Expo 2020 Dubai takes on greater significance for UK post-Brexit

Expo 2020 Dubai will provide the perfect platform for the newly divorced United Kingdom to showcase itself to the world.

While the UK left the European Union (EU) on January 31, the country has entered an 11-month transition period that keeps it bound to the EU rules until December 31, 2020.

That coincides with the UK’s participation in Expo 2020 Dubai, which is set to run from October 20 this year to April 10, 2021.

Simon Penney, HM Trade Commissioner for the Middle East, told Arabian Business: “It’s bang in the middle of the UK leaving the European Union on December 31, so it is the UK’s first global event where we will be represented on the global stage, which is a fantastic point for the UK to showcase global Britain.”


The 3,417 square-metre, two storey UK pavilion is due to be delivered in May or June this year at an estimated cost of $18 million.

Highlighting a drive for AI and space exploration, the pavilion will showcase innovations in culture, education, tourism and business.

Founding partners of the pavilion are De Montfort University (DMU) Leicester and London-headquartered HSBC.

Daniel Howlett, regional head of commercial banking, Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, told Arabian Business: “The UK is the largest single corridor for HSBC from a UAE perspective. We’re keen to continue building that. We’re confident when you look at the UK pavilion, it’s going to be outstanding.”


Source: Arabian Business

It’s a double celebration for SevenCapital this week as the developer, alongside construction partners Colmore Tang and Creagh Concrete, marks the topping out of its St Martin’s Place development – and announces it is now sold out one year ahead of expected completion.

Construction on the development, which sits adjacent to SevenCapital’s Park Regis Hotel – also constructed by Colmore Tang, on the site of the former Five Ways Shopping Centre, began in June 2018 and is expected to complete by Q2 2021.

With 228 new one, two and three- bedroom apartments across four blocks of between six and 17 storeys, the development will feature exclusive private residents’ amenities, including cinema room, WiFi lounge and a gym. It also promises to be a first of its kind in Birmingham, by offering hotel services to residents, provided by the neighbouring Park Regis.



The building envelope is now complete, with floors laid across the development and windows fitted to all levels. M&E has been integrated into panels off-site. The build utlised a total of 3000 precast pieces, manufactured by Creagh at their head office facilities in County Antrim (NI), benefitting the project with six months build betterment against traditional construction methods.

The work has provided significant employment opportunities for the local workforce, with contractors for both Colmore Tang and Creagh Concrete coming from the region.

Damien Siviter, group managing director for SevenCapital said: “St Martin’s Place is a flagship development for SevenCapital, so we’re pleased to see such fantastic on-site progress from our construction teams. This is an important milestone for the project, which having sold out of all but one unit has already exceeded expectations, and everyone is working hard to ensure delivery is on time and to the highest standards.”

Steve Underwood, CEO of Colmore Tang Construction commented: “We have worked with Creagh on developing an innovative solution, which has accelerated our programme and offered significant benefits in terms of quality, safety and construction. This project is now our 16th in the region, having delivered 3500 apartments, demonstrating our expertise and making us the contractor of choice for delivering high density residential schemes in the Midlands area.”

Seamus McKeague Chief Executive of Creagh Concrete added: “This is a proud moment for Creagh. In recent years we have moved from being just a concrete and materials supplier to a specialist subcontractor, which has opened up new opportunities. We are seeing strong interest in our Rapidres Fastrack Build System because developers now understand the true value of slashing programme times. Investors not only benefit from revenue gained by the early occupation of units but, also, from the mobility of their capital resource. Quite simply, shorter build times mean developers can complete more projects with the same pot of finance.”


See inside St Martin’s Place in the most recent development update.


The housing sector is calling for quality measures to be embedded into contracts to ensure the industry improves standards.

At The Housing Forum’s Quality Counts conference, architects, contractors, suppliers and sub-contractors identified procurement as the stage in the housebuilding process that will have the most impact on quality.

Their suggestions included building in quality measures and check points within each stage, being specific on standards that must be adhered too and stating the minimum quality expectations, all within the initial contract.

They also called for roles within design and procurement to engage with parties involved in the build and occupancy stage much earlier in the development to give a more realistic indicator of time scale and cost.

Stephen Teagle, chair of The Housing Forum, said:

“I tend to break down the approach to quality in to four areas: design; procurement; build and customer experience. We have tools and solutions for design, build and customer experience, but all attendees touched on the issues experienced during the procurement stage.

“Often the industry is racing to deliver on time which can result in a failure to consult the supply chain effectively. We need to look at the relationship between the different parties involved at all stages to help address the fragmentation of the industry.”


 The use of technology was another key theme to emerge from the Quality Counts event. As well as embracing newer technologies and processes linked to Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), groups discussed how existing technologies such as smart phones could be utilised to help streamline and accurately record data for quality assurance purposes. 


As part of its commitment to quality, The Housing Forum has also released its new A Quality Home for All manifesto. The manifesto calls for a far higher number of affordable homes to be built, properly funded Local Authority planning services, and the appointment of a Secretary of State for Housing.

It has also written to all main party candidates standing in the General Election in England, urging them to place quality house building at the heart of their political agenda.

To download the manifesto, visit The Housing Forum website. www.housingforum.org.uk

The government has released the report of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission.  Our readership constitutes individuals who collectively would have to bring about the changes recommended in this report. Whilst it acknowledges the desperate need for social housing, it also seems to hark back to a time when money and time where in greater supply and ideals of philanthropy so perfectly demonstrated in housing provision by individuals such as George Cadbury could be expounded without compromise.  In such times individuals rather than government bodies were far more in control of social house provision and that allowed their vision to be bridled only by the funding at their disposal.

The report focuses strongly on the negative role of the motor car when affecting design in both our homes and the spaces around them but it asks for a complete re-think of planning which would be difficult without the virtual eradication of the motor cars.  Without a technological advancement that is quite beyond our current status, the replacement of the car is not going to happen quickly.

Given that the times we live in are so radically different from those of the late 19th early 20th centuries, we question whether the approach suggested by the report has any practical relevance to construction today.  It might be suggested that the report tells us nothing that we do not already know and equally gives no real solution, which raises the question, what is the point?  We have included some extracts from it below and would really welcome the comments of those of you who look at our industry from the mud and grit of the construction site rather that what might be seen as the view from ivory towers, where distance blurs the hard edges of reality.



……….It is not often that a government adopts beauty as a policy objective. But such is the remit of this Commission, and we fully endorse the thinking that has led to it. It is widely believed that we are building the wrong things, in the wrong places, and in defiance of what people want. A comprehensive recent study agrees, arguing that about three quarters of new housing developments are mediocre or poor.1 At a time when there is an acute shortage of homes, there is therefore widespread opposition to new developments, which seem to threaten the beauty of their surroundings and to impose a uniform ‘cookie cutter’ product that degrades our natural and built inheritance. People want to live in beautiful places; they want to live next to beautiful places; they want to settle in a somewhere of their own, where the human need for beauty and harmony is satisfied by the view from the window and a walk to the shops, a walk which is not marred by polluted air or an inhuman street. But those elemental needs are not being met by the housing market, and the planning system has failed to require them. The Commission on building beautifully was set up at the end of 2018, asking us to review the planning system that has regulated construction in our country over the last hundred years. Ours is a discretionary system. The right to build has been nationalised. However, it does not proceed by top-down control from government, but by the granting of permissions decided locally. This allows a voice to the many interests involved, including the interests of neighbours, and reflects the historical origins of our legislation, largely introduced under pressure from civic associations motivated by the desire to protect our natural and architectural legacy from thoughtless destruction in the wake of the industrial revolution. It has also meant that, in comparison with many other countries, the planning process as we know it is both uncertain in its outcome and unclear in what it permits, involving high risk for the developer and sparking often fierce resistance from local communities. Large estates of low-quality housing naturally arouse opposition from those whose amenities and property-values they threaten, and precious aspects of our built environment and countryside give rise to a strong desire to protect them from changes that might spoil them. The cumulative effect of this, together with a rise in litigation from developers, has been a stagnation in the planning process, and a sense that – despite the greatly increased wealth that this country now enjoys, in comparison with what was enjoyed by our predecessors in the early 20th century – we are building less beautifully than they, and indeed littering the country with built debris of a kind that nobody will want to conserve. What has gone wrong, and how can we change it? Those were the questions before the Commission, and this report is our answer to them. It is not the final answer; but it is the first step towards understanding the direction in which our planning policy should go…………..


….. Cities built with the aim of accommodating the car therefore have to look very different from the traditional city. If three parking spaces are required per household, as occurs in some local authorities, then terraces, streets, squares and mansion blocks become nearly impossible. The traditional shopping crescents and high streets tend to be abandoned and replaced with out-of-town retail centres, surrounded by fields of cars. Offices and government buildings are transferred to business parks, with their own parking lots. Walkability and mixed-use neighbourhoods are swiftly imperilled. We do not need to imagine this: in much of the United States it is the norm, with residential settlements starting life and remaining as car-dependent sprawls. Once the car starts to take over, the process becomes self-reinforcing: even people who would prefer to walk to the shops have to drive if there are no shops in walking distance……


……… The government of Harold Macmillan did oversee the rehoming of vast numbers of the poorest families out of inner-city slums into the ‘fresher air’ of the new housing estate; arguably the highest annual delivery of new homes we have seen in this country. However, what happened next was cheap system-building, often corrupt procurement, the ‘vertical slums’ that were poorly constructed and often equally poorly managed, leading to isolation and crime, that and were a far cry from the neighbourliness and family life they promised. We have learnt from these mistakes. Over more recent decades, new affordable housing has often been built by housing associations and councils to higher space and design standards than much of the housing for sale that this Commission has seen. As landlords, housing associations and councils have a long-term stake in these places and a commitment to the people living there, to offer the best quality of life they can. However, the severe shortage means that opportunistic developers can abuse permitted development rights to produce accommodation of the lowest quality to house those with no alternative. As the TCPA’s Raynsford Review pointed out, there is no beauty in a child having to use a car park as a play area or being housed in a glorified shipping container next to a flyover, on the argument that it is better than nothing. We believe that all homes – new build or conversions – should meet minimum standards for space, amenity and comfort, as well as the safety of the people that live there…..