Week commencing 17 September 2018

In today's bulletin

• New land funds launched to boost housebuilding
• Extra £2bn for social housing over next decade

• Wind power storms ahead to 20GW mark
• Manufacturing sector not ready for no-deal Brexit

Property, Planning and Regeneration

New land funds launched to boost housebuilding

Two funds aimed at unlocking land for housebuilding and helping to meet the Government’s target to build 300,000 homes each year by the mid-2020s were announced by the Communities Secretary, the Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, on 17 September. The £1.3 billion Land Assembly Fund will be deployed to acquire land and prepare it for development, including alleviating land contamination.
Public land owners and local authorities will be eligible to apply for grants from the £630 million Small Sites Fund for infrastructure to enable development. Both funds will be managed across the country by Homes England and in the capital by the Greater London Authority.

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Extra £2bn for social housing over next decade

An extra £2bn in investment for housing associations was announced by the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Theresa May MP, as part of the Government’s strategy to increase housebuilding. Speaking at the National Housing Federation summit on 19 September, Mrs May stated that the long-term funding, which will be available from 2022 to 2027, would give associations greater financial security to take the lead in building their own large-scale developments.
The Prime Minister also called for an end to the stigma around social housing, particularly among her colleagues, stating that many politicians “look down on” people who live in low-cost homes.

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DCN wants New Homes Bonus scrapped

The New Homes Bonus baseline should be scrapped to ensure districts are rewarded and not punished for delivering more homes, the District Council Network (DCN) has said.
In its response to a government consultation on local financing, published on 18 September, it stated that the incentive’s baseline punishes authorities building more homes, suggesting that the threshold removed over £70 million in funding from district councils last year. The DCN also called for decisions on council tax to be set locally, not nationally, and for increased local revenue-raising powers.

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Phase Two of Community Housing Fund launched

Homes England launched Phase Two of its Community Housing Fund on 17 September, making £163 million available to support community-led groups delivering affordable housing. The second phase of the scheme, which runs until March 2020, will allow organisations to bid for capital grants to fund the costs of acquiring land and developing it.
Homes England says the funding will help to promote “meaningful community engagement” throughout the development process and that funding will prioritise proposals that clearly define benefits to the local area.

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Tax overhaul is key to rebalancing UK housing market

Cutting stamp duty and adjusting council tax could help young people get on the housing ladder, according to the RICS Residential Market Survey published on 18 September.
Calling for an update to the current taxation system, the report cited reduced stamp duty for downsizers as a potential solution to increasing the stock of second-hand property and rebalancing the housing market. Removing stamp duty altogether and adjusting council tax to account for lost revenue would render the buying process more affordable for first-time buyers, it found.

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Modernise to offset the construction skills crisis

Moving housing construction and manufacturing offsite could accelerate schemes by a third and offset the growing skills crisis in London’s construction sector, a new report released on 20 September by the Centre for London has found.
Made for London: Realising the potential of Modern Methods of Construction cited an ageing workforce, reduced rate of migration and a slowdown in apprenticeship starts as reasons why demand for some occupations exceeded 300 per cent in 2017. The report calls on the Mayor of London to invest in training existing construction workers to implement modern methods of construction to tackle the housing crisis.

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Transport

Rail review launched to get industry back on track

A comprehensive review into the UK’s railways was launched on 20 September by the Transport Secretary, the Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, in response to a summer of timetable chaos and failing franchises.
Led by former British Airways chief Keith Williams, the review will look at increasing integration between track and train, expanding regional partnerships and using innovation to improve services and customer experience. Its recommendations will be published next year with reforms to be implemented from 2020.

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Car dependency driven by unreliable public transport

Most UK drivers would switch to public transport if services improved, an annual survey by automotive services company RAC has found. 59 per cent of motorists, a year-on-year increase of four per cent, claimed they would reduce their car usage if they could rely on public transport, while one in twenty said their dependency on driving had increased.
A lack of reliability, higher fares and scaled-back local services were highlighted by respondents as reasons to continue travelling by car.

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Train delays the worst in over a decade

The national railway network has been afflicted by the worst delays in 12 years thanks to a chaotic timetable reorganisation in May 2018, figures from the Office of Rail and Road reveal.
Data published by the independent regulator on 20 September shows that train punctuality in the first quarter of 2018-19 was 87 per cent, down almost 4 per cent on an annual basis. Northern was the worst performing operator with only 81 per cent of its services arriving on time.

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Energy and Environment

Wind power storms ahead to 20GW mark

Wind energy could power more than 14 million homes across the UK following an increase in its generation capacity in the last 21 months, trade association RenewableUK announced on 17 September.
Over 20 gigawatts of wind energy is now being generated following the opening of the Walney Extension off the coast of Cumbria, the world’s largest offshore wind facility. Wind remains the largest contributor of renewable electricity, accounting for half of the power generated by renewable sources in 2017.

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£36m investment in smart building materials

A Swansea University programme to develop smart walls, roofs and windows that can generate electricity will receive £36 million in government funding, the Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP announced on 19 September.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer said the funding is intended to accelerate the development of new building materials and coatings that can generate electricity from light and heat to power homes and workplaces or be sold back to the national grid. It is hoped that green technology will help the construction industry to reach the Government’s target of halving energy consumption of new buildings by 2030.

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Rising gas prices herald comeback for coal

Electricity generation from coal doubled in August as ten-year high gas prices saw coal output rise to levels last seen during the ‘Beast from the East’ cold snap in March. Data analysis released on 17 September by Imperial College London, on behalf of Drax, demonstrated a corresponding 15 per cent increase in the UK’s carbon emissions from electricity generation.
According to the report, increased reliance on coal generation means the country produces an additional 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide every hour.

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Other News

Manufacturing sector not ready for no-deal Brexit

One in six manufacturing businesses say trading would become impossible for them if the UK adopted World Trade Organisation rules, a survey conducted by industry body, EEF has found.
Some 83 per cent of the 500 manufacturing businesses surveyed said they are not prepared for a no-deal Brexit and cited concerns over increased border checks on people and goods. A quarter of respondents claim they have already put investment on hold, or that they are expecting to lose skilled workers or new contracts as a direct result of Brexit.

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