HS2 second phase receives Royal Assent
MPs have given the go-ahead to the next phases of Britain’s high speed rail network, with the bill approving the building of HS2 Phase 2A north from the West Midlands to Crewe achieving Royal Assent.
Parliament’s approval for this new phase plugs the line into one of the country’s principal rail hubs in Crewe, and means the 58km (36 miles) route will be built earlier than originally planned.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said by proceeding full steam ahead, it is delivering on its commitment to unite the country.
"The construction of Phase 2a will support thousands of jobs and create opportunities for local businesses as we build back better," he said.
HS2 Phase 2a will support around 5,000 jobs, with many more in the supply chain. In addition, the rail line will support 140 permanent jobs at its maintenance base near Stone in Staffordshire.
HS2 CEO Mark Thurston said: "Parliament’s approval for extending HS2 beyond the West Midlands to the North is a clear sign that MPs recognise the enormous potential of this scheme and continue to give their strong support.
"As the first major railway built in the North for over 100 years, HS2 will spur massive economic growth for our towns and cities, help to level up the country, and provide cleaner, greener public transport for millions.
"As construction starts, this new phase of work will very quickly support 5,000 jobs in the North, with many more in the supply chain, further cementing HS2’s critical role in Britain’s economic recovery from the pandemic."
Once operational, high speed services operating between London, Birmingham and Crewe will use the newly-constructed high speed line – delivering extra capacity, improved reliability and reducing journey times.
These services will then join the existing network to create direct services to Liverpool, Manchester, Preston, Carlisle and Glasgow. Crewe is also the station for connections to North Wales and Shrewsbury.
Dr Kieran Mullan, MP for Crewe & Nantwich said extending the HS2 line to Crewe is a major step towards levelling up the north. "It is crucial to bringing new jobs and opportunities to our town and for creating better local rail connections as we free up the currently overly congested line West Coast Main Line," he said.
Passenger services will start between HS2’s stations at London Old Oak Common and Birmingham Curzon Street between 2029-33. Phase 2a’s opening will be aligned with the London-Birmingham route.
Sara Williams, CEO of Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce said extending the high speed line northwards will generate thousands of contract opportunities for local businesses of all sizes and their involvement will provide a vital boost for the Staffordshire economy.
There are 240 sites now active along the Phase One route, employing over 13,000 people and over 400 apprenticeships.
Anti-HS2 protesters camped out in tunnels dug near Euston station recently lost a High Court bid to block an operation to remove them, as their colleagues targeted the Department for Transport by smearing its headquarters with pink paint.
HS2 Chairman Allan Cook is to resign in July, leaving his successor a range of operational, design and construction issues. To read a summary of the key challenges that await the next Chairman, click here.
Research reveals 164% rise in searches for loft conversions
Market research conducted by building supply specialist Insulation4Less has revealed that searches for ‘Loft Conversions’ rose by a staggering 164% between May and June of this year, while searches for ‘Loft Conversion Ideas’ jumped by 186% as people spend more time on home renovations this summer.
The company also found that the most popular use for a loft conversion is for an additional bedroom, while an extra bathroom was the second-highest search term. Walk-in wardrobes came in third, beating out a home office in fourth while converting a loft into a home cinema round off the top five.
According to a recent study, a loft conversion can add roughly 20% to the value of a property. With the average UK house price standing at £267,000 in January 2021, this represents an average increase in value of more than £53,400.
Johnpaul Manning, Managing Director of Insulation4Less, said: “If the last year has taught us anything, it's that having space is essential to our mental health and wellbeing, so it's no surprise that people are taking the time to focus on home improvements to help them make the most of their home.
As one of the most under-utilised areas in any property, loft conversions represent a great opportunity to maximise the use of space that not only improves quality of life but also has the capacity to add value to the home”, he said.
Manning added that it's important to remember that a loft conversion isn't just your average DIY project, and should never be done on the spur of the moment. “A significant amount of planning needs to happen to make it a reality, and an understanding that life can be disrupted while the build is taking place.
“While it's definitely a worthwhile project, I'd recommend that anyone considering a loft conversion should do some in-depth research to really understand what's needed to make it a reality”, Manning said.
Is Your Loft Suitable For a Conversion?
While loft conversions do look amazing and add an extra element to a property, not all homes may be suitable. Insulation4Less says that this is due to a variety of factors.
“It's important to make sure that your roof is structurally sound enough to handle a conversion”, the company said. Although there are different types of roof structures, they mostly fall into two distinct categories: a traditional roof, and a trussed roof.
A traditional roof: was typically found in pre-1960s houses. Rafters on traditional roofs run along its edges, leaving a good amount of free space. However, they might still need new or extra support. Trussed roofs, on the other hand, have ‘W’ shaped rafters that support the roof and the floor structure. Even though truss roofs may appear to be harder to convert, it’s not impossible; the ‘W’ shaped rafters can be replaced with an ‘A’ shape structure which creates a hollow space. While this can add additional costs, it could be a worthy investment, so take this into consideration during your planning process.
“Another thing to consider is the roof's height and pitch, and how that will impact the amount of space you’ll have. You’ll need a minimum height of 2.2m to ensure proper clearance. While you might be happy to settle for something a little shorter on paper, make sure your happy with the height you have and the effect it could have on the enjoyment of the space”, Insulation4Less advises.
The company recommends doing research before going to an architect or contractor. “Ultimately, look for other conversions on your street or in similar properties, and if you feel comfortable, ask if you can have a look and discuss how their project came together - you’ll find a wealth of information that could really help your own project in the future”.
Information credit: Insulation4Less.