Week commencing 10 August 2015

In today's bulletin

• DCLG announces funds for brownfield starter homes sites
• Green Belt development could strain road infrastructure

• Government publishes blueprint for Northern Powerhouse
• New measures for faster fracking planning process

Property, Planning and Regeneration

DCLG announces funds for brownfield starter homes sites

The Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has announced the launch of a £26 million fund to indentify, acquire and prepare brownfield sites not currently allocated for housing and repurpose the land for starter homes.  On 10 August, he also announced a further £10 million grant is being made available to councils to help
them bring forward brownfield sites that are currently underused or vacant.  Combined, these funds aim to accelerate the delivery of starter homes and demonstrate the different types of properties people can come to expect from the Government’s flagship Starter Homes programme.

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Housing shortage worsens in July

House prices are expected to rise significantly in all areas of the UK in the next 12 months, as supply to the market continued to decline in July.  According to the latest UK Residential Market Survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), published on 13 August, the government’s agenda of homeownership – with programmes such as Starter
Homes and the extension of Right to Buy – has driven demand but failed to address the issue of supply.  RICS argued that ‘a coherent and co-ordinated housebuilding strategy is required across all tenures’ to kick-start supply, with specific recommendations including mapping brownfield land and addressing planning restrictions.

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Green Belt development could strain road infrastructure

Building an additional million homes close to London’s Green Belt railway stations could add between 3.9 to 7.5 million car journeys to the roads every week, analysis of data from the 2011 Census has found.  The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), which published its
report into the findings on 14 August, suggested that residents moving into newly developed Green Belt land wouldn’t necessarily use existing local rail infrastructure, adding pressure on an already busy road network.

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Office rental value growth in Central London hits post-recession high

According to the latest CBRE Monthly Index published on 11 August, rental value growth in Central London offices has reached a post-recessionary high of 9.65 per cent.  This is despite a 1.2 per cent fall in the total return on investment in UK commercial property as a result of a weaker performance from Central London.
The office sector showed the biggest decline (0.5%) in returns in July.  Meanwhile, high street shops and industrial property showed positive rental growth, with the South East outperforming the rest of the UK in both sectors.

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Government publishes blueprint for Northern Powerhouse

The Government has published its blueprint for its £13 billion ‘Northern Powerhouse’ – intended to improve the northern transport network and close the economic gap between the North and South. Published on 11 August, the document sets out how the Government will invest in rail infrastructure, strategic road schemes and local highways projects.
The plan includes increasing the frequency of TransPennine Express services, adding 87 additional carriages to the Northern Rail fleet by December 2015 and investing £4.8 billion in road schemes across the north of England by 2020.

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Trials of “electric highways” scheduled for late 2015

The first trials of the technology needed to power electric and hybrid vehicles on England’s roads are due to begin towards the end of this year, Highways England announced on 11 August.  The trials will aim to establish how motorways and major A roads would need to be altered in order to accommodate ultra-low emission vehicles, which currently need to stop regularly to recharge their batteries.
Wireless charging would make electric cars more viable over long distances, and the Government is committing £500 million over the next five years to developing technology to support them.  The off road trials will involve fitting vehicles with wireless receptors and then testing their connection with charging technology installed under the road, in a replica of motorway conditions.

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Energy and Environment

New measures for faster fracking planning process

New measures announced on 13 August by Communities Secretary Greg Clark MP and the Rt. Hon Amber Rudd MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, will enable shale gas planning applications to be fast-tracked through a new, quicker application process. 
The new measures will mean that any council repeatedly failing to decide upon shale gas applications within a 16 week timeframe will be overruled by the Communities Secretary, who will have the power to determine on the council’s behalf.  Mr Clark commented that these measures will help to “provide a clean long term energy source and create British jobs and growth.”

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UK is the worst for wasting food

The UK is the biggest waster of food in Europe, according to a study released on 12 August in the Environmental Research Letters journal.  The study found that the average UK household bins around 6kg of food per week.
In contrast, Romania was the best performing country in Europe, discarding only around an apple’s worth of rubbish per week.  In total, Europe wastes 22 million tonnes of food a year, with the majority of this waste deemed avoidable by the authors of the report.

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Other News

Positive reaction to general election sees business pull ahead

The latest Business Trends Report, published on 10 August by the accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP, shows the economy recovering well from the uncertainty surrounding the run-up to the general election.  BDO’s Output Index rose to 104.4 in August, up from 104.1 in July, indicating growth in UK business activity.
 The report suggests that this economic recovery is likely the result of political stability following the general election, which has led businesses to invest with long term goals in mind.  This is especially true of sectors most prone to suffer under political upheaval, such as property and financial services.

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