Week commencing 29 August 2016

In today's bulletin

• Mortgage approvals show drop since Brexit
• Smart energy developments could avert UK blackouts, says National Grid chief

• New badge for disabled passengers being trialled in the capital
• FSB reports on reception of National Living Wage

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Mortgage approvals show drop since Brexit

Mortgage approvals from banks and building societies fell by five per cent between June and July this year, reaching their lowest figure since January 2015 according to figures released by the Bank of England on Tuesday 30 August.
In July, the first full month since the EU referendum, 60,912 mortgages were approved, down from 64,152 approvals in June.

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House prices grow despite market uncertainty

Nationwide published its House Price Index for August 2016 on Wednesday 31 August, showing that house price growth picked up slightly in August but warning that the outlook is still uncertain.
The building society said prices rose by 0.6 per cent compared with July, making the average cost of a home £206,145. Prices in August were also 5.6 per cent higher than a year earlier.

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VOA needs more resource, says property consultancy

Property consultancy Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH) has called on the Government to equip the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) with the necessary resource to tackle a mounting backlog of appeals.
On Thursday 1 September 2016, LSH argued the agency needs support to help resolve many appeals that are still outstanding ahead of a new rating list being published in April 2017.

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Station upgrade work helped by VR technology

Innovative methods including 4D modelling are being used to improve safety and efficiency on Network Rail’s £340million upgrade project at Liverpool Lime Street.
On Wednesday 31 August, the company shared an update on how virtual reality (VR) is helping its planners avoid overlaps between engineering teams and identify potential risks and hazards.

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It’s been a ‘difficult year’, admits Southern Rail boss

The boss of under-fire Govia Thameslink Railway, operator of Southern Rail, has apologised to passengers and committed the company to delivering long-term improvements for the service.
David Brown, chief executive of the Go-Head Group, made the comments when announcing the group’s preliminary financial results on Friday 2 September 2016.

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Public voice support for new King’s Cross cycling route

Plans for a new north-south cycle superhighway running 5km from King’s Cross station to Elephant and Castle will proceed after it gained 70 per cent support in a consultation.
Transport for London gave the go-ahead for the project on Thursday 1 September 2016 and confirmed that construction is due to begin in spring next year.

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New badge for disabled passengers being trialled in the capital

A trial is underway of a new badge encouraging people to give up their seats for London passengers with hidden disabilities, injuries and illnesses, according to news from Transport for London (TfL) on Tuesday 30 August.
The “please offer me a seat” blue badges are similar to the popular “Baby on Board” badges and are being tested by 1,000 people as part of the six-week trial.

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Energy and environment

Smart energy developments could avert UK blackouts, says National Grid chief

National Grid’s new executive director Nicola Shaw believes that technological advances will help us manage the UK’s growing energy demand and avoid the need to build new conventional power stations.
In her comments on Wednesday 31 August, Ms Shaw heralded a growing revolution of people and companies adjusting their energy consumption to draw power from the network when it is cheapest.

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New study suggests air quality needs greater focus

A study published by the University of the West of England (UWE) on Wednesday 31 August suggests the UK has seen little to no improvement in air quality over the last two years. Current estimates suggest more than 50,000 deaths a year can be attributed to air pollution.
However, researchers believe road safety considerations have taken higher priority among transport planners “despite pollution contributing between 15 and 30 times the annual number of deaths associated with road traffic accidents”.

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New diesel cars still over the limit on emissions

Data released by Emissions Analytics on Tuesday 30 August suggests that new diesel cars are still emitting many times the official limit for nitrogen oxides, almost a year on from Volkswagen’s exposure for having manipulated test results.
Ironically however, since Emissions Analytics launched its EQUA Air Quality Index earlier this year, Volkswagen is the only manufacturer to have scored an ‘A’ rating with a diesel car.

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MPs call for strategy to increase uptake of low carbon vehicles

UK motorists’ lacking enthusiasm for electric vehicle (EV) technology is putting Britain’s climate change targets at risk, MPs on the environmental audit committee warned on Thursday 1 September.
They say a lack of strategy has left the country “playing catch up” to meet its goals, as we need nine per cent of all new cars to be ultra-low emission by 2020 and are only expected to achieve half this target.

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REA renews push for separate bio-waste collection

The Renewable Energy Association (REA) and its Organics Recycling Group (ORG) have reiterated their call for a mandatory separate collection of untreated bio-waste (including food waste) from UK homes and businesses.
Commenting on the campaign on Wednesday 31 August, Jeremy Jacobs, technical director of the REA, said, “Brexit or not, certain realities remain. There is a strong business case for local authorities to take up separate food waste collections.”

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SSE named as energy company with least complaints

A Citizens Advice league table of energy suppliers published on Thursday 1 September has shown that SSE received the lowest level of complaints between April to June 2016, receiving an average of 22.5 per 100,000 customers.
Other Big Six members EDF, British Gas and E.On came second, fourth and fifth respectively. Small supplier Extra Energy came at the bottom of the table for a second consecutive quarter, with a rate of 1,791 complaints per 100,000 customers.

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Other News

Business confidence slumped in August

Lloyds Bank says that overall UK business confidence decreased by 13 points to 16 per cent in August.
In its Business Barometer for August 2016, issued on Thursday 1 September 2016, the bank also reported that the net balance of companies citing an improvement in trading prospects had decreased by 22 points to 19 per cent, the lowest level since December 2011.

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CBI sector survey reports on post-referendum performance

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has conducted the first sector survey since the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, published on Tuesday 30 August 2016.
Professional service firms reported that business volumes were unchanged in the three months to August, while consumer service companies saw moderate growth. Within the same period, however, optimism within both sectors dropped sharply.

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Brexit will hit prospects but not short-term investment, businesses predict

According to research from accountancy and business advisory firm BDO issued on Tuesday 30 August 2016, UK businesses expect their prospects to suffer due to Brexit but predict growth for the coming year.
Of 400 businesses surveyed, 82 per cent believe the decision to leave the EU will harm their prospects, but 65 per cent will continue to invest over the next two years.

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FSB reports on reception of National Living Wage

Small firms have largely been meeting the challenge of the new National Living Wage, introduced in April 2016, according to new research by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).
According to its findings released on Thursday 1 September 2016, the majority (59 per cent) have absorbed the costs by taking lower profits. Almost half (47 per cent) cite wages as the biggest contributor to the increasing cost of doing business.

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Strong manufacturing figures show growth in industry

New industry figures reflected a boost in manufacturing output last month, with the post-referendum drop in sterling attributed as “the main factor”.
The figures, released by Markit on Thursday 1 September 2016, reported that the Purchasing Managers Index has risen from 48.2 in July to 53.3 in August. This is the joint largest growth in the survey’s 25-year history.

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