Week commencing 30 October 2017

In today's bulletin

• Government outlines flexible funding for supported housing
• Affordable housing just one-fifth of required levels

• New rail industry plan targets £85bn in economic benefits
• Market competition benefits UK energy consumers

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Government outlines flexible funding for supported housing

The government has outlined proposals for a new flexible funding approach for the supported housing sector and is seeking to improve local planning and commissioning in the sector. The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) confirmed on 31 October that it was bringing forward its consultation on the new approach, which proposes that sheltered housing
and extra care would continue to be funded by the welfare system and the introduction of a ‘sheltered rent’ to maintain charges at manageable levels for older and vulnerable people. The new paper follows the government’s recent decision to abandon plans to apply Local Housing Allowance rates to those in supported housing and the wider social rented sector.

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Affordable housing just one-fifth of required levels

Viability assessments have been used to reduce affordable housing levels to just 20 per cent of that set out in council policies, according to research by housing charity Shelter. The findings, released on 1 November, were calculated through Freedom of Information requests to 11 local authorities across England. The starkest differences between policy and the number of
homes actually delivered were found in Manchester, Birmingham and parts of London, where only one per cent of the homes built were classified as affordable. Describing them as a “legal loophole”, Shelter is now calling for the government to ban viability assessments entirely so that affordable housing is built at the levels mandated by council policy.

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Build over London’s rail lines, report argues

More than 250,000 new homes could be delivered in London by building over the capital’s railway lines. According to a report released on 2 November by engineering consultancy WSP, building above new and existing lines could deliver housing quickly and cheaply in desirable areas.
WSP concludes that the construction of homes over the capital’s rail infrastructure could be a viable and desirable way to tackle the housing crisis, without developing on greenfield sites or expanding the city’s boundaries.

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UK house price growth to slow over the next half decade

The average UK house price is projected to grow by 14 per cent over the next five years as increases slow due to market uncertainty and lending constraints. New forecasts from Savills, published on 2 November, show that price increases will vary significantly nationally, ranging from 18.1 per cent in
the North West to 7.1 per cent in the capital. The forecasts predict that at just 1 per cent, the next 12 months will be a particularly slow year for price growth, before lifting to 2.5 per cent in 2019 and 5 per cent in 2020.

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Leadership the way forward for construction products

Leadership will be required from the UK construction products industry if it is to modernise and address current challenges impacting the sector. In a speech made on 2 November, Carl Arntzen, chair of the Construction Products Association (CPA), argued that a variety of external factors and systemic changes were negatively affecting the construction industry, but that
manufacturers and suppliers were well placed to lead the sector forward. Skills shortages, constrained resources and climate change were all cited as significant challenges to overcome, with innovative and smarter products and construction methods examples of ways the industry can deliver improvements.

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Campaign launched to improve place-shaping

The British Property Federation has unveiled a campaign encouraging members of the real estate industry to commit to improved place-shaping. Launched on 31 October, the Great Places campaign aims to showcase the industry’s social impact and the collective role it plays in improving quality of
life to its customers, the government and the communities it invests in. BPF suggests the new platform will enable best practice examples to be shared and create a closer partnership between the built environment and public sectors.

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New rail industry plan targets £85bn in economic benefits

The UK’s rail industry will work more collaboratively to deliver significant improvements to its services and generate up to £85 billion in economic benefits, a new report has claimed. Led by the pan-industry Rail Delivery Group, Network Rail, train firms and other key stakeholders, the report, In Partnership for Britain’s Prosperity, sets out how the industry will work more
closely to help transform services. Published on 30 October, the four key objectives of the plan are to strengthen the railway’s contribution to the national economy, increase customer satisfaction, boost local communities through decision-making and investment, and create more jobs.

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Industrial Strategy Commission welcomed by Lord Adonis

The findings of the independent Industrial Strategy Commission’s Final Report have been welcomed by the chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission. Speaking on 1 November, the Rt Hon Lord Adonis heralded the report’s central conclusion that a broad, long-term plan for universal basic infrastructure, to include good quality transport links and access to the latest
mobile and broadband connections, should be “the foundation” for nationwide economic growth. The report is intended to offer advice to the government ahead of the publication of a new Industrial Strategy and recommends measures to ensure all parts of the country benefit through a dedicated unit.

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Alternative transport proposals for Autumn Budget

Alternative proposals for transport taxation and spending policy to promote sustainable transport, improve air quality and reduce emissions have been set out by the Campaign for Better Transport. Published on 31 October, the recommendations from its Alternative Transport Budget include the establishment of a Network Development Fund intended to implement
proposals for new and reopened lines and stations and an action plan to combat rail fare increases. The advocacy group timed the issue of its policy wishlist in advance of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, delivering his Autumn Budget later this month.

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Energy and environment

Market competition benefits UK energy consumers

Regulator Ofgem has declared that competition in the UK’s energy market continues to benefit consumers, in its first annual assessment of the sector. Published on 31 October, the State of the Energy Markets report reveals that annual household switching rates have reached their highest levels since
August 2011, with the six largest energy suppliers’ combined share of the market dropping to just over 80 per cent. However, the findings also indicate that some 60 per cent of consumers continue to remain on default tariffs, which can be around £300 more expensive than the cheapest fixed-term deals.

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London set for first Ultra-Low Emission Zone

New plans for an Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to tackle London’s air pollution and reduce toxic emissions were announced on 3 November. Unveiled by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and set to be rolled out in April 2019, the ULEZ will see older more polluting vehicles incur a charge and
replace the recently introduced Toxicity Charge (T-Charge) with tougher environmental standards. The charge will be enforced seven days a week and is anticipated to impact up to 60,000 vehicles that use the capital’s roads daily.

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UK petroleum reserves remain significant

The UK’s recoverable petroleum reserves have the potential to sustain the country for another 20 years based on current production forecasts, according to the Oil and Gas Authority. The regulator’s UK Oil and Gas Reserves and Resources report, published on 31 October, discloses that
recoverable petroleum resources offer between 10 to 20 billion barrels of untapped oil equivalent (boe) and that current reserves of 5.7 billion boe are alone sufficient for the next two decades. The report nevertheless states that the long-term replacement of petroleum reserves remains a concern.

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