Gordon Brown is expected to unveil plans today to increase the amount of energy from renewable sources to 15 per cent by 2020 and investing £100 billion in the industry, in what has been billed as the biggest shakeup in Britain’s power generation since the industrial revolution. Under the plans, households could be forced to improve the insulation and energy efficiency of their properties when renovating; but would be eligible for grants or low-cost loans to help fit solar panels or wind turbines to properties and get cheaper fuel bills if their neighbourhood becomes a mini ‘turbine city’. It could create more than 150,000 jobs and significantly reduce gas emissions and reduce dependency on gas and electricity.
In the other corner, opponents of eco-towns are lining up to slate the government’s latest plans to tackle climate change. A report out by the Eco-Town Challenge Panel said some plans resembled traditional housing estates with green elements just ‘added on’, while other towns risked becoming ‘commuterville’. The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) added that the more they were looking at the plans for the towns, the ‘more depressed we are getting’. Meanwhile the Local Government Association wants eco-towns to be built in urban areas, not the countryside, to stop them from becoming ‘dormitory towns’ and creating ‘eco-slums’ without proper planning.
Meanwhile, the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit (NHPAU), the body charged with realising the government’s pledge to build three million new homes by 2020, has told the government not to focus on the current short-term downturn in the property market but to continue looking at the long-term. It argues that at least 2.96 million new homes need to be built, with as many as 3.48 million required to add to current housing stock. The NHPAU says that the southern regions require the greatest number of new homes with the North East needing the fewest.
The big banks are expanding their share of the mortgage market in the wake of diminishing choice for consumers. Normally the big lenders have around 60 per cent of the market, but currently the big banks are providing between 90 and 95 per cent of all new home loans. Barclays for example now claims it has a 28 per cent of the market share in the first quarter of 2015 compared to only 2 per cent a year ago. Meanwhile three more major lenders have increased the cost of their fixed rate deals – Bradford & Bingley, First Direct and the Cooperative Bank, a day after the average cost of a two-year mortgage broke through the seven per cent barrier.
Debt charities are warning of the rise in ‘payday loans’, where consumers are turning to short-term loans charging interest of more than 1,000 per cent, to tide them over until they get paid. The number of such loans has more than doubled in the past ten months as soaring fuel and food prices eat into people’s purchasing power.
In Scotland the government has unveiled measures aimed at helping homeowners at risk of repossession, with a £25 million Homeowners’ Support Fund and the expansion of the £250 million shared equity scheme, along with ending the right to buy of new social housing. The government reiterated its commitment to building 35,000 homes a year by the middle of the next decade. However the SNP has scrapped the promise to give all first-time buyers a £2,000 grant, with many believing it was too expensive.