Barratt chief says Persimmon bonuses have hurt industry’s name

Copied from Building.co.uk

Reputation of housebuilders tarnished by generous bonus scheme that is ‘not the norm’, admits David Thomas

Building site with david 2015

The head of the country’s biggest housebuilder has said Persimmon’s decision to pay its executives eye-watering bonuses has saddled the industry with a reputation it pays its bosses too much.

Barratt chief executive David Thomas said the controversial bonus scheme, introduced in 2012, was “not the norm” and meant the industry was now having to fight off a perception its executives were netting excessive pay packets.

Persimmon’s latest annual report shows its long-term incentive plan helped chief executive Jeff Fairburn pocket £47m last year, while group finance director Mike Killoran was handed £36.7m with group managing director Dave Jenkinson picking up £20.3m.

Thomas told Building: “What you’ve seen is everyone getting dragged into it simply because it’s about housebuilders being paid too much money, so I think that reputationally it’s problematic for the industry, unquestionably.”

…. Sorry the rest of the interview is only available to subscribers, but you get the message – Persimmon are doing very nicely thank you very much.

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A good old boy takes the day

The consultation period for the revisions of the National Planing Policy Framework closes at 11.45pm on 10 May 18.

It’s highly unlikely that it will make the decision making process any easier when it comes to dealing with unhappy residents, something the planning system appears to be destined to do almost every time a planning application is submitted.

Although the government are themselves elected, the policies contained in the NPPF are designed to set out government’s approach at the national level, with councils needing to produce their own, locally focussed policies to reflect local conditions and to a certain degree, views. The vehicle for ensuring this local position is applied consistently and more importantly equitably, in the Local Plan.

South Holland is currently working with Boston Borough to produce a new Local Plan, something that, with a bit of luck, will be completed by the end of the year.

National and local policies don’t always cover every issue that might arise when a planning application is submitted and this is where the planning committee come in. This is the locally accountable, democratic face of the planning system, used as a way of giving a voice to local people and allowing them to hear the arguments for both sides when an application is significant, or contentious.

However, whilst it’s good that local people have such access and a way of expressing their views, national and local planning policies always apply and will sometimes lead to tension and even conflict, when the outcome is not to the public’s liking.

Members of planning committees are required to be trained and to use this training when reaching decisions. They can of course use their judgement to weigh the issues presented during a debate and give more weight to one than another, but always keeping in mind the policy.

Unfortunately, on occasion, members choose to override policy completely and take what can only be seen , in planning terms, a perverse decision. When that decision is to refuse, an applicant has the right of appeal. However, when it is to approve you’re stuck with it with the perversity.

Such perverse decisions can take many forms, they are all frustrating and not a little embarrassing for a planning authority. This especially so when the decision is the opposite of a previous one, the application is no different from a previous one for the same thing and that decision was appealed against and upheld by an independent planning inspector.

The perversity in this particular case stems, it seems, from what I call the ‘good old boy syndrome’. The case that was made by supporters, on behalf of the applicant, was that he was local, hardworking, long serving and ‘deserved’ to be able to have a dwelling in a particular location. It didn’t seem to matter that the location in question was classified as the open countryside in policy terms and that many similar applications by people who wanted to built themselves a nice retirement property out in the countryside had been refused.

Apparently this particular person had some sort of extra merit that didn’t fit into the planning system and therefore deserved some sort of special treatment, ignoring the local planning policy and the recent planing inspector’s decision, completely.

Such potential inequity of treatment, between what are otherwise identical applicants, is a very worrying practice and one that makes me, personally, both uncomfortable and more than a little angry.

I can think of plenty of situations where an application from somebody whose face does not fit, isn’t a good old boy, doesn’t get a letter of support from the local MP, or actually sees their application receive a number of local objections, has been dismissed out of hand.

Allowing non-material planning considerations – to use the jargon, to influence decisions and over ride policy, is a slippery slope and one that causes major problems in other council areas. Thankfully, it is not a common problem here in South Holland. However, having experienced a recent perverse, ‘good old boy’ decision, I fear we are soon to suffer another. This, just when I thought the planning committee was starting to get the hang of it.

Government offers free advice on neighbourhood planning

This one will probably bring a sinking feeling to some council planning policy departments, because it does require the commitment of resources.  Therefore, the more neighbourhood plans you have in a given local plan area, the more challenging it can be for the LPA.

Housing minister Dominic Raab has announced that communities across England will be able to get free access to expert advice and guidance to help make their neighbourhood vision a reality.

The free help will include financial support and the latest planning expertise from trained professionals, to guide them through the process of preparing a neighbourhood plan.

Some 2,300 communities across England have started the process of neighbourhood planning, with 530 plans approved in local referendums.

These plans will give local people a say in the development of their area, including where homes, schools and businesses should be built, and the infrastructure needed to support them.

Raab said: “Neighbourhood plans are a powerful tool to help communities shape their local area, making sure the right homes are built in the right places. It’s vital that communities have the right support and advice available to help deliver a plan that meets their own ambitious aspirations.”

Previous government support has helped around seven out of 10 of these communities progress their plans, with 365 neighbourhood plans finalised using support provided by the government.

The maximum grant available has been increased by £2,000 to £17,000, helping communities to access more resources to develop a plan for their area.

Community groups can find out more information about how to apply for funding on the neighbourhood planning website.

20 March 2018
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner

Investigation: why so many boilers froze this winter — and who is to blame for this cold-snap scandal

This is a worthwhile story in itself, becuase I suspect a lot of householders might not be aware of this simple fix, along with the shortcoming in their boiler installation.

However, that’s not the main reason for copying this item from the Sunday Times.  Towards the bottom of the article, there’s the following paragraph:

‘In response to The Sunday Times, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said that rules published in 2005 make clear that “any external condensate pipework must be insulated to minimise the risk of freezing”. It stated that it is the job of local authorities to apply building regulations and inspect installations.’

Assuming that the last statement is accurate, it shows a remarkable lack of understanding by MHCLG, of even the basics of how the building control system works in England.  So, just for their benefit.

A brief history of Private Building Control
Back in 1984, a body called the Construction Industry Council (CIC) was formed to allow the privatisation of Building Control. This central government organisation regulates Private Building Control and approves inspectors to carry out this role.
The first company to gain CIC approval was the National House Building Council (NHBC) in the 1990s. There are now more than 150 companies nationwide who offer Building Control services for residential or commercial properties.
What’s the difference between Private and Local Authority Building Control?
Your Local Authority is a non-profit organisation, so it is likely to charge less than Private Building Control. On the other hand, if you can pay a bit more for Private Building Control, you get a dedicated inspector for your project.
When taking a straw poll of other surveyors, many seem to agree that the Local Authority Building Control officers have a reputation for being more independent and thorough; for instance, with more on-site inspections than Private Building Control. Contractors may understandably prefer the ‘lighter touch’ of the latter, which can mean fewer and less thorough inspections. This can give obvious advantages to contractors but may not be in the best interests of the client.  
Reference:  http://www.grumittwade.com/private-building-control-local-authority-building-control/

Copied from Sunday Times on line

Investigation: why so many boilers froze this winter — and who is to blame for this cold-snap scandal
Bruce Millar and Jonathan Leake. April 1 2018, 12:01am,
The Sunday Times Home and garden
The flow never bothered me anyway… Unless you want to live in an ice palace, you might want to insulate your pipework
The flow never bothered me anyway… Unless you want to live in an ice palace, you might want to insulate your pipework

A simple plumbing problem left tens of thousands of households without heat and hot water when temperatures plummeted last month — just when the nation needed them most. The issue? The intense cold froze water in pipes that drain condensation from boilers — which then automatically switched off in their droves.

Cue no heating or hot water… but white-hot anger. At the peak of the cold spell, on March 1, the gas emergency helpline — which is supposed to be reserved for serious concerns such as gas or carbon monoxide leaks — received 40,000 calls in a single day.

Plumbers were the main beneficiaries. The London firm Pimlico Plumbers, owned by Charlie Mullins, the high-profile Tory donor and anti-Brexit campaigner, did record business, taking 25,485 calls in the peak week and making 900 visits on the busiest day, at charges ranging from a minimum of £100 to £220 for callouts after midnight. All of this helped the firm to earn £4m last month — £1m more than in March 2017.

It happened to one of us, too — and to about 10% of the parents in my son’s year at school, Bruce writes. When I battled home through the snow from work, I found the boiler switched off and the radiators fast losing their heat. I cursed and called a local plumber, whose automatic message informed me that demand was high, and asked me to call back when the weather had cleared.

I then spent £20 registering for an online plumbing advice line, but there was a backlog of queries. Finally I checked the website of my boiler’s manufacturer, Vaillant, which told me how to solve the problem.
The remedy turned out to be simple. In most cases, it is sufficient to pour hot (but not boiling) water on the frozen pipe, wait for the blockage to thaw out, then reset the boiler, which will fire up automatically. Being left without heat and hot water in the coldest weather is uncomfortable and distressing, expensive if callout fees are involved, and potentially dangerous. Ahead of the “big freeze” of 2010, the Department of Health and Social Care forecast as many as 30,000 additional deaths.

Has your boiler broken because of frozen pipes? Share your story

What is scandalous in 21st-century Britain is that this commonplace problem is predictable, unnecessary — and completely avoidable. Indeed, for the plumbing trade, it has become a regular cold-snap cash windfall.

Pimlico Plumbers, for example, noticed the red warning weather forecast , cancelled all leave and booked local accommodation so it could handle callouts around the clock. “It was stressful, but great for business at the same time,” one member of staff said.

Exactly the same problem with frozen condensate pipes was reported following icy spells in 2010 and 2014; on the second occasion, the British Standards Institute tightened up its guidelines to stress that: “Insulation does not give complete protection if the temperature continues at or falls further below freezing point. Consideration should be given to fitting a frost thermostat, which should be set to operate at a temperature of approximately 4C.” The institute can only make recommendations, however; it has no regulatory power.

Following pressure from The Sunday Times, a clearly embarrassed industry called an emergency “summit” last week to thrash out a unified response. Hosted at the headquarters of the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EAU) in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, it brought manufacturers and installers together with representatives of the Heating and Hotwater Industry Council (HHIC), the Association of Plumbers and Heating Contractors (APHC), and the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE).

In an admission of the industry’s failure to self-regulate, it was concluded that the problem was the fault of the government and a lack of oversight of building regulations. “From the feedback we have received, it has become clear that there was a significant proportion of installations that were not carried out to current standards and manufacturer’s instructions,” says Stewart Clements, director of the HHIC. “We believe it is time for the government to act.

“Greater enforcement and strengthening of the building regulations will reduce this risk of boiler condensate pipes freezing. We are calling on the government to make the necessary legislative changes.”

In response to The Sunday Times, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said that rules published in 2005 make clear that “any external condensate pipework must be insulated to minimise the risk of freezing”. It stated that it is the job of local authorities to apply building regulations and inspect installations.

As the squabbling continues, thousands of householders and tenants will be left trying to avoid a repetition of the problem as early as tomorrow, with blizzards forecast in parts of the country.

The cheapest DIY approach is to buy a length of insulating foam to clad your pipe: it doesn’t look great, but then external pipework never has much aesthetic appeal. Then, when the cold bites, place your boiler on its maximum setting — turning down the room thermostats if necessary — and leave it on continuously, rather than using cost-saving on-off settings that may permit a build-up of ice.

Hot tips

Since 2005, every new gas boiler installed in the UK must be a condensing model: these are much more efficient (up to 90%, compared to 60% for older models), so reduce running costs. About half the country’s 26m households now have one and 1.5m are installed every year.

They work with flue gases at a lower temperature than earlier models – 50C, rather than 130C – and the process produces up to two litres an hour of acidic water, known as condensate, which must be carried away as waste in a non-corroding pipe.

Ideally, this condensate pipe should empty directly into the waste water system, inside the property. In some countries, including Germany, where many of the boilers are manufactured, this is the only permitted method of installation. In Britain, however, the condensate pipe can be run down the outside of the wall directly behind the boiler. This is often the easiest and cheapest way.

Pipes passing through unheated parts of a property, including attics, are prone to freeze and should be insulated. Running down the outside wall, exposed to cold winds, they are more vulnerable still. To reduce the chances of the pipe freezing, it should be vertical, at least 32mm in diameter, no more than three metres long and properly insulated or (expensively) fitted with a “trace heater” system.

Waste Enforcement Regulations to put pressure on occupiers and landowners

Copied from Lexology.com online website

Osborne Clarke

United Kingdom March 23 2018

Over the past five months, the government has shown an increasing commitment to cleaning up waste and dealing with waste offenders, most notably through its publication of the Clean Growth Strategy (12 October 2017), the Industrial Strategy (27 November 2017) and the 25 Year Environment Plan (11 January 2018). Whilst these initiatives have been criticised by some for not going far enough or failing to establish concrete obligations or enforcement policies in respect of waste, on 8 March 2018 the Waste Enforcement (England and Wales) Regulations 2018 became law. The Regulations aim to strengthen the powers of environmental regulators to address waste crime in England and Wales.

The Regulations form part of the government’s wider policy intention to tackle waste crime. This is an issue that is also referred to in Chapter 4 of the 25 Year Environment Plan, which highlights the cost of waste crime to taxpayers and the long-term impact of waste on the natural environment. In particular, fly-tipping and poorly managed waste sites lead to problems with fumes, dust, vermin, insect infestations and waste fires, with the latter often causing significant disruption to roads, railways and schools. According to the Environment Plan, the cost to local authorities of fly-tipped waste was £57.7m in 2016/2017, which does not include the additional costs borne by landowners forced to deal with illegal waste disposal.

What do the Regulations do?

As set out in the Industrial Strategy, the government is seeking clean growth as one of its four “Grand Challenges” to boost UK productivity. The government aims to minimise waste by establishing a more circular economy, whereby materials are recycled up the waste hierarchy and are used more efficiently.

To achieve this and reduce pollution, the Regulations provide environmental regulators (the Environment Agency in England and the Natural Resources Body in Wales) with the following new powers:

1. Waste removal

Regulation 2 empowers the regulators to serve notice on an occupier of a property which requires them to:

• remove waste from the property which is being illegally stored, kept or disposed of, within in a specified period of time (of not less than 21 days), including waste that was initially lawfully deposited; and

• take steps (within the above specified period) to eliminate or reduce the consequences of the unlawful keeping or disposal of the waste.

Failure to comply with a waste removal notice (without reasonable excuse) is a criminal offence and is punishable by way of a fine. Additionally, should the offender fail to comply with the waste removal notice, the regulator may remove the waste and recover from the occupier the expenses reasonably incurred in doing so.

2. Restricted access to waste sites

Regulation 3 empowers the regulator to prohibit access to and the importation of waste into a site for up to (i) 72 hours by serving a restriction notice; or (ii) 6 months where the court issues a restriction order, in the following circumstances:

• there is a risk of serious pollution to the environment or serious harm to human health which is a result of the treatment, keeping, deposit or disposal of waste in or on the premises; and

• the notice is necessary to prevent the risk from continuing.

The regulators’ power to restrict access is a significant one and could have a notable impact on the movement of goods and services into and out of waste sites, which could have serious knock-on effects for business.

Failure to comply with a restriction notice is a criminal offence and is punishable by way of a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 51 weeks, or both. Failure to comply with a waste removal restriction order is punishable by either: (i) on summary conviction, to a fine or imprisonment for up to 12 months (or to both); or (ii) on conviction on indictment, to a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years (or to both).

Impact of the Regulations: cost to landlords

In certain circumstances, as set out below, landlords could find themselves responsible for the cost of removing illegally kept or disposed of waste. Leaseholder and freeholder landlords of sites which house regulated or exempt facilities should be aware that they could be held responsible for unlawful waste on their properties.

The Regulations permit the regulator to serve notice on landowners requiring them to remove unlawful waste if:

• there is no occupier;

• the occupier cannot be found without the regulator incurring unreasonable expense; or

◦ the occupier has failed to comply with a waste removal notice within the specified period.

It will therefore become increasingly important for landlords to ensure that waste obligations are clearly set out in tenancy agreements and that regular property inspections are held. Enhanced scrutiny of a tenant’s financial status should also be considered before tenancies are agreed. This is particularly the case as the powers granted to the regulator by the Regulations are capable of interfering with business practice.

Ahead of the government’s Resource and Waste Strategy, the Regulations come into force on 29 March 2018, with the exception of regulation 2 and certain related transition provisions, which come into force on 8 May 2018.

Osborne ClarkeKiera TaylorMatthew Germain and Caroline Bush

Network Rail has no interest in our traffic issues

Recently the local press published a letter suggesting that South Holland District Council could somehow have required the rail companies to do something other than what they eventually did with the line through Spalding.

I did send the newspaper a response, as the writer did raise a number of valid questions that needed answering.  To date, this has not been published.

Dear sir,

Further to Mr Delve’s letter re traffic grid lock in Spalding being caused by increased use of the rail line. He refers to a rail loop proposal and asks why the council didn’t require Network Rail to build this, rather than carry out the upgrade work that allowed for the increased rail traffic.

If only it were that easy. The ‘rail loop’ he refers to, was in fact a protected corridor identified by the district council in an early plan. Its inclusion was more in hope than anticipation, that the rail company would see the logic in bypassing a town centre with four level crossings and no bridges, at some point in the future.

As the local planning authority, South Holland would never have been under any illusion that it could compel Network Rail to do anything other than the Railways Act allows it to; upgrade the existing line, whatever the impact. Even our encouragement for the development of a Rail Freight Interchange, failed to prompt the company into becoming more engaged.

Since the original upgrade proposals became known to South Holland DC, the council has made every effort to reduce the impact. First in meetings with Railtrack, when proposals included the potential for level crossing closures of up to 40 minutes in the hour. We also looked at the potential for a road bridge on Winsover Road. Then with Network Rail, a company that regrettably, has been somewhat less forthcoming.

We are now working in partnership with Lincolnshire County Council and local developers, to progress the delivery of the Spalding Western Relief Road. This road is one of only four strategic road projects in the county council’s local transport plan.

Working with LCC we successful bid for £12m from central Government, to support major housing delivery projects, a crucial element of Spalding Western Relief Road scheme.

Cllr Roger Gambba-Jones
Cabinet member for Place
South Holland District Council

Ministers’ ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude to councils must end

Copied from LG online
8 MARCH, 2018 BY NICK GOLDING

COMMENT
All too often the government’s attitude to local government can be categorised as “out of sight, out of mind”. The shadow of Brexit’s cloak of doom obscures most things right now.

However, local government made a high-profile sortie to the front of the collective ministerial consciousness earlier this week – when Sajid Javid and Theresa May lambasted the sector for its apparent failure to ensure homes get built.

While some councils do block too many new homes, scores of headlines relating to “nimby councils” were not a fair reflection of where culpability lies for failure to address the housing crisis. “Land-banking developers” and “ineffective ministers” surely merit far harsher headlines.

In her showpiece housing speech, the prime minister legitimately espoused the benefits of homeownership among the (relatively) young. However, she has become increasingly blind to the plight of more vulnerable younger people. Many have basic unmet needs as a result of austerity.

Warning more top-tier councils could follow Northamptonshire
LGC analysis shows an astonishing 63% of area reviews of special educational needs and disabilities provision undertaken in the past year have uncovered weaknesses. It is not that councils do not regard these services as important, but they simply lack the proper resources to offer the service levels they desire. SEND services, like a myriad of other areas of council provision, are deteriorating due to funding cuts – but the government continues to look the other way.

Ministers need to be a willing to accept responsibility for the tough stuff as they are willing to dole out the blame.

Evidence of the scale of local government’s financial crisis comes today as the National Audit Office reports on the sector’s financial health. The spending watchdog reveals that more than a fifth of top-tier councils are running through their reserves at such a rate that they are set to follow Northamptonshire CC in issuing a section 114 notice within the next five years. Authorities are in an impossible situation, buffeted by rising demand for services on one side and reduced funding on the other.

Councils’ plight is growing ever greater, as is the government’s inability to appreciate the scale of the challenge. In response to the NAO review, a government spokesman trotted out all the usual lines about the recent finance settlement striking “a balance between relieving growing pressure on local government and ensuring hard-pressed taxpayers do not face excessive bills” and how councils are getting “a real-terms increase in resources over the next two years”. The NAO’s research suggests a far more negative picture.

We need more straight-talking honesty from our ministers. They need to be as willing to accept the responsibility for the tough stuff – the devastating impact on services of austerity – as they are willing to dole out the blame.

In something of a breath of fresh air, Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government minister Heather Wheeler this week said she would resign if rough sleeping worsens. If her ministerial colleagues are so certain they’re getting the balance right on council funding, they should make similar commitments to resign in the event of a spate of Northamptonshires.