Week commencing 16 July 2018

In today's bulletin

• Councils given flexibility to increase fees on empty homes

• Estate regeneration schemes need resident support

• New funding for research into greener British aerospace

• Public supports end to onshore wind “ban”

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Councils given flexibility to increase fees on empty homes

Local authorities across England will be able to charge a Council Tax premium of up to 400 per cent on empty homes following an amendment to the Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill introduced on 18 July.
The addition will allow councils to triple council tax on homes left empty for five or more years and quadruple the tax on homes left vacant for 10 or more years. The Government hopes that increases in tax penalties will incentivise homeowners to bring empty homes back into use.

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Estate regeneration schemes need resident support

Major estate regeneration schemes involving the demolition of any social homes will only secure funding from City Hall if residents are balloted and vote in favour of the plans. The new requirement was launched last Wednesday 18 July by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and is the first time such a condition has been introduced in the country.
The new funding condition will work in tandem with the Mayor’s planning rules as outlined in his “Better Homes for Local People” good practice guide and requires an independent body to manage the balloting process.

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London’s boroughs are building again

The capital’s 22 local authorities could be set to deliver over 37,000 homes in the next five years, according to a new report by Centre for London. Entitled Borough Builders, the report also found that the full potential of council-led models of housebuilding is yet to be realised.
It argues that although local boroughs have begun to take on a large role in house building, constraints on local borrowing, intra-council barriers and a skills shortage at local level are all hampering delivery. The report calls on the Government, the Greater London Authority (GLA) and the Mayor of London to support boroughs in delivering housing.

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London falls behind rest of UK in build-to-rent construction

Construction of build-to-rent properties in the capital has fallen behind the rest of the UK for the first time, as demand for the new homes outside of the capital spikes. Figures released by the British Property Federation (BPF) on 6 July show that the total build-to-rent properties under construction outside of London has outpaced those being built in the capital.
The figures also reveal that the total number of build-to-rent homes in the regions, including those which are complete, under construction and in planning collectively, has now exceeded the total number in London.

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Pressure on retail sector continues

Empty retail units in the UK are becoming increasingly common and good quality industrial and logistics opportunities are lacking, according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors’ (RICS) Q2 Commercial Property Market Survey.
The quarterly results, released on 19 July, highlighted that the retail sector was the only area to post an outright decline in demand from occupiers, with 53 per cent more respondents noting a fall in demand over the period. This sentiment is in contrast with the industrial sector, which has now seen an increase in demand in 23 consecutive months, according to the survey.

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Slow UK house price growth continues

The price of housing in the UK rose by just three per cent in the year to May, representing the lowest growth rate since August 2013, according to the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) UK House Price Index.
The market downturn in the South and East of England continues to contribute to the slowing of national house price growth, with London properties dropping in prices for the fourth month running. The average price of a UK property stood at £226,000 in May; despite being £6,000 higher than the same time in 2017, this figure remains unchanged from April 2018.

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New funding for research into greener British aerospace

The UK’s aerospace sector will receive a total of £343 million in funding for research, development and productivity improvements the Business and Energy Secretary, The Rt Hon Greg Clark MP,
announced on 16 July.
From this total sum, which is a collaborative investment from the Government and industry, £255 million will be used to fund 18 new research and technology projects, including research into cleaner and greener hybrid aircraft. The Government hopes that these funds can help position the UK as a world-leader in electric and hybrid aircraft.

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Highways England must manage costs

At least 95 per cent of the strategic road network is in ‘good’ condition, meeting Highways England’s targets for asset maintenance, but the Office for Road and Rail (ORR) has warned it must improve its cost management for major schemes.
In the annual assessment of Highways England’s performance for 2017-18, presented to Parliament on 16 July, the ORR also found that traffic on the network has grown, but congestion averages remain on target with 87.9 per cent of incidents resolved within an hour. The analysis will inform the development of the next road investment strategy (RIS2), which is due to begin in 2020.

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Transport Select Committee launches regional bus service inquiry

The Transport Select Committee announced last week that it is launching an inquiry into the bus market in England outside of London. The committee will consider how reliable and practical regional bus services are, in response to reports of a decline in their usage.
Responding to the announcement, the group Campaign for Better Transport has welcomed the inquiry as its recent report, entitled Buses in Crisis, revealed the difficulties facing local bus services and calls for the Government to do more to support them.

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Energy and environment

Public supports end to onshore wind “ban”

Two-thirds of British people say they would support a change in government policy to end the effective “ban” on new onshore wind farms, according to an opinion poll by YouGov.
The poll shows strong local support for building onshore wind farms over other development opportunities, including new railway lines, dual carriageways and even housing developments.

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Other News

Retail experts provide insight to fuel success of the high street

Issues affecting the future of our high streets will be determined by a new panel of experts from the retail, property and design sectors, the High Streets Minister Jake Berry MP announced on 16 July.
The panel will advise on how the Government can enable high streets to succeed, with insight from the public and young people gathered in conjunction with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

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