Week commencing 22 January 2018

In today's bulletin

• Axe council borrowing cap to boost home building, says MPs
• SME construction firms struggle to hire new workers

• £45 million for HS2 community projects
• Communities invited to give views on disposal of radioactive waste

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Axe council borrowing cap to boost home building, say MPs

On 22 January the Treasury Committee published its unanimously agreed report in response to the Autumn Budget 2017. The committee recommended that restrictions on local authorities’ ability to borrow should be lifted if the government is to hit its target for 300,000 new homes a year.
MPs also suggested that Stamp Duty reduction is likely to increase prices for first time buyers, and the use of RPI should be abolished where possible.

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SME construction firms struggle to hire new workers

On 23 January the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) released its quarterly State of the Trade Survey for the final quarter of 2017. The survey showed that more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of small and medium-sized (SME) construction firms are struggling to hire bricklayers and carpenters.
This comes as construction skills shortages hit a ‘record high’, which could threaten the Government’s homebuilding objectives.

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LGA Chairman supports Treasury Committee call to abolish housing borrowing cap

On 22 January Lord Porter, Local Government Association Chairman, responded to a report from the Treasury Select Committee calling for the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap to be abolished, Lord Porter, said:
“It is great that the influential Treasury Select Committee has backed our call for councils to be given the freedom to borrow more to build more of the new homes our communities desperately need.”

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HM Land Registry moves forward with digital conveyancing

Digital land registration took a step forward on 23 January as the Government approved changes to enable digital land registration. Coming into effect on 6 April 2018, the changes will contribute to HM Land Registry’s ambitions
of becoming a world leader in land registry, focussing on speed, simplicity and an open approach to data

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UK rents see modest growth in 2017

Data from the latest Homelet index, revealed a 1.7 per cent increase in UK rents in December 2017 compared to the same month in 2016. The rise saw average rent reach £907 per month. However, the data, released 23 January, also indicated regional variances. Rent in the south east of England
fell by one per cent, continuing a year on year decline in the region during each month of 2017. The East Midlands saw the biggest rent increase in December, up 4.6 per cent from the previous year.

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UK Finance releases December lending update

Mortgage activity in December 2017 is estimated to have been worth £20.2 billion, 1.2 per cent higher than a year earlier, according to data from UK Finance. Despite business lending continuing to increase year-on-year, many sectors remained cautious; manufacturing borrowing revealed only small
annual growth, while the construction and property sectors contracted their borrowing over the year. Credit card spending also decreased across the month, with annual growth of outstanding credit hitting 5.3 per cent.

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Registration of new homes sees 6 per cent surge

A recent report released by the NHBC revealed that over 160,000 new homes were registered to be built in the UK last year, representing a six per cent increase on 2016 – the highest registration of new homes since pre-recession levels in 2007. Of the 12 UK regions, nine experienced an uplift in
registrations, with the East Midlands, Wales and the North West seeing significant growth. While the private sector continued to dominate registrations, the affordable sector increased by 14 per cent, or 14,781 homes, the highest annual total since records began 30 years ago.

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£45 million for HS2 community projects

On 25 January HS2 Minister Nusrat Ghani announced the first recipients of the HS2 Phase One Community and Environment Fund and Business and Local Economy Fund including a Northamptonshire pre-school, a 900 year-old Warwickshire church and an environmental awareness charity in London.
The £45 million fund pledged by the government, has been set up to help drive economic growth and regenerative in communities along HS2 railway route

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Research into future of UK’s freight infrastructure

On 22 January the National Infrastructure Commission launched an initiative to gather evidence to help shape the future of the UK’s freight network. The study will consider the role the UK’s freight network plays in the economy and identify future infrastructure investments needed over the next 30 years.
The final report, expected in 2019, will recommend infrastructure planning and investment changes to help the UK support better freight connectivity and reduce the sector’s carbon footprint.

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£5 billion to bring UK bridges up to standard

Analysis by the RAC Foundation – published on 19 January – highlighted that approximately 3,500 road bridges maintained by local authorities are now substandard. Data showed an increasing number of bridges are now no longer fit to carry heavy vehicles and are under programmes of
monitoring and managed decline. Due to budgetary pressure on local councils, over the next five years it is expected that necessary maintenance work will only be carried out on 370 of these bridges. The RAC noted the total cost of bringing all UK bridges up to standard is now £5 billion, an increase of £1.1 billion in the last year.

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Transport Investment in the North still lower than London

This January the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) published its report on Future Transport Investment in the North. The report criticises the Infrastructure and Projects Authorities (IPA) analysis of transport infrastructure spending as misleading as it only focuses on central government funding,
and excludes private and local spending. The IPPR data looking at all spending shows that planned transport in London is still almost 2.6 times higher per capita than in the North, with Yorkshire and the Humber receiving the lowest investment of all English regions.

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Energy and environment

Communities invited to give views on disposal of radioactive waste

On 25 January the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) launched two consultations asking local communities to give their views on suitable permanent sites for the safe, disposal of radioactive waste. A new facility would see spent fuel being moved from above ground storage to a specially build Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) 200 metres underground. The first
consultation, titled Working with communities sets out how the project developer will engage with people in areas that may be interested in hosting a disposal facility while the second relates to the proposed National Policy Statement to create a rigorous planning process.

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UK on course to meet packaging waste recovery targets

Figures released by the Environment Agency on 23 January have shown that the UK is almost certain to meet packaging waste recovery targets set for 2017. However, it was also warned that it may be harder to achieve targets
set for 2018, particularly in the collection of wood, plastics and glass aggregate.

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Construction starts on Lincolnshire tidal flood defence scheme

On 22 January work began on the Boston Barrier, a £100 million tidal flood defence scheme in Lincolnshire put forward by the Environment Agency which will protect 14,000 homes and business from flooding.
Work is scheduled to be completed by 2020.

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New regulations will see emissions fall and air quality improve

In a statement from Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey on 24 January, it was announced that parliament had passed restrictions on air pollution from combustion plants and generators as part of the government’s commitment to take action against poor air quality.
Ms Coffey said: “These regulations will help deliver further substantial reductions in emissions, while minimising the impact on energy security and costs to business.”

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Other News

Southern Superhub to rival the North Powerhouse

In a report published by Centre for London and the Southern Policy Centre on 24 January it was stated that greater collaboration was needed across the borders of London, the South East and the East of England to create a ‘Southern Superhub’.
The report, Next-door Neighbours — Collaborative Working Across the London Boundary 2018, examines the interdependency of London and the wider South East.

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