Week commencing 26 March 2018

In today's bulletin

• London house price slump worst since 2008 crash
• Windfarm upgrades could increase capacity by 1.3GW

• British firms’ confidence falls in March
• Automated locomotion on its way to Britain

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Mortgage lending falls in February

The second lowest number of people since the Brexit vote took out mortgages in February, according UK Finance data published last week (26 March).
The number of people borrowing dropped from 40,031 in January to 38,120 – representing an 11 per cent year-on-year fall.

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Government threatens to take control of councils’ local plans

The Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government will send assessors to three local authorities to determine whether the government should take control of the production of their local plans.
Sajid Javid wrote to the councils on 23 March to inform them of the decision, while a dozen others were sent further warnings about the progress of their own plans.

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Local authorities are not commissioning enough social housing to meet demand, reveals survey

A new survey has revealed that housebuilders are struggling to meet social housing demand as a result of local authorities not authorising enough to be built.
The survey, commissioned by McBains, asked housebuilders how many council homes, and separately affordable homes through Section 106 agreements, they had built in the past two years, as well as what they expect to build in the next year.
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Construction delivery plan needed for post-Brexit skills crisis

In a statement published on 27 March 2018, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said that a serious delivery plan is needed to ensure Britain has the right skills and migration policies in place for Brexit.
The statement was published in response to the Migration Advisory Committee’s Interim update, which set out the Brexit-related concerns and evidence presented by a wide range of industries, including construction.
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London house price slump worst since 2008 crash

House prices are falling across nearly half of the capital, according to figures released on 26 March by Hometrack, representing the most widespread collapse in house values across London since the 2008 financial crash.
While 42 per cent of London’s postcodes have suffered drops in value, cities in the north are continuing to see prices inflate, with Edinburgh, Liverpool, Leicester, Birmingham and Manchester all experiencing growth of more than seven per cent per annum.

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Councils in England receive new powers to bring empty homes back into use

New legislation is to be introduced, giving councils the power to take action against owners of homes that have remained empty for two or more years, the government announced on 28 March.
Introduced along with a range of measures the government hopes will fix the broken housing market, councils will be handed powers to double the rate of council tax on such properties.

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Increased infrastructure investment crucial for growth says ESRC

Increased investment in the UK’s national and local infrastructure is crucial for increasing productivity and economic growth, according to the Economic and Social Research Council.
Ineffective infrastructure business models are providing poor value to the taxpayer, consumers and business, while recognising the potential of infrastructure to convert financial value into societal value is considered a crucial step.

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Transport

Automated locomotion on its way to Britain

The first automated train was tested on a passenger train in the UK this week. On Monday 26 March, the 9:46am service from Peterborough to Horsham had the new automated train operating system, which takes control of acceleration and braking from the driver. This system will be rolled out on new Class 700 Thameslink trains.
It was also announced the ‘HS2 partnering days’ will be held between British and Chinese firms to explore the opportunities for joint bids for contracts.

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Highways England urged to limit stretches of roadworks

The National Audit Office (NAO) has launched an investigation into the Department for Transport’s (DfT) decision to cancel three rail electrification projects; the Midland Main Line north of Kettering (to Nottingham and Sheffield); the Great Western Main Line between Cardiff and Swansea; and the Lakes Line between Oxenholme and Windermere.
The NAO will look into whether the DfT can deliver the passenger and environmental benefits that electrification would have brought to the network, without the cancelled projects.

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Energy and environment

Pollution increased by London congestion charge

Findings presented at the Royal Economic Society Annual Conference between 26 – 28 March found that while the London congestion charge has reduced the levels of carbon monoxide pollution, the shift to diesel fuelled transport has seen an increase in harmful NO2 emissions.
Research conducted by Professor Colin Green, Professor John Haywood and Dr Maria Navarro reveals that inhabitants are at a higher risk of severe lung and respiratory problems due to a shift in transport type, including taxis and mass transit vehicles. .

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Deposit return scheme in fight against plastic

On 28 March it was announced by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs that a plastic and can deposit scheme would be launched in England, following a consultation later this year.
The scheme replicates those already being implemented in countries such as Sweden and Germany. It is hoped that by introducing the scheme recycling rates will increase, thus reducing the level of plastic waste in England.

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Windfarm upgrades could increase capacity by 1.3GW

A study published by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) in March found that repowering UK onshore wind farms as they reach the end of their operating lives would be a cost-effective way to increase generation.
By upgrading wind farms with the latest technology, the UK’s generating capacity could increase by 1.3 gigawatts

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Other News

British firms’ confidence falls in March

Manufacturing confidence fell to its lowest point since the aftermath of the Brexit vote, according to a European Commission survey released last week.
The service sector similarly saw a drop in sentiment, with its indicator dropping to its lowest since November

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