Week commencing 12 September 2016

In today's bulletin

• New figures reveal a rise in planning applications in England
• Call for infrastructure-centred approach to high-density housing

• Doubts cast over the future of the National Infrastructure Commission
• Hinkley Point C gets the go-ahead

Property, Planning and Regeneration

New figures reveal a rise in planning applications in England

The Department for Communities and Local Government announced, on Thursday 15 September, a rise in planning application submissions in England during the second quarter of 2016. The 132,000 applications it received between April and June 2016 represented an increase of seven per cent
compared to the equivalent period of 2015, while the total number of decisions granted was up by six per cent, to 100,900, on the corresponding quarter from a year ago.

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New procurement guidance to speed up development process

Three major trade bodies have published new procurement guidelines to advise local authorities on when to launch tender procedures which may impact on development. The guidelines were produced by the British
Property Federation, the Local Government Association and Local Partnerships in an effort to boost construction and avoid overuse of the process.

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Call for infrastructure-centred approach to high-density housing

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has called for more high-density development near public transport services in order to reduce pressure on the Green Belt and countryside more broadly. Released on 12
September, the new paper, Making the Link, outlines a number of options to encourage this change, including reduced business rates for local businesses and support in selecting suitable locations for development.

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House price growth slows

Growth in UK house prices fell to 8.3 per cent in the year to July 2016, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics. The UK House Price Index (HPI), released on 13 September, has recorded a decrease
on the 9.7 per cent inflation recorded in the year to June 2016, although the average UK house price has still grown to £217,000. This represents an increase of £1,000 compared to June 2016 and £17,000 compared to July 2015.

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Widespread drop in house prices since 2006

Nearly 8 per cent of all private homes across the UK have fallen in value over the last ten years, according to data released on 13 September by real estate advisor, Savills. Over 1.75 million homes have decreased in value since 2006, compared with the 4.8 million homes which have increased in value by
50 per cent or more. Savills argues that this highlights the uneven distribution of wealth across the UK, as the highest levels of growth were recorded in the south of England, while most of the decline in prices was confined to the north.

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Construction skills crisis could worsen post-Brexit

Professional bodies from across the construction and built environment sectors have voiced concerns over skills shortages following Brexit. In a letter to David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and the
Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) argued that free movement of labour within the EU has been vital to the growth of the construction sector, and urges the Government to explore options to ensure this access is not impeded.

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UK office take-up remains strong despite EU referendum

Office take-up in the UK reached 4.4 million sq ft during the first half of 2016 despite economic uncertainty caused by the referendum on Britain’s EU membership, according to a recent report by real estate advisor, Savills. This figure is 11 per cent above the long-term first half average of four million
sq ft and Savills has estimated that regional take-up will reach 10.5 million sq ft by the end of 2016. Whilst this figure is still three per cent down on 2015, it is significantly above the long term average of 9.1 million sq ft.

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Doubts cast over the future of the National Infrastructure Commission

The Government’s Neighbourhood Planning Bill has omitted any mention of the National Infrastructure Commission, casting its future into doubt. The Commission, led by Lord Adonis and presented as part of the Bill in the Queen’s Speech in May, was intended to play a key role in outlining the country’s infrastructure priorities on a statutory basis. However, addressing the
House of Lords’ Economic Affairs Committee on Thursday 15 September, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, suggested that the relationship between the Commission and the Government’s new Industrial Strategy would be re-evaluated.

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Government must clarify HS2 plans

The Government needs to clarify plans for the delivery, route and impact of the new High Speed 2 (HS2) railway, a report from the Public Accounts Committee has claimed. Published on 12 September, the report points to the recent relocation of a planned station in South Yorkshire from Meadowhall to Sheffield Midland station as evidence of the ongoing uncertainty around the
project and raises concerns over whether proposed savings of £9 billion can be made without negatively impacting the scheme. It also calls on the Department for Transport (DfT) to demonstrate how HS2 will integrate with other rail investment programmes and be clearer about how it will deliver regional growth and regeneration.

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Boost rail freight to reduce road congestion and carbon emissions

DfT has highlighted in a new report the increasingly important role of rail freight as a means of reducing congestion on UK roads, cutting carbon emissions and air pollution, and driving rail industry productivity.
Published on 13 September, Rail freight strategy: moving Britain ahead acknowledges that the sector needs to innovate and get better at marketing itself to drive growth.

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Energy and environment

Hinkley Point C gets the go-ahead

Plans to build nuclear power plant, Hinkley Point C were given the go-ahead by the Government on 15 September. The first to be built in 21 years, the Government claims that the £18bn nuclear power station will deliver seven per cent of British energy for 60 years upon completion.
The approval comes after the Government made changes to its contract with EDF, forbidding the company from selling its controlling stake in the plant before building is completed.

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Carbon capture and storage could be cheaper than nuclear power

Energy produced using the carbon capture and storage (CCS) process could be the cheapest method for the UK to meet climate change targets, according to a report published on 12 September by the Parliamentary Advisory Group on CCS. Plans for the process, which involves trapping carbon dioxide emissions from industrial processes and storing them
underground in deep rock formations, were cancelled by the Government in 2015 owing to concerns over costs. However, the report suggests that energy from CCS could be delivered at a cost comparable to other renewable energy sources and significantly lower than nuclear power.

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Other News

UK growth forecast downgraded following Brexit vote

Economic fears have been confirmed by decreases in investment and consumer spending following the vote to leave the EU, according to the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). In its Quarterly Economic Forecast, released on 12 September, the BCC predicted growth will hover below two
per cent in the coming years and that the UK economy will be over £40 billion smaller than had previously been predicted. Nevertheless, it concludes that the UK economy is resilient enough to avoid sliding back into recession.

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Welsh Government announces new land tax Bill

The Welsh Government has announced the first Bill to be introduced as part of its new legislative programme: the Land Transaction Tax and Anti-avoidance of Devolved Taxes (Wales) Bill. The first Welsh tax in almost 800
years, the Bill will replace stamp duty land tax with a new land transaction tax in April 2018. The Welsh Government argues that it will function in a similar way to existing legislation, with some amendments to reflect local needs and priorities.

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