Week commencing 2 January 2018

In today's bulletin

• Over £50 billion to be spent on UK commercial property in 2018
• Public perception of UK building density out of kilter with reality

• Government outlines proposals for major road network funding
• New grant to promote woodland creation launched

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Over £50 billion to be spent on UK commercial property in 2018

More than £50 billion will be spent on commercial property in the UK during 2018, according to real estate advisers Colliers International. This would be the sixth consecutive year that transaction volumes have topped this level and follows a final figure of £55 billion in 2017.
Further predictions for 2018, released by Colliers on 2 January, include an increase in developments combining industrial and residential uses, and further investment in regional markets.

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Public perception of UK building density out of kilter with reality

The average Briton believes that 47 per cent of the UK’s land is densely built upon, grossly overestimating the reality of 0.1 per cent, new survey data produced by Ipsos Mori has revealed. Named as the UK statistic of the year for 2017 by the Royal Statistical Society, the 0.1 per cent figure indicates
the proportion of land designated as “continuous urban fabric” through analysis of satellite imagery. Skewed public perception, however, may be a result of the majority of British people living and working in urban, built-up areas.

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UK house price growth slows with London the weakest region

The average house price in London fell for the first time in eight years as the UK’s house price growth slowed in 2017, according to Nationwide’s latest House Price Index. Released on 4 January, the building society’s latest report noted average prices across the UK had grown by 2.6 per cent over the past 12 months, down from 4.5 per cent in 2016.
In the capital, the average house price was found to be £470,922, some 0.5 per cent down on the 2016 figure. House price growth is expected to slow even further in 2018, with Nationwide predicting a modest 1 per cent rise due to subdued economic activity and the ongoing squeeze on household budgets.

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Survey reveals strong support for fall in local house prices

Almost half of British people would support efforts by government to significantly reduce house prices in their local area, according to a new survey from YouGov. Data published by the market research and data analytics firm on 2 January revealed that 49 per cent of Britons are in favour of bringing down local prices ‘a lot’, while 52 per cent supported a ‘moderate’
reduction. However, homeowners were more likely to oppose a fall than those who do not own a property. The survey also confirmed strong support (56 per cent) among the population for building a moderate number of new homes in their local area.

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Housebuilding props up slowing construction industry

Britain’s construction sector slowed slightly during December but enjoyed a sixteenth successive month of growth, data from the IHS Markit construction managers’ purchasing index has shown. The survey results, released on 3 January, suggest that a lack of investment and uncertainty led to falling
support growth. Nevertheless, total new orders increased at their fastest rate for seven months in December, indicating increased construction workloads activity in commercial and infrastructure construction, leaving the sector reliant on housebuilding to in the short-term.

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Transport

Government outlines proposals for major road network funding

The government has launched a consultation on plans to implement a Major Road Network (MRN) of strategic local roads that will be eligible for new investment under the National Roads Fund. Under the proposals announced by The Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Transport, local
authorities will be able to bid for up to £100 million of funding for upgrades and improvements on major ‘A’ roads to help reduce congestion and boost economic growth. Set to be paid for by ringfenced vehicle excise duty, the consultation on the MRN is due to run until March with the scheme expected to be officially launched in the summer.

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Majority blame train company profits for high fares

62 per cent of British people believe rail fares would be less expensive if train companies were not trying to make a profit, a new poll has claimed. Action for Rail, a campaign by rail unions and the TUC, found that the same proportion of respondents also now support public ownership of train
operators, while 61 per cent consider train services in the UK bad value for money. Further analysis from the group has highlighted that UK commuters are spending up to 10 per cent more of their salary on a monthly season ticket than those in other European countries.

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Energy and environment

New grant to promote woodland creation launched

A new scheme aimed at assisting landowners, farmers and foresters to secure the environmental and financial benefits of woodland creation has been announced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Launched on 2 January, the Countryside Stewardship Woodland Creation Grant will enable land managers to apply for a two-year capital grant of up to
£6,800 per hectare of land to create and develop woodland, along with annual maintenance payments for a decade. The scheme follows the launch of the Woodland Creation Planning Grant last year, which is designed to assist planning and proposal work.

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Lasers to map England’s entire landscape by 2020

The Environment Agency has confirmed its intention to laser map the entirety of England’s landscape by 2020, in a bid to improve flood risk assessments and inform conservation work. At present only 75 per cent of the country has been accurately mapped by lidar (light detection and ranging), using
lasers attached to aircraft, but the new plans will ensure a higher quality of coverage and incorporate previously unmapped areas such as national parks. In addition to assessing flood risk, the maps, which will be made publicly available and free of charge, will be used by archaeologists and planners as well as help identify illegal waste dumping activity.

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Windy 2017 is greenest yet for UK electricity

More than half of UK-generated electricity came from renewable and nuclear sources for the first time in 2017. Analysis from climate and energy specialists Carbon Brief found that wind power generation increased by 31 per cent over the past year, while growth in other areas including solar contributed to
the first coal-free day since the industrial revolution. The analysis nevertheless highlighted a lack of change in other parts of the economy, with transport emissions in particular remaining largely unchanged since the 1990s.

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Other News

UK productivity grows at fastest rate for six years

The hourly productivity of the UK’s workforce grew at the fastest rate in six years in the third quarter of 2017, the Office for National Statistics has confirmed. Results published on 5 January showed that, compared to the previous quarter, output per hour grew by 0.9 per cent between July and
September 2017, the largest growth since Q2 2011. However, overall output per worker – considered to be a key driver for long-term changes in living standards – still remains only marginally above the levels seen before the 2008 financial crisis.

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