It is estimated that there are 770,000 empty homes in England, a third of them privately owned and are empty for more than a year. A further 800,000 homes could be provided by refurbishment of flats above shops and business premises. Bringing these properties back into use would significantly add to the UK housing stock and reduce the need to build on greenfield sites. Research carried out by FMB has proved that are many advantages in reducing VAT on RMI work. Since the cut to 5% over 30,000 extra jobs have been created and net receipts of one billion French Francs received. The Federation welcomed the decision not to impose VAT on new housing and the plan to reduce stamp duty for brownfield development.

However increasing stamp duty on sales will mean that people moving house will cut corners on repair and improvement work. Unfortunately, the Governments plan to Real estate conveyancing solicitors deter greenfield development needs action to encourage more refurbishment and improvement of the existing stock. On the Governments own figures there is a £114 billion backlog of disrepair in private sector housing and all that builders got out of this budget were few crumbs from the table.

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has welcomed the announcement by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) that a Call Centre has now gone live in Birmingham to process applications from builders wishing to become Quality Marked for the purposes of participating in the Pilot Scheme being conducted by the City Council. Public involvement is not anticipated until a meaningful register of builders is established, probably this summer.

The Federation has been involved in this initiative from the outset and while genuine builders want to rid the industry of the rogues there will be concern about the total costs of becoming quality marked and with some of the assessment criteria which might prove a barrier to the involvement of smaller ones. To ease the process FMB is ready to offer a range of support services to help members wishing to apply to become Quality Marked. FMB is convinced that its members will be more encouraged to become Quality Marked if VAT on RMI work is reduced thus improving their competitive position.


I believe that if we really want to bring about change we need to work through and alongside those with the opportunity to speak on all our behalf. Between now and the end of the year we have the chance to make all of these points repeatedly and firmly to all those drawing up election manifestos. Education about sustainable development – in school, at home, in the workplace and on the streets – will have to be at the core of this if we are to be successful.

It’s worth noting here that the Government has recently set Groundwork a challenge by agreeing to a strategic partnership between our organisation and DFID aimed at helping us contribute to global development in the UK. and Best Property Lawyer What better way for our Government to demonstrate its commitment to global development, social justice and responsible environmental stewardship than to be at the forefront of this initiative?

On the international stage it won’t have escaped your attention that we stand on the verge of the UN Decade of ESD which begins next year. We need to ensure that through that review education is recognised as being vital to delivering sustainable development just as sustainable development can be a powerful deliverer of education. Despite what we may think about the ability of one spending department to influence the whole course of Government – and Treasury – policy, this document continues to be the touchstone for any Whitehall debate on the subject. There is also a recognition that we need the skills to build sustainable communities and the Egan skills review is one of several that are asking some searching questions – to which the answer in many cases is ESD.

But at long last it shows that Government has recognised that the quality of the places in which we live is intimately bound up with the quality of the environment that surrounds us and the social fabric of the neighbourhoods of which we are part. From the regeneration perspective we are now a year into the delivery of ODPM’s Sustainable Communities programme. Firstly, of course, we have the DfES action plan – long awaited, some would say a little lacking in specifics, but nevertheless a sign of commitment and intent. If I believed in astrology I’d say a number of planets had swung into alignment creating auspicious circumstances and major new opportunities.