Week commencing 23 July 2018

In today's bulletin

  • Government publishes updated planning policy
  • Mixed reaction to the NPPF
  • Government unveils strategy for fully inclusive transport
  • Commons committee gives verdict on Government’s environment plan

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Government publishes updated planning policy

Delivering high-quality homes that meet the needs of local communities is the focus of the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which was published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on 24 July.
The revised framework places greater accountability for housing delivery on local authorities who will be subject to a Housing Delivery Test, which is intended to drive up the number of homes being built, rather than merely planned for. The new planning rulebook also emphasises the importance of good quality design and the need to put in place more stringent measures to protect the environment during development.

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Mixed reaction to the NPPF

The Royal Town Planning Institute welcomed several aspects of the new NPPF, but warned of the increased pressure it will put on planning teams at local authorities across the country. The Local Government Association claimed that the Housing Delivery Test will “punish communities for homes not built by private developers”, while the Campaign to Protect Rural England argued that the test prioritised delivery ahead of meeting community needs.
The National Federation of Builders noted that the Government had reined in some of its more radical approaches, including making greater provision for small and medium-sized sites to acknowledge their important contribution to solving the housing crisis. The National Housing Federation welcomed the reintroduction of social housing into the definition of affordable housing but called for more to be done to deliver this tenure, while the G15 group of London’s largest housing associations emphasised that the NPPF is “just one part of the jigsaw of fixing the affordability crisis”.

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Housebuilding generates £38 billion a year for UK economy

The UK economy has benefitted from a 74 per cent increase in housebuilding activity in the last four years and could see further gains if the Government’s housing targets are met, a new report by the planning and development consultancy Lichfields has claimed.
The report revealed that the 224,000 new homes built in England and Wales in 2017 supported almost 700,000 jobs and boosted local infrastructure spending by £841 million. With the Government aiming to increase the country’s housing supply to 300,000 a year, the report forecasts that this higher figure could generate an additional £14.2 billion of economic output and a further 260,000 jobs.

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Cost of first home rising against average earnings

First-time buyers in London can expect to pay 13 times their salary on property, compared to just 5.5 times buyers’ salaries in the North East of England, according to new data released from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Published on 25 July, the ONS ‘First-time buyer housing affordability in England and Wales’ report also indicated that, in nearly four out of five local authorities, housing for first-time buyers became more expensive in 2017 when compared to the previous year.

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London defies gloom amid rise in construction

Financial constraints caused by Brexit uncertainty and the downturn in the housing market are the most significant impediments to building activity, according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors’ (RICS) UK Construction and Infrastructure Market Survey.
Eighty per cent of respondents cited financial issues, including access to bank finance and credit, cash flow and liquidity challenges, and less favourable cyclical market conditions, as the main challenges to the industry. Despite slowing growth across all regions, the second quarterly survey of the year did post some overall positive figures, with 15 per cent more chartered surveyors reporting an increase in their workload.

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Trouble for high streets as the industrial sector outperforms

The UK’s industrial sector outperformed property for the seventh consecutive quarter, according to the CBRE’s latest Prime Rent and Yield monitor.
Prime rental values increased 2.1 per cent over the second quarter of this year, while high street shops experienced a drop in prime rents of 0.5 per cent across almost all regions in the UK – the biggest quarterly fall for the sector since Q3 2012. The North West experienced the strongest high street rental growth, outpacing all other submarkets, with rental values increasing by 5.9 per cent.

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Improvement for retail sector may be short-lived

The retail sector showed signs of improving in the year to July with 18 per cent of retailers experiencing increased sales growth, according to the Confederation of British Industry’s Distributive Trades Survey.
However, overall growth is expected to slow in the coming months as the retail sector runs into further challenges posed by falling real wage growth and online competition. Published on 25 July, the survey suggests internet sales will continue to grow but at a slower rate than in previous months.

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Manufacturing expansion is a silver lining amongst increasing uncertainty

A record number of manufacturers have voiced concerns over labour shortages linked to ongoing Brexit uncertainty, the latest Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Industrial Trends Survey has revealed.
The CBI found that 20 per cent of manufacturers cited a lack of skilled labour as a constraint to industrial activity, but that expectations for long-term output remained positive. The CBI noted that a market slowdown in new export orders had been offset by growth in the domestic market, with the pace of expansion increasing by 2 per cent.

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Government unveils strategy for fully inclusive transport

The Department for Transport has set out a new strategy to improve accessibility across all types of travel for people with disabilities. Unveiled on 25 July, the Inclusive Transport Strategy has introduced new measures to ensure people with visible and less visible disabilities can travel confidently and easily by 2030.
Up to £300 million will be invested into the new measures, including rail accessibility infrastructure, accessible toilets at motorway service stations, and audio and visual equipment on buses. The strategy also includes a commitment to produce league tables so the performance of each operator can be monitored.

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Travel survey reveals increase in journeys and distances

People in England made more journeys and travelled greater distances on average in 2017 than they did the year before, the latest figures from the Department for Transport have revealed. Published on 26 July, the National Travel Survey: England 2017 showed that person trips increased by 2 per cent compared with 2016 but remain 11 per cent lower than the late-1990s peak.
The private car continues to be main mode of transport for 61 per cent of trips, a figure that has remained at a steady level since 2013, leading the Campaign for Better Transport to argue that the Government should invest some of its £23 billion road building programme into more sustainable transport options.

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Energy and environment

Commons committee gives verdict on Government’s environment plan

Significant amounts of legislation and inter-departmental cooperation are needed if the UK is to meet its environmental aims, according to the latest report from the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee.
Published on 24 July and entitled ‘The Government’s 25 Year Plan for the Environment’, the report praised the Government’s focus on recovery and restoration of the natural world but criticised its lack of detail about how this can realistically be achieved. Among other concerns, the report highlighted that a spate of European Union environmental legislation will need to be replaced after Brexit as it is not carried over by the European Union Withdrawal Act.

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Consultation on shale gas NSIP inclusion

Early stage consultation on the timings and criteria for including major shale gas projects in the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) regime is underway following an initial government announcement in May 2018.
Published on 19 July, the consultation paper suggests onshore gas resources have the potential to deliver substantial economic benefits to the UK economy. The consultation will run until 25 October and could see an amendment to legislation meaning future projects meeting defined thresholds would need to apply for consent within the NSIP regime.

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Estimates of packaging recycling rates are not ‘sufficiently robust’

The way the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs calculates packaging recycling rates is not suitably comprehensive and is likely to mean rates are being overestimated, a new report by the National Audit Office (NAO) has revealed.
The report highlights a lack of scrutiny in accounting for undetected fraud and error, including the risk that some materials exported overseas are not fully recycled and a fiscal incentive for companies to over-claim. According to the NAO’s figures, the UK’s reported recycling rates reached 64 per cent in 2017, exceeding the EU target of 55 per cent.

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