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Give your garden a cracking new look for Easter

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With John Lewis reporting this week that sales of its picnic hampers, cool bags and rugs are up 269 per cent on last year – and Easter decorations up by 336 per cent – it’s safe to say that socially distanced outdoor celebrations are high on our agenda.

Even though garden or park gatherings will be small, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be perfectly formed. 

Whether you’re hosting in the garden or picnicking in the park, here’s how to celebrate Easter in style.

Alfresco: Basket range table, £329, chairs, £290 for two, all from John Lewis

Alfresco: Basket range table, £329, chairs, £290 for two, all from John Lewis

Let’s go outside 

If you are lucky enough to have a garden, look at how best to use it, whatever the weather. Invest in a parasol if you need shade – Raj Tent Club’s riviera parasols, £295, add a brilliantly decorative twist to both park and garden settings.

Prepare for chilly days, too – Morsø now offers freestanding firepits ideal for compact outdoor spaces. Try its Ignis firepit, £199.

‘Design your garden as you would any other room in your home,’ advises home design stylist Bethan Harwood at John Lewis. ‘It needs to be practical, stylish and somewhere you want to spend time.

‘Think about the layout in relation to the sun, and how the overall space will flow. Corner sofas and outside armchairs are great for guests and can be moved around to allow for social distancing.’

Going cheep: Easter basket, £3.50, from  John Lewis

Going cheep: Easter basket, £3.50, from  John Lewis

Birdie Fortescue’s new Teras range of painted rattan furniture, including sofas, side tables and dining chairs, from £136, can be moved between indoors and out, and are matched with water-resistant seat pads in decorative chevrons and Iznik-inspired designs.

For informal outdoor dining, keep it simple. ‘We sometimes like to opt for a buffet-style table with items categorised; plates stacked up, cutlery wrapped in ribbons and different coloured glasses grouped together,’ say The Sette’s Sophie Elliott and Cloe Bueso. 

‘Dot flowers and candlesticks along the table, as well as cake stands and bowls filled with chocolate eggs.’

Try a celebratory twist with their Easter Bunny tablecloth, £190. For a more decadent feel, set a formal outdoor lunch, using table-linen. 

Setting Pretty has a colourful range of cloths and tableware; we love its Ikat tablecloth in green, £110.

Add tinted glassware, such as Edition 94’s short handblown Italian glasses in green and pink, £22 each.

Perfect picnic 

The key to hassle-free entertaining in the park is to pack light and smart, choosing portable foldaway pieces, practical storage for food and a few beautifully decorative, shatter-proof items, including plates and vessels, to elevate the occasion.

‘We love Zara Home’s acrylic jug (£17.99) with lines for its versatility,’ says Liz Parker and Josh Murray-Webster of floral design studio FLWR. 

‘If you buy a couple, one can be used for drinks and another can act as an impromptu vase for a bunch of daffodils or fragrant sweet peas.’

Make carrying food easy by packing as much as possible into airtight Kilner jars, which can be quickly decanted.

For portability, try melamine tableware and glasses. Sophie Allport’s has a range of decorative plates, bowls and cups; the Bees dinner plate, £8.50 is a nod to Spring and the Lobster collection, from £7.50, is a year-round winner.

Invest in lightweight foldaway chairs, too.

John Lewis’s deckchair frame and striped sling, £49, is a nautical classic, while the Geo picnic rug, £25, has waterproof backing.

Anthropologie’s Koziol cutlery, £10, combines knife, fork and spoon in one stack, while its rattan wine and bread basket, £68, is all you need to carry a simple lunch.

‘I’ll be planning my Easter celebrations with both practicality and elegance in mind,’ says interior designer Claudia Ludwig.

‘One of my favourite French outdoor brands, Fermob, does some great colourful place mats and cushions, as well as blankets, to keep my guests warm.’

Foil chocolate eggs customised with ribbon, bunting strung between trees and some festoon lighting are the finishing touches to make your celebratory outdoor get-together one to remember.

What your home really needs is a… garden lantern 

The French House Amboise zinc lantern, pictured, is designed to be fixed to a garden wall (£289)

The French House Amboise zinc lantern, pictured, is designed to be fixed to a garden wall (£289)

The clocks go forward this weekend, bringing us lighter evenings. And on Monday, groups of six people or two households can meet in a private garden.

A lantern will bring a warm glow, somehow beautifying everything. This is why your home needs at least one now.

The word lantern – which has its roots in ancient Greek – seems always to have signified a lamp that can be carried. But The French House Amboise zinc lantern is designed to be fixed to a garden wall (£289). 

Then there are Moroccan-type lanterns with flickering candles for a mere £2.99 from The Range. But battery-powered LED lanterns may be more practical in Britain. 

Argos offers a set of two in a grey cut-out pattern metal (£25). Heals has the funky £90 Let’s Go Speaker Portable Lantern with its ten colours, four light-modes and surround sound.

If you would rather bring the outside in, brighten up your dining table with a £28 vintage brass lantern from Nordic House. Let a lantern lead us into the light.

ANNE ASHWORTH

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Patrizia invests in logistics property near Milan (IT)

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Patrizia AG has acquired a newly built cold storage logistics asset near Milan, Italy, from Savills Investment Management. The 31,000m² cold storage asset was completed in Q2 2021 and is fully let to Kuhne & Nagel, a leading pan-European 3rd party logistics company, and Movi.Log Srl, a frozen food distributor, with a WALT of 7.5 years. The property has been built to a high specification with sprinklers, elevations and ample refrigeration space that has a temperature range between 4°C and -28 °C. Sustainability was a key consideration during its development. The asset includes two photovoltaic plants for a total power capacity of 2.5MW and is targeting a BREEAM rating.

 

The property is located in Casorate Primo, a municipality in Lombardy between the cities of Milan and Pavia, a prime industrial and logistics location in northern Italy. It benefits from excellent transport connectivity via the nearby A7 motorway which connects Milan with Genoa and enables access to France and Switzerland.

 

Pierluigi Scialanga, Head of Transactions at Patrizia Italy, commented: “The property is well located and has excellent sustainability credentials, while lettings to tenants with strong covenants will deliver long term reliable returns. Our Italian AUM has grown significantly in recent years to now over €1bn with plans to grow further. Logistics is a strategic sector for Patrizia Italy. We have so far invested €400m in logistics and have a pipeline of a further €160m of logistics transactions which we are completing.”

 

Rob Brook, Head of Alternative Investments and Head of Logistics at Patrizia, added: “Cold chain is an exciting area of logistics for Patrizia to be involved in. Demand is predicted to grow steadily in the next few years, especially due to a growing need for reliable supply chains for biopharmaceuticals, vaccines and clinical trials. High demand across Europe combined with low vacancy rates makes cold chain logistics an ideal growth area for the future.”

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Crackdown on second home and holiday let tax dodgers

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The Government is cracking down on second home owners who claim their properties are holiday lets for tax purposes.

Communities secretary Michael Gove is set to close a tax loophole which has allowed second home owners to avoid thousands of pounds per year in taxes, without proving that the property was ever rented out. 

The new rules will target those who register their holiday lets as small businesses, meaning they are eligible for business rates instead of council tax.

But the majority pay no business rates at all under the system, because they have ‘rateable values’ of under £12,000 based on the property’s rents, size and usage. 

Crackdown: Those registering second homes as businesses could fall foul of new rules

Crackdown: Those registering second homes as businesses could fall foul of new rules

A second home can be registered as a small business if it will be available as a holiday let for 140 days or more in the coming year.  

However, there is currently no requirement to provide evidence that a property has actually been let out, leaving the system open to abuse. 

This has caused anger in areas that have lots of second homes, such as Devon, Cornwall and the Lake District, as some locals believe property owners are not paying their fair share towards council services.

According to Ray Boulger of mortgage broker John Charcol: ‘Some 97 per cent of the 65,000 holiday let properties in England have rateable values of under £12,000, which means they qualify for small business rates relief and pay no rates at all.’

The new rules aim to change this by ensuring that only those properties which are actually rented out for 70 days per year, and available to rent for 140 days, get the tax break. 

Kurt Jansen, director of the Tourism Alliance said: ‘It makes a very important distinction between commercial self-catering businesses that provide revenue and employment for local communities, and holiday homes which lie vacant for most of the year.’

This is Money explains how the new system will work, and how second home and holiday let owners can make sure they are following the rules. 

Locals in UK holiday spots have expressed anger at second home owners, who they say are not contributing their fair share to the community and services via council tax payments

Locals in UK holiday spots have expressed anger at second home owners, who they say are not contributing their fair share to the community and services via council tax payments

What do the new rules say? 

The rules are based on the amount of days a property is rented out in each tax year. 

To qualify for business rates instead of council tax, the new legislation will require second home owners to prove their property will be available for ‘commercial short term, self-catering rentals’ for at least 140 days in the coming year. 

They will also need to prove that, in the previous year, it was available for letting for 140 days and actually rented out for at least 70 days. 

This is designed to prevent second home owners from registering their properties as small businesses, and then not actually renting them out.  

‘We will not stand by and allow people in privileged positions to abuse the system by unfairly claiming tax relief and leaving local people counting the cost,’ said Gove when he announced the policy. 

‘The action we are taking will create a fairer system, ensuring that second homeowners are contributing their share to the local services they benefit from.’

Anger among locals has increased since the start of the pandemic, as wealthy people snapped up UK holiday lets when travelling abroad was not allowed. 

Exempt: As they are assessed differently to bricks and mortar properties, caravans being used as holiday lets will not come under the government's new second home tax rules

Exempt: As they are assessed differently to bricks and mortar properties, caravans being used as holiday lets will not come under the government’s new second home tax rules

What counts as a holiday let?  

The business rates rules for holiday lets only apply to buildings, or self-contained parts of buildings, that would otherwise be assessed for council tax. 

Caravans will not generally be subject to the rules, as they are usually assessed for business rates under a different system to bricks and mortar buildings. 

When it comes to counting the days that a property was rented out, the government says that only days where the property was occupied at the end of the day should be included.

So if a property was let out from Friday evening to Sunday morning, it would have been let for two days for the purposes of meeting the holiday lets criteria.

Is this definitely going ahead, and when will the rules come into force?

The government has concluded its consultation on the new policy, which started before the pandemic in 2018. It plans to implement the changes from 1 April 2023. 

However, the legislation needed to do so has not yet been passed in parliament.

While the government has made clear its intention to enshrine the new rules in law, they are not set in stone just yet. 

How much would I pay under each system?

Small businesses can find their rateable value on the Government website. 

Those with a rateable value of below £12,000 are not eligible for business rates, while those with a value of up to £15,000 pay special tapered rates. 

For those with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000, they will need to multiply that value by 49.9p to find out their rateable value. They can then subtract any discounts that they may be entitled to, which the government details here

Those with a rateable value of more than £51,000 will follow the same calculation, but with a higher multiple of 51.2p.  

As for council tax, second homes are charged at the same rate as main residences. 

Individual councils may decide to give a discount for second homes, or on homes that have been empty for two years. Owners should contact their council to find out if this is available.

Under the new rules, the government has said there will be no rate or council tax discount for those with lots of properties.  

What if I have a new holiday let with no proof of lettings for last year?

Those acquiring a new holiday let and wanting to register for business rates will not be able to prove that their property was available to let for 140 days and actually let for 70 days in the past year, as required by the new rules. 

Until the owner can provide that proof, they will be subject to council tax – meaning most will need to pay that for at least the first year of their ownership. 

After that, they can ask the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) for a business rates assessment. 

This is the government body that handles everything to do with business rates, and it will be responsible for policing the new rules once they come in to force. 

Don't lie low: Property owners who don't think their property meets the new letting rules, but who are paying business rates, are advised to inform the VOA as soon as possible

Don’t lie low: Property owners who don’t think their property meets the new letting rules, but who are paying business rates, are advised to inform the VOA as soon as possible

I don’t think my property will meet the criteria for last year. What should I do?

Some holiday let or second home owners will not be able to prove that their property was available to let for 140 days and actually let for 70 days in the past year. 

The government says people in this position ‘should notify the VOA as soon as possible, so that their property can be assessed as domestic and revert accordingly to (or be given) a council tax valuation.’ 

It adds that failure to do so could result in a large, backdated council tax bill.

How will it be policed?

When seeking a new business rates valuation after April 2023, second home owners will need to provide evidence that their property was let or available to let for the required periods.  

The government has said will communicate the exact method for collecting evidence before the new rules come into effect.

However, this is expected to include things like the property being listed on rental websites, and evidence of payments from guests.  

‘Evidence of lettings will be required, such as at least one website or brochure used to advertise the property and letting details and receipts,’ says Boulger. 

Those already paying business rates on their holiday let or second home, and who meet the letting requirements, do not need to submit anything. 

However, they should ensure that they have evidence of the last year’s lettings by April 2023, as the VOA may ask for them at any time. 

‘The only impact the new rules will have on genuine holiday let properties might be the need to provide the evidence outlined above, but this information should be readily available for the owner’s tax return,’ says Boulger. 

What if the property is used by family and friends?

Those who regularly allow family and friends to use their properties for free could find they are no longer eligible to register as a small business under the new rules. 

The government says lettings counted in the 70-day period must be on a ‘commercial basis’ at ‘market rates’ and that ‘lettings to friends or relatives at zero or nominal rents will not be covered.’ 

No more mates rates? Money will need to change hands when the property is let, or it will not be counted as a holiday letting under the government's new 70-day rule

No more mates rates? Money will need to change hands when the property is let, or it will not be counted as a holiday letting under the government’s new 70-day rule

Of course, if there are 70 days of commercial lettings on top of discounted ones to friends and family, this will not be a problem.  

Boulger says owners should still be able to rent to people they know at a small discount as part of the 70 days, for example if they are deducting the fees that a listings website would normally charge for a letting via their platform. 

‘It should not prevent the owner offering a reasonable discount to family on friends if, for example, they can avoid the normal commission otherwise payable to the sites advertising their property,’ he says.    

What are the rules outside of England?

Wales has already had similar rules for holiday lets in place since 2010, and the new legislation will bring England in line with those.

The Scottish government is also set to introduce a requirement that holiday lets are rented for 70 days and available for 140 days in a given year, following a consultation called the Barclay Review. 

These rules are set to come into force from 1 April 2022. 

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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Man admits to abduction of four-year-old Australian Cleo Smith

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A man has pleaded guilty to abducting a four-year-old girl from her family’s camping tent on Australia’s west coast last year.

Police found the girl, Cleo Smith, alone in a house in Carnavon, a town of 5,000 people, 18 days after she went missing last October.

Terence Darrell Kelly (36) admitted to the abduction during a brief court appearance in Carnarvon on Monday in a video link from a Perth prison, 900 km to the south.

He faces a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison on a conviction of forcibly taking a child aged under 16. He will next appear in a Western Australian state District Court in Perth on March 20.

Kelly has not entered a plea to other criminal charges he faces, including assaulting a public officer. Those charges have been adjourned to a later date. – AP

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