Week commencing 29 July 2019

In today's bulletin

• UK annual house price growth just 0.3 per cent
• Shift to walking and cycling slows

• Councils not doing enough to protect ancient woodland
• A strategy for the North

Property, Planning and Regeneration

UK annual house price growth just 0.3 per cent

Year-on-year house price growth in the UK remained weak in July, with the average house price rising just 0.3 per cent (equivalent to £650) compared with 12 months earlier. Nationwide’s House Price Index, published on 31 July, remained below 1 per cent for the eighth consecutive month, with the average house in the UK now valued at £217,663.
Consumer confidence remains subdued, however surveyors have reported an increase in new buyer enquiries.

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Call for increase in social housing 100 years on from Addison Act

The lobby group London Councils has called on the Government to provide more funding and make it easier for local authorities to deliver council housing, stating that over 1 million people are currently on waiting lists in the UK, with a quarter of those living in London.
In the same week, Channel 4 aired George Clarke’s Council House Scandal in which the TV presenter launched a campaign and petition to call on the Government to deliver 100,000 new council homes a year, which has since been signed over 130,000 times.

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DEFRA consults on simplified biodiversity metric

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has launched a consultation on creating a simplified biodiversity net gain calculator to embed into England’s planning system.
The updates are intended to provide ecologists, developers and planners with a means to better assess losses and gains in the biodiversity value of proposed development. The consultation was launched on 29 July and runs until 31 December 2019.

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Britain gets building

The number of new homes being registered for the National House Building Council’s (NHBC) 10-year Buildmark warranty – which registers imminent construction – is at its highest level for 12 years. The figures, published on 31 July, show that 43,438 new homes have been registered in the last three months – up 12 per cent on the same period last year and the highest since the fourth quarter of 2007.
Some 29,993 homes were registered in the private sector, a 14 per cent increase on the previous year, while the affordable and rental sector increased by seven per cent.

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Construction industry forecasts slow

Employment in construction is decreasing for the first time in five years, with SMEs employing a higher proportion of sub-contractors and a lower proportion of direct employees. The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) State of Trade Survey for Q2 2019 reports that 21 per cent of employers have experienced a reduced workforce.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said Brexit uncertainties were causing businesses to change their employment strategies and make cutbacks. Construction firms are increasingly relying on sub-contractors and more flexible workforces which can be increased and decreased in line with fluctuating workloads.

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HS2 doubts damaging for construction growth

Delays to HS2 and other major infrastructure projects risk jeopardising growth for Britain’s construction industry, the Construction Products Association (CPA) has warned. The trade body’s summer forecast, released on 29 July, predicts a 1.7 per cent decline in construction output in 2019 and no growth until at least 2021 if high-profile projects such as HS2 and Hinkley Point C do not progress.
Even with the projects going ahead, the CPA has revised its projections for 2020 and 2021 downwards to 1 per cent and 1.4 per cent respectively.

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Homeownership dream ending for middle-income Britain

Research by Santander has suggested that homeownership will be unachievable for the majority of middle-income Brits in the near future. Published on 31 July, The Future of the Homeownership Dream presents research predicting that by 2026 just one in four under 34s will be homeowners.
The research, based on a national survey of over 5,000 non-homeowners aged 18-40, found that nine in 10 aspire to own a home, but 42 per cent have saved nothing towards a deposit.

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Shift to walking and cycling slows

New research has revealed that the number of walking trips is at its highest level since 2006, accounting for three per cent of all journeys. However, the Office for National Statistics’ National Travel Survey (NTS), released on 31 July, has found little evidence of a broader shift to walking and cycling, with the latter remaining at similar levels as in 2002.
In contrast, there has been a three per cent increase in the number of car and van trips between 2015 and 2018, while 80 per cent of journeys of up to five miles were undertaken by a motor vehicle.

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TfL launches world’s largest cycling database

More than 240,000 pieces of cycling infrastructure in London have been mapped as part of a new Transport for London (TfL) project to help people get on their bikes. Launched on 1 August, the Cycling Infrastructure Database is the largest of its kind in the world and includes details on the city’s 146,000 cycle parking spaces and 2,000km of cycle lanes.
According to TfL, last year London saw the quickest growth in cycling journeys on record.

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Energy and Environment

Councils not doing enough to protect ancient woodland

Despite updates to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) last year, councils in England continue to allow inappropriate developments resulting in damage to ancient woodland, according to the Woodland Trust. On 1 August, the body announced that 441 areas of protected woodland were under threat from live planning applications, suggesting that local authorities are not doing enough to safeguard these areas.
The NPPF now gives ancient woodland the same protections as listed buildings, with the Woodland Trust suggesting that councils must either be unaware of the new measures or simply unwilling to enforce them.

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‘Love Water’ campaign calls nation to action

A major campaign launched on 31 July is seeking to encourage the British public to ‘love water’, amid warnings from the Environment Agency that parts of the country may run out of water within 25 years.
The campaign, backed by over 40 environmental agencies, including Water UK, Ofwat, and the National Farmers’ Union, will include beach and river clean-ups and water-saving projects, with a long-term goal of making water saving part of businesses’ operational and corporate responsibility targets. It is hoped that this will help to mitigate the effects of the climate emergency on national water resources.

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Other News

A strategy for the North

A new report has set out a strategy to develop northern economic policies and create growth in the North. Power and prosperity: A strategy for the North to take control of its economy, published by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) on 31 July, called for more coordination of local industries and collective action on pan-regional transport, trade, investment and innovation.
According to the report, the North must learn from its recent past and resolve its “severe” weaknesses, including low productivity, job creation and job quality, particularly as the UK prepares for an uncertain Brexit withdrawal later this year.

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What is a high street?

One in four children do not know what a high street is, but would like to visit one, according to research by Nationwide Building Society. On 1 August, a national poll of 2,000 children aged five to 11 revealed that, despite a lack of awareness, nearly three quarters of children prefer visiting a bricks-and-mortar shop than shopping online.
The results also indicated a third of children have never visited a butcher, while nearly a quarter have not been to a greengrocer. When asked about their parents’ shopping habits, 76 per cent said they shop at large supermarkets and 40 per cent said they usually shop online.

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Manufacturing downturn at 6½-year low

British manufacturers reported the largest monthly decline in production since February 2013 last month as a downturn in the sector continued into July. IHS Markit’s Purchasing Managers’ Index, published on 1 August, remained at 48.0 in July, marking the third straight month that the majority of businesses reported a fall in output.
Factory output fell in July to a level not seen since July 2012, with companies saying they have scaled back in response to a drop in orders amid continuing Brexit uncertainty and a global manufacturing slump.

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