[Ben Reeve Lewis’ has had an eventful week …]
Well I’ve had an eventful week, participating in a joint police , local authority taskforce to clean up a particularly run down and crime ridden high street in my locale.
Hitting the street with Police, UKBA officers (Now apparently called “ICE”, so they kept reminding us), environmental health, trading standards, food safety, EDF & British Gas revenue lads and a few odds and sods from DWP etc.
In 6 hours we only got through 7 shops with residential accommodation above but the day’s worked netted
- 2 prohibition notices on meat and fish shops including one on the spot closure,
- 3 unlicensed HMOs,
- overcrowding in death trap conditions we didn’t know about,
- 36 illegal immigrants in two flats,
- 8 arrests by ICE,
- 6 disconnections of gas and electricity for running stolen and dangerous supplies,
- a huge haul of DVDs, illegal tobacco and
- a load of fake over the counter drugs, humourously kept in a Met Police carrier bag under a bed.
We would have done more but the raid was cut short when someone was shot in the leg further up the high street and we lost half our police support who ran off to deal with that. It’s a charming area.
What amazed me as I scurried about in the lofts and hidden but occupied spaces in the residential bits, were the living conditions.
I’ve seen a lot in my time, as had the other teams there but even we were appalled.
Charles Dickens would have wept to see that 150 years later there were still people living in places like that. See pics.
Seven properties down, around another 68 to go.
Of course government want to see an end to this and are bent over the hearth, holding up a sheet of newspaper to create an air-trap and relight the fire under the long dead notion of garden cities, originally created so that people didn’t have to live in such squalid conditions.
But there is a piece of damp wood among the kindling as Inside Housing tells us this week that the proposed 15,000 home development at Ebbsfleet is in a high risk flood plain as advised by the Environment Agency.
Remember them? That’s right, the ones who have been warning government about cuts for ages that resulted in this winter’s madness in places like Somerset.
Osborne quoted on the Andrew Marr Show said proudly:
“‘For the first time in 100 years [we are] going to build a garden city on the Thames Estuary… There is fantastic infrastructure. It’s on the river…”
Love the last four words there…”Its on the river” haha.
Hey George, how about telling us to invest in holiday homes in the Crimea?
The Treasury Office said that full consultation over flood issues had been dealt with when planning permission had been granted but the offices of local MP Gareth Johnson said:
“They were not aware of any consultation that had taken place with local communities”
Although welcoming news of the proposed site he goes on to say:
“Families don’t want to move to a muddy quarry with no facilities and services to support the new housing.”
A note of caution there Gareth? Why did you expect that anyone was going to do something as tiresome as talk to local residents? It would get in the way of the multi millions available to developers.
Mind you it would be a nice touch if they named the new garden city “Atlantis” wouldn’t it?
Ukraine and the UK property market
And talking of homes in the Crimea (up a few lines….pay attention at the back) I read an interesting piece on the blog Mortgage Solutions, about how the current Ukraine crisis is impacting on the property market in the UK.
What I found curious about the article, written by head of KFH’s surveyors Robin Johnson, is the gap between the title and the article.
I know my grasp of financial matters is akin to a Monkey with a Harp but it seems he doesn’t explain it at all, in fact the Ukraine is only mentioned in passing in the last line.
However I did understand some of the other startling figures, even though I am a bit astonished by the angle he takes, which is a prime example of a mind-set where money talks and humans walk.
Making investors comfortable
Whereas I knew that 85% of prime London property is already owned by foreign investors what I didn’t know was that there is a caveat to foreign investment that sets a lower limit of £1m investment which deters investors.
There is recommendation that the amount be raised to £2m but yet another proposal to get rid of it altogether, so that “Investors are more comfortable”.
Mr Johnson informs us that:
“Not only has overseas money for new build apartments come flooding in, now it seems overseas money to develop the homes is also pouring in. The Malaysians recently funded the Battersea Power Station, the Chinese have financed 1 Nine Elms and the Singaporeans are backing Royal Wharf.”
I have a genuine question for anyone who reads this blog, if all these foreign investors are buying in the UK where are UK investors buying?
Does Ron Geezer own a housing estate in Chile? Or ‘Old Etonian investments’ an office block or two in Papua New Guinea?
If not, why not? And what deters them from investing in the UK’s housing stock?
Renewable energy – a new report
Feeling a tad depressed and irked by Mr Johnson paean to the pound with nay a mention of the humans at the sharp end of it all I turned deliberately to New Start magazine, an online blog of all things community and human scaled to cheer myself up.
Jacob Barnes interesting article talks of the gap between a new report by DECC, the Department of Energy & Climate Change and a new initiative, the Bristol Energy Network, a genuine grass-roots community lead set of solutions to renewable energy.
Another prime example, which seems to be this week’s theme, of the interests of people at the top bearing little connection to the interests of the people at the bottom. The article states:
“Where Bristol lays out its vision as ‘a city where everyone has access to sufficient, affordable low-carbon energy, with active communities across the city generating and managing a significant amount of their energy need’, DECC’s vision remains somewhat opaque”
“This (DECC’s) somewhat, incoherent definition contrasts strongly with the Bristol strategy, which was based on cross-sector consultation and simply sidesteps the perceived need to define activity”.
As with Ebbsfleet the government’s view of consultation is in marked contrast to the community’s.
Failed joke alert
But of course human beings are just Ants to many government and money types aren’t they?, which is I admit a puerile metaphor aimed solely at supporting a joke about Ant and DECC that I couldn’t actually come up with in the end.
I think I’m better suited to climbing through lofts and broken windows of the properties owned by foreign investors trying to save their tenants from burning alive.
See ya next week.