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News in brief: Northern Powerhouse Rail routes unveiled; London office development starts plummet

Words: Huw Morris

A round-up of planning news: Tuesday 24 November, 2020

Northern Powerhouse Rail routes unveiled

Transport for the North (TfN) has unveiled its preferred plans for a railway network to transform the region’s economy.

Its initial route plan – a combination of new lines and major upgrades to existing routes – has been submitted to the government as the official recommendation for Northern Powerhouse Rail endorsed by elected mayors, council and business leaders.

The plan includes the organisation's initial route preferences, such as new lines from Liverpool to Manchester via Warrington, Manchester to Leeds via Bradford as well as major upgrades to the Hope Valley route. It also proposes connecting Sheffield to HS2 and on to Leeds.

TfN is calling for the East Coast Main Line to be improved between Leeds and Newcastle, via York and Darlington, and the Leamside Line, which closed to passengers in 1964 and freight in the 1990s, to be reopened. Lines from Sheffield and Leeds into Hull should also be electrified.

The move comes ahead of the government’s integrated rail plan, which is due to be published before the end of the year.


Foreign investors look to real estate to drive UK growth

The proportion of foreign investors who see real estate and construction as a key driver of future growth in the UK has more than trebled since last year.

Analysis by global professional services network EY of the UK’s attractiveness as a destination for foreign direct investment reveals that 31 per cent of respondents said real estate and construction would drive future UK growth, up from 10 per cent in 2019.

This places real estate and construction third among the most attractive sectors for overseas investment – behind digital with 50 per cent and health and wellbeing with 36 per cent.

“The government stated infrastructure plans have likely played a role in boosting interest in the real estate and construction sector,” said Russell Gardner, EY UK & Ireland’s head of real estate, hospitality and construction.

“But the significant impact of the pandemic on UK high streets and workplaces has also encouraged many investors to reimagine what real estate will need to offer in the future.”


London office development starts to plummet

Office development in London has collapsed in the past six months, with volume of new-build and refurbished projects dropping by 50 per cent.

Deloitte’s latest London Office Crane Survey, a barometer of developer confidence, shows that construction starts fell to under 242 million square metres across central London in the six months to September. However, Deloitte said despite the significant drop, the volume is broadly in line with long-term averages and exceeds new starts in the same period of 2019. A total of 40 per cent of new construction starts had already been committed, although Deloitte said at least six speculative schemes have been put entirely on hold until there is more clarity in the market, with many more postponed until 2021.

Demand for leases also plummeted in the second quarter as lockdown prevented prospective tenants from visiting buildings. Demand remained low in the third quarter, as staff largely continued to work from home, and businesses put longer-term workplace decisions on hold, with just 93,000 square metres of central London space leased in the three months to September – well below the 315,870 square metres recorded in the same quarter of 2019.


Grosvenor to spearhead new community in East Sussex

Grosvenor Britain and Ireland has been appointed to promote the development of a new community of around 2,500 homes on land north-west of Hailsham in East Sussex.

The company’s strategic land team has signed a partnership with local landowners and will seek the site’s allocation within Wealden District Council’s local plan.

Grosvenor pledged to “design a place fit for 21st century living” alongside the community, reflecting how Covid-19 has changed attitudes to working patterns and people’s desire to have natural open space and facilities on their doorsteps.


Leisure World regeneration plans submitted to Southampton City Council

Sovereign Centros, the development manager for the proposed regeneration of Leisure World in Southampton, has submitted an outline planning application for it claims is one of the city’s most significant regeneration projects in over two decades.

Following a digital consultation process earlier this year, the proposals will now be considered by Southampton City Council with a decision expected in early 2021.

The proposals are for a mixed-use environment comprising 650 new homes, offices, two 150-room hotels, 80 serviced hotel apartments, relocated cinema, casino, and other leisure uses.

Plans include public realm to link to a new urban quarter with the wider city while improving connectivity with the historic waterfront.

The digital consultation, the first of its kind within the city, saw almost 2,500 people interact with the consultation website and 240 feedback forms completed, in addition to public webinars and virtual meetings with community and business organisations across the city.

If approved, the scheme will be built across four phases, beginning in 2022. Sovereign Centros is being advised by Montagu Evans, with the scheme designed by Corstorphine & Wright.

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