Week commencing 28 September 2015

In today's bulletin

  • Green Belt shrinks at highest rate for five years
  • Construction output reaches seven-month high
  • New research points to economic potential of Crossrail 2
  • Government renewables proposals criticised by new campaign

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Government unveils strategy to meet skills needs

A strategic plan to develop the skills base needed to deliver the Government’s £411 billion National Infrastructure Pipeline was released by HM Treasury on 29 September. The National Infrastructure Plan for Skills identifies a need for 100,000 new construction and engineering workers by the end of the decade, and retraining for 250,000 workers by 2025.
The report sets out the Government’s five-point plan to improve skills delivery; provide better coordination between supply and demand; increase investment in apprenticeships from strategic projects; promote knowledge-sharing between employers; and encourage recruitment from a young and diverse employment base.

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Green Belt shrinks at highest rate for five years

The amount of designated Green Belt land in England decreased by 2,000 hectares between 2013/14 and 2014/15, according to official statistics published on 1 October by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
The decrease, which represents around 0.1 per cent of the nation’s Green Belt land, was the result of boundary reviews within eleven newly-adopted local authority development plans. On 31 March 2015, the Green Belt was estimated at 1,636,620 hectares, representing around 13 per cent of the land area of England.

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7.5 per cent vacancy rate across UK warehousing

The UK warehouse market is witnessing a ‘critical lack of supply and development’, according to property experts. A joint report by Savills and the UK Warehousing Association (UKWA), released on 30 September, has found that the total volume of existing warehouse space in the UK stands at 424 million sq ft, with a nationwide vacancy rate of 7.5 per cent.
The percentage falls to just 4 per cent within the M25. Kevin Mofid, head of industrial research at Savills, suggested “the availability of modern and fit for purpose warehouse space has the potential to be a real pinch point for the logistics sector in the coming years”.

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Construction output reaches seven-month high

Construction output has accelerated to its highest level since February, according to the October UK Construction PMI issued by Markit / the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS).
The seasonally adjusted index recorded a sharp increase in overall business activity, rising from 57.3 in August to 59.9 in September – well above the survey monthly average of 54.7. The rapid growth has been largely attributed to the strong performance of residential building which increased at its fastest rate for the last twelve months in September.

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Regional house price variation grows

UK house prices rose by 0.5 per cent in September and the annual rate of house price growth increased moderately to 3.8 per cent, from 3.2 per cent in August, according to the latest Nationwide House Price Index.
The chasm between London house prices and the rest of the UK reached new heights – the price of the average home in the capital is now more than double the UK average. London saw the strongest annual price growth; whereas the North West witnessed the weakest performance, with prices down 0.6 per cent year-on-year.

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New research points to economic potential of Crossrail 2

Plans to improve north-south rail connections across London with Crossrail 2 could boost productivity and growth far beyond its proposed route, according to a recent Transport for London (TfL) study published on 28 September.
Intended to inform the Government’s upcoming spending review, analysis by accounting firm KPMG claims that total productivity benefits to the UK economy could be as high as £102 billion. The research suggests Crossrail 2 could help ‘create vital new capacity, unlock 200,000 new homes and support 200,000 jobs across London and the South East’.

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Electric bikes to get more people cycling

The results of a £700,000 competition to support cycle hire schemes across the country were announced on 28 September by Andrew Jones MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport.
The winning schemes, which include commuter cycle-hubs at railway stations and park & rides, will receive hundreds of battery-assisted ‘e-bikes’ in the hope of attracting those who do not cycle regularly or people who might have been put off by steep routes. The Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycle Sharing Pilot Scheme is part of a Government initiative to double the number of journeys made by bike. .

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Energy and Environment

Government renewables proposals criticised by new campaign

A campaign opposing the Government’s plans to reduce financial support to small-scale renewable energy projects has been launched by Renewable UK and the Solar Trade Association.
Unveiled on 25 September, ‘People Power’ claims that the proposals will cause significant job losses in the renewable energy sector and leave renewable energy projects out of reach for households, farmers and small businesses.

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Environment Agency gets new chief

Sir James Bevan has been appointed as the new chief executive of the Environment Agency. Announced on 28 September,
Sir James will leave his current role as the UK’s High Commissioner to India and take up his new position on 30 November. Former chief executive, Paul Leinster leaves his role after 17 years at the Environment Agency.

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Other News

New devolution deal for Sheffield and South Yorkshire

Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon George Osborne MP, signed a deal with civic leaders from South Yorkshire on 2 October that will see the region vote for a new, directly-elected Mayor. The Sheffield City Region Mayor will be elected for the first time in 2017 by voters across South Yorkshire,
in what the Chancellor described as ‘the most fundamental shake-up of local government in a generation’. The new Mayor will oversee a range of powers devolved from Government including responsibility over transport budgets; franchised bus services and strategic planning.

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Cebr predicts longer interest rate freeze

The Bank of England will not raise interest rates until the middle of 2016, the latest forecast from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) has suggested. The announcement on 28 September represents a departure from its previous forecast which expected the Bank of England to raise rates in February.
Cebr expects the UK economy to grow by 2.5 per cent in 2015, before slowing to 2.0 per cent in 2016 and then averaging 1.7 per cent between 2017-2020. The Office for Budget Responsibility expects growth to remain above 2 per cent over this period.

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