Dean Watson looks at immigration and the skills crisis in the construction industry after Brexit.

The Government is committed to spending billions to improve UK infrastructure, opening the door to untold opportunities for construction businesses. The question is, how will new immigration rules impact post-Brexit given the ongoing skills crisis?

Under proposals from the Migration Advisory Committee, EU nationals who want to work in the UK after the transition periods ends (December 31) will need a job offer and sponsorship. The good news is that minimum salary levels will be lowered and with the required skill level reduced to A-Level standard the new system paves the way for site supervisors, carpenters and joiners to work here.
On the flip side, the onus is on employers to ensure that employees from EU countries can prove their right to work in the UK, either by status under the EU Settlement Scheme, proof of arrival in the UK before 31 December 2020 or compliance with new immigration regulations.

Some roles will be precluded from visa sponsorship and self-employed EU workers will also be ruled out by the new system. Meanwhile, sponsorship costs, including the immigration skills charge and health charge, look set to increase.

The government could extend the low-skills visa to two years, to allow workers to qualify for a high-skilled visa once in the UK, but there are no plans to do so. It’s therefore down to individual firms to tackle the skills issue.

Start by confirming the number of EU nationals employed, brief them fully to ensure they understand the EU Settlement Scheme and plan upgrades to systems so that they can cope with more rigorous checks. By recruiting EU national workers now firms can avoid a hike in sponsorship fees. At the very least, they can budget for higher future costs.

Hiring and upskilling British workers is another option. However, it may be easier said than done for smaller contracting firms, which may not have the resources to set up training.

From 2021 it will be harder to attract suitably skilled EU workers, so individual businesses must act now to determine what’s best for them and ensure appropriate resources are in place post-Brexit.

Download Vision March 2020 …

John Woodhall examines the Government’s plans to reduce the impact of flooding on communities.

Government data shows that one in 10 new homes is built on a flood plain. In the wake of flood damage caused by Storms Ciara and Dennis, greater resilience is essential if we are to minimise the impact of climate change on our communities.

As a priority, existing properties must be properly protected, so it was good to see the Budget contain £5.2billion of government investment in a five-year flood and coastal defence infrastructure programme.

As extra money, on top of what the Environment Agency is already allocating to maintain existing flood defences, it’s a step in the right direction and a positive story for the West Midlands. With £23 million earmarked for the Severn Valley and £7 million each for Tamworth and Solihull, thousands of properties will benefit from enhanced protection.

One thing is certain, we cannot afford to disregard the impact on families when residential developments flood. Since 2009, some 70,000 houses have been built on sites likely to flood, according to research by independent think-tank Bright Blue and 20,000 are without any kind of defences. There is also the not insignificant matter of insurance, as homeowners in properties built in high-risk areas after 2009 may well be unable to obtain cover.

Over recent years calls for action by various advisers and industry experts have gone largely unheeded. Now, it seems the government is taking the issue seriously. We welcome recommendations from the Environment Agency that new homes should only be built on sites prone to flooding if there is no viable alternative and agree that, where development of flood plains is the only option, properties will require flood-proofing.

Tree planting, the creation of wetland habitats and restoration work to allow rivers to follow their natural course are among the Agency’s proposals. It also advises that building at ground floor level should be limited to garages. We suggest that a definitive list is drawn up, including greater use of resilient building materials and positioning electrical points comfortably above expected flood levels.
The Government has set an ambitious house building target. If it comes to it, the planning system should dictate choice of site, incorporate regulations that make flood plain development a last resort and spell out how to make homes flood proof.

Download Vision March 2020 …

James Shelley assesses the benefits of the New Homes Ombudsman to the UK’s house building sector.

The Government has confirmed it will set up the New Homes Ombudsman, an independent watchdog with statutory powers to resolve disputes between house builders and home buyers. We applaud the decision to press ahead with an initiative that will not only offer extra protection to consumers, but will also help to drive up quality standards.

Independent and operating separately from other industry watchdogs, the New Homes Ombudsman represents a serious crackdown on shoddy workmanship. The Government’s aim is to speed up the resolution of disputes, ensure that defects are rectified quickly and award compensation to consumers who deserve it.

It’s welcome news for buyers who currently have no independent access to redress if things go wrong and may face a lengthy and costly court case to resolve their dispute.

Ultimately, the aim is to drive up standards. The Government will legislate for a Code of Practice, setting out what consumers can expect and covering a developer’s entire buying and selling process. The New Homes Ombudsman will work to this Code when adjudicating complaints and use it to promote best practice.

It’s only right that access to support will be free for home buyers. Funding will come from organisations that commission or build new homes to sell, so commercial developers, housing corporations, private developers who construct shared ownership properties and social housing providers that sell freehold homes will be required by law to belong to the New Homes Ombudsman.

If their dream home is defective, consumers expect house builders to be held to account. Where tradespeople fail to meet key quality standards, the onus will be on those commissioning the work to fix defects. If developers don’t come up to scratch, the new watchdog has the powers to expel them. This is bound to have a positive knock-on effect, as house builders choose to contract with the most skilled and reliable carpenters and bricklayers.

We wait to see how the New Homes Ombudsman takes shape. But who can argue with a well-intentioned attempt to improve standards throughout the house building sector, drive out rogue builders and deliver a better service to home buyers?

Download Vision March 2020 …

Wakemans Tenant’s Agent Role for Travelodge Hotels includes the following services:

  • Technical and operational support to the Development Managers and Solicitors during the Agreement for Lease (AFL) negotiations.
  • Preparing budgets for investment and main board papers.
  • Agreement of drawings and specification for appending to the AFL.
  • Assisting Developers during the procurement process including queries on specification and cost issues.
  • Attending pipeline reviews at the crowbar meeting.
  • Monitoring onsite works, attending site meetings, answering site specific queries.
  • Cost reporting.
  • Agreeing variations.
  • Placing FF&E orders and agreeing programmes.
  • Verifying project invoices and reconciliation against budgets.
  • Checking quality and carrying our room inspections at practical completion.

SuperRooms™ – Wakemans assisted Travelodge to implement its new SuperRooms offer to a number of selected city centre hotels and targeted new build developments. Travelodge ‘Super’ rooms offer a higher specification and comfort to both the business traveller and those requiring a higher grade of comfort at a slightly increased room rate.

Wakemans have supported Travelodge to refit this offering across 48 existing hotels and incorporate the SuperRoom requirements into Travelodge’s Tenants Requirements documentation, this includes a complete supplier specification and ordering protocol. Going forward this standard will enable the hotelier to incorporate or add on SuperRooms to its refit and new build programme, helping Travelodge to understand the costs and lead times and propose the most profitable room mix. The TRD specification also assists the Design team and Contractors to efficiently incorporate the offering.

Refurbishment and Re-branding – Wakemans have been assisting Travelodge as Project Managers and Quantity Surveyors to roll out a phased refurbishment programme across its existing estate of operational hotels. From 2013 to 2015 circa. £100m has been spent across 35,000 rooms, our work has included the scoping of hotels, preparation and execution of a budgeted programme of work, to uplift and incorporate the hotelier’s brand standards. Travelodge retains Wakemans on an ongoing basis for their annual refurbishments spend as Travelodge continues to invest in its existing portfolio to maintain its brand standard.

New Bar Café – We have also assisted the hotelier to update its Bar Café specification and branding for existing hotels, refurbishments and new build developments.

Travelodge PLUS – Wakemans have assisted the hotelier to roll out its new hotel format – ‘Travelodge PLUS’, bringing together SuperRooms and the New Bar Café. The Travelodge PLUS brand has been initially rolled out to 7 city centre hotels (2019) and will be incorporated into a number of new build hotels according to the centrality of their location.

Wakemans is often retained to Project Manage and act in the capacity of Tenant’s or Employer’s Agent on a variety of new build hotels and conversions of existing buildings i.e. offices into new hotels.

Wakemans has helped to incorporate an extra 600 bedrooms into the hotel portfolio throughout the UK these include:

  1. Travelodge Solihull Sapphire Court has 60 bedrooms over five storeys
  2. Travelodge Walsall, has 82 bedrooms over six storeys on a mixed development site with ground floor retail space and is helping to rejuvenate derelict land along the ring road corridor.
  3. Travelodge Marlow is an 83-bedroom hotel, including SuperRooms and a Bar Café.
  4. The 78-room Travelodge London Dagenham is built on a brownfield site featuring ground floor retail space, a drive- through Costa Coffee and associated car parking, Dagenham Travelodge is adjacent to a proposed new film studio.
  5. Travelodge Bury St Edmunds is Travelodge’s first hotel in the town and offers 80-bedrooms with drive-through Starbucks outlet.
  6. Travelodge Letchworth is an integral part of the Letchworth Gateway regeneration scheme, the three-storey property has 73 rooms plus car parking and occupies a mixed development site that is also home to an Aldi supermarket, McDonalds drive-through and Costa Coffee outlet.
  7. The £6 m Travelodge Sittingbourne has 63 rooms and is located alongside an eight-screen cinema and restaurants in the Bourne Place leisure quarter, making it a key element of the town’s regeneration programme.
  8. Travelodge Rochester Riverside is an £5.2 m 81-room hotel adjacent to the railway station and a short walk from the waterfront area.

Client:

Kier Ventures Limited

Role:

Employer’s Agent, Quantity Surveyors and Independent Certifier.

Description:

Wakemans were employed as Employer’s Agent and Quantity Surveyor on this £10.5 m project.

Located on a former industrial site Lower Milehouse Lane in Newcastle Under Lyme, Staffs, the works included the remediation of the whole of the site and construction of 80 residential units comprising 22 no. 2 bed bungalows, 20 no. 2 bed houses, 21 no. 3 bed houses, 2 no. 3 bed corner houses and 15 no. 4 bed houses, including all associated drainage, external works and services.

The project was designed and developed to meet and achieve the following housing standards: NHBC Cover, Minimise waste, Protect the ecology, Secure by Design, HQI, Design and Quality Standards, Lifetime Homes, Code for Sustainable Homes – Level 3, Building for Life – 16 out of 20.

A proportion of the properties was let to Sanctuary Housing Association.

Wakemans assist Travelodge with its Pre-Contract development proposals, by supporting the developer’s team to plan, cost and understand the hotelier’s requirements, to meet its budget targets and determine the projected profitability of its proposed and ongoing development programme whether as an owner or a tenant. This includes:

      • Feasibility studies,
      • Costings,
      • Room mix planning,
      • Type of hotel offering etc.

We work with the team and developer’s to prepare proposals for consideration by Travelodge management, we also assist in the preparation of contract documents with the legal team and provide advice and technical support with the preparation of the Agreement for Lease including operational feedback on drawings and hotel specifications.

Wakemans have worked for Travelodge in a multi-disciplinary role since 1996, we currently manage the hotelier’s Pre-Contract work and a range of projects including new build hotels, conversions, extension, and refurbishment schemes.

Over this time Wakemans have built a strong collaborative ethos with the hotelier, which enables us to be sensitive to the hotelier requirements and we are assisting Travelodge with a dedicated team of Project Managers, Quantity Surveyors and Building Surveyors, with a wide brief to augment Travelodge development and progress and build its brand in the marketplace.

Our current remit includes:

Pre-Contract

 

New Build Hotels and Conversions

 

Travelodge Refurbishment and New Offerings

 

Travelodge Tenant’s Agent Services

 

Wakemans would like to reassure all our clients, consultant and contracting teams of our continuity of service during this period of uncertainty.

We have taken a number of measures to enable us to continue to provide you with our professional services whilst following Government advice and giving priority to the health of our employees and their families.

Our teams are already well equipped for remote working which has been part of our Company policy of flexible working for some time. This has now been extended to meet the Government advice for home working but regardless of where our staff are located communication by email, text and phone calls will continue to be answered as normal

We wish to work with you to protect the welfare of us all by reducing physical contact with people, eliminating non-essential travel and minimising the need for large scale meetings by utilising a range of media and conferencing systems.

If there are any specific measures that we can consider or implement to assist in the delivery of our service to your business during this challenging time, then please do keep us advised.

If you have any difficulties at all, please do not hesitate to get in touch, but may we again reassure you of our commitment to the ongoing delivery of our service.

 

John Woodhall
Executive Chairman
j.woodhall@wakemans.com
Dean Watson
Managing Director
d.watson@wakemans.com