Week commencing 9 March 2020

In today's bulletin

· Modernised planning system will see greater community involvement, says Housing Secretary

· Road Investment Strategy until 2025 published

· Oil and gas industries could be vital for CCS development

· Local Elections postponed for a year due to Coronavirus

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Calls for evidence on social housing issues

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Housing and Social Mobility has put out calls for evidence to investigate the employment and earnings gap for those in social housing.
The inquiry, supported by Communities that Work and PlaceShapers, hopes to use the information gathered to tackle the nation’s employment gap through the housing sector.

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Parliament investigates failing Starter Homes programme

Launched in 2014, the Starter Homes programme has yet to deliver any new homes and no longer has an allocated budget.
In response to this, the Public Accounts Committee will investigate how the £2.3 billion budget pledged to support the scheme is now being spent.

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Demand returns to the housing market amid coronavirus uncertainty

New data from the housing market shows sales of new homes increasing for a third consecutive month, for the first time since 2014.
The RICS UK Residential Market Survey forecasted an improving sales outlook for this year, conditional upon the coronavirus not stalling the sector as the economy approaches the traditional spring selling season.

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2020 Budget allocates funds for removing unsafe building materials

The government has allocated £1 billion for the removal and replacement of unsafe cladding systems in social and private residential buildings.
Ministers hope the funding, which was announced in the Budget last week, will leave building owners with no excuse for not ensuring the safety of tower block residents.

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Treasury asks for feedback on spending priorities

The Treasury is asking for people’s views on investment in infrastructure, public services and carbon reduction policies.
Feedback and policy suggestions can be submitted to Whitehall until the deadline of 20 May.

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Modernised planning system will see greater community involvement, says Housing Secretary

Communities will have an even greater say in planning decisions, according to the proposals laid out by the Housing Secretary.
Robert Jenrick has announced that his spring Planning White Paper will speed up the process and make it easier for communities to have a role in decisions that affect them.

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Road Investment Strategy until 2025 published

The Department for Transport (DfT) has published its five-year strategy for the UK’s roads.
Building on the first Road Investment Strategy (2014-2020), DfT aims to enable people and goods to move around the country quickly and safely. The strategy includes road safety, health (including noise and air quality measures) and traffic flow.

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‘Uncertainties’ around autonomous vehicle rollout

There are “considerable uncertainties” about how fast and how far the rollout of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) will go in the UK, according to a group representing devolved authorities.
The Urban Transport Group says that while larger cities are embracing the potential benefits of CAVs, more government action is needed. The group has called for a greater focus on road use and the regulation of trials along with more funding.

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Smart motorways deemed safe, but reforms will be introduced

A review of smart motorways has concluded that that they are safe, but more work is needed to reduce serious injuries.
In a report published on 12 March, the Department for Transport found that while fatalities on motorways without a hard shoulder are lower than on those with one, serious injuries are more common. Suggested reforms include abolishing the “dynamic hard shoulder”, improving “stopped vehicle detection” technology and increasing traffic officer patrols.

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Energy and environment

Bioenergy map needed to reach net zero

The UK Energy Research Centre has published a blog highlighting the importance of bioenergy in achieving net zero by 2050.
It calls for agricultural reform and using bioenergy to improve existing environmental challenges such as flooding in the north of England.

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Oil and gas industries could be vital for CCS development

Oil and gas developers could play a central role in the development and deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS), according to the Energy Institute.
The professional body suggests these industries could use CCS to make their operations carbon neutral, and that the UK has a big opportunity to develop a CO2 storage industry.

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Other News

IFS says ‘normal’ part of budget is already out of date

The new chancellor’s first Budget was really two financial statements rolled into one, according to a leading economic research institute.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) splits the Budget into the “normal Budget” and the “emergency Budget” dealing with the impact of coronavirus. The IFS concludes that the former was immediately rendered out of date by the latter.

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Local Elections postponed for a year due to Coronavirus

Following a recommendation from the Electoral Commission, the Government has postponed all local elections for a year due to Coronavirus.
Local, mayoral and Police and Crime Commissioner elections that were due to take place in May this year will be postponed until May 2021. The Government has said it will also work with the devolved administrations to ensure that they have the necessary powers to take the same approach

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