Week commencing 6 January 2020

In today's bulletin

• Continued decline as construction sector limps over the line in 2019
• New government contracts to deliver innovation on railways

• Plastic promises: report warns of long-term impact of plastic alternatives
• 2019 marks seven-year low for manufacturing

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Continued decline as construction sector limps over the line in 2019

Construction output in the UK continued its decline as 2019 drew to a close, falling 0.9 per cent in December according to the ‘IHS Markit / CIPS UK Construction’ survey report.
Political uncertainty is listed as the main reason for the continued downturn, with client demand subdued in the lead up to the general election. Data showed that civil engineering suffered its sharpest decline for more than ten years, remaining the worst performing sector. The report was released on Friday 3 January.

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Obstacles block councils’ house-building progress

Local authorities still face obstacles in their efforts to build more homes, according to a report by the Chartered Institute of Housing, National Federation of Arms-length Management Organisations (ALMOs) and the Association of Retained Council Housing.
While the Government’s decision to lift borrowing caps helped remove a significant barrier to house building, councils and ALMOs believe long-term income stability and greater consideration of regional differences is needed to help local authorities carry out their new build programmes.

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New poll reveals challenges facing the housebuilding sector

Housebuilders are working to deliver on the sector’s commitment to net zero carbon housing and biodiversity targets. Stakeholders including government officials, energy suppliers and house builders congregated at a summit on 8 January to set out the blueprint for delivery.
One of the most daunting tasks facing the industry is educating consumers on environmental sustainability. New polling from Public First this week shows that while 20 per cent of the public consider environmental concerns as one of the top issues facing the country, 54 per cent were unaware of the energy efficiency rating of their homes.

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Law Commission offers Government the option to reduce leaseholder costs

In a new report, the Law Commission has proposed three alternatives it argues will reduce the burden on leaseholders. This follows a Consultation Paper on leasehold enfranchisement reform in September 2018.
The report also suggests other options for reform including helping leaseholders with ground rents by capping the level used to calculate the premium, and creating an online premium calculator.

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Annual house price growth rises by four per cent

House prices in December 2019 were four per cent higher than the same month a year earlier, according to data from Halifax.
The ‘Halifax House Price Index’, published on 8 January, predicts transaction volumes will increase as economic uncertainty comes to an end in 2020, with prices set to continue growing as household income improves.

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Transport

New government contracts to deliver innovation on railways

Organisations are being encouraged to apply for up to £9.4 million to invest in improvements to rail services for both passengers and operators through innovative technology demonstrations.
Projects will need to focus on one of four themes: environmental sustainability, customer experience, improved railway operations and optimised maintenance.

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Vehicle traffic on the rise over past year, says DfT

The Department for Transport (DfT) has released its estimates for the annual change in vehicle traffic numbers on UK roads for the year to September 2019.
While van and lorry traffic decreased, this was offset by a 1.5 per cent increase in car traffic and an overall rise in vehicle traffic by 0.8 per cent. The figures also showed an increase in traffic on motorways and ‘A’ roads.

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Next London Mayor ‘must work closer with the logistics sector’

The future Mayor of London must cooperate with logistics companies to make the city a better place to live, work and visit.
This is according to leading industry group the Freight Transport Association (FTA) in its new ‘Logistics for London’ document. It calls for the new mayor to minimise emissions, improve road safety and reduce road congestion.

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Energy and environment

UK leads operational changes in oil production

UK offshore operators have achieved the greatest decrease in operational production costs for oil and gas globally, reducing by 31 per cent in the period 2014 to 2018. One factor in this reduction is uncertain oil prices, which have prompted producers to find operational improvements.
The latest analysis from Rystad Energy shows they have done this by closing older oil fields, offering lower salaries and by changing staff rotations from two- to three-week rotas, significantly reducing the number of shuttle flights.

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Plastic promises: report warns of long-term impact of plastic alternatives

Alternatives to plastic may be equally damaging to the environment, says think tank and charity Green Alliance as part of its work for the Circular Economy Task Force.
Amid concerns of ‘kneejerk reactions’ to changes in public opinion, the grocery sector is providing alternatives which may have other unintended long term-consequences. The report cites coated cardboard, single-use paper and compostable plastics as materials that are harder to recycle than standard plastic packaging.

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Other News

2019 marks seven-year low for manufacturing

Despite a fractional improvement in global manufacturing activity for the second month in a row, December marked the end of the sector’s worst annual performance for seven years, according to ‘JPMorgan Global Manufacturing PMI’, compiled by IHS Markit.
Activity fell from 50.3 in November to 50.1 in December. Although this remained above the 50.0 no-change level for a second month, it was unable to redeem the poor result of the year as a whole.

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