Week commencing 5 November 2018

In today's bulletin

• Brokenshire champions building beautifully
• Brexit uncertainty hits house prices

• Invest in transport to save post-industrial towns
• Fossil fuels outstripped by renewables

Property, Planning and Regeneration

Brokenshire champions building beautifully

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has launched a new Commission to champion beauty in the built environment. It’s hoped the strategy will lead to thriving, long-lasting communities and increased housing provision.
On 3 November, the Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP said that the Building better, Building Beautiful Commission will aim to prioritise design quality and community engagement during the planning process. The Commission will be chaired by Sir Roger Scruton.

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Government launches consultation on business rates ‘loophole’

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has launched a consultation on plans to close a ‘loophole’ that could be costing local councils millions in lost revenue from Council Tax on second homes.
Under current rules, properties available to let as holiday accommodation for at least 140 days per year are liable to pay business rates rather than Council Tax and are also likely to qualify for small business rate relief, which provides a 100 per cent reduction. There is currently no requirement to show evidence of actual commercial letting and the Government consultation, announced on 7 November, is investigating whether these rules should be tightened.

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Social housing commissioner should be appointed to champion residents’ views

The London Assembly Housing Committee has recommended to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, that he appoints a social housing commissioner. Findings from the Assembly’s Hearing resident voices in social housing report suggest that residents increasingly feel disconnected from their landlords and are unhappy with current management systems.
The Assembly therefore recommends that a social housing commissioner should sit on the Homes for Londoners board to represent residents’ views and encourage social landlords to involve residents in decision making and champion their interests.

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Rural landlords lose out in new energy efficiency rules

According to the Country Land & Business Association (CLA) landlords with properties in rural areas face higher costs and fewer options to meet new energy efficiency requirements. On 5 November, the Government announced that landlords must spend £3,500 improving properties with the lowest energy performance ratings to meet new minimum energy efficiency standards (MEES).
In response, the CLA, whose members provide around 40 per cent of all private rental housing in the countryside, said rural areas were hit hardest because properties not connected to the gas network were automatically scored lower for using alternative fuels.

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Growth soars in flexible office sector

Flexible office space in Europe is set to expand by 30 per cent each year until 2023, according to a new report from global real estate consultancy JLL.
The report, Disruption or Distraction, found that the industry has more than doubled since 2014, and that demand is fuelled by ‘evolutionary changes’ in work patterns – namely how, when and where people work – as well as lifestyle shifts and technological advancement. More than 7 million sq m of stock is projected to enter the European market over the next five years.

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Construction grows despite costs hike

The construction industry experienced modest growth in the last quarter despite a marked increase in costs, results from the Construction Products Association Construction Trade Survey 2018 Q3 showed.
According to the report published on 5 November, 27 per cent of product manufacturers and a quarter of main contractors registered an increase in activity during the quarter, while 16 per cent of SME builders and 10 per cent of civil engineering firms also experienced growth. However, an increase in overall costs – particularly for fuel, labour and materials – saw a squeeze in profit margins.

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Brexit uncertainty hits house prices

A dip in interest from new buyers caused the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ (RICs) key house price indicator to fall last month, with the market in half of UK regions now either flat or negative.
The data, released as part of the body’s UK Residential Market Survey for October, showed that new buyer demand continued to weaken, which the group attributed to interest rate rises and continued uncertainty around Brexit. The regions continued to paint a varied picture, with London and the South East performing poorly while prices continued to rise strongly in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

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Five-year slump for house price growth

House price growth is at its lowest rate in five years with homes now carrying an average price tag of £227,869, the latest data from the Halifax House Price Index has revealed.
While quarterly performance improved by 0.2 per cent overall, the rate of growth fell from 2.5 per cent in September to 1.5 per cent in October, marking the biggest slump since March 2013. A low supply of both new and existing dwellings for sale was attributed as the cause for reduced growth.

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Mayor response to Crossrail delay “wholly unsatisfactory”

The London Assembly’s Transport Committee has accused the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, of showing “incompetence” in his handling of the delay to the Elizabeth Line.
In the Mayor’s response to a letter from the committee, he suggested that “schedule pressures” had been discussed with Crossrail and TfL earlier in the year, but that Crossrail maintained that the project was on schedule. On 9 November, the Committee concluded that speaking publicly on the project, to Parliament and the Stock Exchange, was deliberately misleading.

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Invest in transport to save post-industrial towns

Investment in transport is key to ensuring the prosperity of post-industrial towns, a new report by the Urban Transport Group has said. Published on 6 November, About towns: How transport can help towns thrive looks to demonstrate the role of transport networks in creating investment opportunities by improving connectivity and access.
The report advises that for large-scale, one-off flagship projects to bring widespread economic and social benefits, an integrated, cross-sector plan is needed to create thriving communities

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Road pricing needed, says transport economist

Leading transport economist, Paul Buchanan, has urged the Government to consider introducing road pricing to combat the rapid fall in income from fuel tax and excise duty expected over the next 30 years.
Buchanan, whose grandfather Colin Buchanan advised government on transport policy to accommodate a surge in car ownership in the 1960s, outlined his Pricing for prosperity proposal when delivering the Ruth Thompson Memorial Lecture, organised by London TravelWatch, on 5 November. He acknowledged that” there is a political fear about taking it on” but that policy makers had no alternative.

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Energy and Environment

Landlords must improve energy efficiency before putting homes on rental market

Landlords will be required to improve their properties’ energy efficiency in a bid from the Government to save tenants money on their utility bills.
Minister of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Rt Hon Claire Perry MP, announced the measure on 5 November and claimed the move has the potential to save tenants, in homes with the lowest energy performance ratings, an average of £180 per year. The scheme is expected to cost £1,200 on average and will affect nearly 300,000 properties.

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Fossil fuels outstripped by renewable energy

Renewable energy has surpassed the capacity of fossil fuels to power Britain for the first time in the sector’s history. Writing for energy company Drax, Dr Iain Staffell of Imperial College London reports that renewable energy sources now total 41.9 GW of capacity, outstripping the 41.2 GW held by fossil fuels.
According to the report, use of fossil fuels has reduced significantly since the start of this decade, due to the widespread retirement of coal plants. Currently, wind farms make up the largest share of renewables, closely followed by solar power and biomass energy.

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Public support for onshore wind remains at record high

76 per cent of the British public support onshore wind, according to a Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy opinion poll. The Public Attitudes Tracker, published on 8 November, showed that the proportion of people who oppose onshore wind dropped to a lowest level of six per cent, with the previous record low standing at eight per cent.
Public support has consistently remained above 70 per cent over the last two years, the poll reveals, and has never dropped below 64 per cent since the poll began in 2012.

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Other News

Services industry experiences slow-down in October

The UK services sector took a hit in October with the weakest expansion in activity since March, according to The Purchasing Manger’s Index. The Index, released on 5 November by IHS Markit and the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS), did, however, show a moderate increase in business activity last month.
Meanwhile anecdotal evidence from the data suggests that positive sentiment for activity in the year ahead is at its lowest since July 2016. Cautious spending patterns, higher cost burdens and Brexit-related uncertainty affecting both the national and global economy have all been cited as undermining growth and confidence.

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Rise in higher skilled roles not met with sufficiently skilled workforce

Two thirds of businesses in the UK are concerned at the increasing gap between higher skilled roles and sufficiently skilled workers, according to a new report by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in partnership with the British publishing and education multinational, Pearson.
The 2018 CBI Education and Skills Annual Report, published on 5 November, also highlighted a fall in the number of apprenticeships offered by businesses as a key concern. It recommended that more guidance and support should be provided to young people in education to secure the workforce of tomorrow and help to bridge the skills gap.

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