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Summary of new and proposed legislation, November 2021 (UK Construction Focus) | Dentons

Dentons’ UK Construction team prepare a monthly guide to new and proposed legislation affecting the construction industry for publication in Construction Law’s “state of play” table. The November 2021 update is below.

  • Infrastructure
  • Building safety
  • Procurement
  • Housebuilding
  • Environment
  • Products/supply
  • Construction products
  • COP26
  • Achieving net zero
  • Net zero – Scottish Government initiatives
Infrastructure

Nationally Significant Infrastructure Planning

  • As part of its review of the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Planning (NSIP) process and all its interactions, the government has launched a consultation seeking views on the NSIP process: The National Infrastructure Planning Reform Programme: stakeholder survey. Comments are requested from those who engage with the NSIP regime on issues such as: what can be done to accelerate NSIP applications; how to enhance aspects of the examination and decision process; what stands in the way of physically implementing NSIP projects; digital improvements to the regime; cross-government co-ordination; and potential limits in the capacity or capability of NSIP applicants, interested parties and other participants. The survey closes on 17 December 2021.
Building safety

Updated guidance on fire safety in blocks of flats

  • The Home Office has published Fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats – Updated guidance (24 September 2021) with a warning that “this guide was produced in 2011 and summarised the legislation, guidance and best practice at the time of writing. As such, it should be viewed as no longer comprehensive”. A revised version of this guide is expected in early 2022. Provisions relating to vulnerable persons (paragraphs 79.9 to 79.11) have been redacted pending the outcome of the government’s Personal Emergency Evacuations Plan consultation. In the meantime, the current guide remains available to fire safety professionals “as it contains relevant and useful information for purpose-built blocks of flats”.

HSE insights into the changes proposed in the Building Safety Bill

  • The Building Safety Bill has reached committee stage in the House of Commons. Its provisions, as currently drafted, will change building safety laws and place new duties on those responsible for the safety of high-rise residential buildings. To provide “early insights into some of these potential changes to help those who may have new roles to prepare for the reforms”, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published Safety case principles for high-rise residential buildings: Building safety reform – Early key messages. Adapting to a new regulatory regime will be challenging and the HSE, collaborating with the government and other partners, explains in this document principles that will help those affected take “sensible, risk-based, proportionate steps that ensure the safety of the people in and around your buildings”. It envisages such steps as likely to include “a combination of measures that work together to prevent and mitigate the spread of fire and structural failure, and the safety management system which keeps these measures in place and in good working order”. The document was open to comments until 22 October 2021.
Housebuilding

Scaling up the custom and self-build market

  • In April 2021, the Prime Minister commissioned an Independent review into scaling up self-build and custom housebuilding to be led by Richard Bacon MP. The report, published on 23 August 2021, makes recommendations on “how to support growth in all parts of the custom and self-build (CSB) market, helping to boost capacity and overall housing supply in our housing market”. The aim is to support more competition and innovation within the housebuilding industry and UK Net Zero housing goals. Recommendations include: a new CSB housing delivery unit within Homes England; raising awareness of the right to build with, for example, a CSB housing Show Park and stronger legislation; supporting community-led housing; promoting green homes and the use of advanced manufacturing; supporting CSB housebuilding through planning reforms; and addressing any related tax disadvantages.

Standards (Wales)

  • The Welsh Government has published the Welsh Development Quality Requirements
    2021 – Creating beautiful homes & places
    . These new affordable homes
    building standards will apply to all publicly funded affordable housing schemes submitted to Welsh Government at “concept” stage for technical scrutiny from 1 October 2021. They set out the minimum functional quality standards for “new and rehabilitated general needs affordable homes”. Housing providers and their consultants are encouraged to exceed these minimum requirements and “to adopt a holistic view of quality, recognising the benefit that quality and culturally suitable homes will have on both physical and mental well-being for all”.

New British standard on biodiversity net gain

Environment

Progress of the Environment Bill

  • The government strengthened its commitments to protect the environment with amendments to the Environment Bill announced on 27 August 2021 (see Landmark Environment Bill strengthened to halt biodiversity loss by 2030.) These amendments included strengthening the duty to set a legally binding target to halt species decline by 2030 and measures to tackle storm overflow through a new requirement for water companies to monitor the water quality impacts of their sewage discharges and publish this information.

    The third reading of the Bill took place in the House of Lords on 11 October 2021. Amendments made during the report stage included changes on: air quality targets; declaring a climate and biodiversity emergency; the independence of the Office for Environmental Protection; protecting pollinators; reducing single-use items; ending harm to the environment from discharging untreated sewage into rivers; and protecting ancient woodland. (See Lords examines Environment Bill at third reading.)

Products/supply

New Code for Construction Product Information

  • The Construction Products Association (CPA) created a draft Code for Construction Product Information to address some of the issues relating to product information and how that information is presented and marketed by manufacturers which were highlighted by Dame Judith Hackitt in the Building a Safer Future report. The CPA conducted a consultation on the draft code in early 2021, the results of which it issued on 25 August 2021. Respondents called for more clarity, particularly on training and competence requirements and what is expected to ensure compliance with some of the clauses.

    On 21 September 2021, the CPA launched The Code for Construction Product Information (CCPI), Code guidance and a manufacturer information pack. The code is founded “on the principle that product information must be Clear, Accurate, Up-to-date, Accessible and Unambiguous” and includes “eleven clauses covering critical aspects from responsibility for product information to transparency of information regarding performance, proof of stated claims and general information and competency”. The latest guidance aims to help manufacturers better understand the Code and prepare for the verification journey.

Construction products

Validity of CE mark extended

  • While the EU “CE” mark was replaced with the UK Conformity Assessed (UKCA) marking from 1 January 2021, users were given until 1 January 2022 to make the change. The government has now extended the period within which it will recognise the CE mark to 1 January 2023. Recognising that many businesses were not ready for the change, the government has updated the original guidance for placing construction products on Great Britain’s market that was published in September 2020. Guidance on Using the UKCA marking was published on 24 August 2021.
COP26

Preparation for COP26

Achieving net zero

Hydrogen standard

  • The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published the UK hydrogen strategy on 17 August 2021, announcing hydrogen as “a new low carbon solution which can help the UK to achieve net zero by 2050, and our Sixth Carbon Budget target by 2035”. (See the Press release.) The goal is to create 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 for use across the economy. The strategy sets out a roadmap for and explains how:
    • the UK will scale up production (using a twin-track approach that supports “both electrolytic ‘green’ and carbon capture (CCUS)-enabled ‘blue’ hydrogen production”);
    • government will support innovation and stimulate investment in that scaling-up exercise; and
    • the economic benefits of growing the UK hydrogen economy will be captured, including the development of the necessary supply chains and skills to create jobs and export opportunities.

    Other policy papers were published, some for consultation, alongside the strategy, including:

Calculating emissions

  • BEIS has published Methods of calculating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This draft document explains “the methodologies, including the ‘actual value method’ and ‘default value method’, for calculating [GHG] emissions associated with the production of bio methane”. The document will be used “to inform the design of the Green Gas Support Scheme”. The final version is expected later in 2021 when the scheme launches.

Heat networks

  • The National Audit Office (NAO) has issued a report on the Green Homes Grant Voucher Scheme, which enabled homeowners to apply for loans to install energy efficiency improvements and low carbon heat measures in their homes.
    The government announced the £270 million Green Heat Network Fund (GHNF) on 7 September 2021. The fund will “only support low-carbon technologies like heat pumps, solar and geothermal energy in the rollout of the next generation of heat networks” to enable more towns and cities to take up this technology from 2022. (See Next generation of heat networks to power UK’s green revolution.) Also published alongside details of the fund:

BEIS has launched a consultation on its Proposals for heat network zoning that “envisage central and local government working together with industry and local stakeholders to identify and designate areas within which heat networks are the lowest cost, low carbon solution for decarbonising heating”.

Future support for low carbon heat

Government collaboration with local authorities

  • In its report on Local Government and Net Zero in England, the NAO responded to a request from the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) to examine how effectively central government and local authorities are collaborating on reaching the net zero target. It particularly considered the role of local authorities in contributing to the UK’s Statutory net zero target and ensuring they have the right resources and skills in place. The EAC is examining the NAO report as part of its work on Mapping the Path to Net Zero. It noted the report had highlighted that “a lack of funding, and poor communication to and from the centre, are two issues which are hindering local authorities wishing to play their full part in reaching net zero” (See How can all corners of local government in England come together to pave the way to net zero?).

    The BEIS Committee is working closely with the EAC on, and is conducting an inquiry into, Net Zero Governance issues. Its call for evidence (here) raises questions as to what is required of a governance structure “that can deliver cross-Government climate action at the pace, scale and over the duration required to meet the carbon budgets and the 2050 net zero target”. In September, the BEIS Committee questioned both the NAO and the EAC on their research into governance arrangements for net zero (see How can the Government get to net zero?).

UK Fusion Energy

  • The government has published Towards fusion energy: the UK fusion strategy setting out how it “will leverage scientific, commercial and international leadership to enable delivery of fusion energy”. It describes fusion energy as “the ultimate clean power solution, representing a low carbon, safe, continuous and effectively unlimited source of energy”. This strategy details how the government would legislate to ensure the safe and effective rollout of fusion energy. It also provides the context for the consultation launched by the government on regulation for fusion energy. Views are requested on the proposals that cover regulation of: occupational and public health and safety; environmental protection; planning consent; third party liabilities; and security and safeguards for radioactive material. The consultation closes on 24 December 2021. See also the press release.
Net zero – Scottish Government initiatives
The Scottish Government has also been active in preparing strategies and launching consultations on measures that will help achieve Scottish net zero targets.

Public engagement strategy

Analysis of consultation into energy efficiency

Heat in Buildings Strategy

New Build Heat Standard

Evaluation – heating systems in affordable housing

New Build Heat Standard

Decarbonising heating report

Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategy

Decarbonisation investment

  • Investment to help industry decarbonise, published on 8 October 2021, establishes a fund “set up to help Scotland’s manufacturing industries reduce emissions” … “Eight companies will share £3.4 million through the first round of the Scottish Industrial Energy Transformation Fund (SIETF), with additional private funding bringing total investment across the projects to more than £10 million”.

Some of these updates were published as the State of Play Table 264 by Construction Law. You can subscribe to Construction Law‘s newsletter here.

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