Berkeley Group managing director Tony Pidgley's love for a bargain may see him swoop for rival housebuilding firm Wilson Connolly. Well, that's what a senior industry source predicted recently, as Wilcon's flagging share price prompted speculation that it was ripe for takeover. While other housebuilders have been busily merging, the canny Pidgley has repeatedly ruled out any deal. He says he's not willing to pay inflated prices just because everyone else is. "Wilcon's share price is so low, look out for Tony to have a go for them," our sage warned last week. "Tony never pays full price for anything."
Air on a shoestring
Top M&E engineer Hoare Lea showed a colleague around its refurbished offices in London last week. The firm was particularly keen to show off the state-of-the-art cooling systems in the open plan offices. Later, however, conditions in a meeting room got rather stuffy and the host had to open a window. Why was this particular room naturally ventilated, my colleague asked. In reply, the host pointed to some capped off air-handling pipes dangling from the ceiling. I think they ran out of money before this room was finished.
A colleague has just returned from Ireland, where he was most impressed by a piece of site safety equipment. Before showing him around a housing project near Cork, the builder, John Fleming Construction, handed out the customary safety clobber. But instead of the bog-standard reinforced wellies, he was given a pristine pair of extremely stylish lace-up boots straight from the box. The said boots are pictured above in all their glory. The footwear, made by Panda Safety, comes in waterproof black nubuck with steel toecaps. Apparently the boots are standard issue at a factory operated by Fleming, but site workers have taken a shine to them. "They love 'em; they keep them lovely and clean," my colleague was enthusiastically informed.
The fall guy
Meanwhile, Wilmott Dixon staff have been having fun with their new safety equipment.
On a housing project in Ealing, west London, the contractor has carpeted the ground with giant bean bags filled with expanded polystyrene beads. The idea is to make sure any falls end in a nice, soft landing. I hear the site manager felt obliged to test the equipment: he took a long run up and dived headfirst onto the bags. Unfortunately, the rough sacking left him nursing a sore bonce. "He's got a crew cut and he burned the top of his head," my source explains.
How to motivate builders
Ireland has come up with a crafty way of solving its housing shortage. A change in the planning regulations stipulates that after Christmas, builders will have to provide extra social housing with their schemes. This applies to any development not completed up to wall-plate by then. My colleagues across the Irish Sea report a frenzy of housing starts.
Oh, by the way, we're moving
John Prescott's communications department is moving next month. "Two Jags" himself will remain at Eland House, but his press corps is going to offices in Whitehall. However, the deputy prime minister's spin doctors are a little concerned. I'm told they have yet to be briefed on the date of the move, its effects and the likely disruption it will cause. Nobody, it seems, is communicating with the communicators.
I am grateful to Peter Davey of Wingrave, Buckinghamshire, for pointing out a howler on page 106 of our 26 July issue. The interview on the Careers page states that water sculptor James Coleman has a degree in "navel architecture". That should of course have been naval architecture – a far less fluffy subject.
Wait for it
The Office of Government Commerce proudly unveiled its new PFI standardisation document last week. It should speed up the laborious procurement process – once the industry has digested the 400-page tome. But, as always with PFI, there was a delay. A fault on the website meant PFI watchers hoping to download the document faced a frustrating wait …