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News in brief: Government must give housing associations more freedom to build; High street gloom continues as shop openings fall

Words: Huw Morris
Empty shops in Bracknell

A round-up of planning news: Tuesday 20 September, 2016

High street gloom continues as shop openings fall

The crisis confronting many high streets is deepening, with latest figures showing a dramatic fall in the number of shop openings.

The Local Data Company’s latest half-year review reveals that 20,804 shops opened in the UK between January and the end of June, down 15 per cent on the second half of 2015.

The number of shop closures also fell in the first half of the year, but by only 5 per cent to 22,801.

Put together, closures exceeded openings by 1,997, reversing the second half of 2015, when openings were ahead of closures by 335.


Government must give housing associations more freedom to build

The government will miss its new homes target unless it gives housing associations more freedom to build, according to an influential think tank.

The Policy Exchange said private house builders would only realistically build 140,000 new homes a year because of planning constraints and their “build to sell” model, which limits their housing delivery. To meet the government’s target of one million homes by 2020, housing associations would need to be incentivised to build 100,000 homes a year – double the number they  currently build.

The think tank proposes individual associations or consortia with a stock of more than 4,000 homes should be eligible to sign “housing deals” that commit them to building specific numbers of new affordable and market homes in areas of demand, within a five-year period.


Environment Agency chair confirmed

Emma Howard Boyd has been confirmed as chair of the Environment Agency.

Boyd, who had been acting chair, became deputy chair in 2015 and joined the agency’s board in 2009. She is a specialist in sustainable investment and corporate governance spending with a 25-year career in financial services.

Her various other board roles include vice-chair of the Future Cities Catapult, the Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project and the Carbon Trust Advisory Panel.


High Speed industry cites jobs growth

More than 40,000 jobs will be at risk if HS2 does not go ahead, warns the high-speed rail industry.

High Speed Rail Leaders, a coalition of the rail and construction industries, unveiled an analysis of the impact on jobs from the £50 billion project.

This showed that 14,440 jobs are already committed to the project through contracts already let or in the process of being tendered. By 2020, HS2 contractors will employ 26,650 workers, including the station design and construction contracts for Phase 1 as well as the planning and design works for Phase 2 of the scheme.

Read more here.


Top northern universities outpace Premier League

The economic impact of the eight research-intensive universities in the north of England is greater than the Premier League.

The institutions making up N8 Research Partnership contribute £6.6 billion each year to the economy, nearly double the value of the Premier League.

The research reveals that the universities of Liverpool, Manchester, Lancaster, York, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and Durham together generated 119,000 full-time equivalent jobs, the number typically found in a city the size of Salford.

N8 universities also attracted £1.26 billion annually in research funding, with the European Union particularly important to the region’s institutions, with around 13 per cent or £127 million.

Read the full story here.