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Financial troubles ‘driving Brits to DIY’

September 27th, 2012 Comments off

Many Brits are becoming involved in DIY as a result of the squeeze on incomes, it has been said.

Northern Homebuilding and Renovating Show spokesperson Michael Holmes noted before the financial crisis, people would have been willing to hire a tradesman to perform home improvement tasks themselves, but nowadays they are “preparing things themselves and doing it themselves”.

Many people are renovating or refurbishing their home in their leisure time, he continued, stating: “I think there is a renaissance in the DIY market.”

While people have always been able to perform DIY tasks, they previously would not have found the time to do so, the representative declared.

Furthermore, Mr Holmes claimed many individuals are unable to move to another home at present and are therefore planning to improve their existing real estate holdings.

Indeed, a recent poll by Nationwide found that while 47 per cent of homeowners expect to make home improvements during the next year, only eight per cent are planning to move to another home.

While 72 per cent intend to modernise or update their interior design scheme, nine per cent are planning a renovation because they are running out of space in their house.

Mr Holmes suggested that difficulties in attaining mortgages are responsible for this trend, arguing some individuals are unable to afford the cost of moving house and are therefore “stuck in their house”.

However, the number of children in a household can change, the residents can become older and other “evolving needs” can become present, while individuals also like to keep their accommodation looking “up to date”, he asserted.

As a result, people who cannot move “have to make the house change”.

Many home improvement projects therefore consist of converting areas into bedrooms, bathrooms or dressing rooms, the expert stated.

Financial concerns are also leading people to reuse and recycle materials, he noted, although he said: “It’s worth investing in quality.”

“People are definitely more cost-conscious than they were,” Mr Holmes remarked.

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When builders go bust: planning laws a reminder to protect your project

September 25th, 2012 Comments off

If you are planning an extension or thinking about a self-build project, make sure you have given serious thought to what would happen if the builder goes bust, and whether you would be protected.

That’s the advice from Ann and Kevin Ruck, who are embroiled in an “absolute nightmare” after their builder went into administration before he had finished work on their £300,000 “eco house”, a striking wedge-shaped building made with local materials.

The couple had handed over almost all the money because it was supposedly more or less finished. But after the builder left the site, it emerged that the Rucks would have to spend tens of thousands of pounds to put right a long list of problems and complete work that was already supposed to have been done.

Ann says they have learned, to their cost, that there seems to be little or no consumer protection when a builder goes bust, adding: “You have more protection when spending £500 on a package holiday than when spending thousands on building work.”

Their experience could serve as a warning to homeowners thinking about taking advantage of the relaxation of planning rules announced by the government this month, which, some say, could spark a rush to build larger extensions.

The Rucks had decided to build an environmentally-friendly home overlooking the sea near Gairloch on the north-west coast of Scotland where “we could spend some quiet time as we start to work a bit less”.

They were keen for it to be a sustainable build, using Scottish materials such as oak and Caithness stone, with the whole property highly insulated for energy efficiency.

The builder started work in May 2010 and was supposed to finish six months later, but the work “dragged on” until early 2011. In March of that year, the builder wrote to the architect to say he was temporarily ceasing trading “due to increasing bad debts”, and walked off the site. Shortly afterwards he went into administration.

“We had paid just about all the money and had thought the build pretty well complete, so at first we weren’t worried. It wasn’t until I got on site that I realised the extent of the problems,” says Ann.

“The sewage system had not been done as per the contract. There was extensive remedial and completion work including replumbing, electrics, extensive interior plastering, large windows needing to be replaced because they had not been fitted correctly – it goes on and on.”

This work – which the Rucks are having to fund out of their own pockets – is still not finished. They have had to employ another builder and pay a surveyor to investigate potential problems.

The couple, who live near Maidstone in Kent, say they thought they had done all the right things. They interviewed four architects before choosing one, while the builder was suggested by the architect but also competed in a tender process. They paid the builder on time, with the architect employed to administer the contract and sign off the work for payment at key stages. “Yet we find ourselves in this position,” says Ann, adding that it seems “everyone is protected except the consumer”.

Before work started on the house, Ann asked the architect whether they should take out a National House-Building Council (NHBC) warranty – which can, in some cases, offer protection if a builder goes bust (see right) – but he emailed: “We’ve never done a building that is NHBC guaranteed. Waste of money. I would hope that all our houses surpass their standards without you having to pay someone to come and do expensive checks.”

Ann says the builder was a limited company with no assets to speak of, so they have been advised there is no point in suing him.

She says they may have a case against the architect – who is a member of Rias, the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland – on the grounds that he signed off work that was not acceptable to building control. But “because the builder has gone bust, he is able to use this as his defence – ie, if the builder hadn’t gone bust, he would have made him put it right”.

In an email to Ann, the architect said: “Much as I am furious… and much as I regret the situation, we are not culpable for the fact that [the builder] did not carry out the works in accordance with the specification or rectify the works prior to ceasing trading.”

She says they may be able to make a claim against the architect’s professional indemnity insurance, but this would be expensive, “and, frankly, I don’t know that I can afford it”.

She adds: “If people are going to embark on a building project, think about how you are going to be protected should the builder go bust, particularly if it is a limited company and goes into administration.

“The onus here seems to be totally on the consumer to protect themselves, whereas in other situations it’s the industry that funds the protection.”

 

Ways to avoid problems

No one can guarantee that the builder you pick will not get into financial difficulty or turn out to be a nightmare to deal with. But there are things you can do that will hopefully help to minimise the risk of problems later on.

Finding a builder Consumer organisation Which? says the best scheme to help people find a good builder that it has identified is Buy With Confidence , set up by a group of local authority trading standards services. Every business listed has undergone detailed checks before being approved. But it only covers some parts of the country – mainly in southern England.

Which? runs its own service for members called Which? Local, which carries recommendations for a range of businesses.

Consider using a builder who belongs to a recognised body such as the Guild of Builders and Contractors or the National Federation of Builders.

Ask for references, and check them out, and look online to see if there are reviews.

Paying a builder “Never pay for all building work upfront,” Which? says. “Draw up a schedule of payment for each stage of the work. Ideally, you should agree to release money only when each stage of the work is finished to the specification provided and to your satisfaction.”

Paying for at least some of the work with a credit card gives you extra protection in the event of problems.

Insurance and guarantees Make sure your builder has insurance that covers things such as the risk of someone getting hurt on your property. Some builders will offer you an “insurance-backed guarantee” on the work, which may include some protection against insolvency.

The National House-Building Council (NHBC) describes itself as the leading home warranty and insurance provider; its Buildmark warranty covers around 80% of new homes built in the UK and includes some “pre-completion insolvency cover”. But Buildmark is only for builders on the NHBC register (there are around 14,000).

The NHBC offers a policy called Solo for people who plan to build (or use a firm not registered with the NHBC to build) their own home. But it doesn’t cover “contractor insolvency”.

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NAO Campus, the Pole Star indoor positioning solution, is deployed over 6.5 million square feet at the Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport

September 24th, 2012 Comments off

Paris, FRANCE – September 20th 2012 – NAO Campus, the 3D indoor location system developed by Pole Star and already deployed over 2 million square feet at the Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport has been extended to most terminals with a total of 6.5 million square feet covered on four levels. Thanks to NAO Campus, the most mature indoor positioning solution on the market, 61 million travelers in the second largest airport in Europe will never be lost again and will have access to a whole new range of location based services designed to remove the stress from travel and optimize visitor comfort.

Aéroports de Paris (ADP.PA) has once again chosen the Pole Star solution and is now the first venue in the world to offer this service

Pole Star, the indoor positioning leader, in partnership with the Wi-Fi operator, Hub Telecom, have extended coverage of the NAO Campus solution to all of terminals T1, T2 and T3, the new boarding area of Terminal 2E of Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport as well as the SNCF train station and above-ground parking areas at the airport.

Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport is the first venue in the world to offer indoor location service over such a large area and in such a complex environment. The NAO Campus embedded mobile application, “My Way Aéroports de Paris”, was deployed in July 2011 over part of the airport before being expanded to the whole site. “After benchmarking all indoor location solutions available today, we chose the Pole Star service for its maturity and excellence compared to other solutions. The initial deployment clearly demonstrated the added value of interacting with our passengers in real time thanks to the Pole Star indoor positioning system. Consequently we decided to extend coverage to the entire airport. The new version of the geolocated application, My Way Aéroports de Paris, has been available on Google Play for ANDROID Smartphones since the start of July and the service will be launched on iPhone by the end of the year.” says Olivier Tarneaud, Marketing Director at Aéroports de Paris.

Designed to make life easier for passengers and improve services for airport retailers and partners

The Pole Star indoor location solution enables users to locate their position with an average accuracy of 5 meters and even up to 1.5 meters depending on the zone, while guaranteeing seamless indoor/outdoor and level transitions. Today, the NAO Campus embedded mobile application provided by the airport is making life easier for 61 million travelers who have access to:

  • A 3D interactive map showing all services, terminal gates and shops
  • Visual and vocal turn-by-turn guidance in English and in French, indicating the shortest path with distance to the selected point of interest
  • Personalized access for mobility impaired passengers

The application also provides information about flights and special promotions depending on the passenger’s location and profile. The social networking function is very useful in such a large, densely crowded area as an airport. These functions have come out of the SoLoMo trend, the convergence between social networks, location data and smartphone uses.

Christian Carle, CEO and Co-Founder of Pole Star, provided Aéroports de Paris with the latest NAO Campus innovations to speed up the deployment cycle: “We are once again very proud that Aéroports de Paris and Hub Telecom have chosen to work with us. Since June, we have delivered over 10 million square feet in the world. Now available on iPhone, our solution covers 80% of the Smartphone market. We have proven unique experience on the market in Europe, North America and all over the world. We have more and more requests from venue operators who want to use indoor location to improve their visitors’ overall experience. In addition to improving passenger comfort, the location based mobile application can create new revenue streams for our customers who wish to sell it to companies and brands eager to communicate via this new real-time marketing media.” concludes Christian Carle.

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HBF: Government initiatives could help housebuilders

September 21st, 2012 Comments off

The government could have a positive impact on the UK’s housebuilding sector as a result of some of its recently-announced proposals, a specialist has said.

Home Builders Federation (HBF) head of communications Steve Turner expressed his hope that the Funding for Lending Scheme will strengthen the industry.

He predicted that in the future, a number of other measures will be implemented that could improve the sector, which could involve “tweaking” existing policies, dealing with the lack of mortgage finance and releasing additional public real estate.

The HBF representative revealed his organisation is encouraging ministers to take these measures.

“Clearly the government is focused on increasing housebuilding,” he remarked.

Mr Turner suggested that the positive moves by the government could “definitely make a difference”, but claimed that ultimately, the UK needs to see a better flow of funding from banks to eligible homebuyers.

The NewBuy scheme is still in its infancy, but interest in the policy is beginning to rise, he asserted.

As more and more development firms sign up for the initiative, it could begin to deliver the number of projects it had been expected to, the construction sector specialist argued.

He also highlighted NewBuy, claiming that ministers need “more money for it”.

Although the initiative has been successful, it ran out of funding and requires additional state assistance, Mr Turner declared.

The expert had previously pointed out that the lack of lending is constraining the industry, with scarce development finance and mortgage lending “undoubtedly acting as a constraint”.

He said the HBF hopes to see the Funding for Lending Scheme positively influencing the rest of the housebuilding sector and advised the government to “keep the pressure on the banks” in order to stimulate the flow of finance.

Ultimately, the UK needs to see the banking industry lending more money to consumers, the specialist argued.

He also highlighted planning constraints as an issue impacting the health of the sector, saying that organisations are also finding that they cannot build a home even if they have the right level of finance.

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MCFC hires BAM for City Football Academy construction

September 20th, 2012 Comments off

Manchester City Football Club (MCFC) has selected BAM Construction as its building partner for the delivery of the City Football Academy.

This will form part of the club’s Etihad Campus and should provide a learning centre for as many as 400 youngsters.

It will also contain space for MCFC’s operations functions, a training base for the first team, over 16 football pitches, a stadium with a capacity of 7,000, as well as changing rooms, refectory, an injury and rehab centre and a gym.

Junior and senior players will be able to utilise on-site accommodation and a bridge will link the facility to the Etihad Stadium and other parts of the football team’s real estate holdings.

A recent poll of the local community found 98 per cent of people wholeheartedly endorse the development, which is expected to have a positive impact on the region’s environmental and economic regeneration and on young footballers.

MCFC has also donated 5.5 acres of its land on the site to the community and is creating leisure and educational facilities for people in the neighbourhood.

Construction of the City Football Academy will require at least 160 professional tradesmen and a minimum of 70 per cent of these will be recruited from the local area.

So far, 49 people have been employed for the project and all of these came from the region, with 34 of these individuals previously unemployed for a long period of time.

Some of the other opportunities for jobs the development will produce include 95 permanent positions, which will include arboriculture, water management, landscaping, site management, administration and security.

“We recognise that east Manchester has a very high unemployment rate in terms of the youth in the area and this is one particular area that we’ll be looking to target,” BAM director Ian Fleming said.

Building the academy will also make great use of local materials, with 94 per cent of the construction supplies required in the previous development of MCFC’s offices being sourced from the north-west of England.

When the club’s hospitality suites were recently refurbished, this figure hit 98 per cent.

“We will work hard to play our part in delivering MCFC’s vision of both developing the players of the future and helping to regenerate the community of east Manchester,” Mr Fleming added.

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Building rules and what the changes mean for homeowners looking to extend

September 18th, 2012 Comments off

Among the raft of changes to the planning rules announced by the government is a temporary relaxation of laws surrounding domestic extensions in England. The full detail will be in a consultation document, expected to be published soon, but here we look at the current rules and how they might change.

What can I currently build?

You can apply for planning permission to build anything you like, although it may very well not be granted, or if you want to make more minor changes without planning permission you can opt for a permitted development. It is the rules around what this constitutes which the government wants to relax.

 

What currently counts as a permitted development?

It depends where you live: conservation areas and listed buildings have different rules, but broadly speaking extensions, loft conversions and conservatories can all be permitted developments. There are, however, restrictions. When it comes to extensions the main ones are:

• all extensions and other buildings must not exceed 50% of the total area around the house as it stood on 1 July 1948, or the day it was built if later.

• the extension is not on the side of the house that faces the road.

• on a detached house a single storey extension can be up to 4m long and side extensions can only be a single storey.

• on a terraced or semi-detached house a single storey extension can only be 3m long.

• the building must not be clad in any outlandish material – if you want to do something that doesn’t match the exterior of your house you will need to get the council’s permission.

• single storey extensions must not exceed 4m in height.

• two-storey extensions can only be 3m long.

The government’s planning portal has guides and details on common projects including permitted developments.

 

What about my loft?

You can do a lot to a loft without planning permission – most conversions are permitted developments. However, you will need permission if you want to add a dormer to the front of a house or raise the roof level in any way. You will also be restricted to creating space equal to 40 cubic metres in a terraced house and 50 cubic metres in a semi-detached property.

 

How will this change under the government’s proposals?

It is unclear if there will be any change to the rules surrounding loft conversions. The proposals are expected to include new rules on single storey extensions, which will double the length of a permitted development. This will mean:

• on a detached house a single storey extension can be up to 8m long.

• on a terraced or semi-detached house a single storey extension can be 6m long.

 

Rules on height, materials and so on are expected to remain unchanged.

 

Great, anything I need to know before I start building?

Only that the rules are not quite as hard-and-fast as they sound. Chris Wojtulewski, director of planning consultancy Parker Dann, says the rules around permitted developments are “intensely complicated” and councils have a 49-page guide to applying them. “There are subtle variations between local authorities – inevitably people are going to have different interpretations of the rules.”

Wojtulewski suggests homeowners who are in any doubt about whether their proposed build is or isn’t permitted should contact their local council for clarification at the beginning of the process.

You also need to be aware of building regulations: if an extension doesn’t meet them a council can ask for it to be taken down. If you are employing a builder to do your work make sure you confirm they are taking responsibility for meeting the rules.

 

Can my neighbours complain?

When a homeowner applies for planning permission the council sends out letters to neighbours asking if they have any objections. These are taken into account when a planning officer makes a decision, although the fact a neighbour has complained does not necessarily mean a scheme will be rejected.

This process doesn’t occur if you are building a permitted development, but you will still need to notify your next-door neighbours if you are building near to your boundary. Once you start building, any neighbour who believes you are breaking the permitted development rules can contact the council, which will send round an enforcement officer.

When will the new rules apply?

The government is putting the proposals out to a month-long consultation, with a view to changing the rules before the end of the year. They will be in place until the end of 2015.

 

Is this going to kickstart the economy?

It seems unlikely, and the effects of the changes will be difficult to quantify. Annually there are 400,000 planning applications processed, with almost 200,000 for residential improvements, many of which are for changes such as conservatories or extensions.

Councils do not publish figures for how many of these are rejected, and some householders who are turned down will have gone through with smaller extensions under existing permitted development rules, so it is impossible to say how much extra building work will be done in the nation’s back gardens.

Jonathan Harris, director of mortgage broker Anderson Harris, says planning isn’t the issue holding many homeowners back. “It’s all well and good suggesting the answer to the housing crisis is to extend existing properties, but unless you have got the £20,000 upwards to pay for it sitting in your bank account, there could be funding issues.

“Lending is tougher than before the downturn so getting your mortgage lender to advance the required funds will not be as easy as in the past.”

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Free up green-belt land for new housing, says Policy Exchange

September 17th, 2012 Comments off

According to a centre-right thinktank established by the new planning minister, Nick Boles, green-belt land in England should be freed up for new housing developments.

In a report which warns of a “failing cycle” on planning, Policy Exchange says releasing 2% of English land for development would allow for the building of an extra 8m homes.

Boles was appointed to the politically sensitive post of planning minister in last week’s reshuffle as the government announced plans to relax planning regulations to underwrite new housebuilding to the tune of £10bn.

But the report by Policy Exchange, the thinktank established by Boles in 2002, warns that the coalition’s plans do not go far enough and the government should be prepared to build on the green belt.

Under a headline “There is no shortage of land in England”, the author Alex Morton writes: “Just 6-10% of England has been developed and only 2.3% has been ‘concreted over’. We can see there is no overall shortage of land, given, for example, in Oxford a hectare of land costs £20,000 for agricultural purposes but £4m for homes. It is artificial scarcity created by planning we are concerned with.

“Releasing just 2% of our land would allow 8m family homes. There is a myth we have lots of brownfield land. Such derelict land exists for 1m homes but this is only a few years supply, and is in areas we need it less. London has such land for just 30,000 homes.”

Morton argues that local residents should be compensated and developments should be of a high quality. “The legitimate fears of nimbys [not in my back yard] must be acknowledged, rather than nimbys being insulted. Quality must rise to the fore. Planners and people must see we will have more Cubbitt and less Corbusier,” he writes.

Thomas Cubitt was London’s main 19th-century master builder who developed much of Belgravia; Le Corbusier was the early 20th-century French architect responsible for modern urban developments such as the building of the new Indian city of Chandigarh.

Boles, whose father Sir Jack Boles was head of the National Trust from 1975 to 1983, has been highly critical of its campaign against chancellor George Osborne’s plans to liberalise planning laws.

Boles told the Tory Reform Group earlier this year: “Business investment is … deterred by the bureaucratic rigidity of our outdated planning regime. So it is essential that we press on with our planning reforms and do not allow the hysterical scaremongering of latterday Luddites like [National Trust chairman] Simon Jenkins to strangle developments that will boost living standards.”

The Policy Exchange report warns that Britain has a “deeply flawed” planning system. It says England’s land market “is more like a command economy” because councils control the use of land.

Morton writes: “The UK’s ‘land market’ is in no real sense a market. Land release is not triggered by market mechanisms but is controlled by councils through the planning system. Land release by councils is governed by plans that try to micromanage all land use within a local authority.”

The system prompts developers to hold back land in a process known as “land banking”, claims Morton, adding: “Developers land bank due to planning. They earned high profits in the 2000s from this model.

“Developers borrow to buy land as they think land prices will rise. The model only works when land prices are stable or rising. However, land prices only rise when too little is being released to satisfy demand. By definition therefore the current model can never build enough homes over time so it needs to change.”

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Cutty Sark is winner of this year’s BD Carbuncle Cup

September 14th, 2012 Comments off

Grimshaw’s disastrously conceived restoration of the Cutty Sark is winner of this year’s BD Carbuncle Cup, tragically defiling the very thing it sets out to save

The world has recently been mesmerised by the case of Cecilia Giménez, the devout octogenarian from Borja in Spain, whose attempts to restore a fresco of Christ in her local cathedral went so terribly awry. We would ordinarily label someone who had committed such an act a vandal but, for all the ineptitude that she brought to her task, Giménez’s intentions were clearly sound. Her actions demand to be viewed as a tragedy rather than a crime.

In previous years the Carbuncle Cup has been handed out to buildings that were the product of horrifying greed or negligence, but neither charge could be fairly levelled against the backers of this year’s winner.

The spectacularly wrongheaded “restoration” of the Cutty Sark is a project that the charitable trust that owns the ship — the greatest and last remaining 19th century tea clipper — has pursued doggedly for the past eight years. It appointed an architect with an international reputation, and has defended its vision. It has overcome funding crises and even the loss of part of the ship’s fabric in a fire during the course of conservation work. It has worked with the best of intentions and yet has tragically succeeded in defiling the very thing it set out to save.

The scheme’s myriad failings stem from one calamitous choice: the decision to hoick the 154-year-old clipper close to three metres into the air on canted steel props. The Cutty Sark Trust assures us that this very invasive surgery was crucial to the ship’s long-term conservation. Its former dry-docked situation had caused the hull to distort but now, elevated and protected from the elements within a fully air-conditioned glass enclosure, it will supposedly maintain its shape. Historic ship experts have, however, been all but united in their disdain for the strategy. Even the Cutty Sark’s own former chief engineer, Peter Mason, resigned from the project in 2009 after seeing computer simulations that suggested the act of lifting would put a dangerous level of stress on the fabric. So why do it?

One reason is surely that the project’s architect, Grimshaw, found it exciting. It is notable that the practice’s Spine House, completed in Oberkülheim in Germany in 2000, features a remarkably similar section: a timber-clad, boat-like vessel is held aloft on steel legs, while high-level glazing to either side admits toplight to the undercroft. The architect clearly found the chance to restage this drama using an actual boat irresistible.

The arrangement also presented a powerful commercial appeal. With the £12 price of admission fresh in their memory, the visitor entering the volume created beneath the ship’s hull can’t help but be struck by how little it contains. A café huddles at one end, a display of figureheads at the other, but a game of five-a-side football could comfortably be staged in between. The opportunity to inspect the underside of the hull is welcome enough, but the room’s real raison d’être is the lucrative corporate function trade. As the trust has acknowledged, a key ambition was always to create “a corporate hospitality venue to rival Tate Modern”.

From street level, the once thrilling lines of the ship’s stern and prow have now been obscured behind the new glass enclosure. Misdirected as the strategy was from the start, the early renderings — undertaken when the original concept architect youmeheshe was still involved — did at least suggest a degree of delicacy. Along the way, however, the promised soap-bubble of frameless, double-curved glass has been abandoned in favour of a gawky paraphrase of the roof of Foster’s British Museum Great Court. The issues of how such a thing might meet the ground or how an entrance might be made in it do not appear to have detained the architect for long.

Having found their way past an expansive retail opportunity, visitors are taken into the ship by way of a hole bashed through the side of the hull, before circulating from deck to deck past an exhibition pitched squarely at eight-year-old enthusiasts for Pirates of the Caribbean. On reaching the top, they are taken across a gangway to a huge and startlingly banal lift, stair and air-conditioning tower from which they can access the undercroft.

While the neatness of the circulation diagram can’t be faulted, one is left bewildered by the idea that this jewel of British maritime history should have been subjected to such dramatic adjustment in order to equip it for an age of mass tourism.

The ship demanded the sensitivity afforded to other great small London museums like the Soane, but instead it has been comprehensively reimagined as a theme-park attraction.

The Cutty Sark Trust’s chairman, Maldwin Drummond, has said that the aim was to present the ship “as though for some unexplained reason the crew had gone ashore” — a worthy goal but one that this tragically ill-conceived project singularly fails to meet.

 

 

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Traffic the major barrier to hitting customer service targets

September 13th, 2012 Comments off

London, September 13, 2012 – Traffic congestion is the number one reason mobile workers arrive late for jobs, according to TomTom research.

Ninety per cent of UK van drivers admit to arriving late for customer appointments – with traffic cited as the major cause by 93 per cent of respondents. The survey, conducted among mobile workers operating as part of a company fleet, found 27 per cent of drivers are regularly late.

“Our latest research reveals traffic is a serious obstacle preventing service and delivery firms from attaining first-class standards of customer service,” said Thomas Schmidt, Managing Director, TomTom Business Solutions.

“Clearly, the majority of businesses operating a mobile workforce face a major struggle to meet customer expectations but although traffic cannot be controlled, its effect can certainly be mitigated. Advanced fleet management systems, incorporating live traffic information, allow companies to plan around delays and dispatch employees to jobs based on quickest arrival times, not simply who is closest to the customer.”

All of those questioned claimed traffic had an impact on their weekly job schedule, with 81 per cent stating congestion was a regular source of disruptions.

The research also discovered 49 per cent of van drivers feel stressed because of traffic. The top two reasons traffic causes stress are frustration at being stuck (cited by 63 per cent of drivers suffering traffic-related stress) or annoyance caused to customers (21 per cent).

“Traffic congestion puts significant pressure on mobile workers, causing missed deadlines, disruption to the work schedule and disappointment among customers,” added Thomas Schmidt.

“Advanced fleet management technology provides the tools needed to alleviate stress and make employees’ jobs easier. Smarter routing means less frustration, while workflow planning can  take into account journey times for specific routes or times of the day, meaning customers are provided with accurate ETAs and quickly informed in the case of delays or changes to the job schedule.”

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Development boom causes backlogs

September 12th, 2012 Comments off

According to new figures, Local Authorities are approving more housing developments than ever,  but a bumper building backlog is being created as a result.

Research published by the Local Government Association (LGA) reports that 400,000 new homes have received planning permission but have not yet been built, and of those approved plots, more than half have not even been started. It is anticipated that three and a half years would be required, at the current rate of construction, to clear the backlog of all the homes signed off by the local authorities.

However, government figures offer a positive slant to the situation, showing that the overall percentage of planning applications being approved by councils has hit a 10-year record high in the last 12 months.

Sir Merrick Cockell, Chairman of the LGA, commented on the research findings: “These figures conclusively prove that local authorities are overwhelmingly saying ‘yes’ to new development and should finally lay to rest the myth that the lack of new homes being built is the fault of the planning system.”

Other findings which show that the time taken for developers to complete work on site has increased by several months in recent years,these don’t help with the backlog.  In the most extreme cases, it is taking nearly nine years from permission being granted to homes being completely built.

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