Week commencing 4 December 2017

In today's bulletin

• Major local authority housing study published
• UK remains reliant on EU construction workers

• Imperial points to green future for electric rail
• Government announces backing for next-gen nuclear

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Major local authority housing study published

A new study, commissioned by the National Planning Forum and the Royal Town Planning Institute, has found that 91 per cent of local authorities in England are actively working towards increasing their housing stock. It also found they are diversifying the ways in which they do this, such as establishing housing companies, joint ventures with developers, providing loans to housing associations and providing land to third parties for development.
Just 32 local authorities were believed to be carrying out no new housing activity. The Local Authority Direct Provision of Housing study, which has been described as the most comprehensive investigation of the current state of local authority housebuilding, identified debt cap limits and a lack of land as key barriers to development.

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First £11 million of Planning Delivery Fund launched

On 4 December, Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Alok Sharma MP, opened the bidding on the Government’s new Planning Delivery Fund. The
initial £11 million (rising to £25 million) is designed to support local authority and third sector organisations with ambitious plans for new homes and infrastructure in high housing-need areas.

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NAEA finds sales to first time buyers at four-year low

The National Association of Estate Agents and the Association of Residential Letting Agents has published its 2017 property market overview. The survey pointed to major legislative changes in both markets, particularly in
the rental sector as well as finding that sales to first time buyers were at their lowest for four years.

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UK remains reliant on EU construction workers

On 5 December, results from a survey carried out by the Home Builders Federation revealed that UK housebuilders remain reliant on skilled EU workers and will continue to be so post-Brexit if they are to meet housing
targets. The survey spoke to 37,167 workers across 1090 sites and found that, of those questioned, 12.6% of general construction workers were foreign born, with 5.7% coming from EU-accession countries.

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Fringe workspaces becoming prime locations in evolving office market

According to Savills, the demand for traditional offices is changing in cities as modern spaces suited to mixed-use and co-working become increasingly sought after. Evolving work practices are changing requirements with mid to long-term rentals in ‘fringe’ neighbourhoods forecast to emerge as the new
prime locations in the office market. The desire for flexible buildings, work space and work clubs is said to be generating the changes which are reportedly changing rent levels in new and different locations in cities.

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House price growth continues amid widening gap between supply and demand

Annual house price growth was 3.9 per cent higher in the three months to November than in in the same period of 2016, according to Halifax’s House Price Index, released 7 December. Prices rose by 0.5 per cent on October’s
figures; the fifth consecutive monthly rise, with average prices reaching £226,821. But the disparity between supply and demand of housing stock continued its 20-month decline with a sharp fall in the number of homes for sale in November.

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‘Long-life’ income to make up more than 60 percent of property returns

Savills expects secure long-life property schemes to be more attractive to investors as it predicts income returns will account for just over 60 percent of the UK property assets by 2022, up from 45 percent over the last 10 years.
Announced at its annual cross sector brief on 5 December, the real estate advisor said it expects capital growth to account for 40 percent of the UK property market over the same period.

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BridgeCat innovation to transform Cumbrian flood response

Roads Minister, Jesse Norman MP, visited Cumbria last week (7 December) to witness the first trial of ground-breaking technology, BridgeCat. Using sonar and underwater cameras to provide detailed information on the condition of flooded bridges, the equipment is expected to improve resilience in key
flooding hotspots. Combined with sensors to measure water damage, the technology will allow bridges to be re-opened more quickly and prevent communities from being cut-off. BridgeCat was developed by the Department for Transport, Cumbria County Council and Gaist Solutions.

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Plans to boost productivity could see £15bn annual cost savings

The government has unveiled plans to boost productivity in the construction sector and generate savings of as much as £15 billion a year. The Transforming Infrastructure Performance programme sets out how upcoming projects will be delivered swiftly and efficiently. Announced alongside the
National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline, which outlines £600m of private and public investment over the next 10 years, the programme is expected to drive modern construction methods and place Britain at the forefront of high-tech building.

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Energy and environment

Nuclear sector adding billions to UK economy, study finds

A study commissioned by the Nuclear Industry Association has found that the UK’s civil nuclear sector contributed £6.4 billion to the country’s economy in 2016. Results also suggested that the industry’s employees are one of the
most productive workforces in the UK. According to the study, civil nuclear activity contributes £1 in every £50 of economic output in both the north west and south west of England.

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Government announces backing for next-gen nuclear

The government announced significant support for next generation nuclear last week (7 December), unveiling its intention for the UK to become a world-leader in the field. As part of this, it has pledged to support research and development into advanced and small modular reactors for the next three
years. It also signalled its intention to launch the second phase of the Nuclear Innovation Programme which will see up to £8 million diverted to work on safety, security and studies in advanced fuels.

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Imperial points to green future for electric rail

A report into the use of solar panels on railways has shown that the innovative approach to energy generation could reap substantial benefits for the UK. Produced by Imperial College London’s Energy Futures Lab, the study has
found that connecting solar panels directly to railway lines could power the country’s electric railways, subsidy-free.

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Other News

Steady but unremarkable growth forecast for UK

According to the latest CBI Economic Forecast, released 4 December, the UK can expect steady but sluggish business growth in 2018. It has predicted that national GDP will grow at a rate of 1.5 per cent next year and just 1.3 per cent in 2019.
Reduced household spending and Brexit uncertainty are forecast to hamper business investment but a good deal with Europe could reverse fortunes and push up living stands says the organisation.

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