Week commencing 5 December 2016

In today's bulletin

• Government announces more support for estate regeneration
• 64 per cent of people in favour of building in the Green Belt

• £500 billion infrastructure investment plan
• Coalition launched to protect UK environment from Brexit fallout

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Government announces more support for estate regeneration

The government has announced an additional £32 million of funding to regenerate socially deprived areas, adding to the £140 million available from the estate regeneration fund. Local authorities, housing associations and developers will be able to vie for funding aimed at improving community facilities, surroundings and the quality of housing on offer in areas which have been blighted by generations of social deprivation. A new national strategy has also been developed by Lord Heseltine and Housing and Planning
Minister Gavin Barwell MP. It was announced by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid MP, who cited the aim of transforming lives through improving surroundings. The strategy, published on December 8, includes guidance of resident engagement and protection, a good practice guide, alternative approaches to regeneration, and a number of case study examples.

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64 per cent of people in favour of building in the Green Belt

Nearly two-thirds of people would support building homes in the Green Belt, according to a poll by 24housing, the online hub for housing associations. Published on 5 December, the survey revealed that a quarter of people are in favour regardless of tenure while support rises to 39 per cent if homes are
genuinely affordable or socially rented. 24housing also highlighted that the London Chamber of Commerce has also said it wants “poor quality” Green Belt land freed for housing.

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Savills warns of slower growth in 2017

The political events of 2016 and continuing uncertainty around Brexit are expected to lead to more risk aversion and caution among real estate investors, predicted Savills on 6 December. Real estate growth in the UK is expected to slow with average house prices anticipated to remain stagnant.
However, international investor interest in the nation’s commercial property sector will continue to rise and it is likely that the next five years will see record levels of non-domestic investment in assets outside the capital.

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New residential buyer enquiries increase for third consecutive month

The UK residential property market has seen an increase in new buyer enquiries for the third consecutive month, according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Residential Market Survey for November. 13 per cent more surveyors reported a rise in new buyer inquiries rather than a fall, and for the second consecutive month,the strongest growth was seen in the
West Midlands and North West of England. In London, Wales and the North East of England, slightly more surveyors reported a fall in prices, although the downturn in London has eased significantly in comparison to previous months.

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Annual house price growth rising

House prices in the three months to November were 0.8 per cent higher than in the previous quarter, Halifax’s monthly House Price Index, revealed on 7 December. Annual rate of growth also increased, rising for the first time in eight months from 5.2 per cent in October to 6.0 per cent.
The lender’s report found that, despite confidence in the UK housing market having fallen to its lowest point in three years, the majority of consumers still expect prices to rise.

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RICS proposes tenant database

The government should develop a database of all tenants living in rented properties, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has recommended. In its Rented Sector Policy Paper, published on 7 December, RICS argues that this could replace the current system in which tenants themselves fund credit and reference checks on an ad hoc basis. If adopted,
the policy could also encourage landlords to look beyond poor credit histories, which would be beneficial to less well-off tenants. Launched to coincide with RICS’ anti-homelessness campaign, the institute hopes that the policy will be taken forward in the government’s planned Housing White Paper, expected to be published next year.

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£500 billion infrastructure investment plan

The government’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) has released details for over £500 billion worth of infrastructure investment, including funding for more than 720 projects within the transport, housing and digital sectors. Its policy paper: The National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline (NICP), released on 5 December, reveals that more than 40 per cent
of the funding will be government investment aimed at addressing flagging national productivity. Key projects within the NICP include the construction of the Thames Tideway Tunnel, the national rollout of smart meters and upgrading the A14. .

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Private operators invited to work with National Rail

Network Rail is to lose its full control of tracks as Transport Minister, the Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP moved to introduce private operators to British rail infrastructure. The government wants to improve services by allowing
train operators to work alongside Network Rail, arguing this will allow train and track teams to collaborate, deliver a coordinated approach and offer a more reliable service.

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Network Rail announces chair for independent review

Professor Peter Hansford has been appointed by Network Rail to chair an independent review into competition within the rail industry. Chief executive, Mark Carne made the announcement on December 7 and stated that the report, due in Spring 2017, will identify obstacles to third party financing
of infrastructure, as well as potential barriers to new models of delivery. Professor Hansford is a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and was previously chief construction advisor to the UK government.

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Major funding boost for London’s cyclists

A record £154 million per year will be spent on cycling projects in the capital over the next five years, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has revealed. The investment, which comes as part of Transport for London’s (TfL) draft Business Plan due to be finalised later this month, will nearly double the
amount spent on cycling by former Mayor, Boris Johnson. A total of £770 million will be committed between now and 2021/22 to cycling infrastructure upgrades, including two new Cycle Superhighways and initiatives to boost more active transport modes.

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Energy and environment

Mayor doubles budget to tackle London’s air pollution

In a second environmental initiative for the capital, Sadiq Khan announced on 7 December that the budget for tackling London’s air pollution crisis will be more than doubled over the next five years. The Mayor announced that £875 million will be invested to improve the quality of air for Londoners through to 2021/22 – far more than the £425 million committed by his predecessor.
The proposed programmes will include launching the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), consulting on the Emissions Surcharge which will remove older polluting vehicles from London and introducing five Low Emission Neighbourhoods spanning eight boroughs.

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Coalition launched to protect UK environment from Brexit fallout

Thirteen major environmental organisations including the WWF, the National Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) have joined forces to launch Greener UK, a coalition aimed at safeguarding the UK’s environmental protections during Brexit negotiations. In a letter to the editor of The Times on 8 December, the new group called for the Prime Minister,
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP to commit to maintaining the environmental protections developed during the UK’s membership of the EU. It also heralded Brexit as a potential opportunity to establish the country as a world leader in ecological protection policy.

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HMRC alters definition to make more landfill waste taxable

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has announced that all landfill waste will be taxable unless it is made expressly exempt, aiming to simplify the definition of what waste will be taxed. The legislation, which will see a change from prescribing those activates which are taxable to a system where
exemptions must be made for those outside the scope of tax, will be included in the 2017 Finance Bill. The policy announcement promised that the scope of the tax will not be extended, with a comprehensive list of exemptions to be provided in secondary legislation.

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Other News

Growth quickens in expanding services sector

The UK services sector continued to grow in November, according to a survey by IHS Markit and CIPS. The rate of growth reached its highest point since January this year, with the Markit/CIPS Services PMI Business Activity Index reaching 55.2, where a figure above 50.0 indicates expansion
and below 50.0 contraction. This was a slight rise from the preceding month’s reading of 54.5. In addition, while a jump in new work saw employment growth reach its strongest point since April, long-term business confidence was harmed by uncertainty and inflation.

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