Week commencing 20 January 2020

In today's bulletin

• New measures to improve building safety standards
• Increased funding for on-street chargepoints

• Land use options for Net Zero emissions
• Optimism in UK manufacturing improves at strongest pace in six years

Property, Planning and Regeneration

New measures to improve building safety standards

A new Building Safety Regulator within the Health and Safety Executive is among new measures introduced to accelerate improvement of building safety standards, housing secretary Robert Jenrick announced on 20 January.
The reforms – which include consolidated advice for building owners to address safety issues – are part of the Government’s planned approach to ensuring residents are safe in their homes. It has also launched a consultation into the current combustible cladding ban and presented further details of the upcoming Fire Safety Bill.

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Housing failing to meet design standards

Three quarters of large-scale housing-led developments across England are of ‘mediocre’ or ‘poor’ design, according to a housing design audit from Place Alliance. The survey evaluated projects against design considerations including access to public transport, community facilities and environmental impact.
It found there to be a small overall improvement in housing design quality nationally since 2007, particularly around designing for safety and security, but the majority of projects scored low when measured on character, sense of place, connections and amenities. There was a varied picture regionally, with the South West one of the lowest-scoring areas.

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Investments scaled back amid continued Brexit uncertainty

Ongoing uncertainty around the next stages of Brexit continues to hold back investment in the construction and infrastructure sector, the Q4 2019 Construction and Infrastructure Market Survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has revealed.
However, the survey, published on 23 January, found workloads across the sector continue to rise – with infrastructure and private housing topping the list. Public housing workloads have also risen since the start of last year, with 34 per cent more surveyors reporting an increase than decrease in expectations for council house building since the HRA borrowing cap was lifted.

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From retail parks to neighbourhoods

The ongoing shift in our shopping habits may be bad news for the high street and out-of-town retail parks, but could help to meet the urgent need for more homes. This was the opinion put forward by a RICS panel of experts at a discussion on 21 January, with excellent access to transport and reuse of previously developed land counting as positives.
The panel, which included representatives from Shelter and the London Borough of Lewisham, also highlighted potential issues with this approach, including whether these sites can be used responsibly and provide the social infrastructure residents will need.

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Increased funding for on-street chargepoints

Funding for electric vehicle chargepoints will double to £10 million next year and provide an additional 3,600 stations in a bid to end the electric car postcode lottery, transport secretary, Grant Shapps, claimed on 21 January.
The Department for Transport is also planning to make information on the location of chargepoints and power ratings available in real-time to drivers, for the first time. The announcements form part of the Government’s strategy to phase out petrol and diesel cars and help meet its objective of the UK leading the way in digitalisation and decarbonisation.

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Small businesses encouraged to drop polluting vans

Payments for small businesses to scrap polluting vans will double under new measures introduced by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, as part of his aim to fast-track the move to cleaner vehicles across London.
Also announced on 22 January was £1.75 million in London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP) funding for six more business-led Low Emission Neighbourhoods, including the installation of electric vehicle charging depots.The measures, including the installation of electric vehicle charging points, set out to prepare vehicles for the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone next year.

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Energy and Environment

Land use options for Net Zero emissions

The UK must transform the way it uses land if it is to meet its target of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, according to a new report by the Government’s official climate watchdog.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) published its first ever guidance on UK agricultural policy on 23 January. The report, Land use: Policies for a Net Zero UK, sets out options to help farmers and land managers reduce their emissions by two thirds in the next 30 years. The advice comes at a pressing time for UK agricultural policy, as the UK is set to leave the European Union and the Common Agricultural Policy later this week.

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Wales announces sweeping new proposals to deal with the climate emergency

All new homes in Wales could be heated and powered from clean energy sources by 2025, under ambitious consultation proposals to tackle the climate crisis.
The Welsh Government has unveiled a series of measures it plans to implement over the next five years, including future-proofing new homes to make it easier to retrofit low carbon heating systems and improving air quality and energy efficiency. Housing minister, Julie James, suggested the proposals were realistic and achievable, as well as helping with the cost of living for the whole population, no matter their circumstances. The consultation ends on 12 March.

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Other News

Optimism in UK manufacturing improves at strongest pace in six years

Business optimism in manufacturing improved at the fastest pace in six years in the last quarter while export sentiment continued to fall, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has found.
In its quarterly survey of industrial trends, published on 22 January, it found firms are preparing to increase investment and expand capacity. However, this optimism is in stark contrast to poor trading conditions over the last quarter – and illustrates the need for the UK and EU to establish a trade deal that supports growth in the manufacturing sector.

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Logistics industry seeks clarity on UK-EU trading future

The Government must act to provide clarity around the UK’s future trading agreements with the EU27 after the Brexit transition period is over, logistics industry business group Freight Transport Association (FTA) has said.
Commenting on the situation on 20 January, the FTA’s Director of Policy, Elizabeth de Jong, expressed concern that logistics businesses will not be able to prepare for the UK’s departure from the customs union and single market as long as there are still questions around how movement of goods will work after regulatory divergence.

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