Families face having new homes flattened because they were built too high

Homeowners face having their new-build properties flattened after a developer built some of them too high. Families have been told they risk losing their homes because they were built on higher ground than they should have been

Annette Belcher www.walesonline.co.uk

Persimmon Homes was granted permission for 125 homes. But it has now emerged the ground level of the estate was raised by 2.4 metres to make the site flat. It has led to complaints from neighbours in nearby streets that some of the new homes are ‘over-bearing’ and ‘blocking sunlight’, with councillors likening the change to ‘adding an extra storey’.

Now Persimmon – which has outline planning for a further 135 homes on nearby land – has applied for retrospective permission to keep the houses as they are. It is also looking at mitigation measures such as tree and hedgerow planting to provide ‘visual screening,’ StokeonTrentLive reports.

But if permission is refused and a compromise can’t be reached, those living there could see their properties flattened, the chairman of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council’s planning committee warned. And the council’s lawyers have advised that the homes could have ‘no value’ on the open market anyway as they were sold without proper planning permission.

Planners have deferred a decision so talks can take place with residents. It is understood that eight of the 125 properties are affected.

Legal advisor Justin Price-Jones told a meeting of the planning committee: “It does surprise me somewhat that properties of some considerable value, no doubt, have been sold without planning permission because they’d have absolutely zero value on the market, to my mind at least.” He said there were potentially ‘very serious consequences’ for people living in them if councillors decided to refuse the application.

He added: “Persimmon would have known when they sold it that they didn’t have planning permission. I imagine there’s a lot of people in this equation who don’t know how dire their situation is.” Resident Tracy Milward described the properties as ‘overbearing’, and claimed they blocked sunlight in their gardens.

She said: “This development has been built in breach of the planning application submitted. They have built too high, and too close to the surrounding properties. Consequently ours, and many of our neighbours’ properties are now dwarfed and dominated by this unsightly development.”

She said residents first raised concerns with the council in October 2021 but nothing was done to halt it. She also said it has caused them ‘stress and anxiety’.

She complained: “The system is broken. Persimmon appear to have manipulated planning regulations to their own advantage by submitting drawings they never intended to comply to and then add variations in retrospect. We feel they’re using the system and local communities.”

She said the council would effectively be giving the developer ‘carte blanche’ if they were given the go-ahead. Cheadle town councillor, Paulette Upton agreed, saying: “The plain fact is the developers have blatantly breached the planning permission and we seem to have allowed that to happen.

“Somebody needs to take accountability for this – it sends a shocking message to other developers that they can come to Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, put in a planning application and do what the hell they like.”

Committee chairman, Councillor Stephen Ellis said it was the worst situation he’d been put in, from two decades of being involved with planning decisions, and criticised the council’s planning department for not following up on complaints. He said: “It really is an unacceptable situation to be in – to have a committee consider that your brand new house – your home and your asset – could be flattened, it must be absolutely horrendous.

“I can’t believe we’ve placed either set of residents in this situation. I do feel angry in the way that Persimmon have done that.” Councillor Peter Jackson said a responsible developer would have sought adequate planning permission before carrying out the work.

He said: “I don’t think you’re treating local people with respect.” He also noted the developer still had to return to the council with plans for the second phase of the development – and asked what confidence the committee could have that they would be built correctly.

Councillor Keith Flunder said residents living in the Persimmon houses wouldn’t answer the door during a site visit due to fear. He said: “Those people who are now living in those houses, overlooking the other houses, are in fear – knowing this is coming here today – there’s a potential at the end of it all where we knock them down.”

The council’s head of development Ben Haywood told councillors: “Ultimately it’s a decision for members [of the planning committee] whether the relationship between properties is an acceptable one, and which residents could reasonably be expected to experience.”

He said despite the plans not being followed, officers were still recommending approval for retrospective planning permission. A Persimmon North West spokesperson said: “Planning permission for Pottery Gardens was granted by Staffordshire Moorlands District Council in December 2020.

“The application discussed by the planning committee last week sought non-material amendments to some existing homes in line with this planning permission. While the application was recommended for approval, this has been deferred by the planning committee to allow for further engagement with local residents.

“We fully appreciate the issues that have been raised and have therefore already written to residents requesting time to meet and agree solutions that address these concerns as soon as possible.”

A council spokesman said: “The planning application was considered by the Planning Applications Committee on March 9. Following their site visit and having been addressed by members of the public and the developer, the committee resolved to defer its decision, due to concerns over the impact on a number of existing neighbouring residents.

“At no time did the committee request the demolition of the new houses, but requested that officers, in consultation with the developer and local residents, consider whether mitigation measures could be secured to address their concerns. Consequently, the planning application will be presented back to the planning committee once this has been carried out.”

‘Vanity project’: Braverman under fire for taking only rightwing press to Rwanda

Outrage at the unusual level of control imposed on media coverage of the home secretary’s trip to Rwanda has grown this weekend during Suella Braverman’s first hours in the country.

Vanessa Thorpe www.theguardian.com 

Prominent names, including news presenters, academics and opposition MPs expressed shock at what they considered the partisan reporting of the trip from the right-wing news organisations invited to join the trip. The Guardian, BBC, Mirror, Independent and i Newspaper were barred.

Braverman and her Home Office team flew out on Friday to promote the government’s plan to deport asylum seekers to the African country in a controversial deal signed last April by her predecessor, Priti Patel. No one has been relocated to the country so far, as the plan faces legal challenges, but a Home Office source said on Saturday that that they were “certainly working towards getting the flights off before the summer”.

Braverman appeared in a series of photo-ops, laughing with a group of children and posing in front of an accommodation block set to host asylum seekers. In comments that alarmed human rights campaigners, she described the homes as “really beautiful, high quality, welcoming”.

“I quite like your interior designer,” she added. “I need some advice myself.”

The Telegraph, whose reporter was one of a handful from right-wing outlets picked by the Home Office to join the trip, wrote gushingly about the accommodation. “The houses provide families with off street car parking, fibre optic broadband, front and back gardens, an eco-design that also combats humidity and gases rising from the ground and decor that would not look out of place in a British town house.”

Jon Sopel, the BBC’s former North American editor, told the Observer that the row over who was being allowed to cover the trip, with left-leaning or liberal news organisations left out, immediately reminded him of the pressure put on White House political journalists during the presidency of Donald Trump.

“This sounds familiar, that was my first thought,” said Sopel, now the co-host of The News Agents current affairs podcast. “There was a period when several newspaper titles were not going to be allowed in to press briefings. But the difference in America was that the Correspondents Association immediately pointed to the First Amendment of the Constitution and it was not allowed to happen.”

While a smaller group of political reporters, or “pool”, is sometimes conventionally set up for trips where security concerns are paramount, the understanding is usually that all information will be shared with the wider mix of national reporting teams.

Under Boris Johnson’s premiership there were other alleged attempts to vet the reporters and filter the questions at news briefings and press conferences.

Clive Myrie, the BBC’s news anchor, retweeted the Guardian’s critical account of the trip, while other British journalists expressed surprise that approved reporters were prepared to go along with the vetting process. “It is not very collegiate,” said one former newspaper editor on Saturday.

Michela Wrong, a British journalist and author of a recent book on Rwanda, Do Not Disturb: The Story of a Political Murder and an African Regime Gone Bad, said the timing of Braverman’s visit was “grotesque”.

“Rwanda and DRC are on the brink of all-out war. The M23 guerrilla group, a Rwandan proxy, has sent 600,000-800,000 Congolese villagers fleeing their homes and Braverman is happily validating the African leader widely recognised to be responsible for the destabilisation of the African Great Lakes.

“Britain should be discussing slapping sanctions on Rwanda – it is the only message Kagame responds to – rather than planning to send migrants there.”

The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, was among political opponents who pointed out that time spent in Rwanda publicising Conservative policy was funded by the public purse. She added: “Suella Braverman has still not come clean on the number of people Rwanda will really take in practice or the full cost to the British taxpayer.

“Already the home secretary has written Rwanda cheques for at least £140m even though she has admitted the scheme is failing and the Home Office says it has a high risk of fraud. Instead of expensive PR stunts she should put that money into going after the smuggling gangs to stop dangerous boat crossings.”

Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, said the trip was “an expensive distraction from the immoral, unworkable Braverman Bill”. He added: “Suella Braverman is wasting taxpayers’ money to flaunt the Conservative party’s latest vanity project in Rwanda. Liberal Democrats will oppose this appalling, anti-refugee law, which is nothing more than a criminal traffickers’ charter.”

On Saturday night the home secretary hailed the partnership with Rwanda after meeting her counterpart, Vincent Biruta. They announced that they had signed an update to their memorandum of understanding, expanding the partnership further “to all categories of people who pass through safe countries and make illegal and dangerous journeys to the UK”.

Braverman said: “We cannot continue to see people risking their lives crossing the Channel, which is why I am pleased to strengthen our agreement even further with the government of Rwanda so we can address the global migration crisis head on.

“Rwanda is a progressive, rapidly growing economy at the forefront of innovation – I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing first-hand the rich opportunities this country can provide to relocated people through our partnership.”

A Rwandan government spokesperson said the country was “ready to absorb the thousands that will come from the UK”.

Can’t run the economy – can’t fix the roads

(Wrong sort of weather- cold and wet)

Devon potholes drop a quarter- But still 34,000 recorded this year

Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk 

The number of recorded potholes in Devon is on track to be lower than last year, despite January’s total being the highest in a single month for three years.

Figures by Devon County Council, which excludes Torbay and Plymouth, shows 34,199 recorded potholes in the 11 full months of 2022/23, compared to 44,263 the previous year.

However, almost 7,400 were recorded in January, the most since March 2020. A report to be presented to a council scrutiny meeting on Thursday [23 March] blames this on “the cycle of very wet weather followed by very cold spells.”

It adds: “The number of potholes waiting for repair with our contractor peaked at almost 3,000 at the end of January, however through the use of additional and carefully coordinated resources this number reduced significantly on a day-to-day basis, with as many as 2,200 potholes being repaired each week.

“This has been achieved by doubling the number of pothole gangs across the network from 20 to 40, as well as additional hours and weekend working.”

It comes as the government announced a further £9.4 million for pothole repairs in Devon this week, as part of £200 million extra for the whole country in chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s budget.

County council leader John Hart (Conservative, Bickleigh & Wembury) said: “I’m delighted that the chancellor has announced extra money for us to tackle potholes.

“I’d like to thank all our MPs for their support, especially those identified by the chancellor who he said had lobbied very strongly on our behalf.”

Tory MPs Selaine Saxby (North Devon), Gary Streeter (SW Devon) and Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot) were all given a mention at the dispatch box by Mr Hunt.

Councillor Stuart Hughes (Conservative, Sidmouth), Devon’s highways chief, said this winter’s weather has had significant impact on the condition of Devon’s 8,000-mile road network – the longest in England.

“We’ve seen the worst conditions for potholes, with torrential rain and very cold snaps that have played havoc with the condition of our roads.

“We welcome this additional funding, which will contribute to our extensive maintenance and repair programme.”

Britain will be only big economy to shrink this year, says OECD

Truss the Tories with the economy? – Owl

The UK is still on course to be the only big wealthy economy to register negative growth this year, despite an upturn in growth prospects, according to new international forecasts.

Mehreen Khan www.thetimes.co.uk 

Projections from the Organisation for Economic Coordination and Development (OECD) show that the UK economy will be an outlier among wealthier countries with an annual contraction in growth this year of 0.2 per cent.

That is 0.2 percentage points better than the OECD’s last forecast in November but remains the worst performance among the richest countries.

The OECD’s forecast matches updated projections from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), which said this week that the economy would narrowly avoid a technical recession this year, defined as two quarters of negative growth. The improved outlook is the result of lower energy prices and resilient consumer and business sentiment recorded this year. The economy will experience a “mild” recovery of 0.9 per cent next year, according to the OECD forecast.

Germany, which was expected to be the worst-performing economy in the eurozone, will now record positive growth of 0.3 per cent rather than a 0.3 per cent contraction, according to the OECD, which also upgraded its projections for Italy, Spain and France. The single currency area is on course to record annual growth of 0.8 per cent this year and global growth to fall from 3.2 per cent in 2022 to 2.6 per cent.

The United States, the world’s largest economy, will record growth of 1.5 per cent this year, 0.5 percentage points better than the last forecast, before slowing to growth of 0.9 per cent in 2024, partly as a result of aggressive monetary tightening from the US Federal Reserve.

Headline inflation in the UK is on course to average 6.7 per cent this year, in line with the likes of Germany and Italy. The OBR expects consumer price inflation to drop to 2.9 per cent by the end of the year.

The OECD said growth across the world economy would remain below pre-pandemic trends but falling inflation would give a bigger boost to incomes this year than expected. “The improvement in the outlook is still fragile,” it said. “Risks have become somewhat better balanced but remain tilted to the downside. Uncertainty about the course of the war in Ukraine and its broader consequences is a key concern.”

Amid concerns over global financial stability following the collapse of three US banks this week the report warned that further interest rate rises could “continue to expose financial vulnerabilities” in the markets.

Problems in parts of the financial system in recent months, including the UK’s pension fund crisis, will require central banks to carry out “clear communication” over the shrinking of their balance sheets to “minimise the risk of contagion”, the OECD said.

“Higher interest rates could also have stronger effects on economic growth than expected, particularly if they expose underlying financial vulnerabilities. While a cooling of overheated markets, including real estate markets, and repricing of financial portfolios are standard channels through which monetary policy takes effect, the full impact of higher interest rates is hard to gauge.”

James Hunt, the chancellor, said: “The British economy has proven more resilient than many expected, outperforming many forecasts to be the fastest growing economy in the G7 last year, and is on track to avoid recession.

“Earlier this week I set out a plan to grow the economy by unleashing business investment and helping more people into work, alongside extending our significant energy bill support to help with rising prices, made possible by our windfall tax on energy profits.”

Jeremy Hunt’s topsy-turvy budget: jam tomorrow but never jam today 

Good luck finding even a turnip now.

It seems from an article on here today that even turnips will be off the menu. The largest grower of turnips who is in Coffeys constituency has given up growing them. He supplied a huge percentage of UKs turnips.

The UKs largest tomato growers are also giving up growing tomatoes on an 18 hectare sight in Norfolk ,and one of largest growers of cucumbers is also ceasing growing them.

Many other crops will probably see a reduction of 25% in plantings this year.

All going well for those Brexit supporters who say we can just live off what we produce here and share it out.

Chris Riddell www.theguardian.com