Week commencing 23 May 2016

In today's bulletin

• Housing and Planning Act published
• 400 per cent increase in London property prices

• Infrastructure Commission launches consultation
• Offshore wind set to provide ten per cent of UK energy

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Housing and Planning Act published

The Government published the Housing and Planning Act 2016 on 24 May, seven months after the Bill was originally introduced into parliament. Key policies in the Act include: a new requirement for discounted Starter Homes for first-time buyers under 40 to be delivered on reasonably-sized sites;
and the introduction of “permission in principle” for housing developments allocated in an adopted local plan, neighbourhood plan, or local brownfield register. The Bill’s final provisions were agreed by the House of Commons and the House of Lords and achieved Royal Assent earlier this month.

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Investor appetite for student housing still strong

Investor appetite for student housing in the UK remains strong but the future availability of stock will be a key issue, according to Savills. Analysis by the international real estate advisor showed that a record-breaking 74,500 purpose-built student beds were traded in 2015, with US buyers driving a
doubling in value of transactions to £5.9 billion compared to the previous two-year average. However, 80 per cent of deals in 2015 were of existing stock, with Savills arguing that this will create opportunities for investment in new developments in leading university cities.

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400 per cent increase in London property prices

Property prices per square metre in Greater London have risen by 432 per cent in the last 20 years compared to a national average increase of 251 per cent, according to data from the Halifax Price Index. There has been a widening gap between property prices per square metre in southern England compared to the rest of Britain for the past 20 years, with London increases
nearly double that of the rest of the country since 2011. Although London dominates the country’s list of most expensive property locations, several areas outside southern England including Leamington Spa and Edinburgh also fetch a higher price per square metre than the national average of £2,216.

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£38 billion of empty homes in England

203,000 homes across England are now officially ‘long term empty’ according to research by crowdfunding platform Property Partner. Published on 25 May, the analysis of data from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) showed that the number of long-term
empty homes – defined as properties which have been unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for six months – had actually fallen by a third in the period from 2005 to 2015 but was still worth around £38 billion. In London alone, 20,915 empty homes have a combined value of £12.4bn.

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Think tank calls for deregulated planning initiatives to accelerate housebuilding

The Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) has set out its recommendations for the creation of ‘Pink Planning Zones,’ deregulated planning initiatives to enable sustainable community development and help the Government meet its house-building targets by the end of this decade. In its latest report A
convergence of interests, CPS proposes that Pink Zones would be less constrained by ‘red tape’ and would enable locally-led, bottom-up development with the potential to deliver 250,000 new homes a year.

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Housing completions highest for seven years

New build completions are at their highest level in seven years, according to DCLG figures published on 26 May. In the year to March, 139,690 new homes were completed – an increase of 12 per cent on the year before. The number
of new homes started has also peaked, reaching the highest level since 2007-8 at 139,680. In London, housing completions rose by 32 per cent, with some local authorities seeing growth of over 1,000 per cent.

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New bill aims to improve bus services

A new Bus Services Bill aimed at improving journeys for passengers and cutting congestion was introduced to parliament on 23 May. The Bill proposes new powers for councils to help them establish ‘enhanced partnerships’ with companies and improve journey experiences through the
introduction of new services such as on-board Wi-Fi. Data about timetables, routes and fares will also be made publicly available to encourage tech companies to build new service apps for customers.

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Infrastructure Commission launches consultation

The body set up by Government to plan and deliver major infrastructure projects in the UK has launched a consultation into how it intends to go about meeting its responsibilities. The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) announced on 26 May that it will produce a National Infrastructure
Assessment (NIA) once every parliament and wants input into the process and methodology of that piece of work. The first NIA is set to be published in Summer 2017.

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£21 million funding awarded for green transport

Local councils across the country will receive £21million of funding to promote green forms of transport. The Department for Transport (DfT)
announced on 24 May that it will be giving the funding to 23 sustainable travel initiatives which boost local economies and offer clean and healthy travel options.

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Energy and environment

Offshore wind set to provide ten per cent of UK energy

Offshore wind is on track to provide ten per cent of the UK’s electricity needs by 2020 with more than 10 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity operating, under construction or with final investment decisions taken. The milestone comes after joint owners SSE, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners
and SDIC Power of China formalised their decision to invest £2.6 billion in building the 84-turbine Beatrice offshore wind farm in the Outer Moray Firth. Offshore wind currently delivers 5 per cent of UK power.

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Government called to invest in renewable energy storage

Researchers at the University of East Anglia have called on the Government to use subsidies to encourage renewable energy storage systems which would compensate for variable energy output from renewable sources, such as wind turbines and solar panels. Published on 27 May, The value of arbitrage for energy storage; evidence from European electricity markets argues that
subsidies would help ease potential price volatility and could facilitate the integration of renewables into the energy sector, helping to ‘take us to using 100 per cent renewable energy sources’. The researchers also call for a focus on reduced consumer energy costs and increased energy security.

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Other News

New London Mayor announces senior advisers

Sadiq Khan announced key City Hall appointments on 24 May 2016 to help deliver his targets for improving housing supply and transport infrastructure. Former Islington housing chief, James Murray will become Deputy Mayor for Housing, while the post of Deputy Mayor for Transport and Deputy Chair
of Transport for London will go to Val Shawcross CBE. Lord Andrew Adonis has been proposed as Chair of the Crossrail 2 Board with his appointment subject to a confirmation hearing by the London Assembly.

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London’s population fastest-growing in England

The population of London is forecast to grow at a faster rate than the rest of England, the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) 2014-based population projections show. Released on 25 May, the projections show population
growth of 13.7 per cent in London over the next ten years, whereas the North-East is set to grow at just 3.1 per cent over ten years, the slowest rate in England.

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