Week commencing 29 April 2019

In today's bulletin

• Government to miss its land disposal target
• Unrealistic timings caused delays to Crossrail

• Government watchdog recommends new climate objectives
• Local elections: two main parties suffer losses as Lib Dems win big

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Government to miss its land disposal target

The Government is unlikely to meet its target of releasing public sector land for at least 160,000 homes by 2020, a report by the National Audit Office has revealed. Instead, the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) predicts the Government will have released enough land for just 41 per cent of its target (or 61,000 homes) by this date, citing a range of planning, legal ownership and ongoing use requirements as key factors.
Despite this, the report published on 2 May found that the Government is on track to achieve its target of raising £5 billion in proceeds from land sales.

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New homes must tackle poor quality housing issues

New legislation must be implemented to tackle poor quality housing in England, the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) has said. Its draft Healthy Homes Bill, which was published on 3 May following research undertaken with University College London, claims that a decent home should meet certain standards of quality, safety and placemaking.
These include being within easy access of children’s play spaces, being safe from the risk of fire and having adequate living space.

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New report proposes distinctively local housing strategy

Neighbourhoods should respond to local contexts, incorporate user-friendly streets and open spaces and offer greater housing diversity, according to a new report by four of the UK’s leading architectural practices. Published on 1 May, the Distinctively Local report was commissioned in response to calls to create better homes and communities by the Rt Hon Kit Malthouse MP, Minister of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
It outlines the importance of designing for 21st century flexible living, placing greater emphasis on pedestrians instead of vehicles and the value of green space.

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Overhaul of planning system needed to boost retirement home construction

Britain’s planning system needs to be overhauled to encourage developers and local authorities to build more retirement homes for the elderly, according to a new report for the Centre of Policy Studies written by the Rt Hon Damian Green MP. Fixing the Care Crisis, published on 29 April, argues that local authorities were wrong to regard proposed retirement home developments as standard homes.
The report calls for the care system to adopt the state pension model, with a new Universal Care Entitlement providing everyone with a “decent standard of care”.

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2019 off to a good start for housebuilding

The National House Building Council (NHBC) has reported a three per cent increase in the number of homes registered to be built in the first quarter of this year. Figures published on 2 May show some 37,672 new homes were registered to be built in Q1 2019, up from 36,508 in Q1 2018, with the increase partly a reflection of the effect of the ‘Beast from the East’ on construction sites early last year.
London saw an increase of 58 per cent after many large projects were registered at the start of this year.

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House price growth weak in April as confidence remains low

Year-on-year house price growth was slow in April as consumer market confidence stayed low amid political uncertainty, according to figures published on 2 May. For the fifth consecutive month, Nationwide’s House Price Index showed that overall annual growth was below one per cent, with the average home in the UK now valued at £214,920.
These prices are still high when compared to average incomes, with Nationwide commenting that raising a deposit is the most significant barrier to getting on the property ladder. The exception to this is in London and the south, where regular mortgage repayments are an equal impediment to first time buyers.

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HBF reports record planning permissions but says difficulties remain

Planning permission was granted for nearly 370,000 new homes in 2018, the second highest annual total on record, the latest Housing Pipeline report from the Home Builders Federation (HBF) and Glenigan has shown.
However, the report, published on 2 May, also highlighted potential obstacles to the Government reaching its target of 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s, including ongoing economic uncertainty and delays to processing by local authorities.

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Decreasing workloads hit small and medium-sized builders

Workloads for small and medium-sized (SME) construction firms decreased for the first time in over five years in the first quarter of the year, due to higher salaries, political uncertainty and rising material costs.
Released on 1 May, the latest Federation of Master Builders (FMB) State of Trade Survey for Q1 2019 also revealed that the future is set to be brighter for the sector with 41 per cent of construction SMEs predicting higher workloads over the next three months.

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Private housebuilding maintains growth in construction sector

Workloads in private housing are propping up growth in the construction sector, despite ongoing political uncertainty and a continuing failure to meet demand, according to the latest UK Construction and Infrastructure Market Survey by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
Published on 2 May, the report for the first quarter of 2019 notes that, while permitted development rights (PDR) are supporting efforts to meet the Government’s target of delivering 300,000 additional homes a year, the RICS harbours concerns over quality and design.

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Transport

Unrealistic timings caused delays to Crossrail

Crossrail was driven over budget and beyond its schedule because of an unrealistic opening date clung onto by its management team, according to a new report by the National Audit Office. Published on 3 May, Completing Crossrail noted that, despite problems having emerged in 2015, the management team did not take opportunities to change approach or amend its delivery programme.
The report also advises the new management team on how it can minimise any further delays, calling for a focus on recruiting the skills it needs to improve capacity and capability of the project, and increasing pressure on contractors to remain within budget.

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Light at the end of the tunnel for rail passengers?

The Rail Delivery Group has submitted proposals to the Government’s Rail Review (the Williams Review) that would call time on the franchising system in favour for a Transport of London-style network. Calling for a more customer-focused railway network, the Group argues its proposals would cause a “step-change” in the accountability of the industry as well as significant improvements to local services across the network.
Announcing its proposals on 30 April, the Group also recommends appointing an independent organising body to “remove politics from the running of the railway” and to provide customer choice for long-distance routes.

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Report calls for per-mile road charging scheme in London

A new Centre for London report on the future of road user charging in London has called for a per-mile charging scheme to be introduced to replace the congestion charge and ultra-low emission zone. Launched on 29 April, the report argues that a simpler charging scheme would reduce carbon emissions and congestion further and better reflect the impact of individual vehicle journeys.
Research from the report suggests that a £1.50 charge for a 10km journey could reduce carbon emissions by up to 20 per cent and congestion by 15 per cent.

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Energy and Environment

Government watchdog recommends new climate objectives

The Government’s official climate change advisor has published a new report recommending the UK aims to reduce carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050. The findings, published by the Committee on Climate Change on 2 May, suggest the target can be hit using existing technologies and through lifestyle changes.
The report recommends 85 per cent of households in the UK should be converted to low-carbon heating using alternatives such as electric pumps and district heating systems instead of traditional boilers. However, the committee warned that current policy was wholly insufficient to meet these targets.

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Wind industry prepares for take-off

Aviation services have great potential for growth in the wind energy sector, according to RenewableUK’s latest Project Intelligence report from 30 April. The report shows that new turbines are increasing in size and being increasingly located further out to sea, meaning helicopter-based maintenance teams and blade repair drones are becoming more cost-effective than sending crews by boat.
Currently all offshore wind projects in the UK are within 33km of the coast, but 74 per cent of planned projects are more than 50km from shore, with the furthest being 210km out to sea.

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Other News

Local elections: two main parties suffer losses as Lib Dems win big

Voters in England have punished the Conservatives and Labour over the Brexit deadlock, with the former losing over 1,300 councillors in the local elections on 2 May. The Liberal Democrats were the big winners of the vote, gaining over 700 seats and control of an additional ten councils.
. Labour lost 82 seats in elections where it expected to make gains, while the Greens and independents achieved strong gains as UKIP lost the majority of its councillors.

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Manufacturing growth slows as Brexit stockpiling reduces

Growth in manufacturing in the UK slowed in April as companies eased their stockpiling following the delay to Brexit and a decline in new export orders, according to the IHS Markit/CIPS UK Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index.
Released on 1 May, the report also suggests production could fall in the coming months and, as a result, employment rates are already beginning to drop.

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