Week commencing 11 January 2016

In today's bulletin

• Lords to consider Housing and Planning Bill
• £140 million to kick-start estates regeneration

• £100 million investment in schemes to make cycling safer
• Skills shortage in minerals and waste planning

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Lords to consider Housing and Planning Bill

The Housing and Planning Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons on 12 January. An amendment to the Bill requiring local authorities in London to provide two new affordable homes for
every high-value council property, was added by the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London, Zac Goldsmith MP and approved by his peers. The Bill will now be considered by the House of Lords.

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£140 million to kick-start estates regeneration

The Prime Minister, the Rt Hon David Cameron MP, announced last week a new £140 million fund to support the regeneration of some of the UK’s most run-down housing estates. Mr Cameron said that one hundred estates across the country will be overhauled or knocked down to clear the way for new,
high-quality homes. The regeneration programme will be supported by the Estate Regeneration Advisory Panel, a new body which will be chaired by former Deputy Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Lord Heseltine CH.

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Skills shortages hampering growth in UK construction

The construction sector’s growth and many of the UK government’s key infrastructure projects are being restricted by a serious skills shortage, according to a recent survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Released on 14 January, the UK Construction Market Survey for the
last quarter of 2015 states that construction skills shortages pushed industry wages up by more than 6 per cent during last year. The report argues that unless urgent action is taken to tackle the skills deficit, many of the UK’s major housing programmes will face delays.

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Higher housing density could help meet demand

Increasing the density of housing could be the key to meeting demand for homes in the capital, real estate adviser Savills has argued. Published on 11 January, Completing London’s Streets suggests that rebuilding existing local authority housing estates in a ‘street-based pattern’ could support the
construction of between 54,000 and 360,000 additional homes in the capital. Savills argues its recommendations would also improve the quality of living environments for residents and represent better value for local authorities if implemented.

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Mortgage lending shows year-on-year increase

Mortgage lending in November 2015 was lower than the previous month but higher than November 2014, latest figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders released on 14 January showed. Homeowner house purchase lending totalled £10.7 billion in November, down nine per cent on October but up 18 per cent on November 2014. Of this, £4.2 billion was for first-time
buyers, while £6.5 billion was for movers. Both of these figures are down month-on-month, but show year-on-year increases of 14 and nine per cent respectively, while re-mortgaging and buy-to-let lending showed similar patterns.

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UK hotel transactions highest since 2006

Total transaction volumes in the UK hotel market reached £8.1 billion in 2015, according to research published by Savills on 11 January. The figure represents an increase of 31.6 per cent on 2014, taking the market to its highest level since 2006. The London market saw transaction volumes double to £3.6 billion, thanks mainly to deals including the £345 million sale of the
Holiday Inn, Kensington and the £1.37 billion sale of a share in the Maybourne portfolio. Transaction volumes outside London accounted for 55.6 per cent of the total, helped by high profile deals such as the sale of the Cambridge City Hotel for £61.5 million.

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Oxford Street could see vehicle ban this year

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson MP is coming under increasing pressure to confirm plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street before his tenure ends this spring. Mr Johnson has written to the London Assembly member Stephen Knight – a strong supporter of banning vehicles from Oxford Street – to say that a series of options are being considered to improve conditions for
pedestrians. Possible changes include reducing the number of bus services and relocating bus stops, with full pedestrianisation also on the table. Speaking before Christmas, Mr Johnson said that a detailed assessment weighing the costs and benefits of a vehicle-free Oxford Street is due from Transport for London (TfL) by mid-2016.

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£100 million investment in schemes to make cycling safer

Highways England will deliver 200 projects across the country over the next five years aimed at making roads more cyclist-friendly as part of its Road Investment Strategy. More than 40 schemes are now underway and set to be completed by spring 2016, with work on other projects ongoing to 2021. The new cycling facilities are designed to be safe, separate from the main flow of
traffic and suitable for cyclists of all abilities. The first phase of the programme will see cycle lanes and crossings created or improved at nine motorway junctions, with new cycle lanes, crossings and signs added to major A roads across England.

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Energy and environment

New leader for RenewableUK

RenewableUK has appointed a new chief executive. Hugh McNeal will take up his post championing wind, wave and tidal energy at the trade association in April. Mr McNeal comes from a background in the civil service, and is
currently the director of change at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). He takes over the role from current chief executive Maria McCaffery MBE, who has headed the organisation since June 2006.

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Skills shortage in minerals and waste planning

More than four-fifths of minerals and waste planners believe there is a growing shortage of skilled and experienced professionals in the sector, the RTPI Minerals and Waste Survey 2015 has revealed. Published last week, the survey showed that many planners are also concerned over knowledge gaps
in the public sector, although there is a recognition within the industry that the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) is already taking steps to address these issues.

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Other News

Record European Investment Bank investment in UK in 2015

Investment in the UK by the European Investment Bank (EIB) increased to €7.77 billion in 2015, a 10.8 per cent increase on 2014, figures published by the bank on 14 January have shown. The EIB says funds have been used to bankroll vital infrastructure upgrade projects including transport links
and new schools and hospitals, while also boosting UK-based research and development work – an important cornerstone in the growth of the UK economy.

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Data the key to smarter devolution

Elected mayors should install dedicated offices for data analytics with the aim of using public and privately held data to improve cities, according to a new report from Policy Exchange. Published on 15 January, Smart Devolution noted that the majority of cities already have access to large amounts of data which could be used to improve public services and create ‘smarter cities’ if
correctly harnessed and assessed by teams of experts. The report cited the success of a similar initiative in New York, which assesses data collated from sources including councils, emergency services, payment systems and voluntary organisations.

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Consumer outlook sunny for 2016

A report by a leading accountancy and business advisory firm has suggested that the UK’s business confidence will continue to be strong this year. BDO published its Business Trends Report on 11 January 2016, which shows that
increasing wages, rising employment and low inflation contributed to the country’s buoyant consumer outlook and the best start to the year since the financial crisis.

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