Week commencing 3 September 2018

In today's bulletin

• Government faces legal challenge over NPPF
• Help to Buy has ‘delivered handsomely’ on targets

• Elizabeth line opening delayed by a year
• Water UK sets out major investment programme

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Government faces legal challenge over NPPF

Friends of the Earth is taking legal action against the Government’s recently published National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which the environmental campaign group claims was adopted unlawfully.
Friends of the Earth alleges that the Government has put the climate at risk by not carrying out a proper Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the new policy document. It highlighted that the NPPF promotes fracking, introduces harsh rules for wind power projects and is open to future coal development.

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Help to Buy has ‘delivered handsomely’ on targets

The Help to Buy policy has delivered on all objectives and should have continued support from the Government, according to a recent report by the Home Builders Federation (HBF). Released on 5 September, Bringing Home Ownership back into Reach argues that the Government scheme led to the purchase of 170,000 homes between April 2013 and March 2018 (81 per cent of which were first-time buys) and helped 246,000 people on to the housing ladder.
The HBF is keen to defend the policy against claims that Help to Buy does not address a shortage of supply, keeps house prices artificially high and could lead to negative equity for many buyers when the scheme is eventually withdrawn.

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August proves to be a slow month for UK construction…

Output slowed across the construction sector and dipped to a three-month low in August, according to data from the UK Construction Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI). The PMI stood at 52.9 in August, which is marginally above the 50.0 no-change mark, but saw a 2.9 per cent decrease from July.
Expansion activity was the lowest since March, new business growth slowed, and supplier performance was the weakest in almost three-and-a-half years. The slowdown is attributed in part to Brexit uncertainty.

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…and for manufacturing

The upturn in UK manufacturing slowed during August, according to the latest IHS Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI). The UK Manufacturing PMI posted 52.8 last month – a 25-month low and down from a revised reading of 53.8 in July.
The sector felt the effects of a slump in foreign demand for exports – contracting for the first time since April 2016 despite the relative weakness of the pound, with some firms claiming that the decreased inflow of work from abroad is the result of a low-rate of expansion in the world economy. Findings also included job creation easing to near-stagnation and business optimism within the sector falling to a 22-month low.

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Services sector helps UK economy stay on track

Services proved to be a bright spot for the economy in August – increases in business activity and new work within the sector helped to put the UK on track for 0.4 per cent growth in the third quarter.
The latest figures from IHS Markit/CIPS UK Services PMI showed activity increased to 54.3, up from 53.5 in July, with service providers making a connection between higher activity within the sector and ‘resilient’ demand from businesses and consumers. Rates of job creation also surged, with the highest rate of growth since February, reflecting efforts to increase business capacity and meet heavier workloads.

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Elizabeth line opening delayed by a year

Crossrail Limited has said that the central section of the new cross-London rail service – the Elizabeth line – will open in autumn 2019.
The announcement comes after it was revealed the project had been delayed, and that more time is needed to complete testing and fit out new stations. Some trains are already running on part of the new network, while the new Heathrow tunnels are currently subject to tests.

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Government promotes initiatives to improve commuter journeys

The Government has launched its latest initiatives to improve commuter journeys and cut congestion times for drivers. The Department for Transport is spending up to £10 million on Street Manager, a new digital planning service, which uses real-time data on roadworks to map potential traffic jams and help motorists choose the quickest route.
Meanwhile, Highways England has encouraged commuters to shift their journey times by an hour, arguing that this could result in faster journeys all round. The advice comes following a study of a 9-mile stretch of the M62 between Warrington and Manchester.

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Energy and environment

Water UK sets out major investment programme

Water UK has released its strategy for water investment in the UK for the 2020s, which outlines plans to significantly curb water leakages and cut bills for customers.
Published on 3 September, A Manifesto for Water proposes an investment of more than £50 billion to improve water services – a funding increase of more than 13 per cent on the previous five-year period. The manifesto also details a brand-new environment programme aimed at cleaning and improving 8,000 km of river.

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Flexible energy can reduce cost of decarbonisation

Increasing household energy flexibility could cut the cost of decarbonisation by £6.9 billion per year, according a new report published by OVO Energy and Imperial College London on 5 September.
The report focuses on the effect of adding flexibility from residential demand onto the UK’s energy system, and finds that significant savings can be made by embracing new flexible energy technologies at a residential level. The technologies include smart electric heating systems, home energy storage and electric vehicles – with the latter able to save £1.1 billion through smart electric vehicle charging.

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World’s largest offshore wind farm opens

Renewable energy company Ørsted, alongside partners PKA and PFA, officially opened its Walney Extension off shore wind farm last week off the coast of Cumbria
Boasting 87 turbines and a capacity of 659 megawatts (MW) – enough to meet the electrical neds of almost 600,000 homes – the site is the largest operational offshore wind farm in the world. The wind farm was constructed by teams of local suppliers from the north west, with turbines produced in Hull and the Isle of White.

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New technology helps to create world’s most powerful wind turbines

New wind turbines at the Vattenfall’s European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre in Aberdeen Bay are the most powerful in the world, according to renewable energy trade body Renewable UK. Two of the 11 turbines on the site, which officially opened last week, are 8.8 megawatt (MW) installations – the most powerful operating anywhere across the globe.
The wind farm is also notable for its innovative style turbine foundation and double capacity cables, which increase capacity and lead to a reduction in running costs. The project can produce up to 93.2MW, which would meet the electrical needs of almost two-thirds of households in Aberdeen.

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Other News

IPPR publishes report for post-Brexit Britain

With average earnings stagnating for ten or more years, and young people set to be worse off than their parents, a new report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) provides a ten-part plan for economic reform to bolster the UK economy.
Published on 5 September, the report provides more than 70 recommendations that promote fundamental economic reform, with chapters on boosting open markets, fiscal strengthening and industrial strategy.

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