Week commencing 18 February 2019

In today's bulletin

• UK homes unprepared for climate change, says report
• Network Rail approved ORR plan for next five years

• Consultations on waste system launched
• Government holds the key to the UK’s infrastructure future

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Number of mortgages on the rise, thanks to first-time buyers

The number of first-time buyers taking out mortgages is at its highest since 2006; with 5,100 new mortgages completed in December 2018.
Overall, there were 30,000 new homeowner mortgages in the last month of 2018, which is a 1.7 per cent increase since 2017. In addition to this, 34,000 new homeowner remortgages were completed in the same month, 9.3 per cent more than the previous year.

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Government publishes response to National Planning Policy consultation

Following the Technical consultation on updates to national planning policy and guidance in October 2018, the Government has published its responses to the six questions posed to local authorities, neighbourhood planning bodies, parish and town council, private sector organisations and interest groups or voluntary organisations.
The consultation proposed clarifications to national planning policy on housing land supply, appropriate assessment for habitats sites and the definition of “deliverable”. In response to the six questions, the Government considers its proposed approach to be correct.

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UK homes unprepared for climate change, says report

A report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has revealed that UK homes are unprepared for climate change and must be adapted to safeguard population wellbeing and ensure the country’s legally-binding targets are met.
UK housing: Fit for the future? – published 21 February 2019 – calls on the Government to address current policies and standards that have seen emission reductions from the UK’s 29 million homes stall. The report identifies five areas of action to improve the energy efficiency and climate resilience of new and existing homes.

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Government inquiry calls for urgent action to be taken to protect high streets and town centres

In the wake of increasing online sales, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has said that retail has reached “a tipping point”, and significant changes are required to protect high streets and town centres.
The committee has suggested that these areas need to become “activity-based”, with specific focus being put on leisure, arts and culture. They also need to use green space and promote local strengths, culture and heritage. The report warns that drastic steps are needed to avoid increasing dereliction, deteriorating infrastructure and a loss of customers.

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Recommendations by Climate Change Committee in line with National Infrastructure Assessment

The National Infrastructure Commission has made recommendations on how to cut emissions in UK homes in the National Infrastructure Assessment, which are in line with those put forward by the Committee on Climate Change.
Recommendations include setting new targets for the rate of installation of energy-efficiency measures, which would be supported by £3.8 billion of funding for social housing, as well as trialing alternative fuel sources such as hydrogen and heat pumps.

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Network Rail approved ORR plan for next five years

Andrew Haynes, chief executive of Network Rail, has given the Office for Rail and Road a ‘green-light’ to the next five year spending plan and funding package for Britain’s rail network.
The plan will continue the heavy investment railways have seen over the past five years, but with a particular focus on delivering a more reliable and punctual service for users.

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Housing developments should tie in with sustainable transport

Local housing developments should be designed to provide for sustainable transport and support the introduction of public transport services to limit new residents’ dependency on cars according to a new report prepared by KPMG for think tank the Transport Knowledge Hub.
The report identifies an eight-point plan to help overcome the barriers to integrating sustainable transport with new housing, including a call for local authorities to be given more longer term, devolved budget so they can invest in infrastructure to support new developments.

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Energy and environment

Consultations on waste system launched

The Government has launched a series of consultations to overhaul the UK’s waste system, building on commitments published in December 2018 in its Resources and Waste Strategy.
The consultations will provide more detail on plans for consistent recycling collections across UK households, options for a deposit return scheme for cans, plastic and glass bottles, and proposals for packaging producers to pay the full cost of dealing with their waste. Views are also being sought on a new tax on plastic packaging which does not meet a minimum threshold of at least 30 per cent recycled content. Announced by the Environment Secretary, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, on 18 February, the consultations are open for the next 12 weeks.

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Increase in EU electricity generated by wind

14 per cent of EU electricity was generated by wind energy in 2018, according to figures released by WindEurope on 21 February 2019. Capacity growth and improvements in technology helped increase wind energy’s share of the electricity mix to 14 per cent, up from 12 per cent in 2017.
Across the continent, Denmark claimed the top spot overall with 41 per cent of the country’s electricity being generated by renewable sources over the 12 months. Meanwhile, the amount of new wind capacity in Europe fell by a third compared with the record levels in 2017.

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Other News

City centres advised to move away from retail

Successful high streets are a symptom rather than the cause of fruitful city centre economies according to a new report published by independent policy research unit, Centre for Cities. The report suggests that over scrutiny of certain underperforming high streets misinterprets the main problem city-centres face – insufficient footfall.
The report City Centres: Past, Present and Future, released on 19 February, extols the benefits of moving away from retail in urban centres to instead promote more centrally located office-based jobs to ensure a market for food and leisure services such as restaurants and bars. The best performing areas, including regional cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham, on average count food and leisure operators as a quarter of their high street services, while for the worst performers retail is far more prominent. The report concludes by recommending that government treats city centres as strategic infrastructure projects, in the same vein as transport services.

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Government holds the key to the UK’s infrastructure future

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has urged the Government to up the ante on meeting the country’s current and future infrastructure needs. In its Annual Monitoring Report, released on 22 February 2019, the NIC offered an assessment of the Government’s performance in delivering the programmes the commission has recommended.
The report commended Whitehall for the central role it has given to infrastructure in its industrial strategy but warned Ministers not to “take their eye off the ball” or become complacent. Despite this praise, the report also highlighted the poor progress being made on improving mobile phone connections on the UK’s road and rail networks as examples where greater ambition and commitment of resources is required.

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