Week commencing 4 April 2016

In today's bulletin

• Potential local plan intervention for 21 councils
• Highways England set to invest £150 million in technology

• National Grid predicts electricity oversupply
• Scrapping Hinkley in favour of renewables could save up to £40 billion

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Potential local plan intervention for 21 councils

Local authorities which fail to produce an up-to-date Local Plan by early 2017 are potentially at risk of facing Government intervention, a new study by planning consultancy Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners has revealed. Published on 8 April, Early Adopters and the Late Majority: A Review of Local Plan Progress and Housing Requirements reviews the progress of Local Plan
preparation and examines changes to housing requirements since the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework. The report identifies 21 local planning authorities where the least progress in plan-making has been made and where intervention would have the greatest impact in accelerating local plan production.

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Mayoral candidates must present ‘credible plan’ for homes

The Home Builders Federation (HBF) has called on the next Mayor to develop a viable plan to successfully close the gap between supply and demand in London’s housing market. A 10-point ‘blueprint’, Capitalising on Growth, recommends ensuring that sites are viable and deliverable by requiring what it terms ‘realistic’ levels of affordable housing. Published on 7 April, the report
calls for the next Mayor to support the delivery of specialist private-rented housing and make better use of London’s existing estates, as well as backing powers to turn more underused commercial spaces into homes for the capital’s growing population.

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NHF calls for clarification over Network Rail land sell-off

The National Housing Federation (NHF) has called for a “fair and sensible” review of how Network Rail’s £1 billion sale of sites can help meet Britain’s targets for new affordable housing. Following the decision by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon George Osborne MP, not to go ahead with his Network Rail privatisation plans, the owner and infrastructure manager for the
UK rail network will be rolling out a land sell-off programme to deliver land for housing. NHF Head of Policy, Rachel Fisher, called on the Government and Network Rail to “go beyond simply releasing land and focus on enough homes being built, including affordable housing.”

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Office to residential developments to consider noise impacts

Changes to the Town and Country Planning Act (1990) came into effect on 6 April, introducing changes to office-residential permitted development rights. Changes include new provisions meaning that councils will need to
consider the impacts of noise from commercial premises on future occupiers of residential developments.

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Homes and Communities Agency appoints Mark Hodgkinson as interim chief executive

The chairman of the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), Kevin Parry, announced on 8 April that Mark Hodgkinson has been appointed as the association’s interim chief executive and accounting officer. In his new role, Mr Hodgkinson will focus on structuring the HCA to support its role in
contributing to the creation of one million new homes and the doubling of first-time buyers. The recruitment of a permanent HCA chief executive will commence in the coming months.

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Slowest pace of residential activity expansion since 2013

Housing activity within the construction sector is the weakest recorded in three years, according to the latest figures from the Markit/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index released on 4 April. Global economic uncertainty has also contributed to increased caution in the construction sector in terms of the hiring of staff – with the rate
of employment growth dropping to its lowest since June 2013. Whilst the majority of survey respondents predicted an increase in construction business activity going forward, the overall confidence in the sector was the lowest since 2014.

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House prices rise 10 per cent in a year

House prices were 10 per cent higher in the first quarter of 2016 than the same period last year, data from Halifax reveled on 7 April. This also marks a rise of 2.9 per cent on the preceding three months, taking average house
prices to £214,811. However, Halifax economists believe that prices could soften in the coming months as fears over the UK’s economic prospects and forthcoming EU referendum take hold.

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Highways England set to invest £150 million in technology

Highways England plans to spend £150 million on harnessing new technology aimed at benefiting road users across the country and unlocking economic growth. Details of the investment were unveiled in the highway authority’s Innovation Strategy, published on 5 April, which builds on an announcement
by the Chancellor, George Osborne, in his recent Budget. The strategy includes ideas such as trialling driverless car technology on motorways and a ‘wifi road’ that would connect cars and infrastructure to give drivers advance warning of congestion or closures.

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Rail industry achieves record zero fatalities

There were no rail industry caused fatalities in the UK between April 2015 and April 2016, a first for the sector, according to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR). Ian Prosser, the chief inspector of railways and director of railway
safety at the ORR, celebrated the achievement but noted that it was important that the industry does not become complacent.

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Energy and environment

National Grid predicts electricity oversupply

The growth in renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, will lead to an oversupply of electricity during the coming months, according to National Grid. The prediction came in its Summer Outlook report, released on 7 April. As a result, the company is promoting its Power Responsive initiative,
launched in June 2015, which offers financial incentives to businesses to switch high-demand processes – such as pumping and heating – to periods with lower demand.

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Scrapping Hinkley could save up to £40 billion

Cancelling plans to construct the Hinkley Point C nuclear plants could save Britain at least £30-40 billion compared with onshore wind and solar projects, the Intergenerational Foundation has claimed in a new report. Published on 5 April, Toxic Time Capsule: Why nuclear energy is an intergenerational issue argues that onshore wind and solar photovoltaic energy (PV) offer better
taxpayer value-for-money than new nuclear capacity. The report claims that potential savings for future generations may be even greater once the costs of radioactive waste management, security and the impact of subsidies have been taken into account.

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Industry calls for energy market reforms

Industry bodies across the energy sector – including the European Wind Energy Association, the Smart Energy Demand Coalition and Gas Naturally – have called for reforms in the European energy market to ensure a “cost-efficient and sustainable transition” to decarbonised energy systems. In a
letter published on 5 April, the signatories outlined three calls to action: the provision of adequate price signals across borders; a more balanced approach to system adequacy; and the implementation of a more level playing field to support pan-European trading of electricity and grid support.

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