Week commencing 25 April 2016

In today's bulletin

• Planning permissions surge to highest level since 2008
• Refocus on passengers, rail watchdogs warns

• Increased support for renewable energy
• Peers reject plan to scrap green homes standard

Property, Planning and Regeneration

EIB agrees to provide £1 billion for new UK social housing

Over 20,000 new affordable homes are expected to be delivered as part of an expanded Affordable Housing Finance programme announced by the European Investment Bank (EIB) on 25 April. Working in partnership with the Housing Finance Corporation (THFC), EIB has agreed to provide £1 billion
for new social housing investment across the UK, with a view to helping alleviate shortages in affordable housing and accelerating construction of new social housing. The investment represents the largest ever support for social housing given by the EIB anywhere in Europe.

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Planning permissions surge to highest level since 2008

Planning permissions for homes in England are at their highest level since 2008 – up 57 per cent from 2009’s low – according to the Home Builders Federation (HBF). In its latest Housing Pipeline report, published on 29 April, the HBF states that 255,032 planning permissions were granted in England in
Q4 2015 – up 13 per cent on the previous year. While the report shows a significant increase in permissions, the HBF notes that there are still many more planning obstacles to clear before these developments are built.

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275,000 homes to be built on England’s Green Belt

More than a quarter of a million homes are currently planned for Green Belt land, according to a report published on 25 April by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). Green Belt Under Siege demonstrates that the number
of homes now planned for Green Belt land is up 50,000 on last year. The report argues that this contradicts the Conservative party’s 2015 manifesto commitment to protecting the Green Belt.

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Rising housing costs equivalent to 10p tax increase

The average share of income spent on housing was 21 per cent in 2015, according to new analysis published last week by the Resolution Foundation. This is equivalent to a 10p rise in the basic rate of income tax – or £1,500 per year – for a typical dual-earning couple with a child.
The share of income spent on housing remained stable throughout the 1990s and early 2000s at around 17 per cent until the mid-2000s, when house prices outstripped growth.

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Local government spending headed for ‘70 year low’ according to new report

Councils could see their lowest level of spending since 1948 within the next five years, research by the APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) and NPI (New Policy Institute) has shown. Sustainable local government finance and liveable local areas: Can we survive to 2020? suggests that, if current trends continue, council tax – which used to be a minimal source of
local government income – will account for at least half the money coming in to all English authorities by 2020. The research also found that growth in business rate income will be an important contributor to council coffers and create major inequalities in local authority incomes.

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Report outlines route forward for Northern Powerhouse

Larger northern cities need fiscal autonomy to drive forward the Northern Powerhouse, according to the Outcomes Report from the UK Northern Powerhouse International Conference & Exhibition, held in February. Building the Northern Powerhouse: Next Steps for Transformation, published on 25
April by Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH), also argued that locking in government promises, driving business productivity in the north and using technology to drive northern collaboration will be key to progressing the project.

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East and South-East house prices rising faster than London

House prices in the East of England have risen by 11 per cent in the past year compared to nine per cent in the capital, according to the latest Rightmove House Price Index. The South-East also is rising higher than London, with an average price growth of 9.5 per cent. However the figures, released on 25
April, still highlight that London property prices are considerably higher than in the rest of the UK – with an average now of £646,000 compared to £332,000 in the East.

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Network Rail property company to help fund upgrades

Network Rail has established its property arm as a separate business with an independent board to help generate £1.8 billion to fund the proposed Rail Upgrade Plan. Network Rail Property (NRP) will sell non-essential property
assets to fund Network Rail’s programme of investment, and is currently looking for experienced property non-executives to join the newly-independent board.

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European Rail Traffic Management System boost to infrastructure capacity

The installation of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) will increase the network’s capacity by up to 30 per cent, according to the director of Network Rail’s Digital Railway programme. Speaking to the All-Party Parliamentary Rail Group, Martin Arter noted that Britain has over
two-fifths of Europe’s declared congested rail infrastructure and that ERTMS can be almost a third cheaper to implement than conventional capacity upgrades. According to a study conducted by Network Rail, ERTMS could provide an additional 30,000 peak time seats.

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Refocus on passengers, rail watchdog warns

Improvements to rail networks need to prioritise passengers’ needs and learn from past experiences, according to the rail watchdog Transport Focus.
Its 2016-17 plan of work stresses the requirement to refocus on rail users, as they now provide the industry’s main source of funding.

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Energy and environment

Peers reject plan to scrap green homes standard

The House of Lords has rejected a proposal in the Housing and Planning Bill to abandon the zero carbon homes standard, which would ensure that all new homes are carbon neutral from April 2018.
The revised Bill will now return to the House of Commons where MPs will debate the amendments introduced by peers, including the removal of provisions to scrap the zero carbon standard.

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Select Committee calls for action on pollution

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee has called on the Government to take urgent action to improve air quality across the UK and help stop up to 50,000 pollution-related deaths each year. In its Air Quality report, released on 27 April, the committee called for greater devolution
to allow local authorities to take action against pollution. The report also recommends the wider adoption of more advanced farming techniques and a Government-funded diesel scrappage scheme to help improve air quality.

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Increased support for renewable energy

70 per cent of people recognise concrete economic benefits of renewable energy, according to a survey by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Over half of respondents (56 per cent) to DECC’s
Public Attitudes Tracking Survey would be happy with a large-scale renewable energy project near them, while 81 per cent support the principle of renewable energy.

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Public support for Hinkley Point down by three-quarters

Public support for plans to build a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point has fallen by 74 per cent, according to a survey commissioned by New Nuclear Watch Europe. The survey also reveals that there is no consensus on possible alternatives: 29 per cent of respondents favour other nuclear stations, 28 per cent support new renewable power stations while 32 per cent
do not know what form an alternative should take. 46 per cent of respondents also oppose the principle of foreign involvement in British nuclear power stations, rising to 50 per cent opposing French links and 67 per cent against Chinese connections.

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Other News

Demand management tool launched for councils

The Local Government Association (LGA) has launched a microsite for councils in England to demonstrate best practice in saving money and improving residents’ services by managing demand.
The LGA hopes that the tool will give councils the knowledge and tools required to more effectively target resources and avoid or prevent high demand on services.

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