Week commencing 1 February 2016

In today's bulletin

• Construction needs to remove barriers for young
• BPF calls for stamp duty exemptions

• New strategy to boost rail sector growth
• European offshore wind investment doubles

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Construction needs to remove barriers for young

The construction industry must do more to address the sector’s ongoing skills shortage and remove the barriers preventing young people from entering the industry, according to Brandon Lewis MP, Minister of State for Housing and Planning, and Nick Boles MP, Minister of State for Business, Innovation and
Skills. The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has been commissioned by the Government to review the skills pressures facing the industry, and will work alongside real estate and construction consultancy Cast to identify ways to attract more workers into construction.

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New register for aspiring home builders

Councils will have to keep a register of aspiring self-builders when planning for future land use, Brandon Lewis MP announced on 1 April. The registers will combine with the new requirements for local authorities to ensure they have
sufficient land ready to match local demand. The hope is that these measures will provide a much-needed boost to the country’s housing supply.

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Demand for rented homes to keep growing

The demand for rented homes will grow by 1.1 million households by 2021, despite the Government’s aim to build 400,000 new affordable homes during the course of the current parliament. The prediction comes in Rental Britain, a report published on 2 February by Savills. According to the real estate adviser,
the rapid increase in house prices and a decline in the stock of homes for social rent will mean an additional 220,000 homes for private rent are required per annum.

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House prices up 2.2 per cent in last three months

House prices in the last three months (November-January) were 2.2 per cent higher than in the preceding three months (August-October), according to Halifax’s House Price Index released on 4 February. Britain’s largest
mortgage lender also reported that home sales have picked up since last summer with transactions in the second half of 2015 six per cent higher than in the same period in 2014.

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BPF calls for stamp duty exemptions

The British Property Federation (BPF) has called on the Government to exempt institutional investors with large rental property portfolios from an increase in Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT). Responding to Government consultations on a proposed three per cent increase to SDLT, the BPF argued
that this could pose a threat to the significant investments recently announced in the build to rent sector. The BPF statement issued on 2 February recommended exemptions for portfolios with 15 or more residential units.

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Slowest growth in construction since April 2015

The construction industry grew in January at its slowest rate for nine months, according to a survey by Markit and the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS). The survey results, released on 2 February, indicate that the rate of expansion was still well above the ‘no-change’ value of 50.0 (at 55), but was well below predictions. Nevertheless, there was growth in commercial
work, housebuilding and civil engineering, the three broad areas of activity measured by the survey. However, confidence in future performance for the industry was at its lowest level since December 2014, with fewer new hires than at any point since September 2013.

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Transport

HS2 headquarters opens in Birmingham

Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP, officially opened the headquarters in Birmingham for the proposed High Speed 2 (HS2) rail project. The opening on 4 February coincided with a Commons Select Committee hearing final petitions relating to the HS2 Phase One Hybrid Bill.
The Bill is expected to achieve Royal Assent by December, while construction is scheduled to start on the route between London and the West Midlands next year. Commenting at the event, Mr McLoughlin said: “HS2 will rebalance our economy, helping make the Midlands an ‘engine for growth'”.

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Funding for eight new driverless technology projects

The Government has awarded £20 million in funding to develop new driverless car technologies. Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, announced on 1 February that the fund will be used to develop communication between vehicles, roadside
infrastructure and urban information systems. It is estimated that the ‘intelligent mobility’ market will be worth £900 billion per year globally by 2025.

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New strategy to boost rail sector growth

A new strategy to boost the UK rail sector was launched on 1 February by the Rail Supply Group (RSG) – a joint initiative by industry and Government. RSG’s new strategy aims to support suppliers across the rail sector to improve productivity and double the rail industry’s export volumes. Speaking at
the launch, RSG co-chair and managing director of Alstom UK & Ireland, Terence Watson said that the industry must use HS2 and other programmed rail investment to “kick-start a new wave of UK manufacturing and exporting prowess”.

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ICE launches Infrastructure for London

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) London launched its policy recommendations for the next Mayor and London Assembly on 2 February. The Infrastructure for London manifesto sets out ICE London’s ten recommendations in response to a number of issues facing the capital, including population growth and climate change. Recommendations include
creating a regional forum for London and the South East to allow politicians to build consensus over infrastructure issues; focusing transport spending to help boost housing growth; and the publication of a London Resilience Plan to set out how the city can adapt to climate change in the run up to 2050.

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Energy and environment

European offshore wind investment doubles

2015 was a record year for offshore wind in Europe with investment doubling to €13.3 billion, according to figures released by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) on 3 February. Offshore wind capacity across the continent is now over 11,000 MW, with 3,019 MW of new capacity
becoming active in European waters in 2015 – more than twice the amount connected in the previous year. EWEA predicted that capacity additions would be lower in 2016 but that it expected to see 20,000 MW of offshore wind in Europe by the end of the decade.

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Other News

Plans for Sunday trading devolution

Business Secretary Sajid Javid MP announced on 2 February that the Government plans to devolve Sunday trading laws to local authorities as part of the Enterprise Bill. It is argued that the new powers will allow councils to “zone” any relaxation in Sunday trading hours to prioritise local high streets
and city centres to the benefit of businesses in these areas. Commenting on the announcement, Mr Javid said that “it is local people who will make the decision”.

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Bank of England MPC cuts forecast for economic growth

The Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has cut its forecast for GDP growth in 2016 to 2.2 per cent in its latest Inflation Report. Released on 4 February, the report also downgraded the Bank of England’s
expectations for wages, stating that it expects weekly earnings to increase by three per cent this year, decreased from the 3.75 per cent previously predicted in November.

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