Week commencing 24 April 2017

In today's bulletin

• Prime markets in the regions outperform London
• Q1 new homes hit 10-year high

• London’s black cabs to go green
• Government failing to meet sustainable development goals in UK

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Q1 new homes hit 10-year high

Over 42,000 new homes were registered in the UK in the first quarter of 2017, according to the National House Building Council’s (NHBC) register of new homes. The figure represents a 17 per cent increase on 2016 and is the highest quarter for 10 years.
Homes registered in the affordable sector saw a dramatic increase– up 40 per cent on the previous year – and it was the first time in seven years that all 12 UK regions reported growth in registrations.

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Workloads up for SME construction firms

The first quarter of 2017 saw a jump in workloads for small construction firms, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB). Despite worries over
the cost of labour and materials, 50 per cent of firms surveyed predicted rising workloads in the coming months.

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Prime markets in the regions outperform London

Increased taxation and Brexit have caused London’s prime housing market to slow over the past two years, according to real estate service provider Savills. The capital’s £10 million and above housing stock has lost an average of 15.5 per cent of its value since a 2014 peak.
In contrast, regional housing markets continue to see slow but positive price growth, with prices up 8.5 per cent in the past five years. However, despite promising increases, many regions have yet to see a return to pre-credit crunch values.

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Sluggish house price growth sees four-year low

According to Nationwide’s latest House Price Index (April 2017), house price growth has slowed for the second month in a row, dropping by 0.4 per cent. The index also reported that annual growth is just 2.6 per cent, the lowest
rate of growth for four years. A squeeze in household budgets, wage increases and accelerated inflation were all highlighted as possible contributing factors.

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DCLG required to produce housing benefit report

The Department for Communities and Local Govenrment (DCLG) has been instructed to find ways of using the £21bn housing benefit bill to drive housebuilding. In a report from the Public Accounts Committee, the DCLG was urged to compile better data on whether housing benefit costs
impact the construction of new homes. The report also noted the committee’s concerns over the DCLG’s apparent “lack of urgency and ambition” in relation to the housing crisis.

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Royal Assent for Neighbourhood Planning

The Neighbourhood Planning Bill received Royal Assent on 27 April ahead of the dissolution of Parliament. The Act strengthens the role of neighbourhood
planning and sets out new powers over compulsory purchase of property.

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London’s placemaking progress must be sustained

London must maintain momentum in its placemaking initiatives to ensure it remains a world-class city, according to speakers at last week’s Investing in Place conference at New London Architecture (NLA). Managing private
spaces and avoiding the creation of too many ‘exclusive enclaves’ within the capital were some of the main topics up for discussion, with the importance of sufficient funding for planners also a key theme.

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Adonis to oversee UK infrastructure

Lord Adonis has been made chair of the National Infrastructure Commission. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond announced his appointment on 21 April. Four new commissioners were also announced and will lend
their expertise to the Commission as it develops a National Infrastructure Assessment on how to meet Britain’s infrastructure needs in the coming years.

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London’s black cabs to go green

A future of electric black cabs in the capital moved a step closer when Transport for London unveiled upgrades to the power grid on 26 April. Dedicated charging points will help the fleet become more eco-friendly. The first wave of charge points is predicted to be up and running within the
coming months and will have the capacity to charge vehicles in just 30 minutes, cutting up to three and a half hours off traditional charge times. A total of 300 charge points are intended to be in operation by 2020.

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Energy and environment

Government failing to meet sustainable development goals in UK

The government’s efforts to meet Sustainable Development Goals – a set of UN targets to end extreme poverty – has been criticised in a report from the Environment Audit Committee (EAC). MPs responsible for the report suggested that few people in the UK had heard of the goals and that little had been done to promote them.
In addition to reducing poverty the goals seek to tackle climate change and reduce inequality by 2030. The report suggested that partnering with organisations such as the BBC could boost the number of people and businesses willing to contribute to meeting these targets.

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Record price breakthroughs make wind energy more competitive

Wind Europe reported on 28 April that the offshore wind industry has seen a record price breakthrough in the past 10 months. It came as the first subsidy-free offshore wind farms were announced in April following a successful tender from energy business En BW and DONG Energy.
Price levels have reportedly fallen quicker than estimated and industry experts suggest that offshore wind should no longer be considered as a niche technology but as a competitive form of energy generation.

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Energy UK launches election manifesto

Ahead of the upcoming general election, Energy UK has launched a manifesto for maintaining secure and cost-effective power supplies for consumers. It outlined six key principles that parties were urged
to take up including pledging a commitment to competitive markets, making energy efficiency a national priority and a continued commitment to decarbonisation.

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Government ordered to publish air pollution plan by 4 May

The Government has lost a High Court bid to delay publication of an air pollution plan, according to The Independent (27 April). Mr Justice Garnham said Environment Secretary, Rt Hon. Andrea Leadsom MP, was “obliged to comply” with the court’s orders, adding that air pollution had created
“exceptional public health circumstances”. He ordered the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to publish its draft plan by 4 May – the day of local council elections.

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CPRE appoints Crispin Truman as chief executive

On 28 April the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) announced the appointment of a new chief executive, Crispin Truman. Mr Truman previously led the Churches Conservation Trust for over a decade. (CCT).
He brings significant experience of delivering major regeneration projects to the post in addition to creating partnerships that support local communities and their heritage.

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