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Archive for March, 2011


Shaun of the Dead

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What? A derelict Grade II listed Victorian water tower with planning consent for conversion into a four-bed home.

The place will be arranged over five floors so you’d better like staircases … or install a lift.

Where? East Dereham, Norfolk

How much? Guide £80,000 – £100,000. The tower will be auctioned at The Assembly House, Norwich, on March 30th.

Who? Brown & Co.

 

Water tower

Water tower

Water tower. Pic: British Water Tower Appreciation Society

Water tower. Pic: British Water Tower Appreciation Society

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It’s good to hear that the government wants to encourage more housebuilding but surprising to see that they plan to do this by giving housebuilders government land, with no need to pay for it until the properties are built and sold.

According to the FT, this scheme will be part of a growth strategy announced in the budget.

The amount of previously developed land owned by public bodies is 16,600 hectares, of which nearly half is suitable for housing. The government estimates that it could deliver 266,000 homes using this.

Which would be good – though it would be interesting to know where all of this land actually is, and how much of it is viable for development (which may not be the same thing as suitable for housing!)

And more to the point, why this plan, and why now?

Housebuilding

No doubt the scheme will be trumpeted as a desire to control house prices and help first-time buyers, but the real reason, I suspect, is this: “Construction was the biggest loser in the last quarter so we need to get the builders going again,” said a Westminster source.

In other words, the government seems to have decided (we await details) to use public land and money to bankroll developers to build so that the growth figures will look better – come back Gordon Brown, all is forgiven!

The idea  of using public land is not a bad one (remember eco-towns, scrapped by this government?!), though it’s not, perhaps, one that should be cobbled together in haste ahead of a budget by a government worried about the economy.

More specifically, some questions this raises:

  • How will the land be valued? One would hope, given the generosity of this deal, that the taxpayer will not see private companies rake in millions from state-owned land. In this regard, the Home Builders Federation is quoted as saying: “we welcome the commitment to free up public sector land, but public bodies need to be realistic about price as well as flexible about terms if the initiative is to deliver new homes.”  Hmmm. Give us cheap land, but don’t tell us how to build on it!
  • Is this plan based on ‘have land, let’s build’ or on actual local demand and market dynamics? Shapps recently said: “The idea that Ministers can sit in Whitehall and somehow dictate these tractor-like targets on five and 10-year plans has finally ended, I am pleased to say … deciding where housing should go will now be an entirely local decision, prompted by the new homes bonus and other mechanisms.”
  • Following on from that: what happens if they don’t sell? Does the taxpayer simply carry the financial can?
  • It seems odd for a Tory minister to propose such an interventionist strategy – if the free market isn’t delivering enough homes, why isn’t it?
  • Will the houses be affordable? Will they be eco-friendly? (see house builders’ comments above on terms!)
  • Will this development be subject to the localism bill (ie: to local objections)?

Back in January, I wondered why Grant Shapps seemed to be picking a fight with housebuilders and speculated that this was a lobby of some considerable power that was used to getting what it wanted.

Is this proof that I was right on that score? Has Shapps discovered that a  government chasing growth simply cannot do without these guys? And what price will the developers exact if they think the government needs them to boost the growth figures?

Watch this space. It’s going to be very interesting.

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Given Ireland’s recent woes, it’s hardly surprising that the Ryan family are struggling to sell the Lyons Demense in Co. Kildare, Ireland.

When it was quietly put on the market after Tony Ryan died in 2007 it was the most expensively priced house in Irish history: €80m. Later that was dropped to €60m, and now it’s POA.

Lyons Demesne

When Ryan bought the Georgian pile it was in a shoddy state of repair and he is said to have spent €100 million on an award-winning restoration that included the painstaking recovery of a series of museum-quality frescoes by the Italian artist Gaspare Gabrielli (1805-1830).

Aside from the frescoes, commissioned by the original owner Lord Cloncurry, the house comes with 600 acres, a private cinema, gymnasium, wine cellar, a half-Olympic sized indoor swimming pool, seven bedrooms in the main house, as well as four additional bedrooms in a self-contained guest wing. Five lodges are also on the grounds.

There are no plans to sell the contents of the house, which include fine collections of 18th century Irish furniture and paintings, said to be worth around €11 million.

It’s tempting to feel a twinge of  sympathy for the family who can’t seem to find a buyer, but I wouldn’t worry too much about them: when Ryan passed away he left them €95,454,753 in his will.

Think about that the next time Ryanair drive you to distraction with their miserable penny-pinching ways!

Lyons Demesne

Lyons

Lyons

Lyons

Lyons

Lyons

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Welcome to the first in a new series featuring awesome architecture from around the world.

And where better to start than in Singapore, where Guz Architects have created this very funky reinterpretation of the traditional courtyard house.

Yes, that is a swimming pool wrapped around two side of the house, and yes, we too stared at it in slack-jawed  wonderment, pointed and the screen and made excited ooooooohh sounds.

If, on the other hand, you’re looking at this and thinking that’s all well and good but you’d kill yerself trying to do a bomb from the roof, you may be missing the architectural point, which, it sez here, “is to live in harmony and comfort with nature, in Singapore’s hot tropical climate.”

See. Harmony and comfort. No mention of bombs. None at all.

Via: Contemporist

Tangga House in Singapore

Tangga House in Singapore.

Tangga House in Singapore

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Housing Minister, Grant Shapps will be live online today from 3pm – 3.45pm to answer your questions on the Guardian housing network blog. Post your questions!

Guardian housing network blog

Grant Shapps (centre)

 

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It’s Wednesday, and that means it’s time for some unseemly waterside drooling.

This week’s is on the west coast of Argyll and Bute and comes with a staggeringly beautiful view over the Sound of Jura in one direction and Loch Sween in the other.

The property itself, a solid 5-bed farm house, is not especially impressive but it comes with 16 acres and outbuildings with planning permission, so there’s real potential here.

The grounds extend to the coast where there is “a beautifully sheltered natural harbour with jetty.”

And just in case you’re thinking it all looks a bit … remote … the brochure reassures that the nearest supermarket is “just 14 mile away”.

Whisky. I’ll move here and make my own whisky. And learn to play the pipes.

Knight Frank, £650,000

Lochgilphead

Lochgilphead

Lochgilphead

Lochgilphead

Lochgilphead

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