Week commencing 25 May 2020

In today's bulletin

• Call to register for £1 billion cladding fund
• Rail freight falls to 23-year low

• Boost retrofit to stimulate green recovery
• Pressure on retail industry set to continue

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Call to register for £1 billion cladding fund

Building owners who want a portion of the one billion pound fund available to remove and replace unsafe non-ACM cladding have been asked to register by The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. The call went out on 26 May, in advance of the full application process opening at the end of July.
To be eligible for the fund, high-rise buildings must be 18 metres or over and remediation work must have begun after 11 March. The UK Cladding Action Group has criticised the fund as inadequate, as it may only cover a third of non-ACM remediation.

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Covid-19 compulsory purchase guidance updated

Acquiring authorities looking to buy land through compulsory purchase must provide details in their notices about how people can request a hard copy of the relevant order and map. On May 27, the Covid-19 compulsory purchase guidance was updated by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government with the new requirements to stop any potential prejudice against those who do not have easy access to the internet.
The advice is temporary and confirms acquiring authorities should once again allow for inspections in person when social distancing measures permit local offices to open.

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Our right to a well-designed home

A consortium of housing sector organisations has called on the Government to address England’s dearth of high-quality urban design. The consortium – Design Council, Academy of Urbanism, Civic Voice, CPRE, Place Alliance, Trees and Design Action Group and Urban Design Group – published its Delivering Urban Quality, Time To Get Serious report on 27 May, in which it argued that the Government needs to deliver on the propositions of the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission’s report: Living with Beauty.
Among other suggestions, the consortium proposes a cross-sector design quality unit dedicated to ensuring the urban built environment is well-designed and that everyone has the right to a living space that promotes our well-being.

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Office market shows resilience amid coronavirus uncertainty

The UK office market has seen transactions progress despite lockdown restrictions, most notably in Birmingham, Manchester and the South East (excluding central London). According to data from Savills released on 26 May, as many as 52 separate deals have been completed since the start of the lockdown period.
However, the property agency tempered this positive message with the warning that the true impact of the Covid-19 crisis won’t be fully felt until later in the year – highlighting that new demand over the past two months has been significantly reduced.

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Construction set for sharpest decline on record

The Covid-19 lockdown caused a 60 per cent loss of construction output in April and will lead to the sharpest annual decline on record, according to the Construction Products Association (CPA). In its industry scenarios for spring 2020, published on 26 May, even the most optimistic projected outcome was a 25 per cent drop in output this year.
The scale of the loss in April depends on the sector, with private house building suffering the greatest loss of 85 per cent compared with a 60 per cent loss for non-residential new build.

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Rail freight falls to 23-year low

The amount of freight transferred on Britain’s railways in the year to 31 March fell to its lowest total in 23 years, according to the latest statistical release from the Office of Road and Rail (ORR).
Published on 28 May, the Freight Rail Usage and Performance report revealed the total volume of freight moved fell by five per cent, while total rail freight movements also fell by five per cent – a decrease of 50 per cent compared with 2003-4. The ORR expects to see a more dramatic decrease in the next set of figures given Covid-19 restrictions and their impact on the economy.

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London transport faces funding crisis

London’s transport infrastructure is facing a shortfall of between £32bn and £50bn over the next 20 years, meaning the capital will have to look at alternative funding routes to deliver on its ever-increasing transport needs, according to a new report.
Published on 28 May, Squaring the Circle: funding London’s transport pipeline and levelling up documents the suggestions of the London First Infrastructure Funding and Financing Working Group, which include ideas to levy contributions from all beneficiaries of improved transport schemes, from developers to commuters and residential property owners.

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Energy and Environment

Boost retrofit to stimulate green recovery

The UK needs a programme of stimulus focused on the net-zero building and retrofit sectors if it is to both combat the climate emergency and help the economy to recover after the coronavirus pandemic. This is the conclusion of a report published on 26 May by the Green Finance Institute, who argue retrofit offers an unparalleled opportunity to both invest in a qualified workforce and deliver a national building stock that is in line with our climate objectives.
The report explains the stimulus could take the form of awareness programmes, fiscal incentives, or more direct investment in the supply chain.

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Climate crisis needs more ambitious approach and fairer outcomes

We must respond to the climate crisis with faster action and further-reaching economic change that prioritises a fairer society, according to a report from the Institute for Public Policy Research’s Environmental Justice Commission.
Published on 27 May, the thinktank’s interim report recognises that addressing the climate emergency goes hand in hand with addressing social and economic inequalities. The final report is expected to be published early next year.

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Other News

Pressure on retail industry set to continue

The retail sector has been severely affected by the coronavirus crisis in May, though the pace of decline has marginally slowed compared with April – when retailers reported the joint-fastest drop since the start of the survey in 1983. May saw a retail sales volume balance of -50 per cent, better than the -55 per cent in April.
The Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) latest Distributive Trade Survey, published 26 May, suggests that supply disruptions have worsened and financial pressures on the industry remain tight. While the decline in retail sales volume has slowed in May, sales remain deeply depressed and conditions remain challenging.

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