Week commencing 6 May 2019

In today's bulletin

• Government to subsidise Grenfell-style cladding replacement
• CBI underscores importance of electric transport

• Environment Agency launches long-term flooding strategy
• CBI president calls for change to rates systems

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Government to subsidise Grenfell-style cladding replacement

The Government last week pledged around £200 million of funding to speed up the replacement of Grenfell-style ACM cladding on high-rise private residential properties, as Communities Secretary James Brokenshire called time on ‘reckless building owners’ who have failed to do so.
The announcement was welcomed by bodies including the Local Government Association and Chartered Institute of Housing, though Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, the Rt Hon John Healey MP, claimed it was ‘astonishing’ it has taken almost two years since the Grenfell tragedy for action to be taken.

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Highest level of council homebuilding in over 30 years

The number of affordable homes started in London last year exceeded Government-agreed targets and included the highest number of council home starts in over 30 years, new figures from the Greater London Authority have revealed. Published on 10 May, the figures showed 14,544 affordable homes were started with City Hall’s support in the year to March 2019, including 1,916 council homes as part of the Mayor’s Building Council Homes for Londoners programme.
However, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, acknowledged delivery was not keeping up with need and that more had to be done to tackle the capital’s housing crisis.

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Housing associations increasingly vulnerable to market fluctuations

Housing associations generated 16 per cent more profit from market sales in 2017-18 than in the previous year, equating to a £221 million increase in turnover, a new report by Savills has revealed. Published on 9 May, Spotlight: Mitigating Market Risk warned of a potential vulnerability for housing associations and emphasised the need for options to de-risk their development programmes in a declining market.
While London accounted for 91 per cent of the increase, with those active in the capital particularly exposed, the report highlighted housing associations across the country will be impacted as the slowdown in house price growth spreads.

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Early 2019 sees mixed performance in the construction sector

The construction industry experienced a fall in product sales, output and new orders in the first quarter of 2019, as Brexit uncertainty and rising labour and material costs squeezed contractor margins and led to falling confidence among consumers and businesses.
Published on 7 May, the Construction Product Association (CPA) quarterly Construction Trade Survey revealed 20 per cent of main contractors experienced a decrease in output compared with the same period last year, while workloads were lower for 17 per cent of civil engineering contractors and seven per cent of SME builders.

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House prices on the up, says Halifax

The UK housing market was kept afloat in April by a higher volume of sales in London and more expensive new build properties, according to the latest Halifax House Price Index published on 8 May. The Index recorded monthly house price growth of just over one per cent from March to April, with the data also highlighting a five per cent increase in the three months to April compared to the same period in 2018.
April also marks 10 years since the lowest growth recorded by the Index following the financial crash of 2008, as house price growth has averaged 4.3 per cent every year since.

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Investors ignoring energy efficiency in buildings

Investors are continuing to prioritise traditional cost matters over climate risk considerations when assessing criteria for investment in buildings, research by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) showed.
38 per cent of respondents to its Global Commercial Property Monitor (GCPM), published on 9 May, indicated that energy efficiency in buildings is seen as unimportant or irrelevant for UK investors, as the country falls behind China and Hong Kong in attitudes towards climate change.

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Warm weather cools retail performance

Retail sales growth slowed during April, as the Easter weekend sunshine took shoppers away from the high street. According to figures released by the British Retail Consortium on 8 May, the rate of two-year average growth dropped to 0.4 per cent last month, down from 0.9 per cent in March.
Department stores and footwear shops suffered while food and grocery sales fared better, and online sales accounted for nearly 30 per cent of all non-food sales in April.

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CBI underscores importance of electric transport

A move away from fossil fuels towards greener alternatives, such as electric vehicles, is a pressing issue that depends on a political consensus to be achieved, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has said.
Speaking at the BP/CharIN Powering the Charge Conference, director-general Carolyn Fairburn argued for greater unison between business and government, and recommended the formation of a cross-party commission on energy transition and the nomination of a single regulator to reduce bureaucracy.

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New data-capture technology to maintain log of roadside infrastructure

A fleet of utility vehicles will be fitted with new cameras in a trial aimed at recording and storing detailed data on infrastructure assets along the highway network. The technology, developed by mapping agency Ordnance Survey and technology company Mobileye, is intended to create a database of information on roadside infrastructure, which would be updated in real-time to allow the condition of assets to be monitored and efficiently maintained.
The Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT) suggested the technology would also help local authorities to monitor and act on highway defects before they became a real issue.

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Energy and Environment

Environment Agency launches long-term flooding strategy

A new, long-term strategy to tackle the effects of flooding was launched by Environment Agency chair, Emma Howard Boyd on 9 May. Speaking at Brunel University, she argued bigger and bigger flood defences would not “win a war against water” and, in future, the country needed to ensure buildings, infrastructure and communities were more resilient to floods.
Priorities include retrofitting existing homes to speed up recovery from flooding and working with coastal communities to develop consistent standards for coastal resilience, as well as flood defence tactics such as barriers, drainage systems, and emergency warning infrastructure.

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UK becomes coal-free for first time since Industrial Revolution

The UK has officially gone a week without using coal to generate electricity for the first time since the Industrial Revolution, the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) has announced
The milestone was achieved at 1.24pm on Wednesday 8 May, in a significant move to meeting the challenge of zero-carbon operation of the electricity system by 2025.

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Other News

CBI president calls for change to rates systems

The current ‘uneconomical, unsustainable and unintelligible’ business rates system must be reformed if entrenched regional inequality is to be reversed, the president of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), John Allan, said on 8 May.
Claiming the system is deterring investment and punishing areas of the country that are already struggling, he called for political parties to initiate a comprehensive and independent review to address the issue that is affecting the whole economy.

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Global manufacturing growth stagnates

Manufacturing growth is continuing to slow across the world as IHS Markit’s worldwide Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) slips to its lowest rate since June 2016. Surveys for April, released on 7 May, show Greece has reported the strongest upturn by country, with the UK in third place, albeit aided by pre-Brexit stockpiling surveys.
The poor global results were influenced by slow new order inflows and weak demand pushing prices down.

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