Week commencing 9 December 2019

In today's bulletin

• Housing market hoping for post-election boost
• Almost all local authority vehicles still reliant on diesel

• Welsh Government launches consultation on improving air quality
• Fall in business investment causes weak GDP 2020 forecast

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Housing market hoping for post-election boost

The UK housing market was on hold in the lead up to last week’s General Election, with new figures suggesting a cautious attitude among buyers during November. The latest Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Residential Market Survey showed demand from prospective buyers, new instructions to sell and sales all remained negative as consumers were put off by political uncertainty.
Following the result, which saw a large majority for the Conservative Party, RICS called for clear government action to tackle issues including housing supply, strategic infrastructure and climate change.

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Property predictions for 2020

Investors will continue to pivot their strategies towards residential and alternative sectors in 2020 as opportunities for rental growth are squeezed and yields compressed further, according to a new report from Savills. European Property Themes 2020+, released on 12 December, pulls out infrastructure, affordability, sustainability, repurposing and ‘space as a service’ as key themes for the start of the new decade across the European property market.
In the UK, it predicts a softening of yields and repricing in the retail sector, as well as further disruption in the property sector caused by providers of flexible spaces.

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House prices see biggest monthly rise since February

Following two months of modest falls, average house prices in the UK rose in November and contributed to an annual growth figure of 2.1 per cent. Data from the latest Halifax Price Index, published on 6 December, shows prices have risen by £3,904 since the start of the year.
While a degree of uncertainty remains, the figures indicate buyers and sellers are responding to market factors such as improved mortgage affordability and the limited supply of available properties.

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Construction output in Great Britain falls

Great Britain’s construction output fell by 2.3 per cent in October – the steepest rate since January 2018 – figures from the Office for National Statistics show. Released on 10 December, the figures can be attributed to a 3.1 per cent fall in new work and a smaller fall in repairs and maintenance.
In the three months to October, output decreased by 0.3 per cent compared to the previous three months. It remains to be seen whether these figures will be turned around by the housebuilding boost pledged by the new Government.

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Almost all local authority vehicles still reliant on diesel

An average of 91.6 per cent of council-owned vehicles – from bin lorries to community minibuses – still use diesel, amid claims from local authorities that no “viable electric alternative” exists. New research from Auto Express magazine, published on 10 December, found a disparity across the country with Scottish councils having the highest proportion of electric vehicles, while 89 per cent of vehicles operated by local authorities in London run on diesel.
In areas where emission zones are in place or planned, the vehicles often breach the limits set.

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Rise in SUV sales “makes mockery” of electric car push

Fossil-fuelled vehicles need to be phased out by 2030 if the UK is to achieve its targets for net-zero emissions, according to new research by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC). Published on 9 December, the research shows that a dramatic rise in demand for sports utility vehicles (SUVs) has contributed to exhaust emissions from new cars increasing for the past three years, with Professor Jillian Anable saying this made “a mockery” of UK policy.
The report calls for more ambitious policies on renewable electricity generation, a heat and energy efficiency White Paper for housing, and a range of other measures to help the UK achieve net-zero.

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New tool to help cities plan the future of bus networks

The Urban Transport Group has commissioned an innovative new model to help cities shape their future bus networks. Built by engineering consultancy WSP, the model will forecast how factors such as population, employment, car ownership, service levels, fares and public funding will impact public use of buses.
It will replace the current Metropolitan Bus Model and is expected to provide a more sophisticated mechanism to ensure effective and targeted investment in bus services. The model is part of Urban Transport Group’s commitment to implementing a wider programme of data-driven insight into what drives bus network funding.

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Energy and Environment

Welsh Government launches consultation on improving air quality

The Welsh Government is seeking views on a new plan to reduce air pollution in the country. Launched on 10 December, the consultation is seeking responses to the new Clean Air Plan for Wales: Healthy Air, Healthy Wales, which sets out a broad programme of reform designed to promote strategic goals of protecting health and supporting the environment, economy and sustainable places.
It also includes ambitions to meet national and international targets for carbon reduction and air quality. The consultation closes on 10 March 2020.

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Wind power passes 16 gigawatt in new record

A new renewable energy record was set on Sunday 8 December, with wind generating over 16 gigawatts (GW) of electricity in Britain for the first time. This provided 43.7 per cent of the nation’s power, more than double the amount produced by nuclear plants at 20.5 per cent.
RenewableUK has highlighted this significant achievement as evidence of “how important wind is in an energy system that’s changing rapidly”.

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UK exports biodiversity loss

The UK is one of the top five countries to drive biodiversity loss overseas through its demand for electricity production, according to a new study from the UK Energy Research Centre. Published on 11 December, the research analysed the impact of the fossil and renewable power sectors on threatened species around the world and traced the threats back along global supply chains.
It highlights how the transition of energy overseas makes it difficult to understand how “green” different sources are and calls for stronger regulations to consider both the local and global impact. The other countries in the top five are Japan, China, USA and India.

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Other News

Fall in business investment causes weak GDP 2020 forecast

GDP growth is forecast to slow from 1.3 per cent this year to 1.0 per cent in 2020 – the weakest outturn since 2009 – the latest economic forecast from the British Chambers of Commerce has shown. Released on 9 December, the report finds that UK growth prospects are hindered by a weaker outlook for business investment, net trade and consumer spending.
By the end of 2020, the UK economy is forecasted to have experienced its second weakest decade of average annual GDP growth on record.

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Brexit uncertainty sustains low UK business output

The decline of the UK’s services and manufacturing sectors has caused BDO’s Output Index to drop to its lowest level in 17 months, falling by 0.65 points to 96.04 in November. The index was published on 9 December and offers a snapshot of business productivity by weighing data from the main business surveys.
The drop was mainly caused by businesses choosing to run down stockpiles following a further extension to the Brexit deadline. The figures mark the end of a disappointing year for UK business which has been struggling against continuing political uncertainty and a worsening global economic climate.

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