Week commencing 10 August 2020

In today's bulletin

• Funding boost for neighbourhood planning
• New northern infrastructure pipeline could create 20,000 jobs

• Greater ambition possible for UK environment goals
• Ofcom launches consultation on data sharing

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Funding boost for neighbourhood planning

Government grants will be doubled to £18,000 for individual neighbourhood planning groups that are in urban (non-parished) areas or in the 20 per cent most deprived areas of England. The Government has also said it will provide these groups with free technical expertise for developing masterplans and assessing an area’s housing needs.
The announcement on 10 August by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, follows criticism that the previous week’s Planning for the Future White Paper will deprive local communities of a say in the planning process.

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Introduce Property Bounceback Grants to prevent rental crisis

Industry groups representing businesses and landlords have called for the Government to introduce a Property Bounceback Grant to help prevent a crisis in commercial property rental.
The British Property Federation, British Retail Consortium, Revo, ukactive and UKHospitality have called for government grants covering 50 per cent of unpaid rents for six months, arguing that the £1.75 billion cost would eventually return £7 billion to the Treasury through tax revenue.

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Supporting older people will help the young

One in four over-65s in the UK want to downsize but don’t because of a lack of suitable retirement properties, as well as the stress and cost of moving, says Homes for Later Living.
In a new report published on 13 August, the retirement housing consortium suggests two in three retirement property sales release a home for first-time buyers. The group is pushing for Government support to build 30,000 specialist retirement properties and make the Stamp Duty cut permanent for those downsizing into retirement housing.

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First-time buyers to remain locked out of the housing market

A drop in house prices will not provide aspiring homeowners with the foot on the property ladder one may expect, according to the Resolution Foundation’s Housing Outlook, published on 13 August.
In the report, the think tank argues that a failure to reduce the deposit burden will continue to leave young buyers excluded from home ownership with the Government’s recent cut to Stamp Duty actually having a negative effect on their ownership chances.

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Housing on the up, though fears of a slump remain

The housing market continued its rebound in July thanks partially to an uplift provided by the Stamp Duty holiday, the latest Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors UK Residential Survey suggests.
Published on 13 August, the findings show 75 per cent of respondents saw increased demand in July, although 12-month sales projections remain negative as a slump in sales is anticipated.

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Construction yet to fully recover from Covid-19

Despite record growth of 23.5 per cent in June, construction in Britain at the end of the month was 24.8 per cent below the levels reported in February 2020 before the full force of Covid-19 had hit Britain.
Published on 12 August, the Office for National Statistics’ bulletin on construction output identified record falls in the overwhelming majority of new work sectors through quarter two, with private new housing falling by 51.2 per cent.

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New northern infrastructure pipeline could create 20,000 jobs

A proposed £5 billion 30-year investment plan of infrastructure projects has been set out by Transport for the North (TfN), with the objective of creating a greener and more prosperous regional economy.
The pipeline is part of TfN’s proposed Economic Recovery Plan, and includes plans to rebuild the North’s rail network with pilot schemes for green, hydrogen-powered and electric trains. The first section of the report focuses on projects that could be brought forward and delivered within 6-18 months.

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Tax polluting transport companies to level the playing field

The Government must introduce greater incentives for individuals and businesses to shift to less polluting modes of transport for travel and freight, in order to achieve the country’s net-zero objectives.
On 12 August, rail industry body the Rail Delivery Group submitted proposals for an overhaul of transport tax policy to greater penalise modes of transport that heavily damage the environment – including a recommendation to lower the tax on electricity costs for train operators.

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Let councils control the future of local rail

Stronger local authorities bring better local railway stations and networks, which in turn boost local economies and communities.
This is the argument of Action Stations, a report published on 12 August by the Urban Transport Group, which calls for greater devolution of rail powers on the grounds that this is the most efficient way to help stations realise their potential benefits.

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Energy and Environment

Greater ambition possible for UK environment goals

A sharp fall in the cost of renewable energy can enable Britain to make significant progress towards its net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target, new research from the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has shown.
Published on 11 August, Renewables, Recovery and Reaching Net Zero has helped NIC to update its recommended target for deployment of renewables from 50 per cent to 65 per cent by 2030.

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Government launches pilot studies for nature recovery scheme

Five local authorities in England have been selected as the beneficiaries of a shared £1 million that will be used to set up Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) in each area.
Cornwall, Buckinghamshire, Greater Manchester, Northumberland and Cumbria were announced on 14 August as the places for the pilot studies, funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and run in collaboration with Natural England.

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Other News

Ofcom launches consultation on data sharing

The UK’s communications regulator is asking for input from the retail telecoms and pay TV markets on its Open Communications initiative, which would allow people and small businesses to give permission to their communications provider to share data about them with third parties.
The consultation, which runs until 10 November, looks to understand the potential uses, benefits and costs of open communications, with the Office of Communications (Ofcom) planning on publishing a paper on the subject in the first half of 2021.

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Remove barriers to mobile infrastructure

The Government is being called on to make it easier to build out mobile infrastructure, including by updating the permitted development system for telecoms equipment.
Research by the British Chambers of Commerce and Mobile UK shows that 59 per cent of firms believe good quality mobile coverage will enable them to restart and recover after the Covid-19 pandemic.

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