Week commencing 10 September 2018

In today's bulletin

• Partnership to boost funding for SME housebuilders
• Government should capture more land value, says committee

• PM leads drive for zero emission vehicles at summit
• UK can achieve carbon neutrality by 2050

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Partnership to boost funding for SME housebuilders

The Government launched a new partnership with Barclays Bank on 12 September aimed at increasing housing delivery rates by supporting small and medium-sized (SME) developers.
The Housing Delivery Fund, announced by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, will offer loans ranging from £5 million to £100 million to developers who are committed to delivering high-quality new homes to meet a range of needs. The fund will be overseen by the Government’s delivery agency, Homes England, and is intended to support a mix of tenures, including social housing, retirement living and apartments for rent.

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Government should capture more land value, says committee

Central and local Government should increase the proportion of land value it receives by introducing new tax powers, improving compulsory purchase order powers and reforming existing mechanisms such as Section 106 agreements, according to a new report from the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee.
Published on 10 September, the Land Value Capture report justifies these measures on the basis that increases in land value are largely driven by the granting of planning permission, planning policy decisions and the provision of new infrastructure from government and local authorities. The report and its recommendations are due to be presented to parliament in the coming weeks.

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Think-tank calls for relaxed Green Belt laws to tackle housing crisis

Building on Green Belt land could free up space for at least 1.5 million new homes, according to a study from think-tank, Freer – launched earlier in 2018 by the Institute of Economic Affairs. Published on 10 September, the report questions the environmental importance of large parts of the Green Belt and argues that, contrary to popular belief, it has actually grown in area since it was first introduced.
Among its proposals, the think-tank suggests granting permission for development on Green Belt land within half a mile of railway stations and establishing a ‘Green Land Guarantee’ to protect genuinely environmentally valuable spaces across England as solutions.

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Suspend Right to Buy scheme, says industry body

The Government should suspend the Right to Buy scheme and explore fairer ways to help people get on the housing ladder, the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) has urged in response to figures released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
Published on 13 September, the figures reveal 2,452 homes were sold by councils under the scheme from April to June 2018, with 837 replacement homes acquired or primed for construction using the receipts. The CIH attributes heavier discounting introduced in April 2012 as part of the problem, calling for the Government to end the scheme and curb the loss of social rent homes.

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Welfare reforms to impact low-income renters, says charity

Reforms to the UK’s welfare system could create a “slum tenure” at the bottom end of the housing market, an independent report commissioned by social charity the Nationwide Foundation has claimed.
Released on 10 September, The Evolving Private Rented Sector: Its Contribution and Potential argues that housing benefit caps are undermining low-income renters who struggle to pay rent, and that the policy debate is ignoring the bottom third of the market who rely on these benefits. The report also suggests that landlords will be less likely to take on tenants in receipt of Universal Credit as a result of payment delays in the system.

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Housebuilding hampered by skills shortage

44 per cent of small and medium-sized housebuilders see the skills shortage as the biggest obstacle to their prospects for the next three years. The findings were revealed by the Federation of Master Builders in its latest House Builders’ Survey published on 12 September.
The survey showed that access to finance dropped to second in the list of concerns, which also featured the lack of available and viable land, and the challenges of the planning system.

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UK house prices on the rise

House prices across the UK are continuing to rise despite reports to the contrary over the summer months. Published on 13 September, the latest Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Residential Market Survey reveals that challenging conditions in London and the South East are offsetting price increases and a strong performance in other areas of the country.
Figures in the lettings market show a drop in the number of new rental units coming to market, which have been attributed to tax reforms on buy-to-let properties.

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Transport

PM leads drive for zero emission vehicles at summit

£106 million in government investment for green vehicles and low carbon technology was announced at the Zero Emission Vehicle Summit in Birmingham on 10 September. A further £500 million was pledged at the event by industry partners, including Aston Martin and JEE, with the potential to create up to 1,000 jobs in the sector across the UK.
Leading the inaugural summit, the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Theresa May MP, unveiled an international declaration signed by 11 countries, including Italy and France, on accelerating the transition to greener vehicles.

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Oxford-Cambridge expressway corridor announced

The preferred corridor for an expressway between Oxford and Cambridge aimed at improving connectivity between the east and west regions of the UK was announced on 12 September. Accepting Highways England’s recommendations, the Government said its chosen expressway corridor could lessen journey times between the A34 south of Oxford and the M1 by up to 40 minutes.
The expressway will be installed close to the East West Rail link to support opportunities for large-scale commercial and residential developments. Public consultation on the proposals is due to open next year, with the road scheduled to be available to traffic by 2030.

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Fuel prices reach highest level in four years

Petrol and diesel prices have reached their highest levels in four years, with petrol averaging 130.4p per litre and diesel 134.4p per litre, according to figures released on 12 September by the RAC Foundation.
The record prices follow a ten-week consecutive period of increases, and both fuel types cost over 10p more than this time last year. Commenting on the price rises, Chancellor Philip Hammond hinted that the Government may look to scrap the eight-year freeze on fuel duty in the coming autumn Budget.

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Energy and environment

UK can achieve carbon neutrality by 2050

Greenhouse gas removal (GGR) technologies could help the UK to become carbon neutral by 2050, a joint report by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society has revealed. Published on 12 September, the report assesses the potential of GGR processes including forestation, soil carbon sequestration and direct air capture, through which carbon dioxide can be extracted from the atmosphere.
Its recommendations include rapidly increasing forestation to cover five per cent of the UK and a subsidy system to encourage farmers to use their land to store carbon.

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Small businesses require big change to energy market

The energy market requires data-led reform to make it easier for small businesses to switch energy suppliers and access more cost-effective tariffs, according to a report by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).
Commissioned by Fingleton Associates and published on 11 September, the report suggests ‘Open Banking’ style measures should be introduced to reform the industry and create a smarter and fairer energy market to better support SMEs. Suggestions include standardising tariffs, making smart meter data available to approved third parties, and allowing energy customers to delegate contract switching powers to third parties.

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Other News

New parliamentary seat boundaries recommended

The Boundary Commission for England has made its final recommendations for new constituency boundaries as part of wider plans to reduce the overall number of parliamentary seats from 650 to 600.
The report – published on 10 September – recommends England’s constituencies decrease from 533 to 501, with the north west region experiencing the largest reduction. The findings come after a two and a half year period of consultation. A parliamentary vote on the final proposals is not now expected until after Brexit negotiations have completed.

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Demand for UK exports at record high

Global exports of British goods and services have risen to a record high, topping £629.3 billion in the year to July 2018.
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released on 10 September show that annual exports increased by 5.2 per cent, outpacing imports for the twelfth consecutive month.

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