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First time buyers may be emboldened to make an offer following the Stamp Duty cut announced yesterday, but industry figures and experts warn it's only a sticking plaster.
Firstly Robert Cote, Chairman of the Office for Budget responsibility, revealed that his organisation thought the tax cut would push up prices by 0.3% and that “the main financial gainers will actually be people who already own properties, rather than first time buyers themselves”.
Treasury Chief Secretary has subsequently dismissed the OBR’s prediction and just a “minor increase”.
“We have seen this in areas where Help to Buy is offered, as it attracts a great deal of interest from first time buyers,” he said.
“Cutting stamp duty for first time buyers is unlikely to do much – the majority of first time buyers don’t pay anything or only a small amount presently, so it won’t make a huge difference to the masses,” she told The Express.
“The only people it will really help are first time buyers purchasing high worth properties, who already have the funds to do so.
“Essentially, it strikes me as a bit of a PR stunt designed to generate headlines, but something that will actually make very little difference to the market.”
Alison Platt, CEO of Countrywide (pictured, right), however, didn’t think the Stamp Duty cut went far enough.
“It is activity among movers that is most critical to the growth of transactions in the wider housing market,” she said. “While first time buyers face affordability issues, so do movers and without making it easier for these second steppers to move on the supply of property to buy will always be limited, adding more to price pressures.”
This is the home of Mike Russum, an architect, and his partner Sally Cox. It has been longlisted for the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) House of the Year award, which is the subject of a four-part series on Channel 4; the winner will be announced in the final episode on Nov 28.
It's the sort of house that makes people stop and stare. "If I see someone standing outside looking, I invite them in and give them a tour," says Russum.
If I see someone standing outside looking, I invite them in and give them a tour"I like houses to be a series of unfolding surprises," says Russum. The first is Sally's study on the upper ground floor, with a glazed back wall that opens on to a full-width terrace overlooking the garden and trees beyond. Sally, a retired interior designer, creates designs for her wood sculptures here.
They had to dig into the hillside of the sloping plot to create their fourstorey home. Two en suite bedrooms are "below decks", on the lower ground floor, and the main bedroom is flooded with morning light from sliding doors that lead straight on to the garden.
A floating conservatory is suspended above the living space; it has a circular yellow floor and a curved blue structure that is part seating and part planter filled with tropical foliage. The glazing curves up into a dome ceiling, with views over gardens, trees and the city.
"It's like sitting in a tree canopy up here," says Russum. "It's a great place to come for a sundowner, and at night you can see the moon very clearly. This is a small house – 1,345 sq ft – but I wanted the main living space to be as grand as possible, so we devoted the two upper floors to open-plan living and made it double height."
"This is a great house for summer parties, everyone spreads out onto the terraces and up into the conservatory," says Russum. The final outdoor space is a balcony jutting out from the living space, suspended over the garden like the prow of a ship.
"We call that the Kate Winslet balcony," says Cox, "as in Titanic."
Europe’s biggest urban wetlands opens
We’re strolling along Songbird Walk, beneath a row of waterside poplars very like ones Monet painted in Normandy. The October sky is grey but the footpath is lined with colourful wildflowers: yellow gorse, purple knapweed, white campion. With a liquid twittering, a flock of goldfinches swoop overhead, then a clear, penetrating song bursts from the bushes to one side. “Ooh, a Cetti’s warbler,” says wetlands director Veronica Chrisp.
The remarkable thing about this peaceful scene, though, is that it’s not some corner of rural England but a former no-go area in the Lee valley, between downtown Walthamstow and gritty Tottenham in north London, a few miles north of the Olympic Park. For decades, this group of reservoirs was out of bounds to everyone except, basically, a bunch of anoraks: fishermen and birders who obtained the necessary permits.
Now, after a £10.6m investment by the London Wildlife Trust, Waltham Forest council, Thames Water and the Heritage lottery fund, Walthamstow Wetlands, Europe’s largest urban wetland reserve, is ready to open to the public.
Owned by Thames Water, it is still operational, supplying 3.5m households. But from 20 October, the 211-hectare site, with 13 miles of footpath and cycle track between 10 reservoirs, eight islands, and London’s largest heronry, will open to the public daily from dawn to dusk. London already has a well-regarded wetland reserve, in south-west London but a family ticket to the Barnes centre costs more than £30, while this one is free. (There is a parking charge but it’s walking distance from several tube and overground stations.)
At the main gate, on Ferry Lane, an 1885 building that housed the steam-driven pump engine is now a visitor centre with cafe, shop and exhibition space. From its viewing platform, we look down on swans gliding along the pretty Coppermill stream, then over three 19th-century hand-dug reservoirs, looking like natural lakes with their organic shapes and wooded banks. More modern reservoirs further out are less attractive but, we’re told, their large stretches of water and islands are important to the overall ecology of the site.
Walthamstow Wetlands expects to see 250,000 human visitors in its first year, but other kinds of guest have been coming to this site of special scientific interest (SSSI) for years: waterfowl such as pochard, gadwall and shoveler ducks overwinter here; and it’s a stopover for migrating sandpipers, redshank, lapwings and more. The “common” kingfisher (which is anything but) breeds here, and every year cormorants rebuild a colony of sticks and branches on the larger islands to rear their downy chicks.
The engine house’s Victorian chimney has been rebuilt as bijou accommodation for winged visitors: 50-odd small openings up and down its flanks are perfect nesting sites for swifts, aerobatic whizzes who sleep on the wing and only stop flying to breed, but whose numbers are threatened by urbanisation. Slits on its south side are a des res for the site’s large bat population, for whom lighting levels at night are kept suitably low. The newly-planted reed beds we see as we head south on Heron Walk enhance the look of reservoir one, but also make a great habitat for bitterns and bearded tits.
It was important, says Veronica, to keep it feeling wild – a place primarily for nature: there are no big information boards, and signage is all ground-level and low-key. As we round a bend past a bird hide, an excellent view of the Shard, the Gherkin and other City towers is a sharp reminder that this is not, in fact, deepest Suffolk.
Further down the stream is the rather older Coppermill Tower. There has been a mill on this site since at least 1086 (it’s in the Domesday Book), producing paper and gunpowder as well as copper, but this mid-Victorian building, with its Italianate loggia, wouldn’t look out of place in Siena. Now also open to the public, it offers panoramas south to the Olympic Park and Canary Wharf, and west across Hackney Marshes to central London.
With 500,000 people living within two miles of the reserve, and millions more under an hour away by public transport, excitement about the opening has been widespread. Photographers will relish the watery sunsets, cyclists welcome a new GLA-funded route across the Lee valley to Tottenham, naturalists look forward to seeing mating damselflies in the spring, and twitchers to spotting everything from little grebes to peregrine falcons (particularly once the first bird hide is renovated – a second is awaiting funding).
But those of us who are none of the above can, as Wetlands Steve says, just enjoy this “beautiful, therapeutic and tranquil place”. Anoraks not compulsory.
Full article: https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2017/oct/19/walthamstow-wetlands-london-birdwatching-nature-reserve-free-entry
Blue House Yard
A unique creative hub in the heart of Wood Green
Blue House Yard is a redevelopment and re-imagining of an empty and underused site a few minutes from Wood Green station.High Street Works in partnership with London Borough of Haringey will transform the site into a place for local creatives, entrepreneurs and residents for the meanwhile use period of 5 years.
The redevelopment will create both private space for rent and a new public space for meeting friends, discovering events and interacting with local designer makers.
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