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Civil engineering in the news today - Tuesday 27 January

Ministers are preparing to step in with hundreds of millions of pounds of public money to prevent the collapse of the £1.45bn scheme to widen the M25. ConnectPlus, the preferred bidder for the scheme, is in talks with 20 banks to secure private finance initiative (PFI) funding for the project, which is due for completion before the 2012 Olympics...

...But while all are understood to have given their nominal agreement to the project, most are awaiting approval from their internal credit committees, with some expected to withdraw. As a result, the government is preparing to underwrite the scheme, as its financing has been delayed by the credit crunch – Financial Times

The proposals range from the colossal - a 10-mile barrage that would block the entire Severn estuary - to the relatively discreet: a series of isolated lagoons that would harness the ebb and flow of the tide to generate electricity. But all have the same aim: to be Britain's single biggest source of clean electricity, potentially removing the need for five or more coal-fired power stations - The Guardian

A £22bn tidal energy project that would provide almost 5% of Britain's electricity will receive taxpayers' cash if it is approved, ministers indicated yesterday. The estimated cost of the Cardiff Weston Severn barrage scheme, which compares with the £37bn of public money spent on the first bank bailout, is so high that it will require public money if it is to be realised, they admitted - The Times

The British steel industry, which plans to cut 2,500 jobs, has accused Gordon Brown of leaving it at a disadvantage to its European rivals. Corus, the Anglo-Dutch company that took over former British Steel mills appealed to ministers to match subsidies by European governments to allow it to keep unskilled workers - The Times

The steelmaker Corus delivered another body blow to the British economy yesterady, confirming that it is cutting 2,500 UK jobs and mothballing a factory in south Wales. The Anglo-Dutch firm, which has suffered a sharp fall in demand for steel in the economic crisis, plans to shed a further 1,000 posts in the Netherlands as part of a drive to reduce production - The Guardian

The US president, Barack Obama, is due to go to Congress today to lobby Republican Congressional leaders hostile to a multi-billion-dollar spending package aimed at getting the US out of recession. Only a week after the heady optimism of inauguration day, Obama will come up against political reality when he holds a private meeting with house Republican leaders - The Guardian

President Barack Obama promised yesterday that the US would lead the world in tackling climate change. In a swipe at his predecessor, he signed a string of executive orders putting the environment and cleaner energy at the heart of his domestic policy agenda - The Daily Telegraph
Britain's coastal waters have space for up to 7,000 more wind turbines than are already planned, according to an environmental audit of the likely impact of offshore wind farms on wildlife. The assessment was made as part of preparations for the third phase of offshore wind farm development around the country - The Times

One of Manhattant's oldest and most distinctive skyscrapers, the Flatiron building, has passed into European hands through a sale to an Italian property developer which wants to turn it into a luxury hotel. The Rome-based Sorgente Group, which specialises in buying "trophy" buildings, has bought more than 50% of the wedge-shaped New York landmark, which was the world's first steel-frame office tower when complete in 1902 - The Guardian

The head of Britain’s environmental watchdog has branded the third runway at Heathrow airport a "mistake", saying it is unlikely to be built because of the huge political uncertainty surrounding the project. Lord Smith of Finsbury, chairman of the Environment Agency, said there was "a very big chance" that the project would stall given the threat of legal action from campaigners and resistance from the Tories and Liberal Democrats – Financial Times

Developers who build in high flood risk areas will find it increasingly difficult to sell properties because insurance will be unavailable or prohibitively expensive, the Association of British Insurers will warn today. "We encourage the building industry to develop a kite mark scheme, so that buyers and insurers can easily see if a building has been designed to be climate-resilient," Stephen Haddrill, director-general of the ABI, will say – Financial Times

The UK is losing its attraction for renewable energy generators, putting future energy security and the government's climate change targets in jeopardy, according to chairman of the Environment Agency Lord Smith. He said he was concerned about several recent announcements from big energy companies that they were reconsidering plans for offshore wind farms – Financial Times

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