Week commencing 31 August 2015

In today's bulletin

• Greater London Authority implements new restrictions on construction emissions
• Prime Minister pledges to create a total of 270,000 new school places over next five years

• Network Rail aims to revolutionise railway maintenance
• Renewable energy production costs continue falling

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Greater London Authority implements new restrictions on construction emissions

New restrictions on emissions from construction vehicles came into force on 1 September, the Greater London Authority (GLA) announced. Described as a ‘world-first’, all polluting machinery within the new Low Emission Zone for Construction Materials must be registered online by site managers. The new rules also apply to construction sites of more than 10 homes or 1,000 square feet in Greater London.
Any machinery more than ten years old must then be retrofitted or replaced to meet current pollution standards. After an initial introductory six-month period, sites that fail to comply will be deemed to be in violation of their planning permission.

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Record breaking house prices as East leads the way

Official figures released this week show house prices in the East of England are rising fastest in the UK, as analysts suggest property market “action” has left London.
Official figures released this week show house prices in the East of England are rising fastest in the UK, as analysts suggest property market “action” has left London.

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Markit/CIPS survey shows continued growth for UK construction sector

A new survey by the Chartered Institute for Procurement & Supply (CIPS) and Markit pointed to further recovery for the British construction industry. Published on 2 September, the Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) found that both business activity and employment were expanding, particularly in residential construction.
Furthermore, it reported that commercial work was at its strongest since March, although civil engineering saw the slowest rise in output for three months and the overall rate of growth was at its slowest since May. Nevertheless, respondents were ‘generally upbeat’, and more than half predicted an increase in their activity over the next 12 months.

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Prime Minister pledges to create a total of 270,000 new school places over next five years

On 2 September, Prime Minister David Cameron announced 18 new free schools, vowing to open a total of 500 free schools in the next five years. Including these, 236,000 places have been created by the free schools programme to date.
Secretary of State for Education, Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP, has committed to streamlining the application process to support the creation of free schools.

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Savills shoots down retail property myths

Savills shoots down retail property myths Real estate advisor Savills has released a new report challenging several of the most common myths in the retail property sector. Among the busted myths is the idea that online shopping is killing the need for physical stores.
In fact, stores with both physical and online presence have reported stronger growth than their single-channel competitors.

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New ‘Home Quality Mark’ to promote new build green credentials

A public consultation for the new ‘Home Quality Mark’ (HQM) closed on 4 September. Following feedback, the Building Research Establishment (BRE) will launch the new version of the standard in October.
The HQM will give new build homes an overall star rating based on a number of environmental and health-related factors, including air quality and energy efficiency of the building. The HQM aims to become a national standard, allowing builders to promote the environmental and health impacts of their schemes.

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Build UK marks launch with industry action plan

Following the merger of UKCG and NSCC, which represent many of the largest Main and Specialist contractors, a new body called Build UK was launched. The occasion was marked by the publication of an action plan designed to address industry issues and improve performance.
Build UK Chief Executive, Suzannah Nichol MBE, hopes that the new group ‘will be able to deliver progress, not just for the contracting supply chain but the wider industry and its clients’.

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Key industry figure declares housing market beleaguered by deep-rooted problems

The credit crunch was only part of the problem for the housing market according to Bob Pannell, chief economist for the Council of Mortgage Lenders. In an opinion piece published on 3 September, he argued that there is a myriad of inherent structural issues,
including an imbalance between demand and supply, an increasing polarisation of the homeownership market and an ever-increasing disparity between property prices and income.

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Finance and professional sectors drive demand for office pre-letting

According to a report by CBRE, office pre-letting returned to strength during the first half of 2015, led by a sharp rise in demand from the banking and finance sector. Strong economic growth and widespread business confidence during 2015 have resulted in strong levels of occupier take-up, most notably in Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.
The banking and finance sectors (19 per cent), business services (16 per cent) and professional services (24 per cent) accounted for 59 per cent of total activity, according to the report from 3 September.

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Train manufacturing returns to the North East

On 3 September the Prime Minister opened Hitachi’s new £82 million facility in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham. The move comes just a few years after the Government awarded Hitachi the £5.7 billion Intercity Express contract. The new facility will build the next generation of trains for the East Coast and Great Western main lines, and is the firm’s first factory in Europe.
The development is expected to create over 700 direct jobs in the North East, and support thousands more in the supply chain, boosting the Chancellor’s efforts to build the Northern Powerhouse.

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Network Rail aims to revolutionise railway maintenance

The first of a new fleet of engineering trains which Network Rail hopes will revolutionise the way it conducts maintenance entered service on 3 September.
The state-of-the-art mobile maintenance trains (MMTs) are designed to make working on the railway quicker, safer and more efficient as well as less disruptive for passengers and freight.

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Energy and Environment

Renewable energy production costs continue falling

The cost of generating electricity from renewable resources has more than halved over the past five years, while the costs for fossil fuels have only fallen marginally. This is according to a new report published on 1 September by the International Energy Association.
The report highlights economic and environmental factors impacting on wind and solar power production costs across 22 participating countries and concludes a shifting trend towards zero-carbon energy, appearing to support the recent suggestion by the Solar Trade Association that solar power will become cheaper than gas by 2018.

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Other News

CBI finds strong economic growth in last quarter

Strong economic growth has been identified in the last quarter by the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) Growth Indicator Survey, in a report published on 1 September. Although growth was relatively broad-based, it was largely confined to domestic production and consumption, according to the CBI Director of Economics, Rain Newton-Smith.
The survey also predicts buoyant, if slightly slower paced, domestic growth in the next quarter, while simultaneously suggesting the UK should watch out for turbulence in international markets.

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IPPR North argues for greater action to deliver Northern Powerhouse

In a report published on 3 September, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) pointed to the potential for the Government’s vision of a ‘Northern Powerhouse’, as well as the steps it believes are necessary to deliver it.
Arguing that the North’s economy could be improved dramatically, IPPR North outlined three areas that could deliver this: large-scale government spending of up to £50 billion, the development of ‘pan-northern’ business leadership and engagement, and more action to support the vision of ‘one north, one economy’.

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