Week commencing 29 March 2016

In today's bulletin

• One in five new homes could be starter homes
• House price growth accelerates at strongest rate in over a year

• Record year for UK’s renewable energy sector in 2015
• Government outlines walking and cycling ambitions

Property, Planning and Regeneration

One in five new homes could be starter homes

Up to one-fifth of all new homes on sites larger than 10 properties could be allocated as starter homes under new proposals issued by the Government on 29 March. The Government is consulting on a range of new regulations to support the development of 200,000 new-build properties for first-time buyers under 40, including a minimum discount of 20 per cent on market
values for starter homes. Restrictions on letting and reselling starter homes to discourage purchasers seeking buy-to-let or speculative opportunities are also being proposed, alongside plans to allow injured military personnel and partners of those who lost their lives in service to purchase starter homes at any age.

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House price growth accelerates at strongest rate in over a year

UK annual house price growth increased to 5.7 per cent in March, up from 4.8 per cent in February, new figures released by Nationwide have revealed. The figures show the strongest pace of house price growth since February 2015, coming against a backdrop of constrained supply as housing stock fell close
to its lowest levels in 30 years. However, the figures continue to highlight a growing North-South divide, with the North of England and Scotland recording a decline in house prices in the first quarter of 2016.

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Councils warn reforms could lead to drop in housing stock

Government housing policy reforms will reduce the number of council homes and lead to an increase in homelessness and demand for temporary accommodation by 2020, according to a poll by the Local Government Association (LGA). Published on 24 March, the study found that 90 per cent of councils believed the changes, including cuts to social housing rents and extending Right to Buy to housing association properties, would have an
adverse effect on supply and demand for council housing. Four out of five councils argued that, by 2020, investment in estate development or regeneration would decrease, while others contended that housing benefit spending will increase as more people will be forced into the private rented sector.

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Housing is key priority for London mayoral voters

Housing has been named as the primary concern for Londoners in the forthcoming mayoral elections, according to a new poll by ComRes. Fifty-six per cent of those polled cited housing as the most important challenge London faces. The other top issues included immigration, security and
healthcare. The poll marks a shift in priorities since the 2012 mayoral elections, when housing was placed fourth behind employment, crime and transport in a comparable poll.

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CLG Committee calls for review of national planning framework

The Communities & Local Government (CLG) Committee has called for a comprehensive review of national planning policy in its latest report, Department for Communities and Local Government’s consultation on national planning policy. Published on 1 April, the report concluded that there has not been sufficient evidence-based monitoring or review of the National
Planning Policy Framework since its publication in 2012. The committee calls for a comprehensive review of national planning policy to pull together the various significant analyses in this area, including the Local Plans Expert Group report, the Housing and Planning Bill and the technical consultation on the implementation of planning changes.

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Government outlines walking and cycling ambitions

The Government has unveiled plans to double the number of people who cycle and reverse the decline in walking by 2040. The Draft Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, published on 27 March, aims to encourage more sustainable forms of travel by supporting local delivery partners to
develop safe and attractive cycling and walking infrastructure. An independent committee is expected to be created by October 2016 to advise on the strategy and its implementation.

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Network Rail unveils proposals for Welsh railways

Network Rail has outlined choices facing the Government and other funders of the rail network throughout Wales and the borders to meet future demand from passengers and for freight. Proposals detailed in the Welsh Route Study,
published on 30 March, include a large-scale redevelopment of Wales’ busiest station Cardiff Central, a modernisation programme for the network in North Wales and improved rail links across the region.

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Energy and environment

Record year for UK’s renewable energy sector in 2015

A record level of UK electricity came from renewable sources last year, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announced on 31 March. According to the Energy Trends (March 2016) report, 24.7 per cent of the UK’s electricity was generated from renewable sources, an increase of 5.6 per cent on 2014 levels. The production of solar energy increased by 86 per cent in
2015 while wind energy increased by 29 per cent. DECC also published its Quarterly Energy Prices (March 2016) figures which highlighted that falling energy costs and lower demand helped to reduce the average household electricity bill by 1.4 per cent.

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Capacity market does not meet Government objectives

The Government’s scheme to ensure a secure energy supply for businesses and households in the UK is failing, according to a report published by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) on 31 March. Incapacitated: Why the capacity market for electricity generation is not working – and how to reform it argues that the current design of the capacity market is ‘not fit for purpose’ and recommends three fundamental reforms: splitting the scheme into two separate auctions for old and new generation capacity; introducing
an emissions performance standard that excludes the most polluting plants from the scheme; and levelling the playing field for technologies that can reduce demand at peak times. The IPPR argues that by subsidising the most polluting forms of electricity generation – coal and diesel – the capacity market is working against other Government policies designed to encourage a reduction in fossil fuels.

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