Week commencing 26 February 2018

In today's bulletin

• Government reveals plans for overhaul to planning system
• House price growth slows in February

• Mayor sets out scope for west London rail line
• CO2 emissions increase as consumers turn against diesel

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Government reveals plans for overhaul to planning system

A fundamental review of the planning system has been launched by the Government, setting out its intentions to maximise the use of land, strengthen Green Belt protection and reduce so-called ‘land-banking’.
The draft revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework, unveiled on 5 March, aim to maximise density by giving councils more freedom to build homes on brownfield land in attempts to meet the housebuilding target of 300,000 new homes per year. The plans are subject to a consultation which runs until 10 May 2018.

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‘Significant divergences’ could arise from business rates scheme

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has criticised the Government’s plan to pilot a 100 per cent business rates retention scheme in certain English councils. The plans would see local authorities retain a higher share of their business rates, with some councils given full control of all revenue raised through business rates.
However, in a report released on 1 March, the IFS found that, in just a few years, “significant divergences” would arise as the scheme did not take into account specific spending needs in certain councils.

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House price growth slows in February

Annual house price growth slowed to 2.2 per cent in February after its surprise increase to 3.2 per cent in the previous month. This meant that house prices fell by 0.3 per cent over the month when taking account of seasonal factors.
The slowing in growth leaves the average house price in the UK at £210,402, according to Nationwide’s monthly House Price Index. Mortgage approvals, meanwhile, declined to their weakest level for three years in December, at just 61,000.

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Mortgage approvals up in first month of the year

January saw mortgage approvals increase both for house purchases (67,478) and remortgages (49,242) up to a value of £12.6bn and £8.2bn respectively.
A statistical release published by the Bank of England on 1 March also shows that the annual growth of consumer credit has slowed over the past 12 months to 9.3 per cent.

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Transport

Mayor sets out scope for west London rail line

The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has outlined plans for a West London Orbital rail link that would connect Hounslow with Cricklewood and Hendon. Presenting the revised 25-year Transport Strategy to the London Assembly on 28 February, The Mayor said the new line, which has been included in the strategy following public consultation, could deliver an additional 20,000 homes and employment growth in west London.
Other major transport schemes in the strategy include extending the Northern and Bakerloo underground lines, installing the Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf crossing and developing the proposed Sutton Tram extension.

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UK rail contribution underestimated

The contribution of the wider rail industry to the UK economy is substantially larger than previously predicted, new research by Oxford Economics has revealed. Commissioned by the Railway Industry Association and published on 27 February, The economic contribution of UK rail 2018 report found that the value of railway-related activity in the UK exceeds £36bn, placing it ahead of food, drink and chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing by comparison.
While supporting nearly 600,000 jobs and providing £11bn in tax revenues nationally, the findings point to a disproportionate share of activity coming from London, with Northern Ireland and the South West currently underrepresented.

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Major step towards Welsh rail devolution

The UK Government has laid a bill in Parliament that would devolve the responsibilities for Welsh rail services to the Welsh Government.
The draft order, laid on 28 February, would see the National Assembly given new powers to oversee the Welsh and Borders franchise, and provide £125m to upgrade the Valley Lines, the Welsh Government’s metro project in South Wales.

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Energy and environment

Poor paying more for energy

The poorest UK families now spend 10 per cent of their income on household energy while the wealthiest pay just 3 per cent. The findings come from a new report on household energy bill levies by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC), published on 2 March.
Funding a Low Carbon Energy System: a fairer approach? found that the current system disproportionately affected low-income households and suggested that raising funds through general taxation would be a fairer approach. The UKERC said this method would reduce bills for 70 per cent of UK households with the poorest paying nothing and wealthiest paying an additional £402 a year.

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Farm subsidy shake-up could unlock £150m

Around £150m of investment in the environment and sustainable food production could be released by capping farming subsidies for the largest land-owners.
On February 27, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, launched a consultation on plans for a post-Brexit agricultural transition, stating that the current Common Agriculture Policy is “inefficient and inequitable”. The measures announced also include new financial incentives to reward investment in innovation, profitability and productivity.

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CO2 emissions increase as consumers turn against diesel

CO2 emissions from the average new car sold in the UK rose last year for the first time since 2000, with emissions up 0.8 per cent.
The Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders released the figures on 27 February and claim that this is due to consumers moving away from diesel and buying bigger vehicles. The report also shows that the demand for alternatively fuelled vehicles has grown by 34.8 per cent, however this is not sufficient to balance the shortfall in new diesel cars on the roads.

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Other News

Campaigners call for electoral reform plans to be scrapped

The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) has called for government proposals to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 to be scrapped, describing the plans as an “unprecedented power-grab”.
Published on 27 February, research by the ERS suggests that the reduction would result in a record proportion of MPs (23 per cent) being on the government payroll and bound by the ruling party whip. This would reduce the number of backbench MPs to the lowest number on record, limiting government and legislative scrutiny.

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