Cities may have to ban wood burning stoves to drive down pollution, a government minister warned yesterday. The fashionable burners are said to be responsible for up to 40 per cent of fine particles known as PM2.5, the most damaging form of air pollution.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow was asked by MPs why the government did not make them illegal in cities, while allowing them in rural areas in homes not connected to gas. 'All these things will have to come under a microscope,' she told the Environment Food and Rural affairs select committee, also suggesting that barbecues at street markets could face a ban.

Around 1.5million UK homes are thought to have wood burning stoves and Bill Parish, air pollution head at the Defra ministry told the panel: 'It's difficult I think to impose a complete ban at this point.' But he added: 'If you wanted to drive down levels of particulates in London you'd have to take more action on domestic combustion.'

The Stove Industry Alliance disputes that 40 per cent of particulates come from wood burning stoves, saying that barbecues, firepits, pizza ovens and bonfires are also to blame.

                                                                                                                                                                                 Colin Fernandez  Environment Correspondent, Daily Mail

John Lewis is considering plans to build 10,000 homes over the next decade as the high street store group looks to revive its flagging fortunes by becoming a landlord. The employee-owned group, which compromises the upmarket John Lewis department stores and the Waitrose supermarkets, is understood to have identified enough excess space on the land it owns to build at least 7,000 homes.

The properties, which will range from studio flats to four-bedroom houses, will be built on sites owned by the chain, above Waitrose supermarkets or on land next to the company's distribution centres. Tenants of a John Lewis-owned home will have the option of renting the property fully furnished with the department store's products or using their own. Some of its housing developments are expected to come with a concierge service, and many are expected to include a Waitrose convenience store as part of the development.

The first John Lewis homes are planned for south-east England but the partnership believes there are opportunities across the country, given the extent of the nationwide housing crisis as property prices spiral upwards, pushing properties out of reach of first-time buyers. If successful, it would be expanded to include further sites. John Lewis 80,000 staff, who are partners in the business, could be offered discounted rents.

It is not the chain's first foray into the housing market. John Lewis also owns most of Leckford, a village in Hampshire, where every home with a green door is a partnership property. The retailer is preparing to lodge a handful of planning applications early next year.

The move is part of the store's plan to restore its fortunes. John Lewis has had a very difficult time in recent years amid pressure on the high street from its online rivals, and tumbled to its first annual loss in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The big shopping changes caused by the crisis prompted it to close 16 of its 50 stores and commit to spending £800million to overhaul the remaining branches, as well as improve its website and shopping app.

The fallout from the pandemic meant staff did not get a bonus for the first time since 1953 with one unlikely this year.

Roof gardens could spring up across the country as ministers prepare to tear up regulations and let homeowners build terraces on top of their houses. Senior government sources said it will be easier to get planning permission to put plants, trees and furniture on roofs.

It is believed greenery above homes is good for the environment as it promotes biodiversity and helps to insulate buildings, reducing the carbon footprint.

A No 10 spokesman said: 'It is definitely something that should be taken seriously.' Ministers added that homeowners will be actively encouraged to improve their house's biodiversity. One said: 'I would strongly support planning and building regulations being relaxed in relation to biodiversity initiatives like roof gardens.'

Currently, it is difficult to get planning permission due to considerations such as neighbour privacy. Laws allows such issues to be bypassed if there is a precedent for roof gardens or terraces in the area.

Sarah Dival, of environmental charity Hubbub, said: 'roof gardens are increase biodiversity [and] absorb pollution.'

                                                                                                                                  Daily Mail.

A leading property solicitor has warned that the industry must put pressure on lenders to take a more reasonable approach to ESW1 certificates, the controversial certification framework brought in during the post-Grenfell cladding crisis.

Susanna Caulfield is a senior associate in the Real Estate Group at Rosling King LLp. She says the government's External Wall Survey (EWS1) certificates, backed by RICS, were introduced with good intentions to help lenders value properties if fire risks were identified or compliance with government guidance could not be proved. These initially applied just to those with problem cladding over 18 meters tall, although those under this height were later brought into scope. But ESW1 forms have "subsequently became a source of greater confusion, with flat owners from any high rise finding themselves at risk", she says.

Last month RICS issued new, narrower guidance aimed at significantly reducing the number of buildings that require the controversial form.

"While there is now more clarity as to what the guidelines are for buildings of various sizes, the guidance is not statutory, and banks can decide for themselves whether or not to adopt it," says Caulfield. "UK lenders are being urged to support the guidance and work with their valuation providers to implement them in order to reduce the number of unnecessary requests for EWS1 forms. The guidelines provide a clear criterion for valuers to follow but there are many examples of lenders requiring EWS1 forms for buildings not included by the RICS guidance.

Housing firm Persimmon is boosting soaring profits by giving buyers no option but to sign up to its broadband service. Families moving on to new estates built by the developer found the only internet network they can choose is FibreNest - which is owned by Persimmon. in the last year, the internet provider's customer numbers have more than doubled from 6,000 to 14,000.

Critics say the move is a ploy to reap 'ongoing revenue' from buyers - and MPs said Persimmon had created its own monopoly by forcing residents to use their broadband.

Bill Esterson, Labour MP for Sefton Central, said: 'This is predatory behaviour.'

Persimmon, which made a pre-tax profit of £784million in 2020, says it provides the network to ensure homeowners do not have to wait for another firm to connect. Persimmon said it will support other providers who wish to use its cables. Firms like Openreach, BT's cable arm, could legally install their own fibre on Persimmon estates. But a spokesman said it was 'unable to make the business case work'.

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