Week commencing 16 March 2020

In today's bulletin

• New legislation to protect renters and landlords
• Fire Safety Bill introduced to the House of Commons

• Consultation on tech solutions for greener, faster travel
• Inquiry into e-waste management re-launched

Property, Planning and Regeneration

New legislation to protect renters and landlords

The Government has announced emergency legislation to suspend new evictions from social or private rented accommodation during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. Other measures being introduced to protect renters and landlords include, no new possession proceedings and the extension of the three-month mortgage payment holiday to Buy to Let mortgages.
The Government is also due to issue guidance asking landlords to show compassion and to allow tenants affected by the crisis to remain in their homes wherever possible.

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Fire Safety Bill introduced to the House of Commons

The proposed Fire Safety Bill was introduced to parliament on 19 March by the Minister for Security, the Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP. Brought forward in response to the Grenfell Tower disaster, the bill is intended to provide the foundation for secondary legislation that will take forward the recommendations of the Grenfell Inquiry.
It will aim to codify that building owners and managers of high-rise and multiple occupancy buildings should now bear responsibility for the management of building inspection, reviews of building safety, and cladding monitoring and replacement. A date for the second reading of the Bill has not been announced.

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New-build homes to be gigabit-speed ready

Developers will soon be legally obligated to install high-quality digital infrastructure in new-build homes.  The announcement was made by the Rt Hon Oliver Dowden MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who said systems must be able to support gigabit broadband and should be planned before building.
Specific plans include the requirement for an agreement with an internet provider to be in place before a brick is laid, which the Government says it hopes will allow systems to be installed at no cost to developers in most cases.  Virgin Media and Openreach have both committed to subsidising the infrastructure and the legislation will be brought forward as soon as time allows.

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‘Deep disappointment’ with the latest London Plan

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has been directed by Government to make significant changes to the emerging London Plan that properly address the higher and broader housing needs of the capital.
In a lengthy and strongly critical letter, Housing Secretary, the Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, attacked the Mayor’s housing delivery record and worsening affordability, and described the new target to deliver 52,000 homes as inadequate based on the Mayor’s own prior estimates of housing need. The direction requires regular meetings between Whitehall and City Hall, alongside quarterly reports on delivery and planning.

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More home ownership and a Green Belt levy

Ten of the 2019 intake of Conservative MPs have called for increased fiscal measures to prioritise development of brownfield sites and to drive upwards homeownership and social renting.
Their proposals were included in “Valuing Housing, Improving Lives”, a series of essays published on 16 March and organised in partnership with Localis, an independent thinktank that promotes neo-localist ideas, and the Housing and Finance Institute, an industry group that aims to boost the capacity and delivery of housing. Natalie Elphicke OBE MP, one of the authors and a specialist in housing finance policy, provided the introduction to the collection.

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Consultation on tech solutions for greener, faster travel

A consultation was launched on 16 March calling for ideas on how changes to everyday travel can help make transport more sustainable and efficient. Contributors are being asked to help make sustainable travel an easier and more appealing proposition for everyday journeys, backed up by potential changes to transport law to allow new technology to be tested.
£90 million funding has been set out to trial projects such as medical supply drones and the impact of e-scooters, as well as e-cargo bikes and self-driving cars. The consultation is set to run until 22 May.

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Smart motorway rollout paused

So-called ‘dynamic’ hard shoulders, where the hard shoulder sometimes runs as a live lane, are to be abolished in order to improve public safety and reduce public confusion. This is one of the results of a ‘stocktake’ report on smart motorways commissioned by the Transport Secretary, the Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP a year ago due to concerns over a number of fatal accidents.  
On 12 March, the Department for Transport published the evidence stocktake and action plan. The report concluded that, while smart motorways can be safer than conventional ones, more work is needed to ensure they are as safe as possible.

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TfL announces reduced service

On 18 March, Transport for London (TfL) announced a significant reduction in services and advised everyone but key workers to avoid public transport.
The announcement was a direct response to the Covid-19 outbreak and came just two days after TfL’s chief finance officer, Simon Kilonback, called for £500 million of support from the Government to tackle an unexpected decline in passenger income. The loss to projected revenues is now expected to be even greater.

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Energy and Environment

Inquiry into e-waste management re-launched

The Environmental Audit Committee has re-launched its inquiry into electronic waste and the circular economy.  The inquiry, seeks to understand how the UK can transition to a ‘circular economy’ for electronic goods and the level of risk to environmental and human health posed by e-waste.
It questions whether the UK Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) collection targets are achievable, how the UK government can prevent the illegal export of e-waste to the developing world, and if the UK public awareness of e-waste recycling is sufficient.  The inquiry was re-launched on 13 March and the consultation is set to run until 30 April.

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Environment Agency looks downstream on water resourcing

The Environment Agency has outlined its plans for considerable restructuring of water resourcing in the UK.  Working in tandem with key stakeholders, including industry operators, regulators and the government, the agency has sought to pre-empt the impacts of climate change to water supply in future.  
The main principles outlined in the report look to reduce demand and improve efficiency across the system, while tailored strategies are also included for all 17 of the UK’s water authorities and regions that aim to provide a blueprint for operation until 2050. 

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European wind industry calls for government flexibility

Wind Europe has called for governments not to invoke financial penalties on wind farm developers for missing deployment deadlines, as the first logistical delays resulting from Covid-19 are felt in the sector. 
The association, which has 600 member organisations related to the wind industry, has added that ongoing auctions for projects are likely to be undersubscribed and recommends that some be awarded at a later date.  This is despite the body advising that Covid-19 will only have moderate effects on supply chains for wind energy.

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Other News

Warning of substantially lower growth for 2020 and 2021

A comparison of independent forecasts for the UK economy was published by HM Treasury on 18 March and paints a generally subdued picture of growth for the UK economy.  The average of new forecasts for GDP growth in 2020 is 0.6 per cent, and 1.3 per cent for 2021, while the growth outlook is less optimistic in the immediate short term.
The highest estimate for GDP growth for the second quarter (Q2) is 0.7 per cent, by Beacon Economic Forecasting, and the lowest is -2.5 per cent, offered by Capital Economics.  Both forecasts were offered in March 2020.

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