Week commencing 3 July 2017

In today's bulletin

• £2.3 billion infrastructure fund to boost housebuilding
• Green Belt development fails to tackle housing crisis

• Transport investment strategy
• UK Industrial Strategy undermined

Property, Planning and Regeneration

£2.3 billion infrastructure fund to boost housebuilding

A new £2.3 billion fund could help to unlock 100,000 new homes by supporting physical infrastructure projects, according to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP. The Housing Infrastructure Fund, launched on 4 July as part of the National
Productivity investment programme, is intended to advance the construction of vital roads, schools and energy networks in areas where a lack of infrastructure is holding back housebuilding. The fund is now open for bids and is available to local authorities across England.

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Green Belt development fails to tackle housing crisis

Building 425,000 new homes on the Green Belt will not effectively ease the housing crisis as the vast majority of the new homes will remain out of reach for most people, according to the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). In the 2017 edition of its Green Belt Under Siege report, published on 3 July, the CPRE claims that 70 per cent of homes currently planned in the Green
Belt are “unaffordable” and that, since 2009, just 16 per cent of new homes built on unallocated sites in the Green Belt are classed as affordable. The report also asserts that the number of new homes allocated in the Green Belt has increased by 54 per cent since March 2016.

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Housing requirement assessment method to be evaluated

A consultation on a new method for assessing local housing requirements will be launched later this month, following a commitment in the Housing White Paper to produce a transparent, consistent approach applicable to all communities. The announcement was made by the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP
at the Local Government Association conference on 4 July. In his speech, Mr Javid criticised current disparities in assessments between councils, stating that the government would propose local authorities review their adopted plans every five years.

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Government criticised for ignoring rural issues

A coalition of 12 leading national organisations has claimed that rural areas risk becoming “enclaves of the affluent” unless the government acts in a number of key public policy areas. The Rural Coalition, which includes the National Association of Local Councils and the Town and Country Planning Association, is demanding the government addresses affordable housing
issues, while also calling for ministers to “up their rural proofing game” on Brexit. The statement, released on 6 July, urges greater recognition of the varied needs of rural businesses and communities, advocating an industrial strategy that realises their unfulfilled potential.

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Rural landowners deterred by planning process

63 per cent of its members would be more likely to build new homes if local authorities provided greater support through the planning process, a new report by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has found. Published on 6 July, Strong Foundations – Meeting Rural Housing
Needs indicates that over half of CLA members believe there is a housing crisis facing their community, while 45 per cent of respondents let their properties below market rent, primarily motivated to do so to strengthen community cohesion.

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UK house price growth continues downwards trend

House prices in the UK fell 0.1 per cent quarter-on-quarter between April and June 2017, according to the latest Halifax House Price Index released on 7 July. The results mark the index’s third consecutive quarterly decline – the first
time this has happened since November 2012. Month-on-month average house price values for June were down one per cent on May’s figures, with the standardised average price reported as £218, 390.

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Housing prices for first-time buyers at record high

The average price of a home for a first-time buyer reached £207,693 in the first six months of this year, the highest it has ever been, according to Halifax’s First Time Buyer Review published on 1 July. Despite this, an estimated 162,704 homes have been bought by new owners in 2017– up by 8,504
when compared to the same period in 2016. Halifax’s review also showed that the average price for a first-time home in London neared £410,000, with all ten of the country’s least affordable Local Authority Districts being in the capital.

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Construction activity growth slows

Activity in the construction sector lost momentum in June after hitting a 17-month high in May, data from the latest Markit/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Mangers’ Index revealed. Released on 4 July, the report reveals that the index sank from 56 to 54.8 last month, where 50 signals no change in
activity levels. Business optimism was found to be at its lowest rate in 2017, with firms citing heightened economic uncertainty as a cause for concern, while residential construction is continuing to outperform commercial work and civil engineering.

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Transport investment strategy

Local authorities could benefit from additional funding to improve key roads in their areas as part of a “landmark” investment strategy aimed at improving productivity and connectivity throughout the country. Published on 5 July and launched by the Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Transport,
the strategy aims to prioritise infrastructure spending on projects that will benefit the economy, including the creation of a multi-billion pound ‘Major Road Network’ fund for local authorities wishing to improve or replace vital A roads.

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UK rail network expansion supported by new guide

Campaign for Better Transport and Railfuture have jointly launched a new guide, Expanding the Railways, intended to support local authorities in expanding their rail networks. The paper, released on 5 July, covers the expansion process from the conception of a potential project through to
funding and delivery. It comes at a time when the UK rail network is experiencing a period of unprecedented growth, with over 200 proposals for the reopening of stations having been put forward by communities across the country.

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Energy and environment

UK Industrial Strategy undermined

The Capacity Market is failing to promote investment in clean energy and adding hundreds of millions to the cost of decarbonising the energy system, according to a new report from the Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE). Published on 5 July, the report concludes that the Capacity Market is damaging the UK’s Industrial Strategy by supporting inefficient and more
polluting power plants simply because of cheaper upfront costs. ADE argues that building only combined heat and power (CHP) plants rather than power-only gas plants would yield long-term benefits, saving the UK up to £774 million on energy bills a year by 2030.

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Voluntary sustainability scheme reveals commercial success

Better Buildings Partnership members have improved their energy efficiency by up to 25 per cent since 2011, delivering over £16 million in savings, according to a Real Estate Environmental Benchmark update released on 5 July. The voluntary scheme monitors energy consumption data for over
seven million sq m of UK property, encompassing 587 properties in the commercial sector. Despite a 71 per cent increase in floor area, more than 145 GWH of energy is reported to have been saved since 2011.

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