approaches” from ferry companies looking to sell or lease their vessels.

If the planning application is granted, work on the site will commence in 2022. However, the project remains in the balance with significant local opposition being voiced in regards to the proposals.

It’s no secret that affordable housing is in short supply. For many years, policy makers have spoken about addressing the UK’s housing crisis. And, although the construction industry is constantly optimising efficiency and improving quality of output, Britain is still failing to meet demand.

The Government aims to build 300,000 new homes each year although the number achieved in 2019 was lower than 250,000 and figures for 2020 (albeit, drastically effected by the pandemic) a mere 123,000.

The issue is particularly acute in southeast England, as evidenced by the phenomenal interest in one particular Essex home.

Typically, it is multimillion pound houses which attract the most interest on the property site Zoopla. But bucking that trend is a modest one-bed flat in the small Thurrock town of Purfleet on Thames. Amazingly, this ground floor apartment has become England’s most-viewed property on the real estate platform.

The flat on Coniston Avenue is described by Zoopla as being “ideally suited for first time buyers”. With a modern interior, a plush bathroom and an open plan kitchen and living space, there is nothing especially noteworthy about the flat.

Why then, has there been so much interest?

Somewhat counterintuitively, the explanation might lie in the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to a surge in first time buyers and caused the property market to flourish.

Government policies, such as the stamp duty holiday, have helped to keep the market incredibly buoyant. Additionally, lockdown has helped renters save money for deposits, while a move towards blended home and office-based working has contributed to an exodus from nearby London.

Thanks to a major regeneration project, Purfleet on Thames is likely to become an even more attractive proposition in the years to come. Should plans come to fruition, the town will be transformed by a huge £1bn investment.

The regeneration scheme is being led by Purfleet Centre Regeneration Limited (a joint venture between developer Urban Catalyst and Swan Housing) and aims to make Purfleet a ‘creative hub’ with state-of-the-art film and TV studios included in the plans.

The TP Group looks forward to seeing how the plans unfold in our home county over the next decade.

While you’re here, why not take a look at some of the services we offer or some examples of our work?

Whether you’re a first-time buyer looking to spruce things up, or a major developer looking build much-needed housing, our integrated fire protection, surfacing, painting and landscaping services are second to none.

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Builder Gary Harris is challenging the stereotypes of the building trade, after turning his hand to sewing during lockdown.

“I don’t really care what people think,” the 64-year-old from Lowestoft, Sussex told the BBC. “Stereotypes should not stop people trying something new.”

When plastering work ground to halt at the height of the Covid-19 outbreak, Gary swapped his bucket and trowel for pins, threads and a sewing machine, and let his creative juices flow.  This more delicate passion, inspired by the Great British Sewing Bee, has given him a personal boost. And he thinks others in the trade would benefit from stepping outside their comfort zones, and experiencing totally different hobbies and skills.

Having worked in building for almost 50 years, Gary loves how sewing allows him to create his own designs, try out different fabrics, and make garments that fit him and his wife Sue really well. He enjoyed doing something less physically demanding too.

Now that construction activity is ramping back up across the UK, those building professionals who have spent the quiet months developing new skills will be at a distinct advantage. Here at The TP Group, we’re mightily impressed by Gary’s fresh thinking and resilient attitude. If our industry can emerge from lockdown stronger and more open-minded, we’ve got the future stitched up.

No matter what kind of project you’re planning, The TP Group has a wide range of services and skilled professionals to help. Contact us today.

Multinational engineering firm, Aecom has released a new study showing that brownfield sites in London alone could yield 400,000 new homes.

Previously developed Brownfield land would need to be repurposed with careful consideration to ‘key’ highstreets and town centres in order for the capital to grow in a more ‘balanced and resilient way’, says the report.

With new homes being built in walking distance of amenities and multiple transport systems, the report states that such redevelopment would not only provide much-needed housing, but also help strengthen local communities and result in more sustainable living.

Almost half a million homes could be built in London across 2,000ha, with all sites identified in the report being no further than 1.5km from town centres.

But Aecom stresses that successful planning should not focus on individual regions in isolation. Rather, it should encompass anywhere within a 60-minute commute from the capital. With a more joined-up approach, redevelopment could benefit the wider ‘London City Region’ and the UK as a whole.

“The challenges of redefining the London City Region post-pandemic and proactively addressing climate change are not being looked at holistically,” says Aecom’s city programme director, Andrew Jones. “We need to make bold moves that focus on compact growth in the city and embrace the interconnected future of the wider metropolitan region.”

With that in mind, the proposed move away from the city’s ‘retail dominated’ composition could also protect the metropolitan green belt, claims Aecom. Whereas currently, the construction consultation giant deems greenbelt land to be ‘undervalued and poorly used’, brownfield redevelopment could prevent unsustainable urban growth, protect viable farmland and reduce long-distance commuting.

If you’re interested to learn more, you can download The London 2070 report in its entirety here.

In response to the Living In Beauty report, 14 English local authorities have been chosen to pilot the National Model Design Code (NMDC) which is intended to ensure developments are beautiful and in keeping with local character.

Under the scheme, each council will receive a grant of £50,000 to cover the costs of implementing the reforms. Local authorities will be required to establish their own unique design codes taking factors like street character, façades, local heritage, the natural environment and wellbeing into account.

While few would question the intentions behind the move (who doesn’t want the built environment to be beautiful?) the plans have drawn criticism.

Too long, too descriptive, hard to resource and implement are just some examples of such criticism. And how will councils ensure representative engagement? Who’s to say what is beautiful and what isn’t in the subjective world of architecture?

Well, you can never please everyone. Supporters of the NMDC would suggest that the existing central controls for building planning are undemocratic and would point to the fact that the new plans encourage councils to seek input from local residents when creating their codes.

Housing Minister, Christopher Pincher said that the NMDC “will enable local people to set the rules for what developments in their area should look like, ensuring that they reflect and enhance their surroundings and preserve our local character and identity.  Instead of developers forcing plans on locals, they will need to adapt to proposals from local people, ensuring that current and new residents alike will benefit from beautiful homes in well-designed neighbourhoods.”

So, will the scheme work? Will more local control help to improve the aesthetic quality and consistency of regional architecture? A trial seems like a good way to find out.

“The outcomes from this first set of pilots will help to build the capacity and collective learning that we need across the sector,” says Anna Rose, the Head of the Planning Advisory Service. “I am looking forward to seeing what councils can achieve.”

Victoria Hills, Chief Executive of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) agrees, describing the trials as “a pragmatic way of identifying problems that may arise in the application of the code.”

But she adds words of caution: “substantial extra investment into the planning system will be needed if planners are to play their part fully.”

Hills points out that 90% of RTPI members say they want to prioritise beauty but lack the policy support and the resources to do so.

“It is only through significantly increased funding for local authority planning teams that the government’s ambitions for design codes in every council will be realised.”

Central to the NMDC system are national baseline standards and a toolkit to help guide local authorities through the transition phase.

Guy Bollen, The TP Group’s Managing Director had this to say: “the NMDC has the potential to drive up quality and design in regional developments. I’m very excited to see how the pilot scheme unfolds in the local Essex area. For a company like ours which takes such pride in the quality of our work and goes to such lengths to find the best possible design solutions, the intentions behind these plans resonate clearly with our own company values.”

No matter what you’re planning, or what kind of building code you’re working to, The TP Group will help you find a solution that’s beautiful and practical in equal measure.

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While the male-dominated construction sector seeks ways to attract more women into the workforce, one woman is flying the industry’s flag among the younger TikTok generation.

Norfolk bricklayer Darcie Richards, 25, has become a sensation on the social media platform, inspiring young women across the world to join the trade. With her viral videos showing tutorials and funny moments on construction sites, she demonstrates how female labourers are perfectly capable of doing the same jobs as their male counterparts.

Her first video racked up 9.5m views overnight. ‘People just love it, they love to watch that sort of thing’, she comments. ‘I think you could say I’m smashing walls and smashing glass ceilings’, or as one of her followers on TikTok put it, ‘paving the way for females in the industry’.

Starting onsite as a labourer while between jobs, Darcie quickly fell in love with the work, and both her parents were encouraging about her choice. While it’s a dirty job, to Richards that’s irrelevant as you get to be creative and enjoy the outdoors.

For women out there considering getting into any kind of trade, she has this advice: ‘If you’re a hands-on person and you’re creative and you want to be outside, then this is the job for you. It doesn’t matter that it’s stereotypically a man’s job.’ The TP Group couldn’t agree more.

Small construction companies are enjoying the strongest workload increase in a decade, but it has been accompanied by a surge in materials costs, according to the Federation of Master Builders.

Almost all small builders (93%) have reported higher costs and increased lead-in times for delivery in the first quarter of 2021. Customer enquiries are also up by their fastest rate in over a decade, as revealed by the FMB’s latest state of trade survey.

Despite the good news, the FMB reminds the industry that this can create opportunities for cowboy builders to take advantage of the situation by offering lower prices. Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, warned that the rise in materials prices could mean a decline in standards, as ‘quality builders are at risk of being undercut by unscrupulous traders offering lower quotes to homeowners.’

The survey found that enquiries, workloads and employment all grew between January and March 2021, but that supply chain pressures due to the disruption caused by the pandemic are ongoing, causing delays. Activity has, however, grown in all sectors, with strongest performance in repair, maintenance and improvement.

At The TP Group, we’re committed to always delivering the best quality and have been growing our team to accommodate increased demand. To find out how we can help you, contact us today.

UK construction has seen its steepest rise in activity since 2014, as the domestic economy shows signs of recovering quicker than expected since lockdown restriction have begun to be lifted. The latest figures for March have shown that house-building, commercial projects and infrastructure work are all showing growth.

Despite trade flows being affected by Brexit and the pandemic, the IHS Markit/CCips construction activity index registered 61.7 in March, which is well above the 50 needed to indicate growth in the sector. The previous figure for February was 53.3, showing a significant jump in the rate of activity, and the sharpest growth since September 2014.

According to Tim Moore, economics director at IHS Markit, ‘March data revealed a surge in UK construction output as the recovery broadened out from house building to commercial work and civil engineering. Total activity expanded to the greatest extent for six-and-a-half years as residential spending remained robust, commercial projects restarted and infrastructure contract awards moved ahead.’

The figures are published amidst further positive news about the UK economy. New ONS data showed spending on credit and debit cards is up since the easing of lockdown started, suggesting that consumers are regaining confidence as over half of UK adults have received their first dose of the vaccination. April figures were at their highest level since the week before Christmas, and at 88% of their pre-pandemic average.

With the economy picking up, this is an exciting time to be starting work on new projects. If you’re looking for a subcontractor for your construction project, The TP Group would love to hear from you.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has confirmed new planning rules allowing the conversion of a vast array of high street premises into housing without planning permission. The measures will be brought in sooner than previously thought to help small businesses and high streets ‘bounce back from the pandemic’.

The new rules create a fast-track system under which unused commercial buildings will have permitted development to be converted into homes. Councils can only turn down applications on limited grounds, including flood risk, noise pollution and inadequate natural light, although any new homes created will also have to meet national space standards.

The system coming into force on 21 April is a modification on a previous proposal set out before Christmas, which drew criticism from the industry. The earlier proposal did not limit the size of the property, however, the revised rights are limited to premises of 1500sqm or less. Conservation areas, health centres and nurseries will also have protections, although they won’t be exempt.

Jenrick states that ‘By diversifying our town and city centres and encouraging the conversion of unused shops into cafes, restaurants or even new homes, we can help the high street to adapt and thrive for the future.’

Developers will be able to submit prior approval applications for conversion to residential on 1 August.