Week commencing 9 April 2018

In today's bulletin

• Government seeks to reform residential building safety regulations
• Investment in UK shopping centres tops £300 million

• Coal usage drops but will continue as “mainstay” of UK reserves
• Strong growth in electric vehicle charging points

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Government seeks to reform residential building safety regulations

New rules aimed at improving fire testing on residential external cladding systems have been published for review. The revisions, which were launched for consultation on Wednesday 11 April by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, challenge the use of ‘desktop studies’ as a method for assessing fire performance on construction materials.
The new rules follow recommendations made in an industry review by Dame Judith Hackitt last year. The deadline for consultation responses is 25 May 2018.

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Permission in Principle to have minimal impact on accelerating housing delivery

The newly introduced Permission in Planning policy, which aims to speed up the planning process by attaching automatic planning permission to housing land, has been met by scepticism from within the industry.
A study commissioned by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) found that planning experts believed the policy could extend the current process by sparking land speculation and hiking prices, rather than simplifying and accelerating the process.

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Investment in UK shopping centres tops £300 million

Despite investment volumes declining almost nine per cent year-on-year as retailer administrations took their toll, sales in UK shopping centres hit £337 million in the first quarter of 2018, according to data released by Savills.
11 deals were also recorded in the first quarter of 2018 – up from eight deals during the same period in 2017. The current investment pipeline is reported to be strong, with 19 schemes worth over £1.5 billion in the market.

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Mixed forecast for the housing market

Britain’s house prices jumped to a new high last month, with a 2.7 per cent year-on-year rise in the three months to March 2018 taking the average price to £227,871, according to Halifax’s latest House Price Index. Monthly sales also reached 101,000 – the fourteenth month in a row this has surpassed 100,000.
However, Nationwide’s April House Price Index indicated that London was again the region that performed weakest, with house prices dropping one per cent year-on-year. Although the North of England recorded stronger house price growth than the South of England for the fourth quarter in a row, average house prices are still half the price of properties in the South.

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Property surveyors release downbeat assessment of UK housing market

Housing demand among UK buyers has fallen for the 12th month in a row, according to the March 2018 RICS UK Residential Market Survey.
Despite house prices generally remaining flat nationwide, London and the south east recorded the steepest drops in house prices while prices rose in parts of the Midlands and the North of England. The report indicates that Brexit and stamp duty are continuing to impact the capital’s housing market.

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Transport

Strong growth in electric vehicle charging points

The number of electric vehicle (EV) charging points across the UK is expected to exceed 100,000 by September 2018, with the sale of electric vehicles rising by 13.5 per cent between January and March 2018.
Figures from the infrastructure firm, Bookmycharge, indicate that there are now more than 85,000 operational charging points at UK homes, in comparison to only 6,152 public charging points.

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Increase in van traffic causes headache for cities

A report by the Urban Transport Group has claimed that the number of vans on roads has increased by 74 per cent since 1996 and now represents 15 per cent of all traffic in the UK.
The rise in vans on UK roads has prompted air quality concerns, with 96 per cent of registered vans diesel-fuelled contributing 30 per cent of road transport nitrogen oxide emissions. However, the report also highlights the economic benefit of the vans sector, which employs over a quarter of a million workers.

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Energy and environment

Coal usage drops but will continue as “mainstay” of UK reserves

Despite generating a record low of 9.4 per cent of the UK’s electricity in Q1 2018, coal still remains the “mainstay” of the energy reserve system. EnAppSys GB Electrical Market Summary indicated that coal plants were vital in providing reserves during power shortages, though overall coal usage has dropped dramatically.
The first quarter of 2018 also saw wind farms set new electricity generation records, with aggregated renewable outputs reaching record levels of production.

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Government called on to roll out green heating systems

Energy UK, which represents more than 100 energy suppliers, has urged the Government to address heat-related emissions through the roll out of green heating systems, such as heat pumps and biomass boilers.
High costs and technical challenges have hindered the national roll out of these green technologies however, if heat-related emissions are not tackled, meeting government greenhouse targets of 80 per cent by 2050 will prove impossible.

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Other News

Poor payers risk exclusion from government contracts

Firms that cannot demonstrate fair payment practices for their subcontractors could be excluded from major government contracts in a move to make public sector procurement fairer for smaller businesses.
Subcontractors will also have greater access to buying authorities to report delayed payments, under plans announced on 10 April by Cabinet Office Minister for Implementation, Oliver Dowden CBE MP. The Government has stated that 33 per cent of its procurement spend will be with small businesses by 2022.

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Businesses feeling optimistic for first time in a year

A poll by the Institute of Directors (IoD) has shown that business leaders are feeling optimistic about the state of the UK economy for the first time in a year.
Confidence in the economy among the 700 company directors was positive for the first time since the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Theresa May MP, triggered Article 50 and began the process of leaving the European Union. Economic conditions, skills shortages and compliance with government regulation are now the leading causes for concern among businesses.

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