Week commencing 8 January 2018

In today's bulletin

• Government launches Homes England
• Heathrow sets new passenger record in 2017

• Government launches 25-year plastic waste plan
• Skills shortage the biggest barrier to UK business growth

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Government launches Homes England

Homes England was launched on 11 January by the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to help meet the Government’s target of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s. First announced as part of the housing white paper in February 2017, the agency has been tasked with boosting housing construction by securing
land in desirable areas, supporting brownfield development and encouraging smaller housebuilders into the market. Replacing the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), the new body will focus on increasing the supply of new homes, while the HCA’s regulatory role will be taken forward by a new Regulator of Social Housing.

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New minister for the housing sector appointed

A new Minister of State for Housing was appointed on 9 January as part of a ministerial reshuffle by the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Theresa May MP. Dominic Raab, the Conservative MP for Esher and Walton, was appointed to the position at the newly-named Ministry for Housing, Communities and
Local Government (MHCLG). The fourth housing minister since Theresa May became Prime Minister in July 2016, industry bodies have called for continuity with the priorities of his predecessor, Alok Sharma.

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New figures show popularity of Help to Buy among first-time buyers

More than 350,000 people have used a Help to Buy loan to purchase a home, according to new data from MHCLG. Published on 11 January, the data indicates that 93 per cent of these completions took place outside London.
The Government also claims that the vast majority of first-time buyers who are subject to stamp duty will benefit from the changes to the tax that were announced in the Autumn Budget.

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Overseas buyers drive healthy hotel investment in 2017

Investment in the UK hotel market increased by 32 per cent in 2017 compared with 2016, according to figures from Savills. Data released on 8 January showed that investment in the sector reached £5.4 billion last year, compared to £4.1 billion in 2016. Analysis from the property agent highlighted
the role of overseas buyers, who accounted for 44 per cent of the total investment, as well as perceptions of the UK as more politically and economically stable in 2017.

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December dip mutes annual house price growth

House prices rose by 2.7 per cent in the final quarter of 2017, compared to the same period in 2016, data from the latest Halifax House Price Index has revealed. However the report, released on 8 January, indicates that
house prices fell 0.6 per cent from November to December – the first monthly decline in six months. Overall, the year closed with an average property price of £225,021, a rise of 2.4 per cent from January 2017.

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Transport

Heathrow sets new passenger record in 2017

78 million passengers travelled through Heathrow in 2017, setting a new record for the UK’s biggest airport and beating the previous year’s figure by 3.1 per cent. The airport also revealed that its annual noise footprint was impacting 15 per cent fewer households, with airlines using quieter planes
and 32 per cent fewer night flights compared with 2016. The record-breaking results were announced just days before the airport launches a planning consultation on its plans to expand with a third runway.

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Design of major roads should consider non-motorists

Pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians believe that their needs are not being considered when new major roads are planned, the National Road Users’ Satisfaction Survey carried out by Transport Focus has revealed. Safer crossings and the routing and maintenance of separate paths for non-
motorists were among the main concerns expressed in the report. Transport Focus hopes that this report will be used by Highways England and the Government to inform how they engage with and plan for these road users.

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Energy and environment

Government launches 25-year plastic waste plan

The Government has pledged to eradicate all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042, as part of its 25 Year Environment Plan. Launched on 11 January by the Prime Minister and the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the plan aims to crack down on plastic
waste by extending the 5p plastic bag charge to small retailers. It also proposes to introduce plastic-free supermarket aisles, support the water industry to increase public water fountains, introduce new safeguards for wildlife, and connect more children with nature.

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Humber flood scheme secures £42m of funding

A 19km stretch of tidal flood defences along the Humber Estuary that protects 113,000 properties in Hull will receive £42 million of funding, it was announced on 11 January. The improvements to the Humber Hull
Frontages, being led by the Environment Agency, will start next summer and complete in 2020 if planning permission is granted.

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Other News

Skills shortage the biggest barrier to UK business growth

Shortages of vital skills are hampering the growth of UK businesses, according to a survey by the British Chambers of Commerce. Released on 10 January, its latest Quarterly Economic Survey found that 71 per cent of businesses in the service sector – a key part of the UK’s economy – reported difficulties
in recruiting staff with the right skills. The survey, which draws on over 7,000 responses from British firms, found that respondents were mostly downbeat about business growth in 2018.

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