Week commencing 18 June 2018

In today's bulletin

• Consultation on ban of combustible cladding
• Government’s housebuilding target in doubt

• Give councils power to protect bus routes
• Brexit uncertainty overshadows clean energy progress

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Consultation on ban of combustible cladding

A consultation on banning the use of combustible materials on high-rise residential buildings was announced by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, on 18 June.
The process will run until August this year and comes in the wake of the recent review into building safety, authored by Dame Judith Hackitt. Her report recommended a simpler and more robust approach to the construction and management of high-rise residential buildings but stopped short of calling for a ban on the use of Grenfell-style cladding.

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Government’s housebuilding target in doubt

Planning applications in the UK fell significantly in the three months to March, putting in doubt the Government’s flagship target of building 300,000 new homes a year. From January to March this year, 116,700 applications for planning permission were received in England, which was down five per cent on the corresponding quarter last year.
Released on 21 June by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), the figures show that 378,600 planning applications were approved in the year ending March 2018, with 49,100 of these for residential developments – both figures were two per cent down on the year ending March 2017.

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Great up north for housing market

Asking prices for UK properties rose to an average of £309,439 in May, a new record for the third month running, according to data from Rightmove’s House Price Index released on 18 June.
Market conditions continue to vary significantly across the country, with strong buyer activity in northern regions shrinking available stock levels by an average of 4.3 per cent on a year-to-year basis. Comparatively, a lack of buying activity in the south has increased stock levels by an average of 17.5 per cent, leading to some downwards price pressure.

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Shelter warns of “rentquake”

A new report by Shelter has found that the amount being paid by private renters in England is approaching the same level as mortgage payments, with the campaign group warning of a “rentquake”. Analysis found that ten years ago, the amount of rent being paid was only 30 per cent of the total handed over by homeowners, but now the figure is more than 75 per cent.
‘The Rising Political Salience of Young Renters’, released on 18 June, also found that housing circumstance is increasingly affecting how people vote, with Shelter predicting that more young people will be looking for a political party with a new way of thinking on housing and renting.

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Build beautiful homes to combat NIMBYism

Designing more attractive homes could help new developments to win local support and tackle the housing crisis, a new report published by Policy Exchange has claimed.
‘Building more, building beautiful’, released by the think tank on 20 June, found that fewer than one in ten respondents across the UK felt new developments were built with design and modern living requirements in mind. The Housing Secretary, James Brokenshire, provided a foreword for the report, noting that high-quality design is important in ensuring new development is not a burden on communities.

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Give county councils bigger role in planning

The County Council Network (CCN) has called for its members to be given a more clearly defined role in planning to meet the urgent need for affordable housing, citing two new reports published on 20 June.
A study by Catriona Riddell Associates called for the Government to re-introduce strategic spatial planning in a move away from planning by numbers. Meanwhile, the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) has called for greater resources from central government to help counties develop housebuilding initiatives and stressed the importance of collaboration in two-tier authorities.

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Loss of public assets could be reduced through community ownership

More than 4,000 public buildings and spaces per year, including libraries, youth centres, open spaces and parks, are being sold to the highest private bidder in an effort by councils to raise much-needed funds, according to Locality, the national charity of community-led organisations.
In its recent report, ‘The Great British Sell Off’, the charity found that fewer than half of councils have a policy to encourage community ownership, which it says would tackle this loss of public assets by allowing members of the community to take control of public spaces. It called for this to be made a priority, urging the Government to support its recommendation with investment.

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Limited influence for planning chiefs in UK local authorities

The head of planning forms part of the senior management team in just 17 per cent of councils across the country, and only 14 per cent in London, according to research published by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).
This contrasts with Ireland, where planners have a higher standing in local authorities, with 78 per cent of councils having their head of planning reporting directly to the chief executive. The RTPI says this is leading to a lack of consideration of spatial dimensions on issues including health and education.

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New fund to tackle construction skills shortage

A new fund was launched by the Department for Education on 18 June to support UK construction skills. Administered by the Construction Industry Training Board, the Government says the £22m of funding will help support the 158,000 jobs in construction it expects will be created over the next half a decade.
The funding, which will be available over the next 18 months, is aimed at helping construction employers tackle the skills shortage, and support adult learners into the industry.

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Transport

Give councils power to protect bus routes

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called on the Government to give greater control of local bus routes to councils in England amid fears that reductions in services will put the most vulnerable and isolated people at risk.
According to the LGA, an expected overall funding gap of £5 billion by 2020 means it is not feasible for councils to continue the current level of subsidies for bus routes in England. The organisation says the Government should fully fund the concessionary fares scheme – which supports travel for elderly and disabled residents – and give councils more budgetary control over grants.

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Leaders call for earlier ban on diesel and petrol cars

The leaders of fourteen cities in the UK with illegal levels of air pollution are campaigning to accelerate a ban on the sale of diesel and petrol cars. The leaders, who include the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, hope to enforce the ban by 2030 – a decade earlier than planned.
The National Clean Air Summit was held on 20 June to discuss solutions to tackling dangerous levels of pollution and was attended by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP.

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Energy and environment

Brexit uncertainty overshadows clean energy progress

The 2018 Energy Barometer, published on 19 June by the Energy Institute, shows how the “fog of uncertainty” surrounding Brexit has risen from the fifth to second most pressing challenge facing energy professionals in the UK.
Concerns include availability of skilled workers and the future relationship between the UK and the EU single energy market. The survey also reveals that attitudes towards clean energy are improving, while renewables were responsible for 30 per cent of all electricity generated in the UK last year.

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Smart charging could deliver electric vehicles quicker and cheaper than government targets

A report on the UK’s target to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040 has contended that an earlier target date of 2030 may be cheaper if smart charging technology for electric vehicles is used. The two-part report, commissioned by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and undertaken by Vivid Economics, argues that the smartness of the transition to electric vehicles, rather than the speed of the changeover, will be the key factor in creating cost efficiency.
According to the study, bringing the ban forward ten years to integrate electric vehicles with smart charging technology could result in a £1.6 billion cost reduction compared to a 2040 target using standard charging methods. The report says that lower costs would be passed on to the consumer.

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Other News

UK set for weakest year of GDP growth in almost a decade

The UK is projected to have its slowest year of economic growth since 2009, according to a revised forecast from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). The BCC has downgraded its expectations for UK GDP growth in 2018 from 1.4 per cent to 1.3 per cent which, if realised, will constitute the slowest annual economic growth since 2009.
The BCC has attributed the revision to low levels of consumer spending, business investment and trade, while the ever-present spectre of Brexit is also having an impact. Growth in output from the service sector, a key driver of GDP growth, is expected to slow to 1.2 per cent, which would be its weakest showing since 2010.

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Manufacturing makes output recovery in Q2

Manufacturing recovered from a dip with the volume of output increasing strongly in the three months to June, according to the latest monthly Confederation of British Industry (CBI) survey.
Output grew at the fastest pace since December 2017 during this period, while around a third of all manufacturers reported total order books to be above normal, and 43 per cent of businesses said the volume of output had grown over the past three months.

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Small businesses suffering regular late payments on public projects

The Government has been encouraged to accept a host of reforms to public procurement to help unlock the potential of the UK’s small businesses.
The Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) report, ‘Chain Reaction: Improving the supply chain experience for smaller firms’, claims a quarter of small businesses that form part of the supply chain on public infrastructure projects are subject to late payments 50 per cent of the time. The group has called for the Government to look at how to split up large public procurement contracts, use Dynamic Purchasing Systems more effectively and ensure large government suppliers pay on time.

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