Week commencing 2 November 2015

In today's bulletin

• Housebuilding boosted by Neighbourhood Plans
• Call for urgent review of planning fees

• Network Rail to restructure from early 2016
• “Thousands of years” of energy in plutonium stockpile

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Housebuilding boosted by Neighbourhood Plans

Housebuilding rates are ten per cent higher in areas with an adopted Neighbourhood Plan than without, and higher overall than a year ago, according to Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Brandon Lewis MP. Commenting on the second reading of the Housing and Planning Bill on 2 November,
Mr Lewis highlighted that planning permission was granted for almost 250,000 new homes in the past year. This comes as the Minister announced his intention to ‘transform generation rent into generation buy’, pledging 200,000 affordable starter homes available to first-time buyers at 20 per cent below market rates.

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Call for urgent review of planning fees

Local councils were forced to pay out £450 million over the past three years to cover the costs of planning applications, new analysis published on 3 November by the Local Government Association (LGA) indicates.
The LGA suggested that nationally-set planning fees were inadequate and forced local authorities to divert resources away from vital services, arguing that locally-set fees would allow the private sector to help local councils speed up and improve the planning process.

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Construction activity on the up

October saw the fastest rise in commercial construction work in 12 months, according to the latest Markit/Chartered Institute for Procurement and Supply (CIPS) Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) survey.
The report, published on 3 November, also shows an overall uplift in UK construction output and the fastest pace of job creation for almost a year.

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Record-breaking year for commercial property investment

2015 is set to break records for the amount of investment in UK commercial property, with over £70 billion in deals expected to be completed if growth trends continue. The prediction was made by international real estate adviser,
Savills, in its October Commercial Market in Minutes report, published on 4 November. It comes despite a climate of international uncertainty arising from the Chinese economic slowdown and Greece’s financial crisis.

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Prime commuter housing to eclipse London

Prime housing markets in the commuter belt have significant scope for growth and are expected to outperform the prime London housing market between now and 2020, Savills claimed on 5 November. In its five-year forecast for the UK’s prime housing market,
Savills identified the value for money offered by prime commuter housing compared with London property as a key factor, but expects prices to remain steady in the short term owing to the combined impact of stamp duty, the mortgage market review and a slow prime London market.

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UK house price growth accelerates

“Improving economic conditions” saw the rate of UK house price growth speed up in the year to October 2015, according to the Halifax House Price Index published on 5 November. Halifax revealed that house prices rose at an annual rate of 9.7 per cent in October compared to 8.6 per cent
in September, bringing the average price of a UK home to a record high of £205,240. Month-on-month change remained volatile, with the monthly rate of increase for October standing at 1.1 per cent, following a decline of 0.9 per cent in September.

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Network Rail to restructure from early 2016

A long-term plan to devolve greater responsibilities from Network Rail to its eight operating routes is set to begin in the first quarter of 2016. Under the terms of the plan – dubbed ‘Devo-Max’ – a new
Route Services Directorate (RSD) will be set up to bring forward services that Route Managing Directors together decide are best delivered on a national level.

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Energy and environment

Scotland to build world’s largest floating wind farm

The UK’s first floating offshore wind development has been granted consent by the Scottish Government and is set to be the world’s largest. Norwegian gas and oil company, Statoil, announced on 2 November
that it will install a 30MW pilot park consisting of five floating 6MW turbines off the cost of Peterhead. The development, known as Hywind Scotland, will start production in late 2017 and is expected to power up to 20,000 homes.

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Businesses urged to check flood risk

The Environment Agency launched its annual Flood Action campaign on 5 November, calling on businesses to prepare themselves for potentially extreme weather over the coming months. The Environment Agency’s Climate Ready Support Service is available to organisations to help them
develop a flood business plan and complete a business resilience heathcheck, helping to limit the disruption that might be caused to their businesses. In 2013-14, the wettest winter on record saw 3,200 commercial properties and 7,700 homes flooded. The costs to businesses are still being counted but are estimated to run into tens of thousands of pounds for each business flooded.

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“Thousands of years” of energy in plutonium stockpile

The UK has a plutonium stockpile worth “thousands of years” of energy, according to comments made by Tim Abram, professor of nuclear fuel technology at the University of Manchester on 4 November. Professor Abram’s comments came as the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA)
continued its consultation into the approaches to the management of this existing plutonium, with the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) previously stating a preference for its reuse as fuel, rather than disposal.

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Other News

Interest rates maintained amid weakened outlook for global growth

On 5 November, the Bank of England released its quarterly inflation update, underpinning its recent decision to maintain interest rates at 0.5 per cent and reporting that 12-month CPI inflation stood at -0.1 per cent, around two per cent below the target.
The Bank argued that its decision to maintain rates was based on a weaker outlook for global growth since its last report in August, although it still expects strong consumer confidence and income growth for the UK.

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Growth rate strengthens for UK service sector

UK service providers reported an overall rise in business activity during October, according to the latest Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI). The expansion rate for the sector was unchanged from September’s 29-month low, but the survey pointed to a rise in the overall volume of new business for the 34th consecutive month and a five-month high for job creation.
Whilst the findings pointed to the weakest 12-month outlook for activity for two-and-a-half years and the outlook for expansion was the second weakest since May 2013, Markit/CIPS reported that respondents remained generally positive.

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Centre for Cities investigates city-centre living

The number of young professionals aged 20-29 living in the centres of large cities tripled from 2001-2011, according to the latest report by think tank Centre for Cities following its investigation of why people in Britain live where they do. Published on 3 November, Urban Demographics argues that the largest draws are amenities, such as restaurants and cultural centres, and workplace proximity, which
outweigh concerns over high rents, poor air quality and the lack of green space. The report concludes that cities need to capitalise on this potential growth opportunity by attracting businesses back to city centres, improving housing and transport links, and addressing concerns surrounding air quality and green space.

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