Week commencing 13 April 2020

In today's bulletin

• Building safety improvements will continue
• HS2 construction work resumes

• £10m available in new Woodland Carbon auction
• Vote on hybrid Parliament

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Building safety improvements will continue

Making buildings safe remains a priority and will continue during the Covid-19 crisis, according to a government statement released on 16 April in co-operation with the Mayor of London and other regional mayors. A mass halt in construction activity across the country has seen building sites close down and the sector almost grind to a halt.
Despite this, political leaders across the country and political spectrum pledged to ensure that the remediation of high-rise buildings with unsafe cladding will continue and that measures will be put in place to protect workers’ safety and wellbeing.

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Homes England ‘open for business’

Homes England is “open for business and investing in a long-term pipeline of development opportunities to support market recovery”, the interim chair suggested on 14 April. Simon Dudley made the statement in a press release that revealed the government’s housing agency spent £180 million acquiring 19 sites in the last financial year.
The agency claims the sites could deliver up to 5,000 homes on ‘challenging or stalled sites’ and help to keep the industry moving despite short-term impacts of coronavirus.

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Northern homes not fit for purpose

The private rented sector (PRS) in the North represents a “structural market failure” and needs urgent intervention, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Housing in the region has concluded. An inquiry by the APPG found PRS properties are often older and colder, with many falling below energy efficiency requirements, and that area renewal must be considered in places where poor quality is entrenched.
A consultation on the APPG’s findings opens on 8 April and interested parties are being invited to help develop priorities and recommendations to address current issues.

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Government must do more to help prevent planning delays

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has demanded that the Government provides guidance on a range of challenges to the planning process brought about by Covid-19. The organisation claims greater clarity is needed on planning permission durations, alternative arrangements for site visits and site notices, communication with stakeholders, and transparent decision-making.
This follows a survey of the RTPI’s members, of whom 70 per cent said that delays to the system were their main concern. The RTPI believes clearer guidance will lessen or even prevent knock-on effects to the rest of the economy.

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13 per cent fall in UK house prices expected

UK house prices are set to fall 13 per cent by the end of 2020 because of a significant decrease in demand caused by the Covid-19 emergency. The forecast from independent analysts the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) is based on wider labour market and income projections for the remainder of 2020.
CEBR predicts Yorkshire and Northern Irish house prices will be worst affected as those economies are most dependent on sectors requiring high contact rates between people and therefore heavily affected by social distancing restrictions.

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HS2 construction work resumes

HS2 Ltd has given the go-ahead for its contractors to re-start work on the controversial project following a pause to reassess costs and the overall value of the project. The formal ‘notice to proceed’ was issued on 15 April to the projects’ four main contractors and should see them mobilise quickly to get the project back on track following lengthy delays.
The Government sanctioned the notice after accepting the recommendation of the independent Oakervee review that the project should go ahead. Alongside this notice, the Department for Transport also published the full business case for phase one of HS2, setting out the strategic and economic case for the project, concluding that the most likely outcome for phase one is medium value for money.

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Energy and Environment

£10m available in new Woodland Carbon auction

The second round of auctions for the Forestry Commission’s Woodland Carbon Guarantee scheme will take place from 8 to 19 June and provide £10 million to support woodland planting across the country. Announced on 14 April, the second auction will take place online and interested parties are encouraged to register via the scheme’s dedicated web page.
The Woodland Carbon Guarantee is part of the Government’s strategy to see 30,000 hectares of the UK planted with trees by 2025 as a mechanism for reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

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Covid-19 forces change to climate action plan

The independent committee responsible for advising the Government on building a low-carbon economy and preparing for climate change has amended its work programme for 2020 to respond to the global Covid-19 pandemic.
In a statement on 14 April, the Committee on Climate Change confirmed it would delay its advice on the Sixth Carbon Budget (2033-2037) from September to December 2020, and will focus in the short-term on ensuring the transition to net-zero is not derailed by emergency measures to address the current crisis.

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UK hides almost half its emissions

46 per cent of the UK’s carbon footprint in 2016 came from emissions released overseas to satisfy UK consumption, a new study commissioned by the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) and authored by the University of Leeds’ Sustainability Research Institute has found.
Published on 16 April, the report claims this is significantly up from 14 per cent in 1990 and argues that it must be addressed if the UK is to achieve its stated aims to achieve net-zero. The report also emphasises the stark contrast with the 41 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions declared by the UK government, which relate to emissions within its borders only.

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Other News

Vote on hybrid Parliament

MPs will vote tomorrow (21 April) on plans for a ‘hybrid chamber’ after they were backed initially by the House of Commons Commission. If approved, the new arrangements would see up to 120 MPs attending virtually using the latest video conferencing technology and 50 or fewer being there in person.
The House of Commons Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP, said the steps towards an entirely virtual Parliament would enable members to remain close to their communities while continuing to play a vital role in scrutinising Government decisions.

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