Demolishing 50,000 buildings a year is a national disgrace

Demolition is construction’s dirty secret. If the government is serious about wanting to Build Back Better, it must recognise that the greenest building is one that already exists.

Will Hurst

This summer the government will strike a blow against our throwaway culture by giving consumers a right of repair on electrical goods. Under new rules, manufacturers will be legally obliged to make spare parts available, slashing “e-waste” and carbon emissions in the run-up to November’s Cop26 climate conference. The plans will put “more money back in the pockets of consumers while protecting the environment”, according to the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng. In promoting intensive and long-term use of resources, the move is a commendable example of circular economy thinking.

Yet ministers have barely scratched the surface when it comes to harnessing this approach to help meet Boris Johnson’s world-leading pledge to slash carbon emissions by 78 per cent by 2035. While the country generates 1.5 million tonnes of electrical waste each year, the figure for construction is 126 million tonnes, almost two thirds of all waste produced in the UK.

Buildings, much like electronic gadgets, are quickly viewed as obsolete with 50,000 demolished annually. Many could be revitalised and enlarged where necessary. Instead, they are erased and replaced with shiny new structures built of fossil-fuel-hungry steel and cement. No wonder the construction sector accounts for about 10 per cent of the country’s carbon emissions, a percentage only likely to grow.

As we emerge from the pandemic, you might have thought that all the talk of a green recovery would have slowed the wrecking ball, yet the opposite seems true. Save Britain’s Heritage, a charity established almost half a century ago, says it has never been busier fighting for historic buildings under threat. Great chunks of towns and cities such as Worcester, London, Coventry and Grimsby are earmarked for demolition or already condemned to it. What’s perverse is that this wasteful system is encouraged by the planning rules and a VAT system that charges 20 per cent on most refurbishment work and a rate of zero on much new-build construction, including housing.

What if ministers promoted a new approach based on reusing existing buildings wherever possible? That is what’s proposed by the Architects’ Journal’s RetroFirst campaign, which has widespread industry support and is the subject of a new short film voiced by the architect and broadcaster George Clarke.

Demolition is construction’s dirty secret. If the government is serious about wanting to Build Back Better, it must recognise that the greenest building is one that already exists.

Will Hurst is managing editor at the Architects’ Journal

UK Covid live news: minister brushes aside claims PM does not care about standards by stressing he’s popular


They just don’t get it do they? Owl

Andrew Sparrow 09.25


Minister brushes aside claims PM does not care about standards by stressing he’s popular

Good morning. If Boris Johnson was hoping that Matt Hancock’s Saturday night resignation as health secretary was going to draw the line under the many questions about this matter – not least why Johnson did not sack Hancock as soon as it became clear he was ignoring his own lockdown rules – then this morning there will be a need for an urgent rethink. This became obvious about 30 seconds into Nick Robinson’s superb interview with Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, on the Today programme. Robinson started by asking why Hancock was not on Friday. Buckland responded by claiming to be “amazed” that Robinson was asking about this, and not probation service reform, given that Hancock has now gone, but Robinson just laughed this objection.

From there, for Buckland, it just got even worse.

The most telling moment probably came near the end. Buckland refused to accept the claim that Johnson does not care about ethical standards in government. But then, in what sounded a more candid defence, he suggested it was only Johnson’s critics who were raising these points, and that it did not matter much because Johnson was popular. Inadvertently, he seemed to be confirming Robinson’s point.

Here is the exchange.

NR: There is a sense that this government, in particular this prime minister, believes that the rules are for little people, standards are to be sneered at and ignored, provided the prime minister is ahead in the opinion polls. Is that the view of this government?

RB: I think it’s entirely the opposite of the truth. This government is all of the people’s priorities.

NR: I’m asking you about standards, not the people’s priorities, Mr Buckland, you well know. You see, there is an argument, and many people would have is, it doesn’t matter if the public don’t care about standards. Standards are standards. You’re a lawyer, you’re a justice secretary, I suspect you believe, to the very core of your being, that you should uphold the law and uphold the rules. I’m putting to you that that is not the spirit in Boris Johnson governs this country.

RB: I entirely disagree, I wouldn’t be in government, if I felt that the prime minister didn’t agree with me on those fundamental principles. He does.

And I think that, frankly, all the rest is just talk, and usually talk by people who have an agenda that clearly is against that of the prime minister.

I think the truth is a lot of people just don’t like the PM, and they veil their dislike in this sort of language. I think they can’t get over the fact that he is popular in the country and liked in the country, and has won a resounding election victory.

Burnthouse Lane baffled by Exeter boundary shake-up

If there’s one community in particular in Exeter where its residents love and are proud of where they live its ‘The Laners’ in Burnthouse Lane.

Remember the consultation on boundary changes is still open – Owl

Anita Merritt

There are even those who refuse to identity themselves as being part of Wonford because living in the Lane is deemed to be an area in its own right.

To have recently been told that boundary changes could mean the street would no longer be part of Exeter but East Devon instead has not gone down well among those who have heard the news.

The common feeling though seems to be that regardless of whether Burnthouse Lane – along with parts of Countess Wear, and the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital – are moved ‘out of Exeter’ under proposals for a shake-up of England’s electoral map in 2023, it won’t make any difference.

That’s because the residents say they will always be part of Exeter no matter what anyone else says, and they don’t expect it to have much impact on their lives.

If the parliamentary boundary is changed it will not affect local government boundaries or services such as bin collections so the areas will still come under the remit of Exeter City Council.

As part of the proposals, Devon will gain an extra MP and arts of what is the existing Exeter constituency will be moved into a new Exmouth seat – which primarily covers the existing East Devon seat, with areas around Sidmouth and Ottery St Mary moving into a new Honiton seat covering the east of the county.

The proposals from the Boundary Commission for England says the aim is to make Parliament fairer by giving each MP a roughly similar number of voters, which involves redrawing and renaming some seats.

A final decision will be made on July 1, 2023, following a series of consultations.

Burnthouse Lane resident Terry Mills said: “It won’t change anything as this is Burnthouse Lane. We feel part of Exeter.

“I had not heard of the boundary changes before. I would rather be in Exeter and I don’t want an MP who I am not used to, and they would not know our issues.”

Mum-of-five Debbie Coles said: “I don’t agree with it because I’m in Exeter, not East Devon. I have lived in Exeter all my life and have lived off The Lane for five years.

“I don’t quite get it.”

David James, who works behind the bar at The Dolphin pub in Burnthouse Lane, said: “I never realised they were going to change the boundaries. I live in The Lane and it would not bother me at all because it does not really change anything; I’ll still be living in The Lane.”

Harry Crompton, who now lives in St Thomas but used to live in The Lane, said: “I find it some what disappointing in that the government is manipulating votes to get into more streets. It’s unfair for the people who have voted.

“It’s basically about adjusting the boundaries so they can inherit more seats in the House of Commons.

“It will reduce the chances of a Labour seat at the next elections.

“I think a lot of people are not going to be fussed as a lot of people don’t vote anymore, and they will just carry on with their lives.”

Samantha Welch said: “I didn’t know anything about it either. I don’t think it will change anything to be honest. I live in Burnthouse Lane and the changes don’t bother me because it’s always going to be Exeter to me.”

John Mills, 72, lives in neighbouring Hazel Road, said: “I’m not really worried about it at all. It is what it is. I was born and bred in Exeter, and I like living here. I will still say I’m in Exeter, not East Devon, if it does change. I’m Exeter and nothing else.”

Angela Sowden, who also lives in The Lane, said: “I have always liked Ben Bradshaw; I have always got on with him and he has helped my family. He’s a very good MP.

“I would be disappointed if the boundaries are changed because we’ve always known this part as the west of Exeter. I prefer things as they are thanks.”

Her daughter Rebecca added: “I don’t see what the point is personally. We’ve always been known as part of Exeter so what difference will it make?

“People have always voted for Ben here so there will probably be a bit of an uproar. I can’t see an MP for East Devon travelling all the way over here to ask our opinion or that they will feel like one of us.”

Pensioners Sylvia and Tom Crawford are also not keen on the proposals.

Sylvia, who has lived in the same house in The Lane since she was a toddler, said: “It’s horrible,” and joked, “but does it mean we’re going into the posh part?

“Everybody is mucking about with everything.”

Tom added: “It sounds a bit ridiculous to me after all these years. In all honesty I don’t think it will make a difference to me.”

Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw said: “I would strongly encourage anyone with concerns to make representations to the Boundary Commission’s consultation. It is quick and easy to do and it is common for the commission to change its initial proposals if enough people object.

“The people of the Burnthouse Lane estate have every right to feel they are an integral and historic part of Exeter.

“When making representations it is important to stress local community and historic ties and helpful to suggest an alternative solution, given the Exeter parliamentary seat must lose at least one local council ward under the maximum size rules.

“Any change in the parliamentary boundary will not affect local government boundaries or services. Everyone in Wonford and the rest of Exeter will continue to be covered by Exeter City Council and its services.”

A spokesman for the Boundary Commission said: “We encourage everyone to use this opportunity to help us shape the new constituencies – the more responses we receive, the more informed our decisions will be when considering whether to revise our proposals.

“Our consultation portal at has more information about our proposals and how to give us your views on them.”

Six arrested after Extinction Rebellion dumps manure outside Daily Mail offices in ‘Free the Press’ protest

Six people were arrested after Extinction Rebellion (XR) dumped a pile of manure outside the offices of the Daily Mail as part of a planned ‘Free the Press’ protest.

Climate activists dropped 7 tonnes of the fertiliser outside the entrance of Northcliffe House, in Kensington, west London, at 6.40am on Sunday and also targeted the offices of the Daily Telegraph at Victoria.

The environmental group said in a statement it wants to send a message to “the 4 billionaire owners of 68 per cent of the UK’s print media” and is demanding “an end to media corruption that suppresses the truth from the public for profit.” Protesters left signs behind saying “cut the crap” and “free the press”.

Police said five people were arrested in Kensington for an offence under section 148 of the Highways Act 1980, which is punishable with a fine. Four of the five were also arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage.

A 54-year-old man was also stopped by police as he attempted to empty manure from a truck onto the pavement near the Telegraph’s offices in Buckingham Palace Road, Victoria. “Had he succeeded, it would have caused disruption to employees and members of the public,” the Metropolitan Police said in a statement. He was arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving.

XR later posted a video of a small number of activists spraying paint on the News Corp building at London Bridge before they too were detained by police.

The protest was one of several different demonstrations to sweep the capital over the weekend.

On Saturday anti-lockdown protesters threw tennis balls at Parliament and Downing Street and also let off flares.

Protesters, many not wearing masks, carried placards bearing anti-vaccine and anti-restrictions messages, while others waved flags.

Meanwhile, in a separate action, the People’s Assembly, an anti-austerity group, held a demonstration against the government, which included criticism of a range of issues including the controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

Images and videos shared on social media by Extinction Rebellion showed people marching through London and speeches in Parliament Square, including from former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Other protesters sharing images on social media appeared to be marching for causes including the rights of Palestinians and trans people.

Three people were arrested during the protests for breach of the peace, assault on police and an individual who was already wanted for a previous assault.

On Sunday the Save Our Scene group held a “Freedom To Dance” march from Regent Street to Parliament Square in protest at the government’s treatment of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a post on Instagram, the group said: “We are demanding that the government lift all restrictions on the music & hospitality sector without any further delay.”

At the end of Sunday’s demonstrations, the Met Police confirmed that a total of 23 people had been arrested “as a result of the proactive operation”.

The damning emails that prove Matt Hancock misled the public about his friend’s Covid contract

  • Emails show Matt Hancock sent friend’s plea for business to senior civil servant 
  • Within weeks friend Alex Bourne had secured a £30m deal to supply test tubes
  • Ex Health Secretary as repeatedly insisted he had ‘nothing to do’ with the deal (Extract)

Matt Hancock is facing fresh scrutiny after The Mail on Sunday obtained bombshell emails contradicting his insistence that he did not help a friend win a lucrative coronavirus contract.

The messages, obtained after a Freedom of Information battle, reveal the ex-Health Secretary personally referred a plea for business by former pub landlord Alex Bourne to a senior civil servant in the Department of Health.

Matt Hancock is facing fresh scrutiny after The Mail on Sunday obtained bombshell emails contradicting his insistence that he did not help his friend Alex Bourne win a lucrative coronavirus contract

When Mr Hancock was asked about the contract in December, he insisted: ‘I had nothing to do with this contract. I don’t have anything to do with the signing of individual contracts.’

Last night, Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, accused Mr Hancock of misleading the public over the issue. 

‘The charge sheet against Matt Hancock grows by the hour,’ he said. 

‘These damning emails reveal the beleaguered Health Secretary misled the public over his help for his pub landlord friend winning lucrative public contracts.’

His officials fought tooth and nail to stop us getting bombshell messages

The Department of Health and Social Care battled for months to keep email exchanges between Matt Hancock and his friend a secret – and only caved in when threatened with court action.

The Mail on Sunday submitted a request for information on February 23, asking for copies of emails and WhatsApp messages exchanged by the two men between March and December 2020, as well as the transcripts of any relevant telephone conversations. The DHSC failed to reply to that or a subsequent request for an internal review.

The MoS then complained to Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, who – after reminding officials of their responsibilities under the Freedom of Information Act – issued a Decision Notice on June 15 in which she stated that a failure to respond was a breach of the law.

She warned that a failure to respond within 35 calendar days could lead to High Court action for contempt of court. Three days later, the DHSC capitulated.

Read details

Chris Whitty sent in to save Britain’s sick seaside towns

We have been here before, for example the deprivation of Seaside Towns was examined by Clive Betts MP’s committee in a benchmarking study 2006/7:

On Deprivation

  •  26 of the 37 principal seaside towns in England have an overall level of deprivation greater than the English average. 
  • On most individual domains within the Indices of Deprivation, with the notable exception of crime, a majority of seaside towns have above-average deprivation. 

The report concludes that, taking account of a range of evidence, on average England’s principal seaside towns are rather more disadvantaged than the rest of the country, but not markedly so. 

However, there is considerable variation between seaside towns, with some towns faring markedly better than others and in quite a number of cases better than England as a whole.

The ‘economic’ data suggests that Bognor Regis, Exmouth, Greater Bournemouth, Greater Brighton, Greater Worthing, Sidmouth, Southport, Swanage, Whitley Bay and Whitstable/Herne Bay have the stronger local economies among seaside towns.

The same data suggests that Bridlington, Clacton, Great Yarmouth, Ilfracombe, Lowestoft, Morecambe/Heysham, Penzance, Skegness, Thanet, Torbay and Whitby have the weaker local economies among seaside towns. 

Among the larger seaside towns/areas, with more than 100,000 people, the economic data also points to a ranking of disadvantage from Thanet (the most disadvantaged) through Torbay, Hastings, Greater Blackpool, Isle of Wight, Southend, Greater Brighton and Greater Bournemouth to Greater Worthing (the least disadvantaged).

Chris Whitty sent in to save Britain’s sick seaside towns

Ben Spencer, Science Editor

Professor Chris Whitty has turned his attention from the coronavirus to deprived coastal towns.

The chief medical officer is compiling a report, due later this summer, to highlight the “unique health challenges” faced by those living on the coast. It keeps a promise he made just before the pandemic.

Experts have long warned that seaside communities around Britain have been left behind. Employment levels, academic achievement, economic growth and health are all worse in coastal areas.

According to a Social Market Foundation report published in 2019, life expectancy is six months shorter for men and five months shorter for women living on the coast.

Employees in seaside communities earned about £5,000 less than those further inland.

That picture has been only made worse by the pandemic as the tourism industry was shut down for long periods.

Whitty is to oversee the new Office for Health Promotion, which will take over much of the work of the disbanded Public Health England. He has developed a special interest in the plight of people in rural and coastal areas, which has been long neglected in public health.

When Whitty was appointed chief medical officer in October 2019, he set out tackling health inequalities as a priority for his tenure. Last autumn he started a programme of visits to coastal towns and ports, such as Hull and Morecambe, to gather information for his report.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference in December, Whitty said more and more older people were living in rural and coastal areas with poor healthcare provision, but the problem could be solved.

“It is possible to raise the health outcomes of the least healthy closer to the outcomes of the healthiest — we should be aiming for that,” he added.

The Department of Health said: “Addressing health inequalities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic and levelling up the health of communities across the UK is a priority for this government.

“The chief medical officer’s report will consider the inequalities experienced in coastal towns and recommend actions to improve outcomes for people in these areas.”

Now we’ve finished giggling, can I just ask: does no one care about decency any more?

Camilla Long (Extract)

Why is personal character now so irrelevant, when it used to be what really mattered? Read the ministerial code and nearly all of it is a joke: of the seven principles of public life, Hancock has breached every one in this incident alone. No “high standards of behaviour” for him; no being “professional” with colleagues; no being transparent about the people who are working for you when you’re shipping in your old Oxford mates for shags in the office. No effort to make sure “no conflict arises” — just what was he doing even hiring the PR and marketing director of Oliver Bonas, a crime far greater in my view than the open-mouth kissing? In what way does hawking tatty candle baskets to Sloanes at railway stations qualify you for advising on Test and Trace? And at what point did she actually become his mistress: before or after he gave her the job?