Week commencing 28 January 2019

In today's bulletin

• Build ‘beautiful’ homes to solve crisis, says minister

• Strategic Transport Plan announced to upgrade rail links in the North

• UK green economy booms to £44 billion

• Political uncertainty causing downturn in retail property market says RICS

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Build ‘beautiful’ homes to solve crisis, says minister

The national housing crisis can only be solved by building ‘beautiful’ homes that have the power to secure public support for new developments, the minister of state for housing and planning has said. Published as the foreword to Building Beautiful – a collection of essays on design in the built environment compiled by think-tank Policy Exchange – the Rt Hon Kit Malthouse MP calls on developers to rethink approaches to housebuilding and “let architects rip” to design new homes that respect what communities want to see.
The MP suggests that putting aesthetics at the heart of new developments will reduce opposition to new homes and ensure that housing targets can be delivered across towns and cities in the UK.

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Real estate industry wary of Brexit impact

Only 41 per cent of UK property investors and developers intend to increase activity in 2019, a survey by the British Property Foundation (BPF) and Grosvenor Britain & Ireland has found.
The analysis released on 30 January indicates that 91 per cent believe leaving the European Union will weaken the economy over the next year, but almost 60 per cent believe it will be better or make no difference in the long term. Over a third of the BPF members surveyed predicted that the industrial sector will provide the best financial returns in 2019.

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Open letter calls for permitted development rights review

Organisations including Shelter and the National Housing Federation (NHF) have written to the Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to call for an independent review of permitted development rights.
The letter, sent on 21 January, criticises the policy for allowing developers to convert offices and other uses into residential homes without planning permission, thereby reducing scrutiny. It also highlights that permitted development rights circumvent ‘vital contributions’ such as affordable housing provision, with research revealing that over 10,000 affordable homes have been lost in the last three years due to office to residential conversions.

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Location remains key as house price growth varies wildly

House prices in the UK are undergoing considerable fluctuation, but the latest figures form Zoopla’s Cities House Price Index show that values in the UK’s largest urban areas rose by an average of 2.7 per cent. Overall growth is only the tip of the iceberg however, as the gap between different regions widened.
Birmingham and Manchester led the way in terms of price inflation, while London saw a 0.2 per cent drop in average value with many buyers priced out of the market. Meanwhile, north of the border, house prices in Edinburgh were the fastest growing of any major city in the UK at 6.8 per cent.

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House prices stall in January

The latest Nationwide House Price Index shows that UK house price growth slowed in January.
According to the figures released on 31 January, house prices were 0.1 per cent higher than the same period last year and rose a modest 0.3 per cent from December 2018. The report cites continued uncertainty around Brexit as one of the main factors impacting growth.

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Owner occupation rate for 35-44 year olds increases

The proportion of 35-44-year-old owner occupiers has risen to 57 per cent in 2017/18, up from 52 per cent in 2016/17, according to the latest annual English Housing Survey from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government. The increase follows more than a decade of decline in owner occupation among this age group.
In 2007/08, 71 per cent of 35-44 year olds were owner occupiers. The report also finds that only 25 per cent of social renters expected to own a property in the future – down from 30 per cent in 2016/17 – in comparison to 58 per cent of private renters.

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Leaseholder Right to Manage consultation launched

A consultation is currently underway to give leaseholders greater control on property management. Launched by the Law Commission and running until 30 April, the Right to Manage (RTM) consultation proposes greater control for
leaseholders over day-to-day management of blocks of flats, permitting multi-building RTM on estates, and allowing buildings with more than 25 per cent non-residential space to qualify.

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Strategic Transport Plan announced to upgrade rail links in the North

A new plan by Transport for the North sets out goals intended to improve transport links in the North of the UK. The £70bn plan aims to improve connectivity throughout the North and increase the average yearly spending on strategic transport to £50 per person.
Its goals include programmes such as Northern Powerhouse Rail, improved roads and rail networks, and a new smart ticketing service. The plans will be considered by Transport for the North’s Board on 7 February 2019. If approved, it will launch on 11 February and will become the organisation’s statutory advice to the Government.

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The future of transport

On 31 January, the Government Office for Science published its Foresight Future of Mobility report. Key findings show that data and social behaviour is already driving change in a big way, but more needs to be done to capitalise on this.
It recommends that data’s importance needs to be recognised and its use must integrate different forms of transport to make logistics, in particular, more efficient and effective. The report also recommends that the built environment and transport systems should be more readily designed around users; with behavioural and social science playing a greater role in planning.

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Five carbon-cutting rail schemes to receive £350,000 boost

In an announcement made on 31 January, the Department for Transport will give five new rail schemes £350,000 each to adapt their schemes for the UK’s rail network.
The projects have been chosen as part of the First of a Kind competition, focusing on new technologies that will reduce the carbon footprint of the country’s railways. The competition was launched in 2017 and focuses on the decarbonisation of our railway, as well as improving the passenger experience in stations.

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New technology trials aim to tackle the nation’s pothole problem

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has said the Government will spend £22.9 million on research and trials for new technology that can be used to protect the UK’s roads from wear and tear.
New pothole repair technology and road surface materials are intended to provide long-term solutions, and will be tested by councils including Kent, Reading, Suffolk and Birmingham. If successful, the projects – known as Live Labs – could be adopted by other local authorities and rolled out across the UK.

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UK Government launches ambitious Maritime 2050 strategy

The UK Government has published a new Maritime 2050 strategy, setting out its plans for the country’s shipping industry. The seven core ambitions include strengthening maritime professional services, taking action towards clean maritime growth, improving technology in the sector and building a strong and diverse workforce.
The strategy focuses on short, medium-and long-term recommendations, and precedes a series of route maps which will be published later in the year. Described as “intentionally ambitious”, the Government hopes to develop technological and environmental innovation while providing a high standard of maritime business services.

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Energy and environment

UK green economy booms to £44 billion

The UK low carbon and renewable energy economy (LCRE) grew by 6.8 per cent to £44.5 billion in 2017, up from £41.7 billion in 2016, according to an Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey of 24,000 businesses.
This level of growth improves on 2016’s figure of 5 per cent and sees the number of direct employees in the LCRE economy rise to 209,500.

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Rail is most energy efficient mode of transport, say IEA

Increasing the use of railways can provide substantial benefits for the energy sector and the environment, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The Future of Rail report, launched in New Delhi on 30 January, calls for an increased focus on the rail sector as a means of transport for both freight and passengers due to its efficiency. The IEA highlights that railways currently carry 8 per cent of the world’s passengers and 7 per cent of global freight, but only represent 2 per cent of the total transport energy demand.

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Other News

Political uncertainty causing downturn in retail property market says RICS

Demand for retail space continues to fall while industrial space remains strong by comparison, according to the latest RICS UK Commercial Market Survey.
Demand for retail units sits at a net balance of -58 per cent while industrial sector demands reached a net balance of +21 per cent. Much of the lack of activity is being attributed to political uncertainty with many businesses delaying decisions due to an absence of clarity over the Brexit process.

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New inquiry launched into impact of Business Rates

An inquiry into Business Rates has been launched by the Treasury Committee. Announced on 1 February the inquiry will investigate how government policy has impacted businesses, with particular attention being paid to how policy has changed, including retention, alternatives to property-based taxes, and the proposed digital services tax.
In response to the enquiry, the Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP, Chair of the Treasury Committee, said: “Many high street businesses are struggling to remain competitive. It has been estimated that 10,000 shops will close this year. Unless action is taken, closures could continue, and job losses may soar.”

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Extend information laws to private firms, says watchdog

On 28 January the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) presented its report on extending freedom of information laws in the UK to parliament. Outsourcing Oversight? The case for reforming access to information law was published in response to the collapse of Carillion in 2018 and the Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017.
The Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham stated that “these events have sharpened my resolve to improve transparency and accountability” and inform her push to extend freedom of information laws to all bodies that provide public services, including private companies.

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13 March confirmed for Spring Statement

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, the RT Hon Philip Hammond MP, announced on 29 January that the Government will present its Spring Statement on Wednesday 13 March.
The Spring Statement will be presented in response to a new Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) five-year economic forecast and assessment of the Government’s performance against fiscal targets.

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