Week commencing 17 August 2020

In today's bulletin

• Environment Bill to include legally binding targets
• Highways England announces major investment programme

• LGA leads the way with guidance on tackling climate change
• Covid-19 a double-whammy for council finances

Property, Planning and Regeneration

New land value estimate guidelines published

The Government published its new land valuation guidance on 18 August, replacing the Valuation Office Agency’s Property Market Reports.
the new guidance is for developers to use alongside the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Appraisal Guide.

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Inquiry into the future of suburbs calls for evidence

All-party parliamentary group (APPG), The Suburban Taskforce is calling for evidence to inform policies on creating successful and sustainable suburbs.
With a particular focus on the outer boroughs of London, the consultation centres around the suburban experience as well as how to effectively adapt policy frameworks. It is open until 2 October.

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Deadline looms for Building Safety Bill inquiry

Interested parties only have until 14 September to submit evidence for the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee’s inquiry into the Government’s Building Safety Bill.
The Bill, designed to make building management more transparent and introduce a Building Safety Regulator, will undergo further scrutiny by the Committee and industry experts before being written into law.

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UK house prices rose 2.6 per cent in lead-up to lockdown

Average house prices rose by 2.6 per cent in the year up to April 2020, the Office for National Statistics’ UK House Price Index has shown.
In its first publication since being suspended in May 2020, the index of completed housing transactions reflects a buoyant market before the impact of Covid-19 and lockdown.

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Private rental prices increase throughout Britain

Private rental prices increased by 1.4 per cent in the year prior to July 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics’ Index of Private Housing Rental Prices.
Published on 19 August, the index also reveals the number of prospective tenants reached a record high in June 2020.

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Transport

Highways England announces major investment programme

On 21 August, Highways England announced a £27.4 billion investment plan to deliver network-wide surface and infrastructure improvements for the UK’s roads.
The funding will help deliver three major upgrade projects, improving capacity between southern channel ports, connectivity between northern ports and road links between the south east and south west.

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New transport unit to accelerate delivery of road and rail

A new Acceleration Unit aimed at speeding up the delivery of transport infrastructure has been announced by the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps.
The dedicated team of specialists will tackle project delivery delays and will be led by Campaign for Better Transport Chief Executive, Darren Shirley. Announced on 21 August, it aims to be up and running within a month.

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Call for fairer fares on trains

Transport Focus has called for greater flexibility in season tickets to reduce commuting costs and to reflect the shift in the balance between home and office working because of Covid-19.
In its 18 August report, the independent transport watchdog suggests commuter uncertainty could be addressed with ‘carnets’ – a set of single tickets sold at a cost-effective price for increased flexibility.

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Energy and Environment

Covid-19 a key focus of latest nuclear clean-up strategy

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has launched a public consultation on its Cleaning up the UK’s nuclear sites, caring for people and the environment strategy.
Published on 17 August, the report outlines the NDA’s strategy for safely decommissioning UK nuclear sites – a five-yearly requirement under the 2004 Energy Act. Covid-19’s impact is a central focus of the NDA’s fourth draft strategy and the 12-week consultation.

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Environment Bill to include legally binding targets

Legally binding environmental targets are being introduced in the upcoming Environment Bill to support a green recovery, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced on 19 August.
Targets will be introduced for air quality, water, waste and biodiversity, with the New Office for Environmental Protection reporting on progress annually. Public consultation on the Bill is expected in early 2022.

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LGA leads the way with guidance on tackling climate change

The Local Government Association has published guidance aimed at helping local councils tackle climate change.
Working with the Centre for Policy Scrutiny, the guidance published on 21 August sets out ten questions designed to invite wider scrutiny that will help authorities identify local needs around tackling climate change. A series of webinars in support of the guide are set to follow.

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Other News

Covid-19 a double-whammy for council finances

Councils’ finances have suffered a double-hit from Covid-19, with increased spending alongside a reduction in tax revenue, according to analysis carried out by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).
Published on 19 August, the IFS analysis forecasts suggest expected losses for 2020-2021 look set to outweigh the financial support provided to councils by central government.

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