Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Go ahead given for 170 homes on Inspired land.

ANGRY campaigners have condemned a council's “horrific” decision to allow 170 homes to be built in a picturesque valley.

The homes on Carson's Drive at Great Cornard, near Sudbury, are part of Babergh District Council's local plan which campaigners say will destroy views that inspired legendary painter Thomas Gainsborough.

At yesterday's full council meeting members rejected an amendment to reduce the number of houses on the site and a further 11th hour amendment to eliminate the site altogether from the local plan.

Controversy was stoked by the exclusion of five councillors who had “pre-determined” the debate by signing a Save Gainsborough Country Campaign (SGCAG) petition against Carson's Drive.

Embittered campaigners pointed to the fact that the five were less than the margin of defeat for the amendment to omit the 170 homes.

Betty Bone, SGCAG member, said: “If the five councillors had not been barred from the meeting then Carson's Drive would have been deleted.

“I'm horrified because when I first lived in Great Cornard 50 years ago there were perhaps 170 homes in the whole village now they are putting 170 in one field.”

Stefan Kosciuszko, chairman of SGCAG, who vowed not to give up defending the valley, said: “Today marks a new low point in the history of our district.

“The views of over 2,200 individuals, objections from English Heritage and Suffolk County Council Highways and sound planning arguments were all ignored in a sham of a consultation process.

“The stench of pre-determination emanating from the council offices has been overpowering throughout this process.”

Nick Ridley, chairman of the strategy committee, said he regretted the fact that five councillors had been excluded from the decision but he said the plan was sound and had been debated in detail.

“It would have been helpful if all the councillors had taken part but they were not allowed to proceed,” he said.

“However, we must keep things in proportion - we have a good plan. It is a plan which balances new housing, including low cost housing, new sites for jobs and environmental improvements for the next ten years.”

Rich Cooke, acting head of planning policy and economic development at Babergh, had urged councillors to pass the Carson's Drive scheme or face losing the entire local plan.

He said the district had been waiting eight years for an up-to-date local plan and failure to agree on one before the deadline of July 21 could invite a “scatter gun” approach from developers.

The amendment to block the 170 homes was defeated 15 votes to 12, and the local plan was passed 22 votes to two.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Goverment announces dry run for Home Inspection Packs.

Government has set out today next steps to help homebuyers with the announcement by Housing Minister, Yvette Cooper, of details of a dry-run prior to introducing Home Information Packs (HIPs) on 1 June 2007.

The Government is introducing HIPs, which have long been called for by consumer groups, to address the serious problems and delays homebuyers and sellers face when they can't get early reliable information about homes.

HIPs will provide reliable information at the beginning of the homebuying process to help prevent buyers and sellers being misled by incomplete or inaccurate information when they put in or accept an offer. Currently £1million is wasted every day when sales fall through. The Government has said that all aspects of the Packs need to be tried and tested through a dry run before becoming mandatory on 1 June next year.

The dry run has already begun with 45 organisations in England and Wales already providing more than 2500 packs on a voluntary basis. The Association of Home Information Pack Providers will be rolling out voluntary HIPs in the regions during 2006 and 2007.

From August, the first certification schemes, which will ensure the work of Home Inspectors meets tough Government standards, will be approved. Currently seven organisations have applied to run the certification schemes.

The approved schemes should begin to operate from October 2006, with qualified, certificated Home Inspectors able to register the Home Condition Report and deliver authorised reports to consumers. At the same time a rigorous testing process will be put in place for example, Home Inspectors' work will be assessed through the Certification Schemes and consumers will be surveyed to ensure they can understand the contents of the Pack and the Home Condition Report to use them effectively.

Between 5000 and 7400 full time Home Inspectors will be required to complete an estimated 1.44 million Home Condition Reports each year. Over 4000 people have begun training to gain the Home Inspector qualification.

Yvette Cooper said:

“The current system isn't fair on buyers or sellers. £1million is wasted every day when sales fall through and too many buyers and sellers face real headaches when it turns out they were misled or that problems emerge when it's too late. Home Information Packs have been long called for by consumer groups to give people reliable information at the beginning of the process. Now the dry run will make sure that all aspects of the Packs are properly tested before being fully introduced next year."

From January 2007, lenders will be able to acquire Home Condition Reports electronically from a register and use them for valuation assessments as part of their lending decisions.

This month will also see the Home Information Pack advertising campaign kick off with advertisements placed in trade and online media designed to raise awareness of the new arrangements amongst to estate agents, solicitors, mortgage lenders, surveyors and Pack providers. The campaign will be extended later in 2006 to inform and educate homeowners and first time buyers as to what they will need to do as implementation date draws nearer.

As momentum gathers in the run up to 1 June 2007, the ODPM has created a dedicated website at - for industry and consumers. The site will provide detailed, up-to-date information, including case studies, FAQs, leaflets, regular e-newsletters, event details and other useful links.

Notes to editors:

About Home Information Packs
As from 1 June 2007, homeowners will be required to provide a Home Information Pack when marketing their homes for sale throughout England and Wales. This will help reduce the estimated £1 million which is wasted each day because of failed transactions. The Pack will include a Home Condition Report, terms of sale and any search details. An energy effiency rating will be included in the report, giving consumers the choice to assess the likely running costs of a property before they buy.

1. Consumer Benefits:

  • Provide transaction improvements by reducing the abortive costs to consumers and the industry attributable to failures caused by survey or valuation inspection findings.
  • Improve the condition of the housing stock by reducting the incidence of unexpected repair bills and encouraging better maintenance of homes.
  • Provide greater consumer choice by reducing the entry costs to first time buyers and creating a market of serious sellers.

2. Cost of Home Information Packs:

  • The Packs will cost around £600 plus VAT. Most of this cost is not new being met at present by sellers and buyers. The Home Condition Report is the new item and is expected to cost around £300, for an average home, plus VAT. It is similar to the homebuyer survey that some purchasers already commission.
  • The proposed content of the pack includes searches and other information which is currently paid for by the buyer. Where several buyers pursue the same property, then these costs are repeated by each buyer. Under the new arrangements all prospective buyers will be able to access this information up front as supplied by the seller.

3. Market Impact:

Home Information Packs will make the market more efficient and certain. They will make home buying more affordable and sustainable for first time buyers, who will receive full details abiout the property at no cost to them.

Major players are now investing heavily in Home Information Pack systems and intend to market these well in advance of packs becoming mandatory. This means sellers and buyers will not have to wait until June 2007 before they can benefit from packs immediately before implementation of the mandatory scheme in June.

Industry accepts that sellers will generally not pay up front for Home Information Packs. Thus there is no impediment to sellers marketing their homes with the Packs both before and after implementation.

4. Home Inspectors/Certification Scheme:

Only inspectors qualifying under certification schemes approved by the Secretary of State will be able to prepare Home Condition Reports. The scheme will be responsible for monitoring and auditing inspectors’ work. This will be robust to ensure that standards are maintained and the reports can be trusted.

If inspectors fail to maintain the correct standard or act in a way that is partial to one party contrary to the rules of the scheme, their certification will be removed, along with that their ability to produce Home Condition Reports.

5. Home Condition Report:

The Home Condition Report will be an objective report on the condition of the property that buyers, sellers and lenders will have a legal right to rely on. Home Inspectors will have to have suitable insurance that will be backed up by insurance of last resort provided by the certification scheme.

6. Integrated Government Policy Benefits
Home Information Packs support the Government’s wider reform agenda, including raising the energy efficiency of the housing stock, and improving its state of repair. as well as contributing to sustainable home ownership and communities.

7. A timeline was published on 16th March 2006 -

Monday, April 03, 2006

Energy Bills And Council Tax Hit First-time Buyers

Record rises in energy prices and steep council tax increases are making life harder for first-time buyers, says a new report...
Finding a deposit is tough enough, and stamp duty always comes as a bit of a nasty surprise, but now first-time buyers are facing additional costs due to rising utility bills and higher council taxes.
According to Yorkshire Bank research, gas and electricity prices are now at such a high level that one in three (33 per cent) first-time buyers would avoid buying a property that lacked the basics such as double glazing and cavity wall insulation.
They are, says Gary Lumby, Yorkshire Bank's head of retail, conscious that utility bills are on the rise and know that this will make owning their first home more expensive:
"With the average annual domestic energy bill now close to £1,000, it is clear the energy costs and efficiency of a home are becoming as big an issue for first-time buyers as raising money for a deposit or paying stamp duty.
"The problem is that, unlike a deposit or stamp duty - which are one-off payments - energy costs are ongoing. Consequently, energy efficiency and the size of a home's energy bill is now essential information for those looking around potential homes."
Council Tax As well as having to factor higher energy prices into their already tight budgets, first-time buyers are also bracing themselves for this spring's rise in council taxes.
Yorkshire Bank found almost one in four (23 per cent) first-time buyers were putting off plans to buy until local councils announced their charges for the year ahead.
Gary Lumby said: "Higher council tax is a concern for many buyers, not just those looking to buy their first home. The general cost of running a home is set to be more expensive in 2006, with combined council tax and utility bulls estimated to rise by an average of 111 per cent.
"The problem for buyers is that average earnings are only rising at 3.6 per cent. As a result, first-time buyers should consider buying sooner rather than later - as affordability may become an even bigger challenge.
"Although it is clearly harder for people to get onto the property ladder, stable interest rates are helping. And should the Bank of England reduce rates in the next few months as expected, then it will be cheaper for buyers to borrow."
Where household bills are increasing:
Water bills: 2005: £279. 2006: £295. (+5.7%)Energy bills: 2005: £795. 2006:£971 (+22.1%).Council Tax (Band D): 2005: £1,197. 2006: £1,250 (4.4%)Overall cost: 2005: £2,271. 2006: £2,516 (+10.8%).