Week commencing 19 October 2020

In today's bulletin

• Pent-up demand drives August house price growth
• Social cost of London’s air pollution ranked worst in Europe

• Reform Green Book to maximise outcomes from infrastructure investment
• PM using SPADs to disempower Cabinet and Civil Service

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Pent-up demand drives August house price growth

House prices increased by 2.5 per cent in the 12 months leading to August 2020, rising from 2.1 per cent growth in the year to July 2020, figures published on 21 October by the Office for National Statistics reveal.
A build-up of demand during lockdown likely drove the increase recorded in the UK House Price Index: August 2020, with the Stamp Duty changes expected to have an impact on September’s index.

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1.3m homes on brownfield enough to meet housing targets

There is enough brownfield land across England to meet the government’s ambitions for 300,000 new homes per year, according to the Campaign to Protect Rural England. CPRE’s annual appraisal of England’s brownfield land, released on 21 October, shows space for 1.3 million new homes, over 500,000 of which the group claims already have planning permission.
CPRE’s chief executive Crispin Truman has blamed the slow building rates of developers for blocking the flow of housing, especially in rural communities – rather than the current planning regulations.

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Collaboration the key to economic and housing growth

Local councils, health bodies and businesses should work together to reinvigorate strategic planning and play an important role in the UK’s short and long-term recovery from the effects of Covid-19.
Planning reforms and the role of strategic planning, commissioned by the County Council’s Network and published on 21 October, recommends the creation of strategic planning advisory bodies across the country to perform the role of ‘ringmaster’ and bring forward long-term visions if the current Duty to Cooperate falls away as part of reforms to the planning system.

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Make purpose-built housing for elderly a priority

The government should establish a Housing for Older People Taskforce to address a serious lack of purpose-built housing for vulnerable older people, recommends a new report authored by the British Property Federation (BPF) and real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield.
Published on 21 October, Housing and care for older people: Defining the sector claims there are currently only 74,000 housing-with-care units in the UK, which is considerably short of the international benchmark.

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Construction recovery promising but not out of the woods

The construction sector’s output in 2021 will likely see a 13.5 per cent rise after its sharpest fall on record this year, the Construction Products Association (CPA) forecast on 19 October.
The CPA’s autumn scenarios consider the strong pipeline of projects and government infrastructure commitments to be promising, but warn that growth depends on avoiding a second national lockdown and no-deal Brexit.

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Tough times ahead for SME housebuilders

A comprehensive survey of SME housebuilders has warned that the recovery from the effects of Covid-19 will not be easy, with 65 per cent of businesses having lowered their growth predictions and Help to Buy continuing to be a lifeline for the sector.
State of play: challenges and opportunities facing SME housebuilders, published on 21 October by the Home Builders Federation (HBF) and Close Brothers Property Finance, states that 83 per cent of those surveyed identify planning delays as a major barrier to housing delivery through the next year.

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Social cost of London’s air pollution ranked worst in Europe

London was found to have the highest social costs attributed to air pollution out of 432 European cities surveyed by Dutch environmental research firm, CE Delft. Its October report estimates that the monetised health costs of air pollution in London is €11.4 billion (£10.3 billion), with transport impacts being a key contributor.
The study found that a one per cent increase in cars led to a 0.5 per cent increase in social costs, including both economic and wellbeing impacts.

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Energy and Environment

Reform Green Book to maximise outcomes from infrastructure investment

The Green Book – the Treasury’s guidance on appraising policies and projects – requires an urgent review if the UK is to see the maximum benefit from the £600 billion that is earmarked for infrastructure spending before 2030.
A discussion paper from the Institute of Civil Engineers, published on 15 October, suggests a need to refocus the Book on regional outcomes rather than traditional economic ones that often disproportionately benefit London and the South East. It also suggests a revision of the way benefits are calculated to improve the capture of positive social and environmental impacts.

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Green jobs for Covid recovery

Investments in net zero delivery could create 80,000 jobs and help to overcome the mass unemployment caused by Covid-19, according to a report from the London School of Economics published on 19 October.
Delivery of green technology and infrastructure, as well as renewable power generation and electric vehicle production, will be labour-intensive and stimulate the economy while also helping to address many of the social and environmental challenges the UK faces.

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Other News

PM using SPADs to disempower Cabinet and Civil Service

Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings’ attitude to the role and recruitment of special advisors risks limiting debate in government and disempowering an already inexperienced Cabinet.
A no-holds-barred report from the Institute for Government, published on 22 October, has set out the dangers of the close control Downing Street wields over teams of special advisors working in every area of the government with little or no training. It criticises this technique for stifling healthy debate and discussion, reducing the influence of the well-trained Civil Service, and exacerbating the inexperience of current Ministers.

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