Week commencing 14 January 2019

In today's bulletin

• Build-to-rent housing levels soar in 2018
• Housing associations increase completion rates

• Refreshed strategy for West Midlands rail
• Ambitious clean air strategy launched by Government

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Build-to-rent housing levels soar in 2018

The number of build to rent homes under construction in the UK has increased by almost 40 per cent in the past year, according to research by Savills and the British Property Federation (BPF). Published on 17 January, the research reveals that there were 43,374 build to rent homes under construction at the end of 2018, compared to 31,250 at the same time in 2017.
The findings follow a landmark year for housing policy, including the publication of the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which now provides guidance on build to rent specifically alongside more established housing tenures.

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Housing associations increase completion rates

The number of homes started and completed by housing associations is on the increase, according to the latest figures from the National Housing Federation (NHF). Published on 14 January, the statistics show that 9,842 homes were completed by housing associations in Q2 2018/19, an increase of 938 homes compared to the same period in 2017/18.
The report also revealed a stark disparity in homes being delivered in the North and South of England, with housing associations completing just 297 homes in the North East in comparison to 1,855 in the South East.

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New council schemes to deliver community-led housing

A new scheme providing grants for community-led housebuilding projects was launched last week by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. The £38m London Community Housing Fund is designed to help Londoners play a direct role in delivering more socially-rented and affordable homes, partly through co-operatives and community land trusts.
The Mayor has also committed to making small plots of publicly-owned land more accessible to small and medium-sized builders – claiming that London has become overly dependent on large developers to deliver housing. The Welsh Government has recently unveiled a similar initiative called Self-Build Wales, a government-funded scheme that will help people build their own homes and diversify local housebuilding markets.

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House prices flatline by end of 2018

The UK housing market ended 2018 on a flat note, with house prices increasing by a mediocre 2.8 per cent in the year to November, according to official figures published on 16 January by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Similarly, the RICS December 2018 UK Residential Market Survey pointed to a dip in agreed sales and enquiries, and predicts that transactions will generally remain flat or negative across the country for the next three months. The survey highlights a lack of supply and stretched affordability as negatively impacting the market.

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Refreshed strategy for West Midlands rail

A new 30-year Rail Investment Strategy aimed at shaping development of the network to 2047 was published by the West Midlands Rail Executive (WMRE) on 16 January.
The strategy contains seven key aims, including implementing higher frequency services at stations, improving connectivity in high-growth corridors, and exploiting the benefits of freight in the region. The WMRE is a partnership of 16 local authorities and the strategy responds to accelerating job and population growth in the West Midlands.

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A bump in the road

Government needs to double its annual £1.2 billion investment in local roads to address major safety issues and stop road networks from reaching an “unsalvageable position”, according to the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT).
The call from ADEPT, which represents Place Directors from local authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships and corporate partners from key services sectors, follows the publication of statistics from the Department for Transport (DfT) showing that maintenance spending on motorways and major A roads fell by 20 per cent between 2010 and 2017, and by 13 per cent on local authority roads in the same period. Mike Harper, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA), said that the deterioration of the country’s roads is an alarming safety issue directly linked to a lack of investment in road maintenance.

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NIC report on freight system calls for new approach

The Government should adopt a more coordinated approach towards the freight sector to support much-needed growth, according to a new interim report by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC).
Future of Freight finds that the freight system contributes significantly to congestion and carbon emissions, and that technological advancements will be key to tackling these issues. The NIC urges the Government to set clear, long-term targets for the sector and initiate regulatory change to deliver a more sustainable, low carbon freight system.

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Energy and Environment

Ambitious clean air strategy launched by Government

A clean air strategy aimed at reducing exposure to particulate matter and cutting the cost of air pollution by £1.7 billion a year by 2020 was launched by the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP on 14 January.
The strategy includes measures designed to prohibit the sale of the most polluting fuels, and will also explore how local authorities can be given new powers to expedite upgrades to inefficient and polluting heating systems. According to the Government, the UK is the first major economy to adopt air quality targets based on WHO guidelines, which go beyond current EU requirements.

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Landmark oceans report aims to reduce pollution

MPs have called on Government to do more to tackle pollution levels in the world’s oceans and reduce the UK’s contribution to ocean waste. Sustainable Seas, a new report published on 17 January by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee,
urges ministers to prevent UK waste being exported to countries with poor recycling infrastructure, and recommends that the 2042 target date to achieve zero avoidable plastic waste be brought forward, in part by expediting the proposed deposit return scheme. It also advises the Government to set up a global oversight body and support a legally-binding ‘Paris Agreement for the Sea’.

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New sensor technology identifies London’s pollution hotspots

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has launched a new state-of-the-art sensor network to identify London’s air pollution hotspots. Announced on 15 January, Breathe London is being delivered in collaboration with the Environmental Defense Fund Europe (EDFE) and Google Earth Outreach.
As part of the initiative, online maps will use real-time data generated from 100 air quality sensors dotted around the capital to show air quality in various locations. Google Street View cars will also be fixed with sensors and will take air quality readings as they travel through London’s streets.

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Other News

NAO launches report into local authority governance

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) needs to take a stronger leadership role to ensure local authorities provide value for money to taxpayers and are financially sustainable, says a new report by the National Audit Office (NAO).
Local authority governance urges the department to increase transparency and openness in both its formal and informal interventions in local authorities, and to take the lead in addressing weaknesses in the local governance system.

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Business confidence plummets after Parliament’s Brexit vote

Business confidence in the UK is at a two-year low with output also falling, particularly in the manufacturing sector, according to the December 2018 BDO Optimism Index. Prompted by Parliament’s recent vote on the Brexit deal put forward by the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Theresa May MP,
the Index also reveals that the services sector is likely to be affected by a slowdown in consumer spending and investment as firms and households adopt a cautious approach in the run up to Brexit. However, UK employment levels are at an all-time high, signalling resilience in the labour market.

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