Week commencing 13 August 2018

In today's bulletin

• Communities Secretary announces new garden towns programme
• Government releases social housing green paper

• Consultation on improving safety for cyclists and pedestrians
• Re-think renewables to solve heatwave issues

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Communities Secretary announces new garden towns programme

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, announced a new garden communities programme in a bid to encourage more locally-led developments.
Councils in England and private developers backed by local authorities will be able to apply to the scheme, which is open for bids in the next three months. The Government hopes the scheme will help meet its target of building 300,000 homes a year by the middle of the next decade.

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Government releases social housing green paper…

The Government released its long-awaited green paper on social housing on 14 August, saying it aims to rebalance the relationship between residents and landlords. The paper sets out five key themes for the future of social housing: tackling stigma, increasing supply and ownership, resolving complaints, empowering residents and ensuring quality.
Feedback from over 8,000 social housing tenants went into preparing the document, which will be subject to consultation until 6 November.

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…and receives mixed response from industry

The housing sector’s reaction to the Government’s social housing green paper has been mixed, with commentators welcoming new rights for tenants, but questioning the lack of funding pledged to back up promises. The G15, the National Housing Federation (NHF) and the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) praised the contribution the paper makes to the housing debate.
However, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) and the Local Government Association (LGA) argue that more needs to be done to address the urgent and immediate need for social housing. Shadow Housing Secretary, John Healey, called it ‘astonishing’ that the paper doesn’t promise any government investment for new homes.

Read more from: g15 NHF CIH JRF LGA

Housing association Right to Buy pilot launched

An extension to the Right to Buy policy to include housing association tenants is being piloted in the West Midlands. Launched on 16 August, the Voluntary Right to Buy trial, which the Government says it is backing with £200 million of central funding, will allow tenants to purchase their homes at a discount.
The money from sales will then be used to fund replacements. Funding for the scheme was due to be raised by the Government’s policy to force councils to sell their most expensive assets, but this was scrapped last week.

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Help to Buy figures reveal take up among first-time buyers

The Help to Buy scheme supported 18,500 property purchases in the first quarter of 2018, according to quarterly statistics released by the Government on 16 August. The figures show that the number of purchases completed in the first three months of 2018 was higher than in the same period last year, albeit marginally.
The scheme has come under some criticism for not benefitting those in most need, with the figures showing that 6,717 households with an income of more than £100,000 have used it to purchase a property.

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Steep slowdown in housing market

House purchase activity in the UK is suffering a sharp decline with only re-mortgaging activity sustaining the market as it adjusts to rising interest rates, new figures from UK Finance show.
Released on 14 August, the figures highlight that there was a 19.4 per cent year-on-year drop in buy-to-let mortgages in June, suggesting that landlords are deserting the market after changes to tax and borrowing conditions. The monthly report also showed that there was a 3.6 per cent yearly drop in first-time buyer mortgages and a 7.9 per cent decline in overall new home mortgages. However, new homeowner re-mortgages increased by 8.4 per cent.

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House prices are up, but London lags behind

Average national house prices have risen 0.4 per cent since May 2018 and the average UK property now costs £228,384, the Government’s UK House Price Index shows.
Published on 15 August, the figures for June show a different picture in the capital where prices have fallen 0.6 per cent over the same time period and the average price of a home is now £476,752. London house prices have experienced the lowest annual price increase of any UK region, down 0.7 per cent year-on-year.

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Consultation on improving safety for cyclists and pedestrians

The Department for Transport launched a new consultation on 12 August looking primarily at the safety of cyclists and pedestrians on UK roads. A key focus of the consultation will be to look at improvements to guidance and law around cycling and walking infrastructure, and how best practice can be used to make roads safer for all users.
The Government has established the Cycle Proofing Working Group to draft appropriate guidance taking account of responses to the call for evidence, which closed in June.

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Rail companies call for industry overhaul

Rail companies are calling for ‘once-in-a-generation reform’ to deliver improvements to Britain’s railway system over concerns about rising fares, delay compensation issues and failing timetable changes. Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which provides leadership and support to the rail industry, suggested that government should have a more removed role.
This would include setting up an arms-length body to work with ministers to implement a long-term strategic vision, protecting the industry from ‘short-term political fixes’ and increasing accountability.

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Energy and environment

Re-think renewables to solve heatwave issues

Renewable energy sources are more reliable during heatwaves and should be used more widely to maintain stability in Europe’s power supply, according to campaign group Wind Europe.
The group reported on 13 August that this summer’s heatwave led to large-scale shutdowns and curtailments at thermal power plants across the continent, and affected the water supply used in energy production processes and major nuclear and coal plants in many countries. Wind Europe has called for more investment in renewables to plug the gap when power plants are affected by extreme weather.

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Other News

Shopping centre footfall drops by 3.4 per cent

Footfall at UK shopping centres fell by 3.4 per cent year-on-year as consumers continued the move away from traditional retail destinations.
Figures released on 13 August by the British Retail Consortium show that overall retail footfall experienced a decline of 0.8 per cent in July, although high streets saw growth of 0.3 per cent as the hot weather encouraged consumers to spend more on food and drink.

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