New construction orders: November 2006

Orders in the twelve months to November 2006 rose by eight per cent
compared with the previous twelve months, and orders in the three months
to November 2006 rose by two per cent compared to the same period a year
earlier. Orders in the three months to November 2006 fell by eight per
cent compared to the previous three months, with increases in public
housing, private housing, infrastructure and private industrial orders
being offset by decreases in public non-housing and private commercial
sectors. All orders figures quoted are seasonally adjusted and in
constant (2000) prices.

Private housing orders in the twelve months to November 2006 fell by
four per cent compared to those in the previous twelve months. Orders in
the three months to November 2006 rose by six per cent compared with
the previous three months, and by nine per cent compared with the same
period a year earlier.

Public housing and housing association orders rose by 46 per cent in
the twelve months to November 2006 compared with the previous twelve
months. Public housing and housing association orders in the three months
to November 2006 rose by 11 per cent compared to the previous three
months, and by 37 per cent compared to the same period a year earlier.
All comparisons in this sector are affected by large variations due to
its relatively small size.

Infrastructure orders in the twelve months to November 2006 fell by 22
per cent compared with the previous twelve months. Orders in the three
months to November 2006 rose by seven per cent compared with the
previous three months, but fell by 19 per cent when compared to the same
period a year earlier.

Public non-housing orders (excluding infrastructure) in the twelve
months to November 2006 fell by 11 per cent compared with the previous
twelve months. Orders in the three months to November 2006 fell by 19 per
cent compared with the previous three months, and by 15 per cent when
compared to the same period a year earlier.

Private commercial orders in the twelve months to November 2006 were 35
per cent higher than in the previous twelve months. Orders in the
three months to November 2006 were 21 per cent lower compared to the
previous three months, but rose by nine per cent compared to the same period
a year earlier.

Private industrial orders in the twelve months to November 2006 rose by
19 per cent compared to the previous year. Orders in the three months
to November 2006 rose by one per cent compared to the previous three
months, and by six per cent compared to the same period a year earlier.
NE- Bank of mum and dad funds children's house purchases


Parents could find themselves under increasing financial pressure to help their children onto the property ladder if opposition to new housebuilding continues, Housing Minister Yvette Cooper warned today.

Fourteen thousand people a year are releasing equity from their homes to help them buy another property, either for themselves or for family members, reveal new Government figures released today. The average sum withdrawn is £74,000.

The figures also show the percentage of young people under 30 buying their own home with a mortgage has dropped. In 2001, 40% of under 30 households were buying with a mortgage and 33% were renting privately. By 2006, the situation had changed with 34% buying and 41% renting.

The Government said more new homes needed to be built to tackle long-term affordability problems. Levels of housebuilding have increased to more than 165,000 from 130,000 in 2001, but the Government has made clear this needs to reach 200,000 a year to respond to rising demand and affordability pressures.

New planning guidance will be published shortly which will support housebuilding and encourage councils to build the new homes their communities need in the long term.
Housing and Planning Minister Yvette Cooper said:

"Many people are still opposing the increased housing we need so badly. Yet it won't just be young people who lose out if we don't build the new homes the next generation needs. These figures show their mums and dads will feel the heat too.

"It's also unfair on people who can't get family help to get them started. People's chances of home ownership should not depend on whether or not their parents or grandparents were home owners before them.

"That's why we need to support more homes, and more shared ownership schemes, to give people a first step on the ladder."
Darling announces plans to clampdown on rogue Estate Agents


Rogue estate agents and traders are being targeted in proposals announced by Trade & Industry Secretary Alistair Darling today.

The Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Bill would champion the rights of buyers and sellers and ensure that estate agents give consumers a fair ride, increasing consumer rights and representation.

The new measures would:
* make it compulsory for all estate agents to belong to an independent, approved ombudsman with powers to award compensation to buyers or sellers;

* ensure agents refusing to join the scheme would be banned from operating;

* require estate agents to keep written records of dealings with buyers and sellers for six years, to be inspected without notice; and,

* give greater powers to the OFT to remove rogue estate agents from the market.

Alistair Darling, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, said:

"Buying a home is one of the most important decisions anyone can make. All people want is a straight deal. The vast majority of estate agents give that. We want to get rid of those that don't. They give their industry a bad name.

"These proposals put power back in the hands of the buyer and seller. A compulsory ombudsman scheme able to award compensation, an obligation to keep thorough written records and new powers for the OFT to strike off the rogues who don't join,will drive up standards.

"It is one of the most important decisions, it can be one of the most stressful. These proposals aim to take some of that stress away."

As well as estate agents the Bill would include measures on:

* doorstep selling - to give people the same seven-day cancellation and cooling-off rights for solicited visits, as they currently have for unsolicited visits - making it harder for rogue traders to take advantage of vulnerable consumers; and,

* Consumer Voice - to streamline and strengthen consumer representation by bringing together the National Consumer Council, Energywatch and Postwatch into one organisation and by providing a simplified information and advice service.

Commenting on these measures Mr Darling continued:

"The Bill aims to give consumers a stronger voice. Whether it is rogue estate agents or unscrupulous doorstep sellers who exploit the vulnerable we are determined to create a fair consumer and competition regime. It is good for business, good for the consumer."

General Info

1. Estate agents in the UK are currently regulated by the Estate Agents Act 1979. Estate agents do not have to obtain a licence before they can practice, but the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) can ban people it considers unfit from being estate agents;

2. The operation of the 1979 Act and the market for estate agency services, were the subject of an in depth analysis by the OFT in 2004. The OFT concluded that while the estate agency market works well in many respects there was significant consumer dissatisfaction with the services provided;

3. About 60% of estate agents currently belong to the current voluntary ombudsman scheme run by the Ombudsman for Estate Agents (OEA);

4. Proposed ombudsman schemes will need to be approved by the OFT. Following approval of at least one redress scheme, an Order will be laid requiring all estate agents to join an approved scheme before a certain time.

5. The redress provisions in the Housing Act 2004 (due to be implemented in June 2007) will only deal with complaints about Home Information Packs (HIPs), and only apply to England and Wales. The Government is committed to extending the scope of redress schemes so that they can deal with all relevant consumer complaints about estate agents, and consider complaints in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

6. The proposals to strengthen and streamline consumer advocacy were first raised in a joint DTI and Treasury report published for views in 2004. They were included as a Government objective in the Consumer Strategy published by DTI in June 2005 following a consultation in 2004/5. A further consultation on more detailed proposals was run between January and April 2006. The Government's response to this was published on 17 October.

7. In addition to the merger of consumer bodies to provide more coherent and cohesive consumer advocacy, new redress schemes are proposed for the energy and postal services sectors, to provide consumers with resolution of complaints - and compensation where appropriate - in cases where service providers have not been able to resolve an issue to the consumer's satisfaction.

House building: July to September quarter 2006


This statistical release presents the latest figures on new house
building starts and completions in England and its regions up to the quarter
ending September 2006. (The commentary focuses on England but the some
tables provide figures for the other UK countries.)

Summary
Figures for the latest quarter to September show some slowing in the
recent increases in housing starts and completions in England. There
were, however, increases in some regions and the longer term trends show
housing starts and completions in the 12 months to this September around
25 per cent higher than for the equivalent period in 2001.

Starts and Completions in July to September

In England, in the quarter to September 2006, there were 40,800 starts
and 37,700 completions.
Comparing the quarter to September with the equivalent period in 2005:
* Starts were down 9 per cent
* Completions were down 1 per cent
* There were regional variations-
- starts up in the East Midlands (up 3 per cent) and the South East (up
4 per cent)
- completions up in Yorkshire and the Humber (up 11 per cent), West
Midlands (up 1 per cent), East of England (up 3 per cent), London (up 20
per cent) and the South West (up 9 per cent).

Starts and Completions in the 12 months to September 2006

Looking at the medium trends by comparison of the 12 months to
September 2006 with the equivalent period in the previous year, there were:

* 178,900 starts up 2 per cent on the figure for the same 12 month
period last year.
* 165,400 completions, up 6 per cent on the figure for the same 12
month period last year
* regions with increases in starts were North West (up 1 per cent),
East Midlands (up 2 per cent) the North East (up 3 per cent), South East
(up 14 per cent) and the South West (up 17 per cent).
* All regions saw increases in completions except the West Midlands
(down 1 per cent) and South East (same level).

Longer Trends
Looking at the long trend, starts and completions in the 12 months to
this September were around 25 per cent higher than in the equivalent
period to September 2001.

The following charts illustrate the trends in starts and completions
through use of a 'quarterly moving average' (note 4)).
Chart 1 Starts and Completions (England)
Chart 2 Starts by region (North and Midlands)
Chart 3 Completions by region (North and Midlands)
Chart 4 Starts by region (South)
Chart 5 Completions by region (South)

Technical Note
The underlying local authority figures have benefited from revisions as
a result of quality checks. These have produced some changes to the
regional figures prior to 2001, but trends since then were unaffected.
Letting agent closed down following investigation

A letting agent, which traded as Property Express, and its associated
companies have been shut down following an investigation by the
Companies Investigation Branch (CIB) of The Insolvency Service.

West End Property Development (Rentals) Limited ("Rentals") based in
Maidenhead, Berkshire and its four associated companies claimed to
provide a property rental and letting service. However, an investigation into
the company's activities revealed that; the company directors provided
false details about their status as company shareholders; the
registered offices of the company was an area of bare land in West Bromwich, in
the West Midlands; the company had failed to pay taxes, national
insurance contributions and VAT and disputed amounts owed to tenants and
landlords was in excess of in excess of £55,000.

CIB's investigation also revealed that West Property Development and
its associated companies conducted their affairs in a dishonest manner,
seriously lacking in commercial probity. The company failed to honour
its contracts between landlords and tenants; incorrectly charged late
fees for monthly rental payments; either refused to refund deposits in
their entirety or made unwarranted deductions; despite money being
collected from tenants, landlords complained that they had not been paid their
rental income; and two directors failed to cooperate with the
investigation.

The High Court, Mr Registrar Rawson commented that there was a "clear
cut case in each case and there is no possible answer to the petitions.
The evidence speaks for itself".

general notes
1. The petitions to wind up the company in the public interest were
presented to the High Court on 7th September 2006 and the Official
Receiver was appointed provisional liquidator. The petitions were presented
following enquires conducted under Section 447 of the Companies Act 1985,
and Section 124A of the Insolvency Act 1986. All companies were put
into compulsory liquidation when the companies were wound up by the High
Court on the 8th November 2006.

2. West End Property Development (Rentals) Limited ("Rentals") was
associated to four other companies. The registered office of the companies
was 103A High Street, Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 1JX. Where a trading
office is different to the registered office, those have been set out
below. The associated companies were:
* West End Property Developments (Holdings) Limited ("Holdings"),
* West End Properties Developments (Overseas) Limited ("Overseas"), and
West End Property Developments (Sales) Limited ("Sales"), First Floor
Offices, 18 Claypit Lane, West Bromwich, West Midlands, B70 9UN.
* Summit Properties Management Services Limited ("Summit"), 35 Firs
Avenue London N11 3NE.
'Rentals' and 'Sales' traded under the name Property Express as letting
and estate agents respectively.

3. Windsor and Eton Trading Standards received 68 complaints concerning
the conduct of West End Property Development (Rentals) Limited
("Rentals").

4. The recorded company directors other than for Summit were Mr Abdulla
and Mr Zadran. Ms Vivian Kelsey was a director of 'Summit'. Mr Philip
Elkington-Martin, the former company secretary and Ms Kelsey both failed
to co-operate with the investigation, which included the failure to
provide company records when requested.

The OFT has made a prohibition order against an Essex estate agent
banning him from estate agency work.

Martin Geoffrey Harvey was an employee of Spicer McColl Estate Agents
in Clacton-on-Sea, but is no longer employed by them. At Chelmsford
Crown Court on 10 June 2004, he was sentenced to twelve months imprisonment
in respect of offences under the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act.

The OFT decided to ban Mr Harvey after receiving information about the
convictions from his former employer and concluding that he was unfit
to carry on estate agency work.

Christine Wade, OFT Director of Consumer Regulation and Enforcement
said:
'When choosing an estate agent, consumers need to know that they are
honest and trustworthy. If agents engage in any form of fraudulent
conduct, the OFT will take action to prevent them working in the profession.
New protections for consumers in the housing market

Following public consultation earlier this year, the Government has
today published the secondary legislation to bring home reversions and
Ijara home purchase plans into regulation.

The changes will ensure that consumers of equity release products and
Shari'a law compliant home purchase plans will benefit from the
protections afforded by Financial Services Authority (FSA) regulation, and will
take effect from 6 April 2007.

The Economic Secretary, Ed Balls MP, said today

"I'm delighted to announce changes which will offer valuable new
protection for consumers wanting to release equity from their home and for
people taking out Ijara home finance plans."
Keep The Chill Out This Autumn With Bryant Homes’
Seasonal Interior Design Tips

15 September 2006… With the summer over and the nights drawing in, the prospect of short days and long cold evenings can bring on the blues. However, Bryant Homes has some interior design suggestions that can help to extend that warm summer feeling throughout the cooler autumn months ahead.

Trisha Lightfoot, director of Bryant Design, offers some helpful advice on creating the perfect look for your home this season.

Create warmth with bold coloured accessories
Neutral colours, which work well during the spring and summer months, are the perfect blank canvas to add this seasons accent colours such as fuchsia pink, turquoise, green and mustard yellow – all of which will enhance the warmth of your home as the weather outside gets cooler. Alternatively, cover a feature wall or chimney breast with a rich colour for a more dramatic look. Accessories such as floor cushions, throws, scatter cushions add texture and can be removed without hassle when the seasons change.

Let soft fabrics create a luxurious feel
Current fabric trends reflect today’s stylish living and can help create a warm ambience. Mohair, crushed velvet, suede and leather are perfect for adding style and warmth to any room. Thick throws for living rooms and luscious silk or chunky woollen knit blankets for bedrooms are ideal for relaxing and are easy to swap and change. Luxurious soft sheepskin rugs on wooden or stone floors help complete the look.
More follows…
Keep The Chill Out This Autumn…


Choose lighting to complement the mood
Lighting is one of the most important factors in designing a home and also one of the easiest ways to create warmth and interest. For extra interest, table lamps and candles can be strategically placed in key areas of the room. Mirrors can be used to great effect in your home – they will reflect the light and create an illusion of space in smaller rooms.

Add an inviting scent to uplift the spirits
Certain scents are associated with autumn, for example pomegranate, ginger, blackcurrant and fig. Many of these can be bought as room sprays or scented candles which add a burst of atmosphere to uplift the mood whilst also complementing the look of the room. Similarly, fresh flowers can make your home a welcoming environment and their scent can be a real talking point.

Bryant Design allows homebuyers to personalise their new home with a whole host of additional stylish interior design options and is available at all Bryant Homes developments across the region. For more information on Bryant Homes, call 0800 028 8888 or visit www.bryant.co.uk/london
One million new homes could be built on brownfield land


New statistics published today show that existing stocks of available "brownfield" land could accommodate up to one million new homes.

The annual statistics estimates that 63,500 hectares of previously developed land was available for development in 2005. Forty four percent (27,600 hectares) of this land was judged to be suitable for housing, with the remaining land available for other uses such as commerce or recreation.

In the three south-east regions, where demand for housing is highest, it is estimated that there is enough land to accommodate over 400,000 new homes.

The statistics show that there are still many new "brownfield" sites being made available every year, despite a record-breaking seventy four percent of all new developments already being built on previously used land. This improved use of brownfield land is reflected in an eleven percent reduction in the amount of land left lying derelict or vacant compared to five years ago.

Lords Planning Minister, Baroness Kay Andrews said:

"This Government has made it clear that suitable brownfield land must be a priority for any new development and that is why three-quarters of all new developments are already being built on previously developed sites. There is a real need to build more homes if we are to meet the housing needs of future generations and these statistics show that many of these could go on re-used sites.

"In some areas it may be necessary to bring forward other sites if we are to meet local demand, but there are other areas where local authorities could be doing more with the land that is already available. By making the most of suitable brownfield land, local authorities can continue to protect the countryside whilst ensuring there are more homes available for first time buyers."

Seventy four per cent of all new developments are currently built on "brownfield" land, up from fifty six per cent in 1997. Draft planning policy on housing (PPS 3) encourage local authorities to continue to consider how to best use previously developed sites and proposes new requirements for them to develop "brownfield" strategies, including pro-active work to bring suitable" brownfield" land into development.
OFT advises on protection for consumers buying home improvementsPublished: Friday 28 July 2006

As many home owners plan to make improvements to their properties in the summer, the OFT is highlighting the options available to consumers to protect themselves should something go wrong.

Tips for consumers:

if you are buying goods or services costing over £100, consider paying by credit card. If you pay by credit card you can claim your money back from the card company if the seller fails to honour the contract, or if the item is faulty or if the seller wrongly describes it or if the supplier goes out of business (read more on this below)
consider making staged payments and keeping back a significant part of the cost of the home improvements until they are satisfactorily completed, particularly where work such as fitting is involved. This is so you can ask for defects to be put right without the need to make a claim or go to court for compensation
be wary of contract terms requiring full payment in advance, particularly for supply and fit contracts. Check the small print and only pay in full if there is a satisfactory independently-run pre-payment protection scheme, such as that run by Qualitas that will cover you if something goes wrong
Christine Wade, OFT Director of Consumer Regulation Enforcement said:

"It is important for consumers who are asked to pay considerable sums in advance for home improvements to be aware of the ways in which they can protect their interests. Going to court can be difficult and expensive, but these simple steps can provide consumers with some redress should things go wrong."

Your rights when paying by credit card
Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 says that a credit grantor is equally liable with the supplier for any breach of contract or misrepresentation if all of the following conditions are met:

the cash price of the item is over £100 but not more than £30,000
the credit agreement is regulated, ie generally where not more than £25,000 of credit is advanced to an individual (includes sole traders, partnerships and unincorporated bodies)
the creditor is in the business of granting credit and the agreement is made in the course of that business
the credit is advanced under arrangements between the credit grantor and the supplier, so that a bank overdraft arranged by an individual to pay for an item is not covered
Section 75 does not cover debit or charge cards.