Week commencing 30 March 2020

In today's bulletin

• New COVID-19 powers allow remote council meetings
• Wave of building safety reforms

• £400 million to keep buses rolling
• COP26 postponed to 2021

Property, Planning and Regeneration

New COVID-19 powers allow remote council meetings

Planning committees can continue to make important decisions on applications during current social distancing restrictions, under new legislation that came in to force on 4 April.
New laws remove the requirement for in-person meetings and allow councils to meet remotely, while ensuring that decision-making remains transparent and accessible for the public.

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Wave of building safety reforms

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government has set out a series of key building safety reforms in a response to the ‘Building a Safer Future’ consultation.
Published on 2 April and presented by the Secretary of State, the Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, the report outlines the introduction of a new regulator to oversee a more stringent set of rules and sets out parameters for accountability, compliance and resident engagement.

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Construction industry congratulated on response to virus

The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has formally commended the construction industry for its support in the national effort to fight COVID-19.
In a letter published on 31 March, the Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP acknowledges that construction workers cannot work from home, and highlights the importance of the Site Operating Procedures (SOP) guidance to ensure safe working environments.

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Half of local authorities will not build enough homes this year

Half of local authorities in England are likely to face penalties for failing for build enough new homes this year, new data from the National Audit Office predicts.
Published on 30 March, the Departmental Overview of local authorities also reveals that only 44.1 per cent of local authorities have an up-to-date local plan in place, though the coronavirus outbreak means penalties may not be imposed.

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50,000 affordable homes target challenging to meet

Just half of the affordable homes set to be built as part of the Affordable Housing Supply Programme have been completed, according to a new report published on 30 March.
With the scheme now in its final two years, the Chartered Institute of Housing casts doubt over whether the target of delivering 50,000 affordable homes by March 2021 will be met and calls on government to reaffirm its commitment to the sector.

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Transport

£400 million to keep buses rolling

A total of £400 million will be given to bus services in the UK to keep the country’s public transport network moving during the current crisis.
Announced on 3 April by the Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, the new funding will be paid under the new COVID-19 Bus Services Support Grant and adds to the existing £200 million Bus Services Operators Grant.

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New study highlights trees best placed to fight air pollution

A group of academics has published a new study identifying 12 influential traits for trees that make them particularly effective in fighting air pollution along main roads.
The report by the University of Surrey’s Global Centre for Clean Air Research (GCARE) finds that beneficial properties include a small leaf size, high foliage density and long in-leaf periods.

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Energy and Environment

COP26 postponed to 2021

The United Nations 2020 climate change conference has been called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The cancellation includes the accompanying Youth for Climate conference and the Pre-COP two-day forum in which public institutions discuss key topics. Organisers will reschedule for 2021 and a date will be announced in due course.

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‘Whole systems’ energy strategy to help deliver Net Zero targets

The Energy Networks Association has come up with a new set of policies to integrate Britain’s gas and electricity grid infrastructure.
The industry group’s updated strategies are focused on reducing carbon emissions in line with the Government’s 2050 net-zero target, reducing costs and improving consumer service delivery.

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Other News

Pandemic causes UK manufacturing output to fall fast

UK manufacturing output in March fell at its quickest rate since July 2012, according to the latest IHS Markit UK Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index.
Published on 1 April, the figures reveal a substantial contraction was caused by Government restrictions introduced in response to Covid-19.

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