Sir John Egan is to head a review of skills shortages in the construction industry. Deputy prime minister John Prescott has called him over fears that the industry may not be able to deliver the government's regeneration programme.
In a dramatic return to the industry, the former strategic forum chairman will be focusing on the planning and architecture professions. He will make his recommendations to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister this autumn.

The review will include an examination of pilot projects designed to give private and public sector workers and councillors the skills required to promote regeneration schemes.

Prescott told the Guardian/Observer New Agenda for British Housing Conference: "Sir John made a tremendous contribution to the modernisation of construction skills, and I am delighted that he has now agreed to help us rethink the skills needed to deliver our sustainable communities agenda."

Attacking conservatism in the planning profession, Prescott said: "I want planning to be more proactive. Authorities should see their job not just as operating the planning system but also making sure they meet their house building targets. There has to be culture change – the planning profession itself has to be downgraded."

He warned: "I intend to take action when planning authorities are not delivering on the targets for dealing with planning applications – and will intervene when necessary."

The industry’s levy-based training, in my opinion, doesn’t work well

Deputy prime minister John Prescott

Prescott also took a swipe at the Construction Industry Training Board. He said: "It's a damn disgrace the industry hasn't produced the skills that it needs. It is one of the few industries with a levy-based training scheme, and one that, to my mind, doesn't work well."

A CITB spokesperson responded that Prescott may not be aware of all the work the board was doing. She said in a recent survey the CITB's satisfaction rating among employers was 7.3 out of 10.

Prescott said that he expected one in four houses funded by the Housing Corporation to be assembled off-site by next year. He said: "We must switch our attention to off-site manufacture, which not only cuts building time, but offers better quality and safety."