Week commencing 5 March 2018

In today's bulletin

• Government launches consultations on planning policy and developer contributions
• Help to Buy driving demand for new builds

• UK carbon emissions fall to Victorian low
• Local government feeling squeeze as finances worsen

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Government launches consultations on planning policy and developer contributions

Consultations on a revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and changes to developer contributions were launched by the Government on Monday 5 March. Alterations to the NPPF reflect a range of recent announcements and commitments intended to increase the pace of much-needed housing delivery across the country.
Reforms to the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and s106 regimes are aimed at making the process of securing infrastructure contributions from new developments more transparent and easier to administer. Both consultations run to Thursday 10 May.

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Help to Buy driving demand for new builds

The Government’s Help to Buy scheme is the biggest driver towards new build properties for London house hunters, according to a survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Published on 8 March, the latest RICS UK Residential Market Survey showed that the lack of stock in the second-hand market was the most influential factor for respondents outside the capital.
The survey also showed enquiries from new buyers fell for the eleventh consecutive month, as well as a drop in new instructions, newly-agreed sales and estate agent stock levels.

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Cities will compete to be new home for Channel 4

Cities around the UK will have an opportunity to pitch to become the new home of Channel 4’s national headquarters, the channel’s chief executive, Alex Mahon, announced on 8 March.
The new HQ will be launched alongside two creative hubs outside of London as part of the “4 All the UK” strategy to improve Channel 4’s regional representation. The pitch process will be managed by executive board member, Jonathan Allen, when launched in April, with a decision expected in Q3 2018.

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‘Boomerang generation’ disrupting parents

Parents’ quality of life is being undermined by adult children returning to live in the family home, a new report from the London School of Economics (LSE) has claimed.
Published on 14 March, Returns home by children and changes in parents’ well-being in Europe 2018 examines how increased housing costs and job insecurity have created a ‘boomerang generation’ that is having a negative impact on the marital relationships and freedoms of their parents.

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House price rises slowest in five years

UK house prices grew at just 1.8 per cent in the year to February – the slowest rate for almost five years – new data has revealed. Published on 7 March, Halifax’s latest House Price Index showed that, despite a marginal 0.4 per cent rise in February, annual growth nationally had slowed to the lowest rate since March 2013, with the average price now at £224,353.
Monthly sales remained above 100,000 for the thirteenth month in a row, while mortgage approvals continue to improve month on month having risen steeply in January by 9.4 per cent.

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Expensive season tickets put off rail passengers

The high price of season tickets was a major factor in the number of rail journeys in Great Britain falling by 0.9 per cent in Q3 2017-18, according to the Office for Road and Rail (ORR).
Published on 8 March, the ORR’s latest Passenger Rail Usage Statistical Release showed that an 8.1 per cent reduction in season ticket use – the sixth successive quarterly fall – contributed to the total number of rail journeys dropping to 438 million. However, the figures also reveal that average journey length increased by 1 per cent.

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Energy and environment

UK carbon emissions fall to Victorian low

Rapidly declining coal use spurred a 2.6 per cent reduction in the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions in 2017, pushing levels to a low last recorded in 1890.
Analysis of Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy figures released on 7 March by Carbon Brief, the climate science website, found that 2017’s emissions were 38 per cent below 1990 levels. The Government is committed to a national target of 80 per cent reductions below 1990 levels by 2050.

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Solar panels to become more affordable

A new group-buying initiative, announced on 5 March and set to be rolled out across five London boroughs this month, will allow eco-friendly homeowners and businesses access to more affordable solar panels.
Interested parties who register under the Solar Together London scheme, which falls under the Mayor of London’s Energy for Londoners programme, will be able to purchase high-quality, affordable solar panels at a reduced cost thanks to group-funding. As part of his bid to transform London into a carbon-neutral city by 2050, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan is also awarding £150,000 from the London Community Energy Fund to 13 solar-energy projects across the borough.

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Government says there will be no ‘latte levy’

Ministers have gone against advice from the Environmental Audit Committee and will not take direct action to tackle waste from disposable coffee cups. One of the committee’s key recommendations was the introduction of a ‘latte levy’ – a tax of 25p on every disposable cup.
The committee’s inquiry had heard evidence that a charge, as implemented in the past on plastic bags, was the most effective way to change consumer behaviour. However, in its response on 9 March, the Government said it prefers positive reinforcement, such as discounts for those who bring their own containers.

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Boost for oil industry looks set to short-lived

The oil industry is set for a major boost as the United States, Brazil, Canada and Norway will experience a significant increase in their production growth rates, according to the International Energy Agency.
Oil 2018, the agency’s latest five-year analysis and forecast published on 5 March, predicts that production levels will exceed global oil demand growth until 2020 with the United States accounting for 80 per cent of worldwide demand. However, declining oil fields combined with weak global investment is likely to threaten output post-2020, suggesting that the two-year drop in investment in 2015 and 2016 continues to have an impact on the industry.

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Other News

Local government feeling squeeze as finances worsen

One in five local authorities with social care responsibilities could use all of their cash reserves within five years if they continue to use resources at the current rate, a new report from the National Audit Office (NAO) suggests.
Published on 8 March, Financial sustainability of local authorities 2018 examines the effects an ageing population is having on local councils’ finances. Key recommendations of the report include better coordination between local and national governments to fully understand the funding issues and how they may be resolved in the future.

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Manufacturing steps up a gear in 2018

Improved global demand combined with a buoyant UK market has led to a positive start to the year for British manufacturers, according to a survey published on 5 March by EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, and accountancy and business advisory firm, BDO LLP.
The survey suggests that British manufacturers are proving resilient to the current climate of political uncertainty, with European and Asian markets spearheading demand for goods. Despite this, EEF reiterated that a clear trade deal with the EU was essential to ensure the manufacturing sector remains in growth in the long term.

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