Week commencing 20 February 2017

In today's bulletin

• Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) boosts its Board to help tackle housing shortage
• HS2 given the go-ahead to begin construction in spring

• Nearly £7bn needed to bring UK schools up to scratch
• New build starts reach nine-year peak

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) boosts its Board to help tackle housing shortage

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, has confirmed four new appointments to the HCA Board to support the agency’s efforts to boost housebuilding and speed up the delivery of new homes. The new members, Stephen Bell, Richard Blakeway,
Councillor Simon Dudley and Councillor Teresa O’Neill OBE, will support the Board as it develops an overall strategy for the organisation and ensures it operates effectively in line with key targets.

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Nearly £7bn needed to bring UK schools up to scratch

An investment of £6.7bn is needed to return the UK’s school buildings to a “satisfactory” or better state, with a further £7.1bn needed to restore them to a “good” condition, according a National Audit Office (NAO) report. Based on property data from the Department for Education (DfE), the NAO report, Capital funding for schools, highlights the ongoing deterioration of the UK’s
school estate as a serious risk to long-term value for money. The DfE estimates that the costs of dealing with major defects will double between 2015/16 and 2020/21 as the nation’s school properties reach the end of their service lives.

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New build starts reach nine-year peak

In England, the number of new homes where building work had started last year rose to the highest level in almost a decade, figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government show. Data published on 23 February revealed that construction works started on 153,370 new properties
in the 12 months to December 2016, representing a five per cent year-on-year increase and the highest total seen since 2007. However, the number of completions during the same period fell by one per cent compared with the same period in 2015, standing at just over 140,000 homes.

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RTPI to review infrastructure funding models to support housebuilding

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has launched a new research project to explore the link between local infrastructure funding and housing development. Announced on 22 February, the project will look at how other nations around the world fund infrastructure to unlock new housing.
The research team hopes to establish a model that can be rolled out across England and Wales which captures the uplift in land values created by public investment to help get new housing built.

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One third of London’s consented homes ‘not built’

More than one in three homes granted planning permission in London are not being built, according to new research for London First’s Fifty Thousand Homes campaign. The figures, compiled by Grant Thornton, show that the proportion of homes not built after gaining planning permission in London
has now reached 36 per cent, while it takes an average of three years for completed homes to become occupied. New data will now be published every six months to track changes, as part of Fifty Thousand Homes’ ‘Scores on the Doors’ drive.

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House price growth slows but regional cities outshine London

Homes in Bristol, Oxford and Manchester saw the greatest price inflation out of the UK’s major cities in the 12 months to January 2017, as revealed by Hometrack’s UK Cities House Price Index. The index, released on 24 February, reported nationwide growth of 6.9 per cent, marking a one per cent
decline in the annual rate of growth due partly to weaker investor demand and stamp duty changes. London registered its lowest level of growth for four years at a rate of 6.4 per cent, seeing it slip to eighth place in the ranking of the UK’s top 20 key cities.

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HS2 given the go-ahead to begin construction in spring

The HS2 Bill gained Royal Assent on 23 February following three years of Parliamentary scrutiny, paving the way for construction of the new rail route from London to the West Midlands to begin on schedule in the spring. The
announcement was accompanied by the launch of schemes totalling £70 million to support communities affected by the railway, including a Community and Environment Fund and a Business and Local Economy Fund.

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Investment in northern transport still short of London levels

London will spend £1,500 more per person on transport than the North, according to the latest analysis from think tank IPPR North. A report published on 20 February, Paying for Our Progress, shows that Yorkshire and the Humber will see just £190 per person invested in infrastructure, while the North West is set to invest £680 per person in transport links – the second
highest spend after London. The IPPR North argues that the Transport for the North body should be given the same power to invest as Transport for London and also recommends the construction of a ‘HS3’ rail line, connecting the North East to the North West, to address the funding gap and strengthen the economy after Brexit.

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London is second most congested city in Europe

London drivers spend an average of 73 hours a year stuck in traffic, making the UK capital the second most congested city in Europe and the seventh most congested city globally, a study by traffic specialist INRIX has found. Across the UK as a whole, the Traffic Scorecard analysis released on 20
February revealed drivers to be spending around 32 hours a year in peak-hour congestion, amounting to direct and indirect costs of £968 per driver. The UK is now the third most congested country in Europe and the fourth amongst the world’s developed countries.

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Government accused of “magical thinking” on environmental impact of Heathrow expansion

The Environmental Audit Committee has said it has seen little evidence of the “step change” in the Government’s approach to mitigating the environmental impact of an expanded Heathrow Airport, something which the organisation called for in November 2015. A new publication from the Committee published on Monday 20 February, The Airports Commission Report Follow-
up: Carbon Emissions, Air Quality and Noise, urges the Government to produce a new air quality strategy to inform the National Policy Statement process, warning against a slip in air quality standards following the UK’s departure from the European Union. The report also calls for more ambitious targets to reduce noise pollution.

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Energy and environment

Power costs set to spiral without action on flexibility

The Government must incorporate a greater degree of flexibility into the UK’s power system to protect the nation’s energy security and avoid rising costs, researchers from the UK Energy Research Centre have claimed. Updating a decade-old review of the costs of including ‘intermittent’ electricity, such as
wind and solar energy, the researchers found that incorporating higher levels of energy from renewable sources would come with rising costs without greater flexibility in the power system.

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