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Group of claimants swells to 17 including contractor Breyer Group

The government is facing claims totalling £140m for losses following its illegal cuts to the solar feed-in-tariff after the number of firms claiming compensation doubled.

Among the 17 claimants are contractor Breyer Group, which is claiming that the cut cost it £6.3m in lost business.

The number of firms taking legal action against the government has ballooned since July 2012 when three firms lodged a claim for £2.2m for lost business as a result of the cuts.

In October the claim reached £50m as a further five firms joined.

The legal action was started after the Department of Energy and Climate Change announced in October 2011 that it would slash by half the feed-in-tariff (FIT) for solar power, which is paid to those people that install solar panels on their property for the power generated. The announcement prompted a slump in the industry with installations falling 97%.

The move was subsequently ruled illegal by the High Court because the 12 December cut off date stipulated by the government was before the government’s consultation on the change had ended.

Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint said tax payers were being asked to “foot the bill for the government’s incompetence”.

She added: “Thousands of people lost their jobs, many businesses in the solar industry saw their order books dry up and the number of people installing solar panels slumped. Ministers must come clean about why they pushed ahead with their unlawful plans and what legal advice they got in the first place.”

Simon Gillett, chief executive of solar firm E-tricity, one of the claimants, said his firm had been forced to let 30% of its staff go because of the cut.

He added: “Last year should have been our year for growth, innovation, investment and training, but instead it was an ‘annus horriblus’ peppered with cut backs, customer confusion, part time working, stress and redundancies.”

However, Gillett said the cost control mechanism for the tariff, which was introduced in August 2012, had helped stabilised the market or solar.

A spokesperson for DECC said: “The department does not accept it has any liability and we will vigorously defend our position.”

Source: Building Magazine ‘E’ News January 2013


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House sales across the UK look set to increase as chartered surveyors’ expectations for the coming three months rose significantly, says the latest RICS housing market survey of 15 January 2013.

Last month, 24% more surveyors across the country predicted that transactions would rise rather than fall over the next quarter. This more positive outlook comes at a time when confidence has been growing that the market in some parts of the country may now be over the very worst.

In tandem with this, prices held steady during December. Notably, this is the first time since June 2010 that the national price balance has not been negative and – with prices forecast by RICS to rise by 2% during 2013 – it seems that the market in some areas of the country may have started to bottom out.

Furthermore, this stability looks set to persist, with surveyors no longer taking a negative view of the price outlook between now and March. This is the first time that respondents have not predicted further drops over the following three months since the summer of 2010.

Turning to market activity, the number of homes coming up for sale remained relatively stable last month, while demand from would-be buyers saw a continued increase. During December, a net balance of 12% more surveyors reported an increase in new buyer enquiries. This reading has now been in positive territory for four months.

Across the UK, London once again bucked the overall trend and saw significant increases in prices, while the North East and Wales saw the biggest drops. Notably, prices in the West Midlands stabilised last month; this represents the first time in over two and a half years that prices have stopped falling.

As we start the new year, confidence in the housing market does appear to be improving – helped in part by the impact of the Funding for Lending Scheme. Indeed, our members are predicting that transaction levels will continue increasing in many parts of the country and it may be that we are now over the very worst.

That said more still needs to be done to ensure potential buyers can access the market at every level. Alongside this, there is still a clear need for more homes to be built.

Source: RICS ‘E’ News January 2013

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Mortgage lenders are insistent that the housing market recovery is under way.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders says it “may be easy to overlook the recovery that has already quietly been under way”, with consumer sentiment having not yet caught up.

The CML gives ten reasons for its positive outlook, starting with a claim that last year there was the highest number of property transactions since the onset of the credit crunch.

Although the Land Registry data on transactions for 2012 will not be available for several weeks, the CML believes there were some 930,000 transactions. It has reached its figures using HMRC data and estimating December’s sales. However, according to the Land Registry’s most up-todate data, there were just 588,835 property sales in England and Wales up until the end of November.

The CML also believes that the number of first-time buyers is at a post-crunch high, although accepting that the current market is not easy for first-timers. However, it says that the pre-crunch market was not easy for first-time buyers either, and that the UK has a decades-long backlog of not producing enough new homes.

The eight other reasons the CML gives for believing that the housing and mortgage markets are in recovery are:

1. The availability of 90%-plus LTV mortgages has more than doubled in the past two years
2. There is ‘much more’ lending at higher LTV levels
3. More first-time buyers are entering the market without assistance
4. Lenders expect to offer more high LTV mortgages this year
5. NewBuy – the controversial taxpayer-backed scheme whereby purchasers of new-build properties only are able to get 95% mortgages – is being extended
6. Lenders are innovating responsibly – the CML cites Lloyds lend-a-hand mortgage, Nationwide’s save-to-buy scheme and Barclays’ new Family Springboard mortgage
7. There is ‘constructive’ forward planning going on within the mortgage industry
8. The outside world is beginning to notice the improvement in lending conditions. The CML says that people are beginning to notice that lenders are open for business.

Source: Estate Agent Today ‘E’ News Wednesday 23rd January 2013

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The sun’s failure to shine on the housing market so far this summer has been confirmed by grim figures from the Bank of England.

It said that mortgage approvals fell to an 18-month low in June, and were below expectation.

Lenders granted 44,192 loans to buy homes, compared with a revised 50,544 in May.

The lowest figure since December 2010, it wrong-footed economists who had predicted that approvals in June would be 48,000.

The Bank of England’s figures tie in with the British Bankers Association, which said that the number of new mortgages approved by the high street banks fell in June, and were also below expectations.

Source – Estate Agent Today

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Paramount Managing Director and Principal Colin Bell has been invited to attend the Queens garden party at Buckinham Palace on 29 May 2012, as he comes to the end of his year of office in his role as National President of the Association of Building Engineers.

About ABE

Founded in 1925 under the name ‘The Incorporated Association of Architects and Surveyors’, the ABE provides the prime qualification Building Engineer, a title that exactly reflects the professional expertise of members and one that is readily understood in the European Union and beyond.

The Association of Building Engineers is the respected voice for Building Engineers and acts to enhance the reputation and profile of the building engineering profession.  In simple terms it’s all about ’Developing Professionals, Sharing Knowledge and Raising Professional Standards’.

Colin stated “it has been an honour and a privilege to be ABE President for a year and I have savoured every moment of it.  To me the best part of being president has been the people part!  Most people who do what we do in our industry, in my experience; are generally nice people who are a pleasure to speak to and deal with, like me they have a sense of humour and they like to see the funny side of things, and don’t take themselves too seriously in life; they are prepared to openly share their professional knowledge and experience with fellow professionals for the benefit of the profession, professionally they are extremely serious about what they do and take great pride in being ‘proud to be professional’.  Personally and professionally I’ve learned so much over the years just chatting with and shooting the breeze with fellow professionals at various events.  As my father used to say ‘we’re learning till the day we’re planted or fried!!  I’ve somehow in my 50 plus years never lost my hunger to learn and improve!”

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