Week commencing 8 February 2016

In today's bulletin

• Lord Heseltine launches estate regeneration panel
• Government launches review into rural housebuilding

• ‘Half-hearted’ privatisation of the railways costing billions
• Government commissions review into tidal lagoon energy

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Lord Heseltine launches estate regeneration panel

An estate regeneration panel was launched on 9 February to help create vibrate communities and deliver more homes across some of the country’s most deprived housing estates. Co-chaired by the Rt Hon Lord Heseltine and Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Brandon Lewis MP, the group
will develop a national regeneration strategy for up to 100 estates. The 17-strong panel will examine the layout of estates and how to best use existing spaces to deliver more quality housing, whilst ensuring the rights of existing residents are protected.

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Government launches review into rural housebuilding

The Government launched its Rural Planning Review on 11 February – giving housebuilders the opportunity to give feedback on the rural planning system. The review, which looks to reduce planning restrictions to encourage
housebuilding in rural areas, is a joint initiative from the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

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Committee report expresses concerns over Right to Buy

The Communities and Local Government Committee has expressed concern over funding of the Government’s Right to Buy scheme. The Committee’s second Housing Associations and the Right to Buy Report, published on
10 February, states that the policy should be funded by central government rather than through local authorities and calls on the Government to set out fully costed evidence for the scheme.

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Buy-to-let landlords driving house prices

A sharp increase in buy-to-let investors in the housing market is pushing up prices ahead of the stamp duty hike (in April), according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Published on 11 February, the latest RICS Residential Market Survey suggests that, despite a higher level of supply,
the influx of these investors is intensifying pressure on house prices. The survey also forecast continued growth in the rental market and upward pressure on prices.

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‘Half-hearted’ privatisation of the railways costing billions

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) has argued that ‘half-hearted’ privatisation of the UK’s railways has caused inefficiency and delays, at a hefty cost to the taxpayer. In its report, Without Delay: Getting Britain’s Railways Moving, published on 10 February, the IEA claims that the cost of state
support for Britain’s rail network was almost £5 billion in 2014/15 and the current system has not delivered any improvements in fare levels or service since the days of British Rail.

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DfT lacks coherent vision for rail network

Improvements to the way that the Department for Transport (DfT) manages the rail network are desperately needed, according to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee. The Committee’s report into rail franchising reform, released on 12 February, argues that the DfT has
improved its capability to let franchises, but needs to manage them more effectively to deliver a better service to passengers. The report concludes by arguing that the DfT risks value for money with its market-led approach and lacks broader vision.

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Better service promised under new Buses Bill

Local councils could be given greater control over Britain’s bus services under the new Buses Bill, which is set to go before Parliament with year. As part of the proposed changes, councils will be given the freedom to franchise services and develop partnerships with operators, giving authorities
the power to set standards for local services and introduce new ticketing rules. Speaking at the UK Bus Summit, Andrew Jones MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport said that “good bus services can help communities thrive and grow”.

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Energy and environment

Government commissions review into tidal lagoon energy

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has commissioned an independent review of tidal lagoon technology, to explore how it could cost-effectively contribute to the UK’s energy needs. Announced on
10 February, the review is expected to involve a number of industry stakeholders, including Tidal Lagoon Power (the proposed developer of the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon).

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Commons Committee attacks cancellation of CCS funding

The Energy and Climate Change Committee has criticised the Government’s decision to cancel its £1 billion funding for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) infrastructure. In a report published on 10 February, the Committee argued that the decision would harm the technology’s development and could
make it harder for the UK to meet its commitments made at the COP21 climate change summit in Paris. The Committee concluded that a new CCS strategy should be developed alongside a new gas strategy, which could help to facilitate CCS infrastructure.

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Other News

CBI downgrades forecast for UK economic growth

On 10 February, the Confederation of Business Industry (CBI) forecast GDP growth of 2.3 per cent in 2016 – down from its previous forecast of 2.6 per cent. Weak productivity, wage growth and downward revisions to historical
data drove the downgrade, the CBI said. Despite the downbeat assessment, the CBI stated that the UK is still likely to remain among the fastest growing advanced economies.

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