Week commencing 21 March 2016

In today's bulletin

• Government Construction Strategy published
• Consider location for new homes, say planners

• Government publishes major infrastructure plans
• How can innovation revolutionise the energy sector?

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Government Construction Strategy published

A strategy aimed at driving increased productivity in the UK’s construction industry, including £1.7 billion efficiencies and support towards 20,000 apprenticeships, was published by the Government on 23 March. Released by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, the Government Construction
Strategy is intended to support the delivery of the spring 2016 Government Construction Pipeline. It is claimed that the strategy will improve delivery, efficiency and performance across economic and social infrastructure projects in the public, private and regulated sectors.

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Training initiative to support housebuilders launched

A new £2.7 million initiative aimed at training 45,000 new home building workers by 2019 has been announced by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) and the Home Builders Federation (HBF). The Home Builders Skills Partnership, which was unveiled at the HBF’s Policy Conference on
22 March, will seek to develop targeted training to support more than 3,500 construction businesses. The scheme will include initiatives to promote collaboration on skills across the supply chain, intended to support a long-term programme of housebuilding.

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Younger generations will never find a ‘forever home’

A significant majority believe that it will not be possible for future generations to find a home in which to settle down, according to a study commissioned by housing charity Shelter. The survey, conducted by Ipsos MORI, reveals that 74 per cent of younger respondents believe that it will be harder for them to find a ‘forever home’ than their parents, compared to only 44 per cent from
the Baby Boomer or pre-war generations. The survey also reveals that 25-34 year olds have moved more frequently than pensioners. The results of the study were released on 21 March to launch the 50th Great Home Debate, an annual campaign by Shelter against bad housing and homelessness.

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Consider location for new homes, say planners

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has called on the Government to ensure that new homes are built close to jobs and in areas supported by infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and sustainable transport. In its report The Location of Development published on 23 March, the RTPI argues that almost 75 per cent of the 165,000 new homes (in 12 English cities and towns)
granted planning permission between 2012 and 2015 were within reach of major employment opportunities. However, only 13 per cent were within easy walking distance of a railway station. The report calls for more effective monitoring of new developments to ensure that national planning policy is delivering housing in appropriate locations.

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Social housing numbers set for major fall

370,000 council and housing association homes could be lost in England by 2020, according to the Chartered Institute of Housing. Terrie Alafat, chief executive of the Institute, has claimed that the Government’s Housing Bill has overlooked the need to supply affordable housing for rent. During a
BBC interview on 24 March, Ms Alafat said, “In 1980, we had about 30 per cent of all homes being rented by councils and housing associations at affordable levels of rent. That is now at about 17 per cent of all housing, and that is actually less than the private rented sector.”

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EU referendum could trigger property investment spike

The second half of 2016 is likely to see a sharp increase in investor activity in the UK property market, triggered by the EU referendum – according to the latest Commercial Market in Minutes report from Savills.
This prediction is based on a comparable sharp increase following the 2014 Scottish referendum, which saw an increase of 85 per cent in property investment volumes in the second half of the year.

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House prices up by 7.9 per cent

UK house prices increased by 7.9 per cent in the year to January 2016, up from 6.7 per cent in the year to December 2015, according to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) House Price Index published on 22 March. House price inflation was 8.6 per cent in England, driven by annual increases
in the South East (11.7 per cent), London (10.8 per cent) and the East (9.8 per cent). Prices paid by first-time buyers were 7.7 per cent higher on average than in January 2015. For existing owners (owner-occupiers), prices increased by 8.0 per cent over the same period.

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Government publishes major infrastructure plans

The Government’s infrastructure priorities for the next five years were published on 23 March. The National Infrastructure Delivery Plan sets out the proposed infrastructure investment for all sectors and regions, including a major roads and rail investment package; £425 billion of investment in economic infrastructure; £58 billion of public investment in housing
and regeneration, education, health and justice projects; and over £100 billion of private sector investment in energy projects. The plan details how collaboration between the Infrastructure and Projects Authority and the National Infrastructure Commission is intended to support project delivery and investor confidence. su_column]

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MPs approve HS2 hybrid Bill

The building of the first phase of High-Speed 2 remains on course for next year after the House of Commons passed the third reading of the hybrid Bill on 22 March. The Bill was approved by 399 votes to 42 and passes
onto the House of Lords. Royal Assent is expected at the end of the year, with the start of construction on the route from London to Birmingham expected in 2017.

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Scottish high speed rail plans unveiled

Government ministers in England and Scotland are committed to delivering a three-hour journey time between London and Scotland, it was announced on 21 March. The Department for Transport and Transport for Scotland published a jointly commissioned report, Broad options for upgraded and high speed railways to the North of England and Scotland, which considers the various
options to reduce rail journey times between the two locations. Work on evaluating the options for the project, including upgrades and potential new routes, is set to begin next year and the plans could be implemented in 2019.

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AIA warns of deteriorating state of local roads

England’s local roads are at risk of severe decline because of underfunding, adverse weather and increased traffic, the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) has warned. The Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey, published by the AIA on 23 March, found that highways departments across England have not yet seen the benefits of the Government’s commitment to
spend £6 billion on local road maintenance between 2015 and 2021. However, the AIA acknowledged that highways teams have achieved considerable efficiencies to maximise the funds at their disposal, maintaining the amount local authorities require to bring their roads up to standard at just below £12 billion.

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Energy and environment

How can innovation revolutionise the energy sector?

An inquiry into how new technologies could transform the energy sector going forward was launched by the Energy and Climate Change Committee on 24 March. The Committee has invited businesses, organisations and
the public to submit information and content to help answer one key question – “Which innovations have the greatest potential to revolutionise energy markets, and why?”.

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Website launched to energise young people

RenewableUK, the UK’s leading not-for-profit renewable energy trade association, has developed a new interactive website designed to get young people engaged in the debate around the UK’s future energy supply.
Launched on 23 March, the website is supported by a range of organisations across the energy sector and will look to encourage greater interest in STEM subjects and energy sustainability amongst 11-16 year olds.

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