“Philip Hammond’s housebuilding company has sat on undeveloped housing plot for 7 years”

First, it should be noted that MANY of the Daily Telegraph’s readers are sitting in undeveloped housing plots!


Second, they don’t mention the company’s financial interest in nursing homes.

It’s a story they are pushing to attempt to get him out as he seems to be perceived as much too wimpy for the Telegraph on Brexit, but nevertheless it is a topical story, and throws up some interesting issues.

Naturally, Hammond says it is a blind trust so he’s not responsible for its decisions. However, companies have the option of behaving morally and responsibly, particularly if they are aware that their ultimate beneficial owner occupies a high-profile position where a possible potential conflict of interest will be magnified by the public gaze.

“A housebuilding business founded by Philip Hammond has been accused of sitting on an undeveloped plot of land which has been granted planning permission for four new homes.

Castlemead Limited, which was co-founded by the Chancellor in 1984, builds new homes and doctor’s surgeries.

It has been reported that Castlemead Group, which is majority-owned by the company, was granted permission to build four homes in north Wales in June 2010 on the condition work on the site would begin within five years.

However, The Times report that the site still remains undeveloped.

Mr Hammond resigned as a director of the company in 2010, but his sole entry in the most recent House of Commons’ MPs’ register makes reference to the fact that he is “a beneficiary of a trust which owns a controlling interest in Castlemead Ltd, a company engaged in construction, house building and property development”.

The revelation comes after Mr Hammond gave an interview with The Sunday Times this week, in which he hit out at house builders who are sitting on hundreds of thousands of undeveloped plots of land which have planning permission for new homes.

He said: “We are generating planning permissions at a record rate.“It’s builders banking land, it’s speculators hoarding land, it’s local authorities blocking development.”

Mr Hammond resigned as a director in 2010 and does not have any direct influence over the company’s activities.

A spokeswoman for Mr Hammond said: “Any shares in Castlemead are held in a trust. The chancellor has no direct influence or involvement and so is unable to comment.”

Castlemead did not respond to The Telegraph’s request for comment.”


“Fears of Exeter housing crisis as figures reveal population growth outstripping new homes”

And what starts in Exeter ripples immediately to East Devon – where the western side is now just another “Greater Exeter” suburb.

“Exeter would need to build houses more than twice as fast if it wanted to keep up with population growth.

The number of homes being built in the area actually dropped last year, the latest figures show – and housing is growing at a far slower
rate than the booming population.

… Government data reveals 450 homes were built in Exeter in 2016-17 – down from 651 the year before – bringing the total number of houses and flats to around 53,930.

That works out as a growth in Exeter housing of 0.84 per cent in the last year.

In comparison, the population of the area grew by nearly 2,500 people between mid-2015 and mid-2016 – the latest data available.

It means only one new home is being built for every six extra people in the area.

Population growth in Exeter is fuelled by both ‘natural’ factors – more births than deaths – as well as immigration from other parts of
the UK and abroad.

Thanks to this there are now nearly 130,000 people living in Exeter – a growth of 1.96 per cent in a single year.

It means the population in the area is growing more than twice as fast as homes are being built – one of the worst discrepancies seen in the
whole of England.

Across the country, rates of house building have actually overtaken total population growth in the last year, with the number of homes in
England increasing by more than 217,000 in 2016-17.

That brings the total number of dwellings in the country to around 24 million – up by 0.92 per cent on the year before. …”


Hinkley Point – the case against grows stronger – part 2

MOwl’s view: meanwhile, all those board members (and former board members) of our LEP with nuclear interests are very happy – those providing the roads to the site, those building houses near the site, those recruiting staff for the site, those building new facilities for site workers and extending their colleges and universities on the back of nuclear training courses they will run. It really doesn’t matter if it is a Somerset white elephant.

AND they are using OUR money for this.

”The government has saddled families with inflated household bills for decades because of the poor deal it negotiated over the Hinkley Point nuclear plant in Somerset, MPs have said.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) criticised a contract awarded to EDF to build the first new nuclear station in Britain since 1995 as too expensive, with the burden falling most heavily on poorer households.

Meg Hillier, the committee’s chairwoman, accused the government of “grave strategic errors” in crafting the deal, which will leave consumers paying £30 billion in subsidies over 35 years — five times more than expected.

“Bill-payers have been dealt a bad hand by the government in its approach to this project,” she said. “Its blinkered determination to agree the Hinkley deal, regardless of changing circumstances, means that for years to come energy consumers will face costs running to many times the original estimate.”

The government signed a preliminary deal in 2013 with EDF, the French state-owned nuclear generator, to pay a fixed price of £92.50 per megawatt hour for the electricity produced by the Hinkley station for 35 years, indexed to inflation. The costs are to be met via a levy on consumer bills once the station enters service, expected to add £10 to £15 a year to the average household bill.

But when wholesale energy prices plunged sharply in 2014, amid growing doubts over the French reactor technology earmarked for use at Hinkley, following delays and cost overruns at other plants, the government failed to revisit the terms.

The PAC accused ministers of pressing ahead and locking consumers into an expensive deal.

“The economics of nuclear power in the UK have deteriorated since the government last formally considered its strategic case for nuclear in 2008,” the report said. “Estimated construction costs have increased while alternative low-carbon technologies have become cheaper. At the same time, fossil-fuel price projections have fallen.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said that it was a “competitive deal”.

EDF Energy said: “The cost of Hinkley Point C for customers has not changed and they will pay nothing for its reliable, low carbon electricity until the station is completed . . . Construction is fully under way and is already delivering a huge benefit to British jobs, skills and industrial strategy.”

Hannah Martin, head of energy at Greenpeace UK, said the PAC report showed that the government should revisit the project because it “makes absolutely no financial sense”.

Source: The Times (pay wall)

Hinkley Point – the case against grows stronger – part 1

See part 2 (above) for Owl’s cynical view. Things MUST be bad if The Times and The Guardian agree!

MPs have accused the government of failing to protect consumers over the price it has promised to pay for power from the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant.

The Commons public accounts committee said the subsidy contract for Hinkley Point C, agreed in 2016 after years of delays, would hit poorest households hardest.

The power station is expected to cost billpayers £30bn over the lengthy of the 35-year contract, adding £10-£15 to the average household energy bill.

Hinkley nuclear site radioactive mud to be dumped near Cardiff
But an assessment by the committee concluded that no one in Whitehall was championing consumers’ interests during negotiations with French company EDF Energy.

The final bill for consumers was exacerbated by government not renegotiating the guaranteed power price for fear that EDF and its Chinese partner CGN would walk away from the project, which the MPs said was a questionable assumption.

Officials agreed a price of £92.50 per megawatt hour in 2013 but fossil fuel price projections fell between then and the contract being signed in 2016, pushing the cost to consumers up fivefold from £6bn to £30bn.

At the time the Department of Energy and Climate Change – now the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – did not consider a ceiling on the guaranteed price, the MPs were told.

Meg Hillier, chair of the group of MPs, said: “Billpayers have been dealt a bad hand by the government in its approach to this project.”

The criticism from the committee follows a damning report by the UK’s spending watchdog, the NAO, which found the contract for Hinkley had locked consumers into a “risky and expensive project”.

The NAO attacked the government for failing to explore alternative financing models, such as taking stake in the project, a criticism that the MPs echoed.

The public accounts committee said it was also disappointed that the government appeared to have no plan in place to maximise the wider benefits of the project, beyond the clean power it will provide.

“The department does not know to what extent UK workers and companies will benefit from Hinkley Point C and the wider follow-on new nuclear programme, and has no plan in place to show how it will maximise the wider benefits of the project,” the report said.

A BEIS spokeswoman said: “The government negotiated a competitive deal for the construction of the first new nuclear power station in a generation as part of our energy mix, which ensures consumers won’t pay a penny for any construction overruns and until the station generates electricity in 2025.”

The MPs urged the government to publish a plan B for keeping the lights on, in the event the power station does not come online in 2025 as planned. EDF has already warned that the plant could be completed 15 months late.

French, Japanese and Chinese developers hope to secure financial incentives from the UK to build other new nuclear power plants, but the MPs said the government should re-evaluate the strategic case before going ahead with more projects.

“The government made some grave strategic errors here and must now explain what it will do to ensure these are not repeated,” said Hillier of the Hinkley contract.

EDF defended the deal and said Hinkley would help cut costs for other future nuclear power stations, such as the one it hopes to build at Sizewell in Suffolk.

A spokesman said: “The agreed price is lower than 80% of other low carbon capacity contracted so far and the project has restarted UK nuclear construction after a quarter century. Construction is fully under way and is already delivering a huge benefit to British jobs, skills and industrial strategy.”


Housing: too many loopholes, too many abuses

A Sidmouth resident writes:

“The Prime Minister has said it is her a personal mission to mend our broken housing market and provide much-needed “affordable” housing, even though much of this is, for many, unaffordable.

We hope therefore that she will immediately address loopholes in the planning system that are regularly exploited by developers who avoid making a fair contribution to affordable housing, for example by claiming, after they have obtained planning permission, that such housing is financially unviable.

Developers who build retirement flats often claim these are “care Homes”, even though they provide no care themselves. In Sidmouth, for instance, PegasusLife is currently appealing a decision to refuse a multi-million pound development of 113 expensive retirement flats and exploiting an ambiguity in planning law as well as using a viability test to avoid paying an estimated £3 million towards affordable housing, housing money that cash-strapped Councils can ill afford to lose.

It is a myth that the country needs more houses: it doesn’t need more expensive houses, investment properties and second homes. What it needs are low-cost houses, houses for social rent and houses to buy within the reach of lower and average income earners.

Will Mrs May tighten up planning law to stamp out such abuses or are we to conclude that the private sector, as hitherto, cannot be trusted to provide low-cost and “affordable” homes?”

The budget: well, at least Hammond will be ok

“… Hammond is one of Parliament’s richest MPs with a net worth estimated at £8.2million in 2014.

He made much of his money after setting up housing and nursing home developer Castlemead in 1984.

He still benefits from a trust that controls the firm, alongside his £143,000 salary for being a minister and MP.

But he refused point-blank to publish his tax return – leaving it difficult to estimate what he’s worth now. …”


“Flagship government housing plan fails to deliver a single home in three years”

Another one of those Tory “funds” (this one supposedly £2.3 billion) that achieved NOTHING.

Question: Where DID the money go?

“A flagship government programme to deliver 200,000 discounted new homes to first-time buyers is yet to see a single one built.

The 2014 Starter Home initiative was touted as part of “a major push” to help people on the housing ladder, but officials admit delivering any properties under the scheme remains an “ambition”.

It promised to achieve its target by pushing councils and developers to bring forward unused land and build on old industrial sites, measures that Chancellor Philip Hammond will again pledge to carry out as he makes housing a key plank of his Budget on Wednesday.

The Starter Home initiative’s lack of concrete progress also comes as Labour claimed Conservative spending plans since 2010 have stripped some £20bn out of UK housebuilding projects, robbing the country of an extra 280,000 homes.

It was just before Christmas three years ago that David Cameron announced the Starter Home project, promising to build 100,000 properties and offer them to young people at a 20 per cent discount.

At the Autumn Statement in 2015, then-Chancellor George Osborne said a £2.3bn fund would help boost the number to 200,000, “in addition to those delivered through reform of the planning system”.

None have been built despite officials in 2014 saying work would begin on the homes the following year.”