Government ditches help-to-buy homes scheme

The government is scrapping its Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme in December, a flagship policy brought in by former Chancellor George Osborne.

House_building theme housing

The scheme, which was introduced three years ago to stimulate the housing market, gave first-time buyers the chance to buy a home with a Government-backed loan worth up to 95% of the value of the property.

In a letter to Bank of England governor Mark Carney, the Chancellor Philip Hammond said the scheme had a “specific purpose that has now been successfully achieved”.

The scheme was scheduled to expire this year, but mortgage lenders had called for it to be replaced, warning that its closure would push the first-time-buyer market back into decline.

The mortgage guarantee scheme, which formed part of the wider Help to Buy policy still being retained, had proved controversial because of worries its would contribute to an unsustainable housing bubble boosting demand for homes without raising supply.

The government will continue offer the highly popular Help to Buy equity loan and ISA schemes.

Latest figures show that over 185,000 completions under the schemes have taken place, of which over 150,000 households have been first time buyers.

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said: “Help to Buy continues to drive demand for new build homes by making home ownership more affordable and realistic.

“Its success is directly leading to more homes being built as it provides the confidence developers need to invest in the land and people required to increase their output.”

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Apple signs major office deal at Battersea Power Station

Apple has signed a deal to become the largest office tenant at Battersea Power Station.


The computer giant will occupy 500,000 sq ft of space across six floors of the central Boiler House inside the power station.

Apple is expected to move in during 2021 to its new new London campus which will be home to 1,400 employees.

Rob Tincknell, CEO of Battersea Power Station Development Company said: “We are delighted that Apple has chosen to make Battersea Power Station its home in 2021.

“It is testament to our fantastic building and the wider regeneration of the 42-acre site which offers a carefully curated mix of homes, businesses and leisure amidst extraordinary open spaces and new transport links.

“It has always been our clear objective to create one of London’s most thriving new communities and this commitment from Apple will undoubtedly help us achieve our goal.”

It is understood that the transaction represents the largest office letting in London’s wider West End in the last twenty years.

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Basement hit squad to police London building work

Westminster council has launched a squad of “basement nuisance busters” to deal with problems caused by construction work under luxury London homes.

The new team is being funded by a levy on residents looking to extend their homes below ground.

The average charge for a domestic property will be £8,000 with bills of up to £30,000 for commercial residential schemes.

The noise, dust and traffic impacts of basement development have had a major effect on local residents in central London.

The levy is being drawn-up as part of the council’s new Code of Construction Practice which will also be rolled out over the coming months to cover larger developments in the city.

Cllr Robert Davis, Westminster City Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for the Built Environment, said: “We are sticking up for local residents, many of whom have found the explosion of basement development in recent years hellish.

“It is right that those who want to build basements should contribute to this new service, which will work to help mitigate the negative impacts.

“Westminster City Council supports the right kind of growth and is not against all basement development, but they must be carried out in a way that is considerate to local residents and the environment.”

Over the last five years Westminster City Council has received on average 150 applications each year and has seen a trend towards more ‘iceberg’ basements where homeowners dig down two or more storeys.

New rules include planning controls limiting basements to a single storey and no more than 50% of total garden land.

The new basement squad will:

  • take a degree of oversight and control, for example making sites coordinate their deliveries and reduce the cumulative impact on residents
  • check that developers are keeping neighbours informed for instance via newsletters or site meetings
  • enforce stricter working hours so as to avoid noisy works at inconvenient times such as Saturday mornings
  • provide a point of contact for residents with complaints – with the power to enforce against overly noisy sites under statutory powers
  • monitor the level and impacts of traffic to sites
  • also police development sites of over 10 residential units, or over 1000m2 commercial floorspace

The levy on a residential basement scheme will cost around £8,000 on average with the largest developments charged around £30,000.

The new powers will only apply to basements which gained planning permission from August 2016 onward, and other major development schemes from September.

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Lendlease Hammersmith office contract confirmed at £103m

Lendlease has confirmed its construction contract is worth £103m to build a new office scheme for Legal & General and Mitsubishi Estate London at 245 Hammersmith Road, in West London.

Hammersmith 1

Work will be completed by the first quarter of 2019 on the the 250,000 sq ft scheme which has a development value of £275m.

The building will consist of a basement and 12 storeys with a plaza and a new urban park.

Demolition of the existing Bechtel House on the site is already underway.

Neil Martin, Managing Director of Lendlease’s construction business, said: “We are really pleased to be working again with Legal & General and Mitsubishi Estate London – both are longstanding clients of ours and the strong relationships between our companies add great value to the development.

“Lendlease excels at just this kind of high-end scheme, with a high-specification design, mixed-use element, and a tight urban footprint.”

Lendlease’s construction business has previously worked in partnership with Legal & General and Mitsubishi Estate London to construct the Central Saint Giles development in central London.

Other shared projects include Legal & General’s headquarters at One Coleman Street and Mitsubishi Estate London’s 8 Finsbury Circus scheme in the City of London.

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Berkeley blames Government for London housing shortages

Berkeley launched a broadside at the Government today over stamp duty and its housing policy in London.

The country’s leading luxury house builder said it was on track to make another £1.5bn in pre-tax profit by April 2018.

But reservations are down 20% on this time last year despite site visitor levels and enquiries remaining at the same level as 2015.

Berkeley said: ‘What is increasingly clear is that Government policy, which has been helpful outside London, has had a negative effect on the capital.

“Transaction taxes are now too high and this is restricting both mobility in the second hand market and the pace of supply and delivery of new homes in London and the South East. 

“There is also a tension between the national policy on Starter Homes and the London Mayor’s ambition to build more affordable housing, while the very high rates of the Community Infrastructure Levy adopted by local authorities now pose a significant threat to development viability.

“While these challenges persist, and the barriers to entry for small builders remain high, London will fall well short of its targets for new homes.

“This is not just a problem for business and ordinary people in the capital but for the country as a whole.  

“London is the engine of our national economy and the principal driver of fiscal revenues.  

“So this is not just a question of housing Londoners – important though that is. It poses a risk to deficit reduction and the prosperity of the whole country.”

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Chinese start UK’s tallest resi tower in London Docklands

Chinese residential developer Greenland Group is going ahead with construction of its £800m Spire London residential tower project in London Docklands.

Spire London

The tower will be fitted with nine high-speed passenger lifts

At over 235m, the 67-storey residential tower will rank as the tallest in the UK and Western Europe once complete in 2020.

Above-ground demolition works at the site at the western end of the north dock in Canary Wharf have already been undertaken.

Piling for the tower will begin in January with the tower scheduled to reach the halfway point in height during the summer of 2018.

The distinctly-shaped tower has been designed by HOK around a clover or orchid shaped footprint to maximise views for each of the 861 flats that will be mostly for private sale.

Wenhao QIAN, Managing Director of Greenland (UK) Investment, said: “This important launch reflects the confidence that Greenland Group continues to have in both the London economy and the London property market.

“We believe that there is always a demand for best in class property assets that offer a high quality, bespoke, designed and unique product in a prime location.

Spire London

“In our view Spire London fulfils these criteria, and we believe there will be significant demand for the apartments within this tower from both the UK and overseas.”

The basement runs to a depth of just 11.7m as the site sits above Crossrail running tunnels, although all piling will be outside the Crossrail exclusion zone. Affordable housing will be included in the western wing of the building.

Around half the building facade is to be fitted with vision glass and the remainder will be fitted with highly-insulated metal panel backed glass curtain wall known as “shadow boxes” to give the building the appearance of being fully glazed from the exterior while reducing solar gain.

The construction phase will employ over 900 construction workers during a 55-month programme.

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