Friday, 24 November 2017

Knowle relocation project: PegasusLife appeal >>> >>> Inquiry to start Tuesday 28th November > press reports

The appeal by developers PegasusLife starts next week:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: PegasusLife appeal >>> >>> Inquiry to start Tuesday 28th November

Here's a report out today from the Herald:

Knowle planning inquiry to open next week

PUBLISHED: 07:00 24 November 2017 | UPDATED: 15:32 24 November 2017

The Knowle Residents' Association has created this photomontage of how the PegasusLife development could look from Salcombe Hill

The five-day planning inquiry to decide the fate of a bid to build a 113-home retirement community at Knowle will begin on Tuesday (November 28)

East Devon District Council (EDDC) defied officer advice in December 2016 to refuse planning permission to PegasusLife, in a deal worth £7.505million to the authority. The developer took its appeal to the Planning Inspectorate and an official will hear from both sides next week.
PegasusLife will claim that the development will not have a direct impact on Knowle’s listed summerhouse and that the scheme’s benefits outweigh any potential harm to the structure. There was also a dispute with EDDC about whether the scheme should be classed as C2, care accommodation, or C3, housing, and PegasusLife will maintain that it should be the former. If the planning inspector agrees, the developer will not need to provide any ‘affordable’ housing or community funding for the town.
PegasusLife will argue that there is a ‘compelling need’ for extra care accommodation in East Devon. It says the development will be tailored to meet the needs of occupants as they age, with integrated on-site communal facilities.
EDDC, which is currently based at Knowle but is relocating to Exmouth and a purpose-built HQ in Honiton, will argue the development will have a harmful impact on the listed summerhouse. It will also raise concerns about the impact on neighbouring properties, together with the issue of whether the development is C2 or C3 use.
An external officer has been used to ease work pressures on EDDC’s busy planning team. Because the EDDC officers originally involved in the application recommended approval of the scheme, they cannot now give evidence under oath at the inquiry, representing the council’s view that it should be refused.
Documents including objections and a statement of common ground – which gives details of the main areas where the two parties are in agreement and where there are still disagreements – can be seen on EDDC’s planning portal website (reference number 16/0872).
The appeal will be held at Knowle from 10am. A decision is expected within four working days of the close of the inquiry.
Knowle planning inquiry to open next week in Sidmouth - Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth Herald

With more info here:
13 November 2017 - Council publishes case evidence details for forthcoming Knowle public inquiry - East Devon
Knowle update: 5-day Public Inquiry on developer’s Appeal begins end of this month. | Save Our Sidmouth

Here's an overview of the issues from the Western Morning News from earlier in the month:

More information revealed ahead of planning inquiry over future of The Knowle

Pegasus Life want to build a 113-home retirement community at East Devon District Council's current HQ

Daniel Clark
16:50, 2 NOV 2017

Documents outlining why East Devon District Council will defend its decision to refuse plans for a 113-home retirement community at the Knowle at a planning appeal have been published.

East Devon District Council decided in 2015 to relocate its headquarters to new offices in Honiton and Exmouth. And to finance the move, the council agreed to sell its Knowle headquarters to Pegasus Life Ltd for £7.5m.

But, those plans were thrown into jeopardy when a planning application by Pegasus Life for a 113-apartment assisted-living community for older people was refused by the council’s planning committee.

PegasusLife's plans for Knowle

Pegasus Life has lodged an appeal and a planning inquiry, set to last for five days, will begin on November 28. But it could take several months before a ruling is made.

Council won't use loss of light as a reason to defend refusal of plans for the Knowle

East Devon District Council, and applicants Pegasus Life, have now published its proof of evidence ready for the forthcoming public inquiry. The published documents expand on the reasons for refusal and detail the council’s and the applicants’ full case, which will be presented at the inquiry.

A CGI showing Pegasus Life's planned development of retirement apartments at the Knowle in Sidmouth, which was refused planning permission by East Devon District Council in December

An East Devon District Council spokesman said: “The council has submitted two proofs of evidence, the first of which has been produced by East Devon’s Conservation Officer and details the harmful impact the development would have on the setting of the listed summerhouse within the grounds of Knowle.

“The second proof deals with the issues of balancing the impact on the listed summerhouse with the public benefits of the development, as well as the impact on the amenities of neighbouring properties in terms of overlooking and visual dominance, together with the issue of whether the development is genuinely a care home use (C2) or a residential use (C3).”

Another twist in East Devon HQ move saga as emergency meeting called to discuss planning refusal

The council was due to also defend its decision on the grounds of loss of light to neighbours, but an emergency planning committee meeting last month accepted evidence from Pegasus Life that it was no longer a sound planning reason to do so.

The Knowle, Sidmouth

A council spokesman added: “Pegasus Life has also submitted proofs of evidence, together with a statement of common ground that has been agreed with the council, which gives details of the main areas where the two parties are in agreement and where there are still disagreements. This document helps the inspector to understand the main issues that the inquiry needs to focus on.”

The document adds that it is agreed that there is a need for extra care accommodation in East Devon, but there is a dispute as to if this is a care home use or residential use.

Date set for controversial planning appeal into the future of the Knowle

It is agreed that the following public benefits arise from the development (although the Council questions the extent of these benefits and considers that these benefits can be achieved without the scale and extent of development proposed):

• Provision of extra care housing to meet the need for extra care accommodation within East Devon.

• Creation of a number of on-site jobs to staff the development, in addition to the creation of off-site jobs in the care sector.

• Retention and enhancement of Building B, which was part of the ensemble of earlier buildings on the site, ensuring its viable reuse within the development.

• Provision of facilities (cafĂ©/restaurant, wellness suite) available to the local community.

• Provision of a publicly-accessible Orangery, creating a sheltered space from which to enjoy views of the summerhouse, the Knowle public parkland and sea.

• Retention and improvement of public access across the site through the creation of permissive paths, regraded to accommodate disabled access.

• Reduction in existing traffic movements to and from the site, particularly at peak times (104 fewer two-way trips in the AM peak hour and 65 fewer two-way trips in the PM peak hour).

• Provision of a heritage interpretation board to enable a better appreciation of the listed summerhouse.

The Knowle, Sidmouth

Matters not agreed include that the proposed development comprises residential accommodation and care for people in need of care and therefore constitutes a C2 use under the Use Classes Order 1987, an agreement has not yet been reached on how the s106 agreement should deal with the review mechanism in the event the Inspector concludes this is a C3 use.

East Devon District Council's new HQ is taking shape - and here's what it will look like

The following public benefits are not agreed with the Council:

• Provision of a high quality, contemporary, landscaped and managed development which makes effective use of a brownfield site and positively contributes to the local townscape

• Relocation and retention of a Gingko tree which is valued by the local community.

• The closure of the existing access to the site from Knowle Drive, save for emergency and service vehicle access

The documents are all now available on the Council’s web-site at:


The planning appeal inquiry takes place from November 28 and is due to last five days.

More information revealed ahead of planning inquiry over future of The Knowle - Devon Live

Great Trees in the Clyst Valley @ Celebrating Trees with the Sidmouth Arboretum > Friday 24th Novemeber

Tonight, Jon Freeman of the Clyst Valley Great Trees project will be telling us something at the Sidmouth Arboretum's annual event:
Futures Forum: Celebrating Trees with the Sidmouth Arboretum >>> talks, songs, stalls, gifts, food >>> Cellar Bar, Kennaway House: this Friday 24th November > more info

The project has just been set up:
Devon Communities Together | Great Trees in the Clyst Valley

Here's the news from earlier in the year:

Great Trees in the Clyst Valley - New Project Puts Down Roots!

When this content has been created

11 August 2017

Jon Freeman, Great Trees Project Officer

An exciting new outdoor programme designed to encourage local people to explore, record and restore the heritage landscape of trees in fields, hedges, parks and orchards across East Devon’s Clyst Valley is now underway following the appointment of a project officer

Following a successful bid for a £52,100 National Lottery grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the Exeter and East Devon Growth Point has recruited Jon Freeman to lead a 2 year ‘programme of discovery’ with volunteers which will include walks, workshops, research and events leading to the creation of tree nurseries and wider tree planting in the valley.  

The Clyst Valley is on the doorstep of a rapidly growing population east of Exeter. Whilst some parts of it are well known, for example the National Trust's Killerton Estate, others are less accessible and await discovery.

The project is also being financially supported by East Devon District Council, Devon County CouncilDevon Gardens TrustEnvironment AgencyE.ONNational TrustParishes Together Fund and Woodland Trust.

Having trained at Cannington College in Somerset, Jon Freeman had a first career in horticulture, woodland and countryside work. He then studied Archaeology and Medieval studies at the University of Exeter, before embarking on fifteen years of archaeological fieldwork, largely in the South West. More recently, Jon has enjoyed communicating a passion for the stories of places, working as a professional storyteller and actor at heritage events and sites as diverse as Tintagel Castle, Blenheim Palace and Blists Hill Victorian town.

Talking about the project, Jon Freeman said:

I’m really very excited to have started work on the Great Trees project, which brings together many strands of my past work. I’m passionate about the historic environment, the natural history of the Devon countryside plus the stories of people and their places. I can’t wait to get started.

Nerys Watts, Head of HLF South West, added:

The natural world is an incredibly important part of our heritage – from the wildlife who call it home to the stories it can reveal of people and communities. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, we’re delighted to support this project which will enable people of all ages in Devon to discover more about the Clyst Valley and the heritage on their doorstep. It’s fantastic to welcome Jon and we look forward to seeing what the project will achieve.
For more information contact Jon on  jon.freeman@eastdevon.gov.uk or 07875 285 539.

11 August 2017 - Great Trees in the Clyst Valley - New Project Puts Down Roots! - East Devon

See also:
Sustainable Growth - Exeter and East Devon Growth Point

Sidmouth Arboretum’s annual ‘A Celebration of Trees’ THIS EVENING (Fri 24 Nov) at Kennaway House | Save Our Sidmouth

Climate change: Bio-energy + carbon capture and storage

We can try some clever ways to get ourselves out of this climate change fix:
Futures Forum: Climate change >>> Engineering the climate >>> >>> >>> 'As a technology of last resort, carbon removal is paradoxical. It may be impossible to manage and it may also be impossible to manage without.'

And a tweaking of this technology would involve planting lots of trees: 

Bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is a future greenhouse gas mitigation technology which produces negative carbon dioxide emissions by combining bioenergy (energy from biomass) use with geologic carbon capture and storage.[1] The concept of BECCS is drawn from the integration of trees and crops, which extract carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere as they grow, the use of this biomass in processing industries or power plants, and the application of carbon capture and storage via CO2 injection into geological formations.[2]

Bio-energy with carbon capture and storage - Wikipedia

Here's an overview:

Timeline: How BECCS became climate change’s ‘saviour’ technology

April 13. 2016. 8:00

Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage – better known by the acronym “BECCS” – has come to be seen as one of the most viable and cost-effective negative emissions technologies.

Even though they have yet to be demonstrated at a commercial scale, negative emissions technologies – typically BECCS – are now included by climate scientists in the majority of modelled “pathways” showing how the world can avoid the internationally agreed limit of staying “well below” 2C of global warming since the pre-industrial era.

Put simply, without deploying BECCS at a global scale from mid-century onwards, most modellers think we will likely breach this limit by the end of this century.

But where did the idea for this “saviour” technology come from? Who came up with it? Who then developed and promoted the concept?

Continuing our week-long series of articles on negative emissions, Carbon Brief has looked back over the past two decades and pieced together the seminal moments – the conferences, the conversations, the papers – which saw BECCS develop into one of the key assumed options for avoiding dangerous climate change.

The interactive timeline above shows these moments in sequential order. But Carbon Brief has also spoken to the scientists who were instrumental to the concept first taking hold…

Timeline: How BECCS became climate change's 'saviour' technology | Carbon Brief

But not everyone's convinced:

Sustainable Energy

The Dubious Promise of Bioenergy Plus Carbon Capture

Climate change agreements rest on negative emissions technologies that may be unachievable.

by Richard Martin
January 8, 2016

Eliminating carbon dioxide that’s already been emitted is essential to achieve the goals of the Paris climate agreement.

While many scientists and climate change activists hailed December’s Paris agreement as a historic step forward for international efforts to limit global warming, the landmark accord rests on a highly dubious assumption: to achieve the goal of limiting the rise in global average temperature to less than 2 °C (much less the more ambitious goal of 1.5 °C), we don’t just need to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide to essentially zero by the end of this century. We also must remove from the atmosphere huge amounts of carbon dioxide that have already been emitted 
(see “Paris Climate Agreement Rests on Shaky Technological Foundations”).

Doing so will involve “negative emissions technologies”—systems that capture carbon dioxide and store it, usually deep underground. Such technologies are theoretical at best, but they are considered critical for achieving the Paris goals. Of the 116 scenarios reviewed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to achieve stabilization of carbon in the atmosphere at between 430 and 480 parts per million (the level considered necessary for a maximum 2 °C rise in temperature), 101 involve some form of negative emissions.

There are basically two ways to eliminate carbon from the atmosphere. One is to capture it from the air. Technologies to do so are still in their infancy and, even if they do prove practical, are likely decades away from deployment—far too late to achieve the goals of the Paris agreement (see “Materials Could Capture CO2 and Make It Useful”). The other is to rely on plants to capture the carbon dioxide, then burn the plants to generate power (or refine them into liquid fuels such as ethanol), and capture the resulting carbon emissions. Known as “bioenergy plus carbon capture and storage,” or BECCS, this cumbersome process is receiving renewed attention in the wake of Paris. But there is no guarantee that it will ever work.

Large amounts of biomass would be produced from fast-growing trees, switchgrass, agriculture waste, or other sources. The biomass would then be turned into pellets for burning in power plants—either on their own or as additives. The resulting emissions would be separated using carbon-capture technologies that have been proven at small scale but have never been applied economically at anything like commercial scale. Finally, the carbon dioxide would be stored in deep-underground aquifers, presumably permanently.

The Dubious Promise of Bioenergy Plus Carbon Capture - MIT Technology Review

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Keeping Hinkley off the Treasury's balance sheet

Whilst there are very local concerns about pollution from Hinkley Point:
'Radioactive' mud from Hinkley Point to be dumped in Bristol Channel - just a mile from Cardiff bay - Somerset Live

... there are real concerns about the financial fallout for the whole country:
We’ve been nuked by Hinkley Point | Business | The Times & The Sunday Times
Hinkley Point C subsidy has dealt consumers 'a bad hand', say MPs | UK news | The Guardian
Government accused of 'grave errors' in Hinkley Point deal - Telegraph
Hinkley Point will 'hit the poorest hardest', say MPs - BBC News

As covered by the FT yesterday:

UK made ‘grave strategic errors’ in Hinkley Point nuclear project

MPs say consumers were ‘dealt a bad hand’ and warn against more nuclear power stations

British MPs have urged the UK government to rethink the economic case for new nuclear power stations after making “grave strategic errors” in the Hinkley Point project.
In a report published on Wednesday, the Commons public accounts committee accused the government of neglecting consumer interests and failing to push for a better deal with the French and Chinese investors who are building the £20bn nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset.
The committee said consumers had been “dealt a bad hand” by the government’s agreement to lock UK households into buying expensive electricity from Hinkley for 35 years.
“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,” said Meg Hillier, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, which is often called parliament’s spending watchdog.
Hinkley is intended to be the first in a series of new nuclear plants in the UK, as part of efforts to replace large amount of old generating capacity due to be decommissioned in coming years.
However, the cross-party public accounts committee urged the government to “re-evaluate and publish its strategic case for supporting nuclear power before agreeing any further deals”.

Talks are under way with Hitachi, the Japanese company, about a new plant at Wylfa in Anglesey. There are also ongoing discussions with possible Korean and Chinese investors about a project at Moorside in Cumbria.
But the MPs said the economic case for nuclear power had been weakened by the falling cost of fossil fuels and renewable energy since the Hinkley deal was first struck in 2013 with EDF, the French state-controlled company. This meant consumers face paying £30bn above market prices for electricity from Hinkley over the 35-year life of the contract, according to the latest government estimate. That is five times more than the £6bn estimated in 2013. 
MPs said the government should have sought to renegotiate with EDF and CGN, the Chinese state-owned company contributing a third of the finance, after the economic case deteriorated. The government has argued that the deal would have risked collapse, undermining energy security and damaging investor confidence in the UK, had it tried to revise the terms.
The committee also criticised government for failing to consider contributing public funds to Hinkley, an approach that could have reduced financing costs. Ministers have been determined to keep the project off the Treasury’s balance sheet.

Total number of jobs expected to be created over the course of the Hinkley project
“Consumers are left footing the bill and the poorest consumers will be hit hardest,” the report said. “No part of government was really championing the consumer interest.” 
More must be done to ensure that strategic benefits from the Hinkley project, such as jobs and investment, are captured by the UK economy, the MPs added, saying a “plan B” should also be put in place to prevent potential delays to Hinkley leaving Britain short of electricity in the late-2020s, when the plant is due to come online.
EDF said construction of Hinkley was “on track” and “already delivering a huge benefit to British jobs, skills and industrial strategy”.
The cost of electricity from Hinkley — £92.50 per megawatt hour in 2012 prices — was lower than 80 per cent of other low-carbon power sources, such as wind and solar, contracted by the UK government so far, EDF added.
The latest contracts for offshore wind capacity, awarded in September, fell below the cost of Hinkley for the first time — a breakthrough seized on by critics of nuclear power as a sign that renewables were now more competitive. EDF said future nuclear reactors would also be cheaper than Hinkley as the UK nuclear supply chain was reactivated.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said the government had negotiated “a competitive deal” with EDF, which “ensures consumers won’t pay a penny for any construction overruns and until the station generates electricity in 2025”.
Some 2,400 people are already working on the Hinkley construction site, the government added, with a total of 26,000 jobs expected to be created over the course of the project.
UK made ‘grave strategic errors’ in Hinkley Point nuclear project - Financial Times

The FT is excited by the official picture of loadsa jobs - but the East Devon Watch blog notes who might actually benefit from this public largess:


22 NOV 2017

Owl’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.

Hinkley Point – the case against grows stronger – part 1 | East Devon Watch
Hinkley Point – the case against grows stronger – part 2 | East Devon Watch

See also:
Futures Forum: The Local Enterprise Partnership in Devon, conflicts of interest and calculating "housing need"

Straw bale housing > 'there are a lot more mortgages and there are lenders who will let you borrow'

Devon is the home of the cob house:
Futures Forum: RIBA House of the Year shortlist > Cob Corner, Devon

Which includes the straw bale house:
Futures Forum: A cob cottage for £150...

Much of which is self-build:
Futures Forum: Self-build

The idea seems to have reached our cousins in the North:

The Yorkshire house made of straw

Published: 06:22 Saturday 04 November

This straw bale self-build is one of a long line of achievements for young craftsman Sam Atkinson. Sharon Dale reports.

In an era when most young people struggle to get on the property ladder, 27-year-old Sam Atkinson reckons he is fortunate to own his own home. Yet luck only played a small part in what is a remarkable achievement.

Sam's self-build strawbale house on the family farm, near Howden

Hard graft, determination and a tremendous amount of skill went into the straw bale house, which Sam designed and constructed for himself and his wife Charlotte.

The seeds for his self-build odyssey were sown by his mother Carol. She was inspired by a straw building at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales and it prompted a diversification into eco holiday homes on her family’s 160-acre beef farm, near Howden.

Helped by a friend, she created a straw cabin in 2006. Three years later, she came up with plans for a large straw bale cottage and Sam gave up his job as a carpenter at a factory in Hull to construct it.

“I never went back to the factory. I got orders on the back of that project and I’ve been straw bale building for the past eight years,” he says.

Sam Atkinson in the kitchen. He designed and made the cabinets himself.

Trained by Yorkshire-based Barbara Jones, the UK’s leading authority on straw builds, he was enthralled by a method of construction that is regarded as mainstream in Canada and North America.

“They’re eco-friendly, relatively easy to construct and their insulating qualities are second to none,” says Sam, who has since developed his own hybrid system of building.

A conventional straw build involves stacking the bales like giant bricks. They are held together by hazel rods then topped with a timber plate, which is strapped to the foundations before the roof goes on. This means construction is often hampered by wet weather.

Sam’s method involves erecting a timber frame to hold the straw bales. This is then topped with an overhanging roof before the bales are slotted into place.

The deep rounded windows are one of the hallmarks of a strawbale house

“I spent five weeks in Canada and saw something similar there, which I’ve adapted to suit this country. Getting the roof on quickly and being able work in all weathers makes a big difference to build times,” he says.

His bales are trimmed and then get three coats of breathable lime render and the roof is insulated from the inside with sheep’s wool or recycled plastic.

On an average house, it takes seven weeks to do the foundations, frame and roof and another week to slot the bales into the frame.

So far, Sam has constructed about 20 buildings, including a barn, bird hides, an outdoor classroom, houses and extensions. His latest innovation is a £23,000 straw glamping pod, complete with a kitchen and bathroom. “Ideal for farmers who want to diversify into holiday lets, for existing campsites or as home offices,” he explains.

The fireplace is built from reclaimed bricks from the demolished house and a piece of oak

The home he built for himself took just 10 months from foundations to being fully fitted out. It is on the site of the family farmhouse, which his grandparents had lived in. The old property was, he says, in a dreadful state.

The site is almost at sea level and the building was so low lying that rising damp had crept four feet up the walls and the brick work was crumbling. The planners were happy for it to be demolished to make way for a new, energy-efficient low-carbon house.

The bricks from the house were used to help create a higher-than-average foundation plinth for the timber skeleton, which was topped with a roof of clay pantiles.

The 364 bales of wheat straw he needed were from Chantry’s Farm at nearby Newsholme as Sam likes to use local materials, and their straw is cut with an old combine, which leaves it long and easier to render.

The straw walls were then rendered outside and inside with a lime, hemp and sand mix before being painted with pinkish/red lime wash. The hemp is from another local business, the Voase family farm.

The internal dividing walls downstairs are built from concrete blocks, which act as a heat store while upstairs, they are timber.

The straw inside long with roof insulation made from recycled plastic bottles

“I didn’t use bales for the internal walls as they take up a lot of space,” says Sam, who used his carpentry skills to do all the joinery himself, from the doors to the kitchen units and the beautifully crafted dressers and built-in units. He also made the windows, which sit in the deep rounded recess created by the bales, and a porthole “truth window” which shows the straw.

Downstairs, there is a kitchen, separate dining room, large sitting room and a utility area. Upstairs, there are four bedrooms and two bathrooms. The insulation provided by the bales means there is rarely any need to turn the heating on and the house is also damp and condensation free.

“The lime plaster soaks up moisture and that is wicked away by the straw to the outside wall where it is released. The straw remains bone dry. It doesn’t hold water,” says Sam, whose only regret is putting in underfloor heating fed by a pellet boiler.

The boiler should generate a pay-back via the government feed-in tariff but, says Sam: “The house is so thermally efficient, it gets too hot with the heating on, so we don’t use the boiler enough to generate a feed-in tariff. A small gas or oil boiler and a couple of radiators or an air source heat pump would’ve been better.”

He funded the build, which includes a garage clad in larch, by selling his previous house, though getting a mortgage on straw bale properties is possible.

“They aren’t mainstream yet but there are a lot more of them and there are lenders who will let you borrow,” says Sam, who points out that the Yorkshire-based Ecology Building Society is one of the most supportive. Insurance is also no problem, the bales are so tightly packed that they are slow to combust due to lack of oxygen, so they surpass the fire tests set by building regulations.

“It’s far safer than a conventional house unless you put plasterboard on the bales instead of render. Building regulations allow that but to my mind it creates a massive fire channel,” says Sam.

The cost to clients for a similar home, fully fitted and ready to move into, would be £180,000. It’s a very keen price that could lead to a rush of orders and that is something Sam is keen to avoid.

“I am a one-man band who hires in a plumber, an electrician and a roofing contractor to help me. If the business got bigger then I’d be mass producing when what I really enjoy is working with my hands-on individual, bespoke builds. I’m also a stickler for quality and if I do things myself I know they’ve been done right,” he says.

Sam Atkinson, straw bale building specialist, sacarpentry.co.uk 

Carole’s straw bale holiday lets are at homegrownhome.co.uk

The strawbales have been trimmed ready for a coat of lime render

The straw from a local farm ready to be delivered to site

The Yorkshire house made of straw - Yorkshire Post

The budget and designing the right sort of housing

Yes, there are promises for 'more housing' in the budget:
Futures Forum: The budget and housing in the South West

The Design Council welcomes this - but only providing that the Neighbourhood Planning process happens - and so "gives people a voice in the future of their neighbourhoods":

Thursday 23 November   |  
Our response to the Chancellor's Autumn Budget
Our response on housing

We welcomed the Budget announcement by the Chancellor yesterday, to build 300,000 new homes each year over the next 5 years - a near 40% rise on the total build for last year. This is positive news for the thousands of people struggling to find stable and secure housing, whether as first-time buyers or in affordable or rented homes. To harvest the benefits of this increase in housing supply, plans must go hand in hand with inclusive, and sustainable housing design quality. Having a roof over our heads and a place to call home is critical but it also needs to support us in improving our health, wellbeing, and prosperity.
Crucially the design of new housing developments must consider the key aspects that turn housing developments into places people want to live and work.

Places should provide residents with: 

  • A place of safety
  • A sense of belonging, and being connected to positive social networks
  • Good transport links, which in turn provide connection to places of work, education & leisure
  • An environment where they can maintain physical activity
  • Contact with natural environment/nature
Design Council recognise the challenges facing government in achieving ambitious targets on housing supply: and the significant challenge in convincing communities of the positive impact housing development can have, from supporting existing services to enabling new ones, improving the quality of infrastructure and improving access to quality public space.
A positive response to these challenges should not usurp planning processes and design requirements – rather every attempt should be made to improve levels of engagement and contact between developers and the local community to ensure plans for development have the full support of local people and business at the earliest opportunity, preventing any delay during the process.
Working with Local Authorities and communities through the Neighbourhood Planning process we’ve seen first-hand the barriers to housing delivery. In urban areas increasing heights and densities raise concerns over their impact on services, the quality of the environment and critical infrastructure. Proposed new settlements in rural areas likewise generate heated debate about the need for housing and the quality of the places that are established. By addressing these concerns head-on and by giving people a voice in the future of their neighbourhoods, we can start to remove the barriers to development and work towards the ambitious targets set out by the Government.
Research report by Design Council – Launching December 6 December 2017.
For press enquiries please contact: Abid.Gangat@designcouncil.org.uk
The Budget was an important step forward in setting out how we build an economy fit for the future, and we are looking forward to supporting and collaborating on a number of the measures. If we are to create the high-value jobs, build the homes people need and take advantage of the technologies we are investing in, we have to value and invest in design.

Design Council's response to the 2017 budget | Design Council

The budget and housing in the South West

The housing industry is not very impressed with the budget:
UK Budget: Housing plans send builders’ stocks on shaky ride - Financial Times
Scepticism at long-term benefit of Budget housing measures - Estate Agent Today

Although in the South West, it seems more positive:

Budget 2017: Chancellor Phils the housing gap – by Nick Haines of Hazlewoods

Professional Services News

Written by: Nick Haines | Posted 23 November 2017 8:51

In the Chancellor’s first Autumn Budget, the gloomy downgrading of the UK’s growth forecasts was offset, during his speech, by some positive announcements about increased spending for education, housing, the NHS and to improve productivity.

However, with a distinct lack of tax raising measures, you have to question where the money is going to come from.

On top of the £3.5 billion previously scheduled increase in funding for the NHS, Mr Hammond announced an additional, exceptional £2.8 billion with £350 million available immediately to help improve A&E waiting times.

In an attempt to assist the next generation with the new digital economy, investment is to be made into education or, more specifically, into maths.

Schools and colleges, who support their students to study Maths, will be rewarded by giving them £600 for every extra pupil who decides to take Maths or Further Maths A Levels, or Core Maths.

It was widely predicted that housing would be at the heart of this Budget and the Chancellor didn’t disappoint, with wide ranging plans aimed at achieving 300,000 new homes per year, but only by the mid 2020s.

One of his major tax announcements also related to the housing market, where first time buyers of houses worth up to £300,000 will be exempt from Stamp Duty Land Tax.

Those acquiring higher valued properties of up to £500,000 will receive a nil rate band on the first £300,000, the aim being to assist 95 per cent of first time buyers and help turn their dreams of home ownership into a reality.

The Chancellor announced that there is to be an increase in the tax free personal allowance in 2018/19 to £11,850 and for the higher rate band to £46,350.

Companies took a hit with the announcement that ‘indexation allowance’ will be frozen from 1 January 2018, meaning companies will no longer benefit from relief for inflationary rises when selling chargeable assets, which individuals lost back in 2008.

There was relief that the VAT threshold was not reduced, as had been talked about in advance of the Budget, although the registration threshold of £85,000 is to be frozen for the next two years.

It is perhaps of no surprise that there were no controversial measures announced from the Chancellor of a minority Government. The last thing they need at the moment is a Finance Bill that is not passed by the House.

It remains to be seen as to whether the measures announced appeal to the youth that appear to have deserted the Conservatives in droves.

Regardless, the Government appears to be committed to giving them every opportunity of watching the next election from their own home.

Nick Haines partner at Hazlewoods.

Budget 2017: Pledges on housebuilding are a positive step, writes Garry King, chief executive of Two Rivers Housing

Construction & Commercial Property News

Written by: Garry King | Posted 22 November 2017 15:38

The Chancellor has promised more money to build houses and increase skills in the construction industry and has set an ambitious target to build 300,000 new homes per year by the mid-2020s, in order to address the housing crisis, writes Garry King, ceo of Two Rivers Housing.

This is a positive step in general terms and we await to see the detail of how the £43bn pledged for housing and construction is targeted. We believe that a healthy supply of affordable homes to both rent and buy is essential to help those who need them and, in particular, to support those living in rural areas such as the Forest of Dean.

I do, however, look forward to the outcome of the review of ‘land-banking’ and details about the compulsory purchase powers, as it is essential that land is made available to build the homes that are so urgently needed.

The announcements on Universal Credit would appear to signal an easing of the potential hardship expected for our tenants – who are among the most vulnerable in society – and the removal of the seven-day waiting period at the beginning of a claim and the two-week overlap of housing benefit are to be welcomed

As always, we wait to hear more detail behind these headline statements to appreciate the full implications for the housing sector and our tenants.