Week commencing 30 November 2015

In today's bulletin

• Amendments to Housing and Planning Bill
• Councils challenged to build more social housing

• HS2 route to open six years ahead of schedule
• Renewable to overtake nuclear in EU’s energy projects

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Amendments to Housing and Planning Bill

Amendments to the Housing and Planning Bill were debated in Parliament on 3 December with the aim of improving quality and increasing supply; recent figures suggest just over half of the homes needed to meet demand are being built.
New clauses in the bill focus on the need to create high-quality places, including new garden cities, and ensuring that planning decisions reflect and consider the locally-assessed needs of all sections of society. The debating of the bill will resume on Tuesday 8 December.

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Councils challenged to build more social housing

Speaking after the Comprehensive Spending Review on 4 December Minister of State for Housing and Planning at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), Brandon Lewis MP, challenged local authorities to use more than £2 billion to build social housing, maintaining that councils have the funds in their housing revenue accounts.
His words were welcomed by the industry with Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, arguing that social housing must not be viewed as a separate sector to the housing market and that focusing only on home ownership would not solve the current crisis.

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Government figures show affordable homes increase

The number of affordable rent homes delivered in 2014/15 increased by 64 per cent on the previous year, according to figures released by DCLG on 2 December. In addition, 58,560 new-build affordable homes were provided this year, up from 36,640 in 2013/14.
Terrie Alafat, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), described the figures as “encouraging” but warned that the Government must commit to supporting affordable rent and not just an increase in overall supply.

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Government to boost first-time buyers’ deposits

The Government launched its Help to Buy ISA scheme on 1 December, arguing that it will help first-time buyers save for house deposits more quickly. The scheme offers buyers £50 on every £200 saved, to a maximum of £3,000.
The 25 per cent bonus is only available on homes up to £450,000 in London and £250,000 outside of the capital, and buyers must save at least £1,600 before they can claim the reward.

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House price growth to slow in 2016

Halifax has predicted that house price growth at a national level is expected to slow to between four and six per cent by the end of next year, according to its UK Housing Market Outlook report for 2016.
Published on 4 December, the report suggests activity levels in 2015 have remained modest with new instructions by home sellers declining in October for the ninth successive month, contributing to the stock of homes available for sale falling to a new record low.

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Government urged to support industrial development

The importance of the industrial and logistics sector must be recognised by central and local Government, according to a report from the British Property Federation (BPF) published on 1 December.
Delivering the Goods outlines the valuable role the sector makes to the UK economy and in supporting e-commerce, and calls on the Government to make greater provisions for industrial development within local plans.

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Listed buildings at risk from cuts

Public spending cuts could put historic listed buildings at risk, according to research released by Historic England on 3 December. The public body responsible for looking after England’s historic environment has warned that local authorities are employing a falling number of experts in historic properties,
while the number of planning applications for upgrades and renovations of listed properties has increased. Historic England has argued that this could result in unauthorised alterations and unsuitable changes to England’s heritage buildings.

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Transport

HS2 route to open six years ahead of schedule

Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon George Osborne MP, announced on 30 November that the HS2 route between Crewe and Birmingham would open in 2027 – six years earlier than planned. Mr Osborne also confirmed the appointment of John Cridland, Director General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), as the first chair of new body Transport for the North (TfN), created to help improve connectivity across the Northern Powerhouse.
Transport Secretary, the Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP, claimed on 3 December that the earlier opening of the line would “transform travel to and from North Wales”. His statement came amid fears that the line will create a challenge for Welsh cities competing against English locations for non-London based headquarters.

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Commons committee sets out environmental criteria for Heathrow expansion

The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee has called for the expansion of Heathrow to be considered against a number of environmental considerations. In a report published on 1 December, the committee concluded that issues around climate change,
air quality and noise all need to be addressed before the Government approves plans to expand the airport. It also argued that any proposals should be concrete and measurable, as well as open to both committee and parliamentary scrutiny.

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Paris delegates agree to slash transport emissions

The United Kingdom and other partner members of the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Alliance have signed a commitment to make all new passenger vehicles emission-free by 2050. The ZEV Alliance, including Germany,
the Netherlands and Norway, made the announcement at the COP21 conference in Paris on 3 December, outlining measures including financial incentives, investment in ZEV infrastructure and public outreach to help meet this target.

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Electric vehicles could overload Britain’s power network

Almost one third of UK local power networks could be overloaded if electric vehicles (EVs) become a standard choice, a new study released by Ofgem on 4 December has found. The three year project, My Electric Avenue, analysed the impact on the grid caused by clusters of neighbours using electric cars and found that
32 per cent of Britain’s local electricity networks would require intervention because of low capacity when 40 to 70 per cent of customers use EVs. To tackle this, the project trialled Esprit, a ‘smart’ system which can intelligently manage the flow of power into EVs, such as reducing charging during hours when electricity usage is at its peak.

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Energy and environment

Renewable to overtake nuclear in EU’s energy projects

An increasing demand for renewable energy sources means nuclear energy could lose its position as the leading source of energy in Europe’s power generation projects, according to a report from Timetric’s Construction Intelligence Center (CIC). Published on 4 December, Project Insight: Power Generation Construction Projects in Europe,
found that European governments are adopting renewable energy more than ever before to help achieve the EU’s aim of generating at least 20 per cent of its power consumption from renewable sources by 2020. Wind power projects in Europe currently have the highest value, standing at almost £200 billion, with the UK’s investment in offshore wind farms worth giving it the highest value project pipeline in the sector.

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Companies unite to protect water resources

A group of 27 companies – including GSK, Saint Gobain, Veolia, Danone and Diageo – announced the formation of the Business Alliance for Water and Climate Change on 2 December. The Alliance aims to reduce the risks surrounding water safety and availability through measuring and reducing water impact, collective action in river basins, greater transparency,
and exploiting the business value chain to protect water supplies. The group forms part of the broader Paris Pact on Water and Climate Change Adaptation, which seeks to make water more resilient to climate change. Other initiatives include the Mega Cities Coalition, which comprises 20 mega cities with a combined population of 85 million people, and seeks to encourage water stewardship projects.

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Landfill Communities Fund at risk

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) has expressed “deep concern” at the future of the Landfill Communities Fund following changes to the regulations surrounding the financing of the project announced in the Autumn Statement in November. The scheme, which sees landfill operators contribute to environmental and community-based projects near landfill,
could result in companies facing extra costs of £500,000 per year as third-party contributions will no longer be accepted from April next year. On 3 December, it was reported that the ESA had criticised the short notice of new regulations coming into effect, given the potential scale of increased costs for operators.

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Other News

Date of 2016 Budget announced

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon George Osborne MP, announced on 1 December that the next Budget will be published by the Government on Wednesday 16 March 2016.

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Construction firms ‘put off’ offering apprenticeships

The Federation of Master Builders’ (FMB) has argued that there are still barriers preventing construction firms from employing apprentices in a new report on the skills shortage in UK construction. Launched at a Parliamentary roundtable on 30 November, Defusing the Skills Time Bomb criticises the complexity and cost of the process, with a third of small construction firms put off by the bureaucracy involved.
Speaking at the event, Nick Boles MP, Minister of State for Skills stated that he hoped for a “sea change” in UK apprenticeship schemes, while Shadow Small Business Minister, Bill Esterson MP, argued that there must be a balance between the quality and quantity of apprenticeships.

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Britain’s best high street revealed

A road in Yorkshire was unveiled as Britain’s best high street at an awards ceremony on 30 November. Bishopthorpe Road in York beat 229 other entrants to be named the ‘winner of winners’ after collecting the award for best local centre high street at the 2015 Great British High Street Awards.
The awards are a DCLG initiative, helping to champion high streets as the “cornerstones of the community”, with the public as well as members of the Government’s Future High Street Forum deciding the final winners.

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