The new minister is “not fully on top of” the job – but don’t worry, he’ll “look into it”

Hansom new 2008

Safe as houses

Meet the new housing minister, hear the same old promises. Lee Rowley, formerly construction’s man in government, was getting to know his brief by touring housing fringe events at last week’s Tory party conference. “I’ve only been in the job two-and-a-half weeks, so you’ll understand if I’m not fully on top of the brief,” he explained to one deflated audience. At another event, the issue of planning was raised – basically, it’s terribly slow and can he speed it up – but his answer didn’t raise too much optimism either. “I will look into it.” Ho hum.

Taking aim

Also at the conference was the boss of the country’s biggest housebuilder. Barratt chief executive David Thomas took a swipe at the chopping and changing of government housing targets. “We don’t care if targets are set nationally or locally, we just want a system that works.” Presumably, the minister is looking into it.

For frack’s sake

Business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg (yes, you didn’t dream it) – whose net worth has been estimated to be in excess of £100m – told the conference he’d welcome fracking in his back garden. “Which part of his back garden?” quipped one chief executive. Meanwhile, Rees-Mogg is clearly not a fan of one Tory party grandee, a former deputy PM no less. Asked if fracking should be allowed anywhere, he replied: “It would be a loss to the country if Michael Heseltine’s arboretum was knocked down for fracking.” It’s worth pointing out Heseltine thinks Brexit is madness whereas Rees-Mogg is a true believer. Aren’t they supposed to be on the same side?

One staffer from Grimshaw, which is working on an airport at Shenzhen, tells my hack only one of the team has made it into the city and even then it took them six months to get in

Not so fast

Minister for London Paul Scully, best known for recently being sent out to defend the chancellor’s 45p tax cut only for the policy to be abolished, left some more people scratching their heads last week. Why are we still building homes that will need to be retrofitted, some people wondered? Why not just get on with it now? Scully replied that the government is “not trying to get to net zero tomorrow, we’re trying to get there by 2050”. Baffling stuff.

Swearing on the Bible

A trip to meet Stanhope at Paternoster Square in the City and Warwick Court, a refurbished 1990s office block, in particular. Its setting is impressive with views over to St Paul’s Cathedral, and an immediate neighbour is the house of the dean of St Paul’s which, when my scribe visited, seemed to be having some repair work done on the roof. Some of the language being used by the workmen up there was, let’s say, a little unholy. I’m assuming it was builders issuing the profanities and not the dean himself who fancied mucking in …

Slow road to China

Ever wondered what China’s zero covid policy looks like in practice? One staffer from Grimshaw, which is working on an airport at Shenzhen, tells my hack only one of the team has made it into the city and even then it took them six months to get in. And once they arrived, they faced three weeks locked inside a hotel room unable to leave, despite being vaccinated. Put simply, that sounds like hell. The Arsenal fan in me says I’d rather watch Spurs …

Verse ways into construction

The organisers of last week’s UK Construction Week launched it with the novel idea of a poem about the industry. Called Bricks and More Than, by Birmingham poet Casey Bailey, the ode to the industry finishes with the line: “When life gives you obstruction, there are solutions in construction.” Perhaps a refrain with which to arm all harassed site managers.

Head for heights

The View of London from Pinnacle, Canary Wharf (c) Ollie Dixon iiCMYK copy

Source: Oliver Dixon

For those who happen to call the Landmark Pinnacle in Canary Wharf home, this is the view they get from the country’s highest roof garden more than 750ft up in the air. It includes 13,000 plants and, the blurb says, gives “uninterrupted 360º views that one would typically only be treated to when airborne”. It also boasts the UK’s highest gym. Though for a real workout, just use the stairs.

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