Week commencing 24 June 2019

In today's bulletin

• Lack of plan jeopardising housing target
• Leaseholds axed for all new houses

• Long-term plan for digital railway
• UK commits to net zero emissions by 2050

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Lack of plan jeopardising housing target

The lack of a detailed implementation plan is jeopardising a target to deliver 300,000 homes per year by the mid-2020s, according to a report published by the House of Commons’ Committee of Public Accounts.
Published on 26 June, the report recommends Government produces a policy document by October 2019 outlining how the target can be achieved, including plans for increasing affordable and social housing provision. The Committee’s report also advocates tougher penalties for local authorities failing to produce Local Plans.

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Leaseholds axed for all new houses

All new houses will be sold on a freehold basis in future following widespread criticism of new homebuyers being trapped in exploitative arrangements. The move was announced on 27 June by the Communities Secretary, the Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, along with an instruction for Homes England to renegotiate existing Help to Buy contracts to prevent the sale of further leasehold homes.
Speaking at the Housing 2019 conference, Mr Brokenshire also revealed that plans to speed up the planning process would be set out in a green paper to be published later this year.

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£146bn bill to kickstart social housing, says NHF

The Government must invest £14.6bn in social housing every year for a decade if England’s housing demand is to be met, the National Housing Federation has claimed. In a report published on 25 June, the NHF claims this investment would deliver 145,000 new social homes every year from 2021, helping to plug the gap left by the private market.
In the same week, the Greater London Authority and G15 group of London’s largest housing associations announced that £4.9 billion of central funding must be committed each year to build the affordable homes needed in the capital.

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NHS Property Services too weak to function effectively

NHS Property Services is hamstrung without the powers of a commercial landlord, including having no recourse to legal action or penalty charges to solve problem leases, a National Audit Office report has found. Published on 21 June, the report showed outstanding debt to the Service had almost tripled since 2015/16 and 70 per cent of tenants – mostly NHS organisations and GPs – have no formal rental agreement in place
The report provides a number of recommendations to address the problems, including setting a deadline of 31 March 2020 to have tenancy agreements in place for all occupiers, sharing responsibility for funding the estate, and improving various processes within the Service to make it more efficient.

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New housing design standards tackle ‘postcode lottery’

Uneven use of the Nationally Described Space Standards by local authorities leave tenants and buyers facing a “postcode lottery” of housing quality, Prime Minister Theresa May has stated. Speaking at the Chartered Institute for Housing conference on 25 June, she called for new national design standards to ensure developers are creating more homes without compromising quality, as well as confirming plans to end so-called ‘no-fault evictions’.
Housing charity, Shelter said it applauded efforts to improve quality, but a commitment “to a renewal of social housing” was needed.

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30 year high for building by local authorities

Housebuilding by local authorities in England reached its highest level since 1990 last year, according to data released on 25 June by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). It estimated that 13,000 new homes were delivered by local authorities during 2017-2018, of which 42 per cent were affordable and 23 per cent were social housing.
The RTPI also found that 78 per cent of local authorities now own a property or housing company to carry out this work, while another fifth are considering establishing one.

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Consultation launches on New Homes Ombudsman

An eight-week consultation to shape the role of a New Homes Ombudsman was launched on 27 June by the Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG). The Government is seeking responses on issues including what measures should be taken to protect buyers of new-build homes from poor quality and whether the role should be national or geographically defined.
According to MHCLG, 99 per cent of people buying a new home in 2017/18 reported snags or defects to their builder

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Ignorance of private landlords not bliss for tenants

Many private landlords don’t know or understand their obligations, leaving hundreds of thousands of tenants living in sub-standard homes, a report released by the Citizens Advice on 26 June has found. The survey of over 1,000 private landlords revealed some 75 per cent agreed that a new independent body to oversee the industry would make their job easier.
Responding to publication of the report, the Residential Landlords Association argued that local authorities have the tools at their disposal to deal with problem landlords and that a lack of enforcement rather than poor regulation is behind falling standards.

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Social homes top the agenda

84 per cent of leading housing professionals see providing more social rented homes as a top priority, according to the 2019 Savills Housing Sector Survey – an increase of 19 per cent compared to last year’s report.
Land availability was another key concern, with 78 per cent citing it as a standout factor preventing the sector delivering more homes.

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Long-term plan for digital railway

Network Rail has published a framework for the delivery of digital signalling that promises significant benefits for passengers. Released on 26 June, the long-term deployment plan proposes collaborative working between Network Rail, train operators, the rail industry supply chain and government to create faster, more frequent services
Network Rail claims more than 4,000 trains and 19,000 miles of railway will need to be upgraded, with two thirds of the current signalling equipment to be replaced within the next fifteen years.

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Urban bus use in decline as rail numbers soar

A decline in traditional daily commutes and the increased popularity of walking and cycling are two cultural shifts that must be taken into account when planning the future of our towns and cities, a new report released by the Urban Transport Group on 26 June has suggested.
Outside of London, bus use was revealed to have fallen by 15 per cent in the past ten years, but still accounts for 59 per cent of all public transport journeys nationally. Regional rail, by comparison, has seen use soar by 29 per cent in the past decade.

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Energy and Environment

UK commits to net zero emissions by 2050

The UK became the first major economy to pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 after legislation was signed by Chris Skidmore MP, the Interim Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, on 27 June. The target, recommended by the Committee on Climate Change, means emissions will need to be balanced by schemes that reduce greenhouse gases in the air.
The Government estimates meeting the target will cost £1 trillion, although the Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee has asked for clarification on how this figure was calculated.

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New nuclear power stations needed to hit net zero target

Building more nuclear power stations and greater investment in carbon capture technology is essential to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the CBI has said. In a letter to the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published on 28 June, the business group sets out priorities for reaching the Government’s target, including rationalising the tax and business rates system to encourage the use of green energy.
It also recommends that the UK should host the COP26 Climate Summit in 2020.

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Air pollution behind 1 in 20 UK deaths

Five per cent of deaths in the UK can be attributed to air pollution despite legislation to limit its effect, according to a study released by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) on 26 June.
However, deaths linked to dirty air fell by half between 1970 and 2010, with legislation such as the UK Clean Air Act 1993 driving technological improvements to reduce emissions.

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Data holds key to modernising UK energy network

Poor quality, inaccurate and missing data is hindering attempts to modernise the UK’s energy system, a report by the Energy Data Taskforce has found. Commissioned by the Government, energy regulator Ofgem and Innovate UK, the report released on 24 June calls for the use of existing legislative measures to direct the energy sector to digitise in the interest of consumers.
A skills gap and risk-averse culture were also highlighted as barriers to progress.

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Other News

Slow progress on Industrial Strategy frustrates manufacturers

Not enough progress has been made on the Government’s Industrial Strategy in the 18 months since it was announced, according to three quarters of UK manufacturers surveyed by business advisory firm BDO.
The results, published on 24 June, reveal a nationwide split, with only 19 per cent of manufacturers in the West Midlands satisfied with progress, compared to 52 per cent in London and the South East. 79 per cent of manufacturers surveyed also think the Government is not doing enough to help them address the skills gap.

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