Week commencing 28 September 2020

In today's bulletin

• UK signs global biodiversity pledge
• Hydrogen fuel driving rail transition to net-zero

• Consultation on fund for decarbonising heat networks launched
• Call for evidence for inquiry into MP Code of Conduct

Property, Planning and Regeneration

UK signs global biodiversity pledge

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has committed to protecting a further 400,000 hectares of land in England after signing the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature at a virtual United Nations (UN) event on 28 September.
26 per cent of land in England already has some form of protection, including National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the new commitment will add an extra 4 per cent to this figure, following a warning from the UN about the lack of global action to prevent the decline of the natural world.

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New space standards for permitted development homes

Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick has revealed that all new homes in England delivered through Permitted Development Rights will have to meet a Nationally Described Space Standard.
Announced on 30 September, the new requirement builds on changes introduced last summer aimed at ensuring sufficient levels of natural light, with permitted development homes now having to provide at least 37 square metres of floorspace for a single occupier.

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Don’t let uncertainty delay local development, Chief Planner urges

The new Chief Planner, Joanna Averley has called on local authorities to continue preparing and adopting local plans in a newsletter published on 1 October, her first since being appointed this summer.
It comes after the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government received anecdotal feedback that some local authorities may be considering slowing down or pausing preparation of local plans because of uncertainty about when the changes outlined in the Planning White Paper will come into force.

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Do we have enough space for local manufacturing?

The post-Covid-19 shift from a ‘just in time’ supply model to a ‘just in case’ local model is predicted to increase UK manufacturing demand by 20 per cent, with knock-on implications for warehouse requirements.
Real estate experts, Savills shared analysis on 30 September predicting additional requirements for warehouse space will hit 18.5 million sq ft as businesses move to operating in close geographical proximity to their markets. This comes with a warning that a shortage of available space will place upward pressure on rents.

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House prices grow at highest rate since 2016

Pent up demand and stamp duty cuts ensured a strong recovery for the housing market over the past few months, with annual price growth of 5 per cent in the twelve months to September the highest rate in four years.
Published on 1 October, the latest Nationwide House Price Index also found that 10 per cent of those surveyed were in the process of moving as a result of the pandemic, while a further 18 per cent were considering a move for the same reason. This trend was particularly strong in London.

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UK housing market expected to normalise in Q4 2021

House prices are predicted to return to a normal growth pattern by the end of 2021 and into 2022, despite Covid-19 and Brexit distorting growth in the housing market in the coming months.
The forecasts, released on 29 September by Hamptons International, blame the current state of uncertainty on the UK’s deepest recession on record, assume a Brexit trade deal will be reached and that a Covid-19 vaccine will be found at the beginning of 2021.

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Hydrogen fuel driving rail transition to net-zero

UK rail travel is making progress in lowering carbon emissions with trials of hydrogen-powered trains – a clean alternative to diesel combining hydrogen and oxygen – starting on 30 September.
Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps has confirmed that Tees Valley will become the UK’s hydrogen rail hub and also announced that £23 million will be invested in a Hydrogen for Transport Programme, including building new refuelling infrastructure in Glasgow.

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Bus services need locally led and sustainable solutions

The future of bus travel outside London needs a ‘whole government commitment’ to drive a ‘clear, consistent vision’ for the sustainable transport mode. The call comes in a report from the Department for Transport and National Audit Office following a review of current government support for local transport and the value for money this provides.
Published on 2 October, Improving local bus services in England outside London highlights a 10 per cent decline in bus use from 2010-2019 and suggests some local authorities aren’t able to access funding to support local services.

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Energy and Environment

Consultation on fund for decarbonising heat networks launched

A consultation to support the development of a Green Heat Network Fund has been launched by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Closing on 13 October, the department is looking to encourage new and existing heat networks to adopt low carbon technologies and is seeking evidence on the current state of the market, drivers for decarbonisation and examples of best practice.

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Two more authorities sign up to newt-protection scheme

Norfolk and Suffolk have become the latest areas to announce a district level licensing scheme for great crested newt (GCN) conservation, with developers building near habitats able to make a one-off payment to join.
The counties registered on 1 October for the scheme, which was first outlined in February 2019 by the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs. 77 other areas are already registered for the programme, which promotes a network of ponds for the threatened GCN population.

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New benchmarks aim to limit gas flaring and venting offshore

The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has introduced benchmarking to limit the production of greenhouse gases via flaring and venting from offshore oil platforms in the North Sea. Flaring alone currently makes up a quarter of UK offshore oil and gas production related CO2 emissions.
Despite reductions in the past few years, new benchmarks are intended to advance cleaner production practices and drive improved performance across the industry.

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Other News

Call for evidence for inquiry into MP Code of Conduct

With the recent controversy around housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, and developer, Richard Desmond, the conduct of MPs is firmly back in the limelight.
An inquiry into the operation of the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament has been launched by the Committee on Standards, while the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards will also carry out an independent review of the Code. The Committee has made a call for written evidence which closes on 22 October 2020.

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