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Are the buyers agents involved with the working of the process of getting a house?

NEA is warning that those on low-incomes, the elderly and the disabled will be particularly badly hit by a harsh winter and will be increasingly worried about how they will afford to heat their homes. As BP gets set to announce record annual profits of £9 billion, National Energy Action (NEA) has called on the Government to introduce a windfall tax on North Sea gas producers. Domestic energy consumers will experience increases of up to 20% this year because, as the Ofgem report published today highlights, global oil prices have reached record levels.

Gas exploration companies, including BP who are operating in the North Sea, are cashing in on these prices as international gas prices remain linked to oil. Retail suppliers are facing 50% increases in gas prices from the producers, which are now being passed on to domestic customers.

NEA believes that excess profits should be subjected to additional taxation to help mitigate the impact on households least able to cope with soaring fuel bills at the onset on winter. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has established that for every 1% increase in fuel bills, 55,000 households will be plunged into fuel poverty over 600,000 vulnerable households are facing a winter of misery due to these additional costs and the Government’s targets to end fuel poverty are in jeopardy.

We must take action now to channel revenue from North Sea producers into sustainable energy schemes. Whilst shareholders and company bosses look forward to huge dividends and bonuses, we need to make sure pensioners and low income families get a fair deal. BIRMINGHAM welcomed over 250 delegates to a national conference examining the Government’s progress in eradicating fuel poverty this month. Commitment from Malcolm Wicks MP, Minister of State for Pensions DWP, First Home Buyer’s Australia to meet with NEA and Eaga to discuss how the benefits health check can be linked into energy efficiency programmes.

Debate and discussion on how energy price rises will affect the fuel poor and how best to mitigate the impact. To everyone’s relief there has been considerable progress in recent years in reducing the number of households living in fuel poverty. Despite this, the Government estimates that there are still 2.4 million fuel poor households in the UK and this represents a considerable challenge. The recently announced energy price rises will intensify this challenge and, if repeated across the whole of the industry, could add more than 600,000 extra households to the fuel poverty total in the UK.

Buyer’s agents are very useful in the process of property buying and selling?

Confusingly only Development Plan Documents will constitute the Development Plan for the purposes of determining planning applications (Clause 37 (6)) though it is for a local planning authority to state The Bill refers to the Statement of Community Involvement as if it were a Development Plan document leaving its status potentially optional. Moves to streamline the system without compromising its effectiveness are to be welcomed, however, the complexity of the proposed LDS system compared with current Development Plans threatens to be counter-productive.

Property BuyingThe proposals offer a plethora of planning documents, some statutory and some not, some recent and updated, others left untouched for years. For business to monitor was is live and what carries weight will be hard enough. For community groups the new system could be bewildering maze of material. The system proposed for Wales by comparison (set out in clauses 56 to 66), First Home Buyer’s based on a single Development Plan, is simpler, more understandable for the public and the private sector and less likely to lead to confusion and delay through the creation of a new system. Alternatively, as with Supplementary Planning Guidance at present, they might be left informal but carry much less weight accordingly.

Proposals for Business Planning Zones (BPZs) have been widely publicised. In fact, Simplified Planning Zones have existed for some time and the only substantive difference mooted in this Bill under this topic is the proposed ability for RSSs to designate an authority to make provision for an SPZ in its area.

The local authority would then have to bring forward such proposals which are likely to be subject to criteria based policies. The TCPA is disappointed that the Government has not taken this opportunity to introduce third party rights of appeal or other measures to address injustices in the system. The TCPA advocates such rights being afforded only to those directly affected by development (such as those who live on or adjacent to the site for example) and in cases where a local authority is both developer and planning authority.

Third parties are unable to understand why they have no right of appeal whilst applicants have this right, particularly for example where a local authority is both applicant and decision maker for its own land. Judicial Review is not an adequate substitute it is a procedure only available to the wealthy and only on a point of law. Measures are needed to address injustices in the planning system giving precisely circumscribed third parties the right to appeal against decisions in which their homes or similar amenities are damaged by development.

What sort of disadvantages are faced when the entire process of buyers agents fail?

The TCPA therefore supports the proposal to introduce a new payment under the Organic Aid Scheme for converting land for growing fruit and vegetables. The costs of producing an organic conversion plan may be prohibitive for some farmers and crofters, so financial support of £300 or up to 50% of costs seems reasonable. Extending payments to organic farmers beyond the conversion period would bring us in line with other European Member States who offer on-going support. The TCPA believes that the proposals would benefit from some geographical distinction between types of area (urban fringe, accessible rural, remote rural).

In particular we would like to see special financial support schemes for local food production in the urban fringe. The TCPA’s origins in the Garden City movement, Real Estate Buyers Agent together with an appreciation of ecological footprint analysis, lead us to believe in the need for greater interdependence between town and country. This would capture the benefits of both town and country, and create some degree of local self reliance. Making settlements more sustainable will require food production for local markets both at the urban-rural interface and in the wider countryside. This will need integration between planning policies and agricultural support mechanisms.

For instance planning policies which encourage mixed organic farming and low-impact communities  Radical thinking like this may be the only way to reclaim the urban fringe for local production, as current land prices, together with green belt planning restrictions, tend to exclude potential local producers from the land around towns. The Association would be pleased to clarify or discuss these matters if that would be helpful.

The consultation will provide a valuable input from those actively involved in implementing sustainable development at the local level. The principal consequence in the EU Directive is to add a requirement for a much fuller consideration of alternative options for achieving the Plan’s objective. The ODPM proposals include a detailed procedure to amalgamate the current methods for sustainability This includes a very elaborate scoping stage, as well as a subsequent full Environmental Report. All these are to be welcomed.

Nevertheless there are some concerns that TCPA wishes to raise with ODPM, chiefly relating to the complexity and resource implications of the proposals. Additionally, the TCPA believes that building on the existing system of Sustainability Appraisal could well satisfy the requirements of the EU Directive, preventing unnecessary confusion and complication. In order to elaborate on the points made in this response, we are keen to meet with the ODPM.