House price fall predicted in the short term

A drop in house prices in the short term has been predicted by members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) who work in estate agents, with the fall expected to last for the next three months.

The surveyors who expected prices to fall outnumbered those expecting a rise in prices by a majority of 10%.

The last time house prices fell on an annual basis was in late 2009.

The RICS attributed the likely fall to a combination of uncertainty surrounding the EU referendum and a cooling of the market since the changes to stamp duty which went through in April.

Simon Rubinsohn, Chief Economist at RICS, commented: “What we are looking at is a short term drop caused by the uncertainty resulting from the forthcoming EU referendum, coupled by a slow-down following the rush to get into the market ahead of the tax change on the purchase of investment properties.”

London and East Anglia are said to be the most affected, followed by South West England and Yorkshire and Humber.

House prices aren’t predicted to fall in all areas however, with Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Midlands and the North all expected to see a continued rise.

The number of properties coming onto the market is also at a record low, contributing to continued demand and the short term nature of the expected price fall in the areas mentioned.

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Paris landmarks threatened by flooding

The River Seine in Paris has broken its banks and floodwater is currently around 6m (19ft) above the normal river level.

The famous Louvre and Orsay museums have been shut so that priceless works of art such as the Mona Lisa can be moved to safety.

Emergency water barriers have been constructed along the banks of the river in an attempt to restrict the floodwater, several bridges have been closed and tourist river tours have been banned until the waters subside.

The last time the river was at this level was in 1982, the environment ministry confirmed.

Flooding has affected wider areas of the country and across Europe as well, with over 5,000 being evacuated from their homes in central France, and around 19,000 homes currently without power, according to reports by the AFP news agency.

Germany has also been badly affected, with several losing their lives to the devastation caused by floodwaters in the south of the country.

Belgium, Austria, the Netherlands and Poland have also experienced flooding this week.

The weather was described by French President Francois Hollande as a serious climate phenomenon and a global challenge.

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Olympic Construction win PCA Outstanding Customer Service Award 2016

We would like to congratulate Olympic Construction Ltd for winning the 2016 Outstanding Customer Service Award in the PCA (Property Care Association) Best Practice Awards 2016.

Olympic Construction is a family run company specialising in remedial treatments, and has been a TrustATrader member for over 4 years. The company is based in Oldham and has been serving the local communities for over 50 years, covering Manchester and the surrounding 40 mile radius.

In the photo are (from left to right) Steve Hodgson, Chief Executive of the PCA with Adrian and Simon Dawson of Olympic Construction Ltd.

Adrian Dawson of Olympic Construction says: “I have a hands-on approach to all aspects of the works undertaken by Olympic Construction from start to finish. You could say the buck stops with me!

“My staff and I are committed to undertaking all works to the correct specifications and to a high quality finish. To achieve this we only use time served tradesmen and qualified surveyors with industry recognised qualifications.”

The PCA was established to promote high standards of professionalism and expertise within the industry through training and other support services. They work with government departments, respond to consultation documents and provide assistance with the development of new guidelines, all with the aim of improving outcomes and promoting best practice.

The PCA held its Annual Best Practice Awards Dinner at Rectory Farm, Cambridge on 12th May 2016. The evening was well attended by PCA members from all represented sectors as they gathered to hear who had triumphed in the Best Practice Awards categories as well as the Student of the Year categories.

The evening concluded with a charity raffle, which thanks to the generous donations of sponsors helped to raise over £3k for the stillborn charity, SANDS.

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Wall of Buckingham Palace climbed by convicted killer

A man caught in the gardens of Buckingham Palace on Wednesday evening was a previously convicted murderer.

Denis Hennessy, 41, from Wembley, managed to climb the 10ft wall surrounding Buckingham Palace while the Queen, Prince Philip and the Duke of York were at home. Hennessy was unarmed, Westminster Magistrates’ Court were told.

Hennessy was reported to have been drunk, and cut his hand while climbing over the wall, also setting off the alarm in the process. He wandered the gardens for around ten minutes before being caught.

He later told police that he had “walked through the gardens admiring the view”.

Hennessy’s solicitor said that the unemployed man had drunk “four or five cans of cider” on the evening of the incident. He had also had another drink in a pub before deciding to climb the wall of the palace with the help of a nearby tree.

After pleading guilty, Hennessy was today given four months in prison.

Hennessy’s previous conviction, for murder, came in 1992 when at the age of 17 he attacked a homeless person who had asked him for money. Hennessy was convicted in 1993 and released in 2002. He was then monitored by the probation service until 2013.

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Car swallowed by hole in London street

Residents of Woodland Terrace in Greenwich woke up on Thursday morning to discover a car which was parked on the street the previous day was now half hidden in a huge sinkhole which had opened up overnight.

Police were called to the scene around 3.20am to find the blue people carrier in the hole outside the Benefice of Charlton St Thomas’ Church, and cordoned off the area to ensure the safety of local residents.

Nobody was injured in the incident, though the phenomenon of sinkholes does appear to be becoming increasingly common, with a number of similar incidents being reported in 2015.

A spokesperson for the Royal Borough of Greenwich said that the council was working with emergency services to secure the area: “We are urgently investigating the matter and will update residents the moment we have more information.”

Cleo O’Kane, a local resident who lives opposite where the hole opened up, said: “I thought it was thunder – I heard a loud bang, but it was raining so much I thought it was thunder.

“All the car is resting on apparently is a pipe, otherwise it would have disappeared.”

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Happy World Naked Gardening Day!

You may not have been aware, but today – the first Saturday of May – has been named World Naked Gardening Day, when gardening lovers are encouraged to embrace their gardens as nature intended.

The award-winning gardeners of the RHS Malvern Spring Festival in Worcestershire marked the occasion by stripping off and being photographed amongst the greenery of their creations.

Today was the third day of the four day festival which over 90,000 people are expected to have visited by the time it finishes tomorrow.

Mark and Gig Eveleigh won Best Show Garden at the event hosted by the Royal Horticultural Society.

The day was marked on Twitter with posts tagged with #nakedgardeningday.

Whether or not you were brave enough to celebrate the day as intended, it was very welcome to have some warmer weather in which to enjoy our gardens this weekend.

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Many UK cities with less than ‘superfast’ broadband on average

Broadband speed tests have been conducted across 42 UK cities, revealing that almost half of all residents are using connections with an average speed slower than 24Mbps – the point regarded as the start of ‘superfast’ speeds.

The testing was conducted by comparison site uSwitch, and found that the city with the lowest average speed was Hull with just 12.4Mbps, while even London users were below the ‘superfast’ rating with an average speed of 22.4Mbps.

Middlesbrough, Belfast and Brighton were the top three cities, with average speeds of 34.4, 34.3 and 33.8Mbps respectively.

The cities with the lowest average broadband speeds after Hull were Aberdeen with 15.6Mbps and Milton Keynes with 17.1Mbps.

It should be made clear that services offering faster speeds may be available in these cities, but the figures represent the actual average speeds people are using in each location.

The government has stated that superfast broadband is available to around 90% of UK homes and businesses now, and further funding has been pledged to increase the total to 95% by 2017.

BT has said that its fibre-based services are available to 24 million homes, but only 22% of these are using the fast connections at the moment.

Although some broadband users want the fastest speeds, many people are still happy with lower download rates as long as they can browse the web, send emails and watch the occasional programme via catch-up TV services.

Faster services can also cost significantly more than those offering lower speeds.

uSwitch’s Ewan Taylor-Gibson commented: “We should be asking what more can be done to encourage the adoption of superfast broadband, now it’s so widely available.

“The UK’s towns and cities should be leading the charge when it comes to broadband speeds, yet just 22 cities have broadband users with average speeds of more than 24Mbps.”

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More than 900 beacons lit to celebrate Queen’s 90th

On her 90th birthday yesterday the Queen lit the first of over 900 beacons across the world in celebration of the landmark date.

The first beacon was lit in Windsor, before the Queen was joined by Prince Phillip for a private dinner at Windsor Castle.

The beacons have been set up in locations across the countries of the Commonwealth, some being purpose-built gas-fuelled structures, others more traditional bonfires or braziers on tall wooden posts.

Royal gun salutes were fired from the UK’s capital cities as the Queen greeted crowds of well-wishers in Windsor.

Her majesty also unveiled a plaque to mark the beginning of The Queen’s Walkway, a recently designed 6.3 kilometer trail which links over sixty significant points in Windsor. The trail was developed to commemorate the moment on 9th September 2015 when the Queen broke the record for the longest reigning British monarch.

The Prince of Wales spoke about his mother at the lighting of the beacon in Windsor, saying: “this, ladies and gentlemen, is a very special occasion and this beacon that her majesty is about to light will also represent – as it lights other beacons across the nation – the love and affection with which you are held throughout this country and the Commonwealth.”

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Charges introduced to help protect bluebell wood from crowds

The National Trust are introducing visitor charges at their Dockey Wood location in Ashridge, Hertfordshire in a bid to control the crowds which flock to the see the beautiful carpets of bluebells covering the ground in May.

Thousands of people visit the woods every spring to walk through the carpets of blue flowers but this leads to large areas being trampled underfoot, or “chaotic parking” on verges in the local area, damaging other plants.

The National Trust is introducing a fee of £3 for an adult to visit the woods, and £1 for a child. This is the first year charges have been in place, and it is said they will help to pay for rangers and the annual £500,000 costs of upkeep.

A spokesperson from the National Trust commented: “At weekends during bluebell season traffic queues build up and people park chaotically, causing real damage to verges and wayside plants.

“Last year lots of people told us that they thought we should have a much greater staff presence at the wood during the busiest weekends, and make a small charge to help meet some of our costs.”

The fees will apply only for the first two weekends of May, when the majority of visitors come to see the bluebells at their peak.

A new route has been laid out to help avoid the trampling of the flowers, and rangers will be on hand to help direct visitors.

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Crisis over – Carlisle biscuit factory operational again

The UK’s biscuit lovers will be hugely relieved to hear that a factory in Carlisle which produces several national favourites such as McVitie’s ginger nuts and Crawford’s custard creams is back to full production levels after it suffered substantial flood damage back in December.

United Biscuits revealed that it was necessary to clear around 40 million litres of water and 540 tonnes of debris from the factory site. It took hundreds of staff, suppliers and contractors working to clean the site and repair machinery before production could be resumed.

Electrical equipment and ovens had to be repaired or replaced before the factory could be brought back to full operation and start producing biscuits again.

The period of downtime resulted in a national biscuit shortage, leading to many anxious customers searching store shelves.

Manufacturing Director of United Biscuits, Mark Taylor, said: “Rather than buy another pack, they actually hunted down the store manager, harangued him for 10 minutes about why ginger nuts weren’t there and left the shop without buying anything.”

“It was a fantastic team effort to clean the place up, repair it and get it back in great shape” he added.

“We can announce officially, the biscuit crisis is over.”

The storms Desmond and Eva caused damage to many homes and businesses across Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire in December.

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