Affordable housebuilding to fall after Spending Review, watchdog warns

Reports that the government's budget watchdog believes that the Spending Review will mean fewer homes built by housing associations over the next two years feature in today's newspaper round-up.

The Times (subscription required) reports a warning from the government’s budget watchdog that fewer new homes will be built by housing associations over the next two years as a result of changes made in last week’s Spending Review. According to the newspaper, Robert Chote, head of the Office for Budget Responsibility, said that the fall is because of the chancellor’s decision in June to cut housing association rents by 1 per cent over four years, meaning that they can borrow less and build fewer houses. The newspaper adds that, in a second change in the Spending Review, the chancellor "delayed funding for housing associations and announced measures to increase shared ownership".

The Independent reports that a Highways England report has said that "psychological difficulties" faced by drivers travelling underground must be considered before an 18-mile tunnel beneath the Peak District is built. According to the newspaper, an interim report on the proposed Trans-Pennine Tunnel said that the project would reduce journey times and improve transport links between Sheffield and Manchester. But the newspaper adds that the report also warned that the "practical and psychological difficulties of driving in a long tunnel environment should not be underestimated", adding that solutions would need to be found to problems such as driver claustrophobia, limited visibility and poor air quality.

The Times (subscription required) also reports that Prime Minister David Cameron has been urged to put off a decision on allowing Heathrow Airport to build a third runway until the airport shows it can meet air pollution targets. According to the newspaper, Cameron is expected to confirm that he will allow the expansion of the airport. But the newspaper adds: "MPs on the Commons environmental audit committee said that he should put off his approval until the airport proves that the increased capacity will not lead to worsening air quality."

The Daily Telegraph reports that residents have warned that the "uneven cobbles that line the streets and narrow alleyways" close to St Peter’s Square in Rome "are under threat due to a Vatican plan to cover them with asphalt". According to the newspaper: "Residents of the city-state have formed an action group to fight the commercialisation of the area, which has seen cheap tourist restaurants and gaudy shops selling tourist trinkets multiply and expand on to pavements of the neighbourhood’s ancient alleyways". The campaigners are on a "collision course" with the Vatican, the newspaper reports, "after it announced it wanted the sampietrini, as the cobblestones are know, in three streets around St Peter’s Square to be covered with asphalt".


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