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Civil engineering in the news today - Monday 27 October

The Environment Agency is calling on water companies in England and Wales to step up their spending on infrastructure maintenance in an attempt to cut pollution and the impact of flooding...

...It also wants the companies to increase their efforts to reduce demand for water and use their resources more efficiently. The water companies have submitted their business plans for the five years from 2010 to the industry regulator Ofwat - The Guardian

European companies are set to issue a wave of profit warnings in the coming months as earnings are expected to fall by about 40% by the end of 2009. Executives at companies in continental Europe and the UK are increasingly gloomy about the prospects for 2009 and many expect a prolonged recession before a slow recovery starting in 2010. But consensus forecasts for earnings next year – compiled by industry analysts who are often briefed by companies – still point to a 10% increase in profits in Europe, whereas equity strategists think there will be a 30-40% fall - The Financial Times

Alistair Darling is planning new targets for cutting borrowing and formal external oversight of the public finances, as part of proposals to replace Gordon Brown's fiscal rules. The chancellor will use Wednesday's Mais lecture formally to scrap the rules introduced by Mr Brown when Labour came to power in 1997 and give the green light to higher levels of borrowing as the UK enters recession - The Financial Times

New high-speed rail connections should complement the expansion of Heathrow Airport rather than substitute for it as the Conservative Party proposes, a series of speakers from both rail and air told a London conference last week. Several speakers at the Integrating High-Speed Rail with Heathrow conference produced figures casting doubt on the Conservative plans, unveiled at last month’s party conference in Birmingham - The Financial Times

A compromise deal has been reached to include shipping and aviation in the climate change bill after ministers bowed to pressure from backbench MPs and environmental campaigners. Under the deal, the government will "take account" of shipping and aviation as it plans to meet emission reduction targets, but leaves the method of measurement to be set in coming years - The Financial Times

Last-minute changes to the blueprint for a Greater Manchester congestion charge were revealed yesterday, in a bid to defuse business opposition only days before an important vote by council leaders. People working in Trafford Park, the large business centre close to the outside of the charging zone, will not have to pay the charge until the tram network reaches the area. The maximum daily charge will also be cut from £10 to £5, with a pledge that no user will pay more than once for entering or leaving a charging zone while the charge is in operation, no matter how many times they cross the boundary - The Financial Times

Renewable energy and climate change targets for 2020 will be missed unless the National Grid speeds up the rate at which new generators are connected, leading industry figures have said. The grid is undergoing its biggest upgrade since the 1960s as part of a £14 billion investment project by 2012 and up to £13.5 billion more by 2020 - The Times

The National Trust is to take up an aggressive eco-stance to protect green spaces and prevent desecration of the countryside. The trust, one of the country's biggest landowners, has decided to shift its focus to become the leading champion for the protection of green fields - a move that puts it on a collision course with the Government over housebuilding, development of eco-towns and the proposed expansions of Heathrow and Stansted airports - The Times

Controversial plans to redevelop Smithfield Market, the centre of London's meat trade for hundreds of years, into a new office block, could become a casualty of the credit crunch. Five years in the making, the ambitious proposals to build a statement office building on the market's site could finally be abandoned as Bank of Scotland Corporate, a backer of the project, undergoes a retrenchment in its lending to commercial property - The Times

Some of the UK's biggest businesses have called for the Prime Minister to restore rate relief on empty buildings as the financial pain of the Government's attempt to raise new taxes from the commercial property sector starts to hit home. British Airways, Tesco, McDonald's, Nokia and B&Q are among companies that have signed an open letter to Gordon Brown calling for an immediate reinstatement of the relief, which was scrapped in April in a move designed to raise £1.3bn - The Times

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