Week commencing 10 February 2020

In today's bulletin

• Commercial property investments lead to rising debt for local authorities
• HS2 back on track as PM greenlights controversial project

• Financial incentives for environmentally minded farmers
• Javid out, Sunak in – Cabinet reshuffle takes awkward turn for PM

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Commercial property investments lead to rising debt for local authorities

Local authorities are increasingly turning to borrowing to finance their commercial property buying. The National Audit Office (NAO) has put the total spent on commercial property at £6.6 billion between 2016/17 – 2018/19.
It has warned that local authorities are risking the funding of local services and debt repayment by depending on rental income from such properties.

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Growth in private commercial and new public housing fuels construction output boost

An increase in new work has helped to fuel a 0.5 per cent increase in construction output between Q3 (July to September) and Q4 (October to December).
New data published by the Office for National Statistics (11 February 2020) revealed that the 0.8 per cent rise stemmed from growth in sectors such as private commercial and public new housing.

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House sales on the rise, and set to continue throughout 2020

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has published its ‘Residential Market Survey’ for January, which shows an increase in both the number of agreed sales and new homes being listed.
The survey responses suggest this growth is set to continue throughout the year, which RICS’s Chief Economist Simon Rubinsohn ties to the General Election result.

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January blues hit UK commercial property market

2020 has started slowly for the UK commercial property market as capital values declined by 0.2 per cent in January, according to the CBRE UK Monthly Index (12 February 2020).
Sluggish rental yields were unmoved from December, keeping landlord returns low at 0.3 per cent. Toby Radcliffe, Research Analyst at CBRE, commented that the pattern mirrors that of January 2019.

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Housing Delivery Test measurement technical notes released

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has released the latest annual ‘Housing Delivery Test: 2019 Measurement Technical note’ (13 February 2020).
The document, designed to be read alongside the Housing Delivery Test rulebook, provides a percentage score for the three preceding financial years by dividing the total net homes delivered over a three-year period by the total number of homes required.

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Transport

HS2 back on track as PM greenlights controversial project

The controversial HS2 rail project will play a leading role in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s bid to revolutionise the country’s ageing transport infrastructure, after being given the go-ahead on 11 February.
Phase 1 of the project from London to the West Midlands is set to begin in April 2020. However, Phase 2b (Crewe to Manchester, and Birmingham to Leeds) will be delayed while new delivery arrangements are drawn up following the decision to strip HS2 Ltd of the role.

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Prime Minister pledges £5bn to bus and cycle links

A £5 billion investment to improve local bus services and cycle routes across the country was announced by the Prime Minister on Monday 10 February.
Downing Street is hopeful that the investment will lead to simpler fares, thousands of new buses, improved routes and higher frequencies. The government has also promised 250 miles of new, high-quality separated cycle routes and safe junctions in towns and cities.

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‘Transport deserts’ leave rural communities stranded

Over 50 per cent of small towns in the South West and North East of England are already, or are at risk of, becoming ‘transport deserts’, a new report by the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) published on 10 February revealed.
It says insufficient public transport options risk nearly one million people being deprived access to basic services. CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England), which commissioned the report, is calling for greater investment and the creation of a rural transport fund.

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Freeports consultation launched

Downing Street’s commitment to the creation of ten freeports has taken a step closer to reality as it launches its public consultation.
The freeports are seen by the government as a means of boosting global trade and investment and increasing productivity. The scheme has been widely criticised by European Union officials and senior politicians concerned about the risk of money laundering.

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Energy and environment

Financial incentives for environmentally minded farmers

The Countryside Stewardship (CS) scheme will provide farmers and land managers with funding to improve their local environment.
The CS scheme, announced on 11 February, is the Government’s first step towards its future Environmental Land Management scheme. This is designed to reward farmers for producing ‘public goods’, such as better air and water quality or improved access to the countryside.

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Wind industry comes together to tackle turbine blade recycling

Recycling is set to be high on the wind industry’s agenda at its second ‘EOLIS, The End of Life Issues and Strategies Conference’ being held by WindEurope later this year.
With 14,000 wind turbines set to be decommissioned over the next five years, the industry is working to find a cross-sector solution to the recyclability of turbine components, particularly blades.

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Other News

Javid out, Sunak in – Cabinet reshuffle takes awkward turn for PM

In what was supposed to be a mild affair for Boris Johnson, the cabinet reshuffle on 13 February shocked political observers and the business sector as the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP stood down as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The subsequent promotion of the Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP – a key ally of the Prime Minister – to the position was, however, widely expected. Alok Sharma has become both the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Minister for COP26, which takes place in Glasgow this November.

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CBI’s ‘seven practical steps’ for economic growth

The looming Spring Budget offers a means of reversing the decline in private sector investment, says the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).
It outlined seven steps on 10 February that the Budget should take to spur economic activity, including carrying out a comprehensive review of the business rates system and the creation of an Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA).

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