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NCE Live News Updates Friday 10 January: Heathrow concerned by charges change

Airport to review its spending plans in light of regulator’s decision

5.30pm: Fresh floods have hit the Home Counties, according to reports.

The Environment Agency earlier today urged communities near certain parts of the River Thames to be prepared for rising water levels.

Sky News said homes in Buckinghamshire had been affected; the BBC reported on flooding in Surrey.

 

2.15pm: There could be more flooding along the River Thames this weekend warns the Environment Agency.

It said communities in Oxfordshire, West Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Surrey should be prepared for rising water levels over the weekend.

The Hampshire Avon, Dorset Stour and Rivers Parret and Severn are also being monitored by the Agency.

At 1pm today, there were 94 flood warnings and 151 flood alerts in place across England.

“River levels on the Thames are high and will continue to rise for the next few days. We urge people keep up to date with the latest flood warnings and take action, said Environment Agency head of incident management John Curtin.

“With so much standing water around, we would also remind people to stay out of flood water and not attempt to walk or drive through it.”

 

1pm: The Transport Planning Society (TPS) has raised concerns about the government’s plans for the Highways Agency.

A consultation on proposals to turn the Agency into a government-owned company was announced last October.

The society has now responded with its recommendations, which include robust appraisal of major schemes and independent auditing of modelling work.

“The consultation proposals lack appropriate safeguards, obligations and performance indicators being included in the proposed Roads Investment Strategy and the new company’s licence. This will inhibit the development of an integrated approach across all modes,” said TPS lead board member Keith Buchan.

“The lack of an effective national transport strategy is a continuing major weakness, meaning there is no policy framework within which the objectives of the new company can be set.”

The government has claimed the transformation of the Agency will slash the cost of operating Britain’s roads by £2.6bn in 10 years.

 

12pm: A leading construction consultant has urged contractors not to panic about the fall in industry output.

Office for National Statistics data today showed construction output in November was £395M less than in October.

But Turner & Townsend UK managing director of consultancy Steve McGuckin, said the drop went against the underlying trend.

“Such a modest dip in monthly output is unlikely to interrupt the construction industry’s upward trajectory.

“Rapid expansion after such a long lean period means some growing pains are inevitable, but with careful cost planning, the business risk associated with growth can be mitigated.

“November’s surprise dip is a minor distraction for a newly confident industry - for most of us, it remains a case of ‘don’t panic and keep digging’.”

 

11.45am: The value of new infrastructure work dropped by almost 5% in November, according to official data.

Office for National Statistics figures report that there was £55M less work that month than in October.

The seasonally adjusted estimate of overall construction output plunged by 4% or £395M over the same time period.

However, construction output was 2.2% higher in November 2013 than in the same month a year earlier, suggesting the long-term picture was one of growth.

 

11am: Nuclear decommissioning body Dounreay Site Restoration is looking for companies to bid for a place on a £25M professional services framework.

Successful firms will carry out design and engineering work at the Scottish plant – a former centre of fast reactor research and development.

Companies have until midday on 31 January to register their interest in the work.

Up to eight will be invited to tender. More information on the OJEU notice.

 

10.30am: A fund designed to help small Welsh construction businesses is open for applications.

The Welsh government’s Construction Sector Development Fund will provide grants of up to £50,000 or 50% of the eligible cost of projects.

“We have a large number of small and medium sized enterprises working in the construction sector that make a significant contribution to the Welsh economy,” said Economy minister Edwina Hart. The Fund is designed to help these enterprises increase their competitiveness, win new business and help grow the sector.

“There are many opportunities developing in nuclear energy, renewable energy and rail infrastructure projects across Wales, for example, and there are likely to be significant supply chain opportunities for SMEs in the construction sector as a result.”

Companies are initially asked to complete expressions of interest forms, which are available from Business Wales.

 

10am: Heathrow Airport has expressed “concern” after the amount it will be able to charge airlines for landling slots was reduced.

Regulator the Civil Aviation Authority said the West London airport could only increase its charges by 1.5% below inflation in each of the next five years.

Heathrow said this would result in charges per passenger of £19.10 compared with the £25.72 it believes it needs to charge.

In October, the CAA proposed a freeze on charges – allowing Heathrow to raise them in line with the retail price index measure of inflation.

Heathrow chief executive Colin Matthews said: “We are concerned by the degree of change since the CAA’s final proposals just a short while ago. In October the CAA accepted the need for changes to their April proposals, but has now reverted to a draconian position.

“We want to continue to improve Heathrow for passengers. We will review our investment plan to see whether it is still financeable in light of the CAA’s settlement.”

The CAA said passenger traffic forecasts had strengthened since October, and the cost of capital had been revised.

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