Week commencing 17 July 2017

In today's bulletin

• Sajid Javid announces £15 million in extra funding for local councils
• £6.6 billion of contracts handed out for HS2

• HS2 route announced
• Average house price to reach £220,000 as economic growth falters, PwC claims

Property, Planning and Regeneration

New government programme to provide housing advisors for local authorities

A new programme from the Local Government Association will provide local authorities with an independent expert to advise on specific housing and planning projects.
The Housing Advisers Programme was unveiled last week and councils have until September to express an interest in taking part.

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Average house price to reach £220,000 as economic growth falters, PwC claims

The average house price in the UK could rise to as high as £220,000 in 2017, an increase of £8,000 this year, according to PwC.
The latest UK Economic Outlook from the company made the prediction, in addition to suggesting that slower consumer spending growth and market uncertainty could slow UK growth to 1.5 per cent.

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Increase in office refurbs to add to average rent costs

Research released by Savills last week has found that 38 per cent of office space due to be delivered in regional cities until 2020 will be in the form of refurbishments.
According to the report, this will mean an increase in average rent costs, as developers hold off on new-build schemes.

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Counties call for a ‘fairer’ deal in the wake of the general election

Following the result of the general election, the County Councils Network (CCN) has published its blueprint for the next five years, ‘A New Deal for Counties’, which sets out county areas’ priorities over the next few years. County leaders have demanded that the Conservative Government reaches out to rural areas and delivers a ‘fairer’ deal for those communities, with a new funding package the central demand.
The document sets out nine areas of policy proposals across devolution, economic growth, housing, education, health and social care. The document also outlines the counties’ ambition to assist the government’s housebuilding drive through an enhanced role in planning for county councils.

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Sajid Javid announces £15 million in extra funding for local councils

Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, has announced grants totalling £15 million to local councils in order to help ease the pressures on local services such as housing, schooling and health services resulting from recent migration.
The grants are the first allocations from the Controlling Migration Fund (CMF), which was launched in November 2016 to allow local authorities in England to bid for funding to help with local pressures on services that can result from high or concentrated migration, while at the same time delivering overall benefits to the wider community.

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Workload growth slows in construction following Brexit

Workload growth has slowed across all sectors of the construction industry as Brexit delays investment, according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors’ latest UK Construction and Infrastructure Market Survey. Besides the Midlands and East Anglia, where activity has continued to rise due to a surge in infrastructure, respondents to the survey in all other parts of the UK reported a fall in workloads.
Financial constraints are reported to be the most significant impediment to building activity, with a net balance of 79 per cent (up from 70 per cent in Q1) – the highest reading in four years. Economic uncertainty largely driven by Brexit and the result of the general election was identified as the primary cause of the constraint.

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Working together to get trains on time

The whole of the UK’s rail industry is working together to improve train punctuality, in a wider push to improve the quality of train travel for customers. The initiative will introduce measuring train arrivals by the minute,
where the current process is every five minutes and will also aim to increase the amount of stations where this can be monitored by utilising modern technology like GPS tracking.

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HS2 route announced

Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, has confirmed Britain’s high speed rail lines in the north of England. The new route will link Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and the East Midlands on a high speed line, with them all being linked to London also.
The new line could also free up thousands of extra seats and additional services on local lines, as well as offer a multimillion pound boost the northern economy.

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£6.6 billion of contracts handed out for HS2

Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, announced the first contracts to build HS2 on 17 July. The contracts, worth £6.6 billion in total and is said to provide up to 16,000 jobs, covers the main civil engineering work, including the
construction of tunnels, bridges, embankments and viaducts for the first phase of the build, London to Birmingham. The companies that won packages of work include, Carillion, Skanska, Sir Robert McAlpine and Bouygues.

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Bi-mode trains: more seats and faster journey times

On 20 July the Department for Transport (DfT) announced plans for new bi-mode trains for passengers in Wales, the midlands and the north. The Midland Main Line and Great Western Main Line will be replaced with the faster bi-mode trains, advertised as providing more seats and better on-board facilities.
According to the DfT the introduction of modern bi-mode trains will mean that “disruptive” electrification works that were due to take place between Cardiff and Swansea, Kettering, Nottingham and Sheffield, and between Windermere and Oxenholme, will no longer be needed.

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Record amount spent on improving the railways last year

The Network Rail’s annual report revealed that £3.9 billion was spent on railway improvements in 2016/2017, 10 per cent more than any other year. The report which looks into the whole of the year for Network Rail, showed
that 87.6 per cent of the passenger trains were on time, slightly down on last year’s figure of 89.1 per cent, and the accumulative distanced travelled by passengers was slightly up on last year with 66 billion kilometres covered by trains the past year.

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Energy and environment

Energy intensive industries exemption delayed

The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) confirmed on 19 July, that its intended exemption for energy intensive industries (EII) from the cost of renewable support schemes has been postponed until 1 January 2018 at the earliest.
It is possible that this could be delayed even further if the government fail to publish an updated renewables obligation level for 2017/18 by 31 October 2017.

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