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Warnings over ‘dystopian’ effects of cost of living  

Gas, petrol and wheat prices surged yesterday fuelling fears that households face ‘dystopian economic collapse’.

The wholesale cost of gas surged by 70 per cent, meaning that average energy bills could hit £4,000 this year.

The price hit 800p a therm at one point, which is almost 1,900 per cent higher than a year ago. 

The official cap on bills is to rise to almost £2,000 a year from April 1, and another big rise is now expected in October.

The wholesale cost of gas surged by 70 per cent, meaning that average energy bills could hit £4,000 this year. Pictured: Petrol prices at a station in North London today

The wholesale cost of gas surged by 70 per cent, meaning that average energy bills could hit £4,000 this year. Pictured: Petrol prices at a station in North London today

If fuel prices pass £2/ltr, almost half who drive to work say they will be forced off the roads 

New data from leading office space provider Offices.co.uk reveals the huge impact rising fuel costs will have on the UK’s return to the office and its post pandemic recovery plans.

As the cost of living crisis worsened for UK consumers, a snap survey of over 1500 UK office workers who commute by car to their workplace.

Latest data from the AA shows Petrol has now reached an average of 155.62p a litre. Diesel is averaging 161.28p. A year ago, they averaged 124.32p and 127.25p a litre respectively.

This means that the cost of filling up an average 55 litre tank is now almost £18 more expensive, at almost £86 per tank compared to last year.

If the average prices reach over £2 per litre, it will bump the price of the average 55 litre tank to £110, some £24 more than at present but a whopping £42 a tank more expensive than last year.

This represents an enormous 60% increase in fuel costs in the 12 month period.

Johnny Ratcliffe of Offices.co.uk said ‘The cost of living crisis that UK workers are experiencing is reaching breaking point.

‘Millions of households already facing the prospect of enormous price hikes in their home energy bills and rising food prices are now facing being unable to commute to their workplaces if the pump prices hit £2 per litre.

‘Our data shows just how serious an implication this is for the UK economy if almost half of workers surveyed say they won’t be able to afford to get to work anymore.

‘The Government needs to step in urgently otherwise working from home will become the only option for millions of workers.’

In a further blow to families, petrol prices have hit a record high of 155.62p a litre, with diesel costing 161.28p.

The average cost of filling a 55-litre tank in a family car with petrol is now £85.60.

 But drivers filling up on the motorway are being hit even harder in the pocket.

Yesterday’s figures showed the average price at motorway service stations was 172.85p a litre for unleaded.  

Households also face a ‘food price shock’ because of shortages of essential crops such as wheat, maize and vegetable oils caused by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Supplies of grain from Ukraine, which is considered the breadbasket of the world, are predicted to come to a halt with farms and ports shut down by the fighting.

Wheat prices have surged 55 per cent since the invasion.

The rise in the wholesale gas price came against the background of calls originating in the United States for a total boycott of carbon fuels coming out of Russia.

It fell back below 550p later in the day after the Germans warned against such a move.

Britain gets less than 4 per cent of its gas from Russia, but UK consumers would be hit by a rise in global wholesale prices. 

The UK and Europe would find itself in a bidding war with Asia for gas supplies from the US, Qatar, Africa and Trinidad.

Former Tory minister Alan Duncan said: ‘We of course want to disadvantage Russia as an essential tool of war.

‘But we don’t want to disadvantage ourselves so that we fall into some kind of dystopian economic collapse.

‘We are on the edge of that.’

Lord Duncan, chairman of the Association for Decentralised Energy, suggested some subsidiaries of Russian energy companies should not be pulled into the boycotts and sanctions.

Joe Malinowski, founder of TheEnergyShop.com comparison site, suggested annual energy bills could go up to £3,750 a year should wholesale gas prices stay at 600p a therm.

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the move could create some huge supply problems.

She said: ‘If Russian exports are turned off, it will leave a huge gap in European energy needs.’

The price hit 800p a therm at one point, which is almost 1,900 per cent higher than a year ago. Pictured: The pipes at the landfall facilities of the 'Nord Stream 2' gas pipeline in Germany in March 2021

The price hit 800p a therm at one point, which is almost 1,900 per cent higher than a year ago. Pictured: The pipes at the landfall facilities of the ‘Nord Stream 2’ gas pipeline in Germany in March 2021

Pictured: RAC petrol and diesel prices over the past 14 years

Pictured: RAC petrol and diesel prices over the past 14 years 

Families braced for £1,000 fall in income 

By Harriet Line, Chief Political Correspondent for the Daily Mail 

Families face the biggest squeeze on living standards since the mid-1970s, an alarming report warns today.

Real household incomes could fall by 4 per cent for working age people from April, the Resolution Foundation said.

The think-tank warned the income drop would represent a fall of £1,000 per household for non-pensioners – a scale of decline normally associated with recessions.

But the foundation also said the fall would have been worse without the £350 boost to incomes the UK Government’s energy rebates package will give households.

Real household incomes could fall by 4 per cent for working age people from April, the Resolution Foundation said (stock image)

Real household incomes could fall by 4 per cent for working age people from April, the Resolution Foundation said (stock image)

Inflation is predicted to hit around 8 per cent this spring – which the foundation said would make ‘falling real household incomes the defining economic feature of 2022’.

And even before the conflict in Ukraine, the outlook for living standards this coming financial year was ‘bleak’, with soaring energy bills in April disproportionately affecting families on low and middle incomes.

‘The UK’s post-Covid economic recovery is well under way, but a deep living standards downturn is just getting going,’ the report argued.

The Resolution Foundation’s principal economist Adam Corlett said: ‘Britain has stepped out of a global pandemic, and straight into a cost of living crisis.’ The foundation urged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to address the issue in his upcoming spring statement and increase benefits by 8.1 per cent this year.

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Culture

European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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— By Darren Wilson, Team VoiceOfEU.com

— Contact us: info@VoiceOfEU.com

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Culture

Can’t Afford A House In UK? Move To Germany!

Grand Designs star Kevin McCloud has told first time buyers if they can’t afford to buy a house ‘move to Germany’.

The TV presenter advised young people looking to get on the property ladder to abandon their hopes of buying a house in the UK and instead ‘move to another country where the housing market is healthy’.

He told the news website JOE that almost every other North European country and Canada have got ‘really healthy markets, lots of diverse opportunities, lots of diverse offers and it isn’t hugely expensive’.

The 64-year-old said: ‘My advice is move to Germany, maybe that’s the way forward.’

McCloud also took aim at ‘immoral’ housing developers, who he claims now make on average £68,000 profit per house or per flat, compared to 2009, when the figure was ten times less.

Have YOU moved to Germany? Email chris.matthews@mailonline.co.uk

Houses in Germany costs just £232,941 on average. Meanwhile, a pint of beer costs just £2.14 in Germany, while on average in England a pint is £4.21

Houses in Germany costs just £232,941 on average. Meanwhile, a pint of beer costs just £2.14 in Germany, while on average in England a pint is £4.21

Grand Designs star Kevin McCloud who has told first time buyers if they can't afford to buy a house 'move to Germany'

Grand Designs star Kevin McCloud who has told first time buyers if they can’t afford to buy a house ‘move to Germany’

The TV presenter (pictured) advised young people looking to 'move to another country where the housing market is healthy'

The TV presenter (pictured) advised young people looking to ‘move to another country where the housing market is healthy’

First-time buyers purchased 33% of homes sold in the UK so far this year, marking an all-time high

First-time buyers purchased 33% of homes sold in the UK so far this year, marking an all-time high

Houses of a residential area are seen from above in Frankfurt, Germany (File image)

Houses of a residential area are seen from above in Frankfurt, Germany (File image)

McCloud also took aim at 'immoral' housing developers, who he claims now make on average £68,000 profit per house or per flat, compared to 2009, when the figure was ten times less. Pictured: Homes along a street in London (File image)

McCloud also took aim at ‘immoral’ housing developers, who he claims now make on average £68,000 profit per house or per flat, compared to 2009, when the figure was ten times less. Pictured: Homes along a street in London (File image)

He claimed the average profit ‘big housing developers’ now make every time they sell a house or flat was ‘about £68,000’, ten times what it was in 2009.

McCloud added: ‘They’ve shifted their focus from volume and meeting government targets to the profit they deliver to their shareholders.

‘Persimmon, the year before last made £1.1 billion of profit for their shareholders, 25 per cent of their turnover.

‘I’ve only got one word for it and I think it’s immoral.’

Speaking about the state of the UK housing market, McCloud said: ‘I look at the UK market and I see nothing good here.

‘I look at what’s happening in Germany, Holland, Netherlands, Denmark, Scandinavia, I look at other, almost every other North European country and Canada – they’ve got really healthy markets, lots of diverse opportunities, lots of diverse offers and it isn’t hugely expensive.’

Foreigners can buy properties in Germany with relative ease.

Even since Brexit, people from non-EU countries can borrow up to 60 per cent mortgages.

Not all banks offer expats mortgages. DKB and Santander are two that do but having even a temporary residence may improve a person’s chances.

An extensive report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) concluded that Britain’s development sector is ‘warped by decades of housing market volatility, the departure of local authorities from the housebuilding sphere, and cuts to capital grant that collectively could have insulated the development market from significant shocks’.

The report claims that ‘the UK has both a pro-cyclical housing and development marke’.

The IPPR said: 'Germany has traditionally kept much tighter controls on mortgage lending, meaning that in order to access home ownership, German households have had to save up for longer periods of time than their British counterparts'

The IPPR said: ‘Germany has traditionally kept much tighter controls on mortgage lending, meaning that in order to access home ownership, German households have had to save up for longer periods of time than their British counterparts’

House prices in Germany have historically been far more stable than those in Britain

House prices in Germany have historically been far more stable than those in Britain

England's trend of ownership is in stark contrast to Germany, where many more people rent

England’s trend of ownership is in stark contrast to Germany, where many more people rent

In Germany, the professional sector of people and companies that own property to let it out, is much more invested in the market (37 per cent) than in the UK (18 per cent)

In Germany, the professional sector of people and companies that own property to let it out, is much more invested in the market (37 per cent) than in the UK (18 per cent)

Traditionally, Germany has a much higher rate of housebuilding compared to the UK

Traditionally, Germany has a much higher rate of housebuilding compared to the UK

It added: ‘By contrast, Germany is in a stronger position: its mortgage market has been more tightly regulated and consequently its market (and economy) is less vulnerable to economic downturns; and housing construction is undertaken by a far greater number of actors, including large housebuilders but also, crucially, many smaller, regionally based actors and a significant not-for-profit sector (both within and outside public ownership).

‘The two countries utilise the powers of government in quite different ways. In Germany, although private enterprise is crucial in housing finance, housing development and management of stock, the state, locally and nationally, plays a far more ‘interventionist’ role – in regulation (for instance, of rents and of the mortgage market), in land assembly, and in housing development itself (albeit often through locally owned companies).

‘However, in the UK, although the parameters of policy are set by government, the trend is towards stepping back the role of the state in housing provision, and then becoming active when markets cannot achieve satisfactory outcomes (for instance by providing mortgage guarantees, or through the provision of housing benefit to households unable to afford their rent).’

The latest Nationwide house price index showed house prices fell slightly in March, with a 0.2 per cent decline in the average property value.

The monthly decline was down to seasonal adjustment – which aims to smooth out months that are typically more and less active – whereas the non-adjusted average house price actually rose slightly from £260,420 in February to £261,14 in March.

It means the typical home, according to Nationwide’s data, has edged up 1.6 per cent annually, with headline figures dragged back by southern England’s stuttering property market.

On the same day, Halifax also reported property prices fell in March, reflecting the first monthly fall since September 2023.

The major mortgage lender revealed the average home price fell 1 per cent last month, following five consecutive months of rises.

Despite reports’ focus on headline house price figures, the UK housing market doesn’t just move as one.

A graph showing the average percentage growth in in house prices across the UK

A graph showing the average percentage growth in in house prices across the UK

This map of annual house price changes across the UK shows the North-South divide. House prices are rising in the north and falling in the south

This map of annual house price changes across the UK shows the North-South divide. House prices are rising in the north and falling in the south

It is made up of thousands of local markets that will all be performing differently from one another.

These differences can even be seen at a regional level where there is evidence of a North-South divide opening up. Prices are generally rising in the North and falling in the South.

The average house price during the first three months of 2024 in Northern Ireland, for example, is up 4.6 per cent year-on-year, according to Nationwide.

Prices in Scotland are 3.7 per cent higher over the past three months than they were during the same period in 2023.

And in the North of England the average home is up 4 per cent in the first three months of this year compared to the same period last year.

Prices in the South West are down 1.7 per cent compared to this time last year and prices in East Anglia are 1.3 per cent lower.

Housing experts have claimed that ‘predatory’ investment funds are taking advantage of the British housing market, keeping families paying rent for longer.

There was £1.3billion of private investment in British new builds last year and almost two fifths came from American funds.

Housing expert David Hall told MailOnline: ‘It’s no surprise at all that it’s a business model for a lot of the funds and pension funds and gives them some semblance of certainty and assurance.

‘It is going to price people out of the market. These are investment forums that are essentially vultures. They’re not social housing buddies. They’re not charities. They’re predators.

‘They’re doing nothing wrong. They’re allowed to do it. The market is wide open for predators to come in, wide open for the market to be manipulated.

Housing charity Acorn’s chief Nick Ballard told MailOnline: ‘Britain’s housing crisis should be a source of national shame.

‘Rising homelessness, 1.3 million families on council housing waiting lists and millions condemned to living in poor quality, insecure and expensive private rented accommodation are problems having a very real negative impact on people’s lives, health and on society as a whole.

‘House prices are out of reach for many and have been for years. Rising rents and the cost of living crisis mean people are finding it harder and harder to save to put down a deposit.

‘Policies of successive Governments have led to 1.5 million council houses sold or demolished and not replaced, so these are no longer a viable option for most.

‘House building alone, particularly build-to-rent properties which will siphon money to US investment companies, will not solve the housing crisis.

‘The Government must embark on a serious building programme for social homes, to address the shortage of housing, to bring down rental prices and to provide safe, secure and stable homes that can become the foundation of happy and healthy lives.’

As the average price of a London home nears the £1million mark, thousands of homeowners are ditching the capital.

Have YOU moved to Germany?

Instead of buying in London, homeowners are flocking to more affordable towns that are often in the north of Britain, MailOnline previously revealed.

Schemes like the Help To Buy ISA may have worked a decade ago but since savers can only receive a government bonus if they buy under £450,001, resources such as this have also been priced out.

The average house in the capital costs £733,000 but the average London salary is only £44,000 and most mortgages are capped at 4.5 times that, amounting to just £198,000.

The cheapest place to buy a home is in Middlehaven (TS2), in North Yorkshire, where an average house costs just £49,833.

In fact, Yorkshire postcodes make up the top four cheapest places to buy, with Bradford (BD1), Middlesbrough (TS1) and Brambles Farm (TS3) all coming in with prices under £85,000.

Shildon (DL4), in County Durham is the fifth cheapest, with homes selling for an average of just £86,993.

Linz Darlington, the boss of leasehold extension experts Homehold, told MailOnline: ‘You can seek a better and more affordable quality of life elsewhere.

‘Greater flexibility around working from home has made making a cross-country move more accessible for many.’

Yet while many people are considering leaving the capital, not all postcodes outside of London are as affordable.

In fact, some are even approaching London property prices.

Cobham (KT11), in Surrey, was the most dear, with the average home selling for a shopping £1.4million.

Close behind was Beaconsfield (HP9), in Buckinghamshire, where homes go for £1.3million.

Mr Darlington added: ‘Increasingly buyers are looking for property outside of London and the South East — and so they should be.

‘While these areas may be the preference of many, as a proposition they are clearly overpriced.

‘Leasehold flats have historically been the ”first rung on the ladder” for many house-buyers in London and the South East, but constant woes from cladding issues, outrageous service charges and spiralling ground rents make these an ever less attractive proposition.

‘Issues with flat ownership are compounded by the fact the age of first time buyers has been increasing, which means people are needing for larger, family friendly properties for their first homes.’


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We’re looking at buying a home with a swimming pool – how much would it cost to run?

We’re house hunting in our local area and have found a four-bedroom home with a pool in the garden which is roughly 20ft x 13ft, with a deep end of 6ft.

This £700,000 house ticks many boxes for us, but a swimming pool wasn’t a box to be ticked.

We have two young children, so a swimming pool might be a good feature – but we’re worried about running costs.

Money pit? A This is Money reader wants to know how much a swimming pool costs to maintain (file image)

Money pit? A This is Money reader wants to know how much a swimming pool costs to maintain (file image)

How much would it roughly cost to run all year round in terms of heating and regular maintenance, such as being chlorinated and cleaned?

It also doesn’t currently have a cover. How much roughly would it cost to have a top-of-the-range automatic cover so we could use it all year round?

The other option would be simply to fill it. Would that be a wise move, or would it instantly devalue the home?

We’re also not sure what that entails or how much it would cost to do. Any advice would be appreciated.

Jane Denton replies: You have shown me the house you are looking to buy in Essex and it does look rather fabulous for the price. 

However, taking on a house with a sizeable pool, particularly when you have two young children, is not to be taken lightly. 

If you plan to buy the property and keep the pool, as you rightly point out, there are multiple maintenance costs to consider. Swimming pools can be money pits. 

Taking just some examples, an appropriate pH and chlorine level has to be maintained, the floor of the pool will need vacuuming and the filtration system needs to be checked and serviced regularly. 

Skimming would become part of your daily vocabulary. 

There’s also the additional energy and water costs of running a swimming pool to factor in, which can be substantial.

Safety will be paramount, so it’s sensible that you don’t plan to scrimp on a decent automatic cover.

Another possibility would be, as you state, to get the pool filled in. 

You’ll need to carefully assess how much the pool would realistically be used all year round and consider whether or not the benefits would outweigh the costs and hassle involved. 

Fill in time? Filling in a pool can be expensive, but help save costs in the long run

Fill in time? Filling in a pool can be expensive, but help save costs in the long run 

Pete Simpson, of Pete The Poolman in Surrey, says: Buying a property with a swimming pool can be an exciting prospect. They are appealing and, in theory, make a great addition to a home. 

However, once you’ve moved in and lived with a swimming pool for a while, the reality isn’t always quite as good. 

As a starting point, before you buy the house it would be a good idea, if the seller agrees to it, for you to get an expert to take a look at the swimming pool. 

Pool expert Pete Simpson

Pool expert Pete Simpson

They will be able to tell you whether, for instance, there are any leaks, if the electrics comply with required standards and the condition and type of heating equipment on site. 

Getting problems like this sorted out can be expensive. 

Finding and repairing leaks can cost thousands of pounds. It’s worth knowing what you are buying before taking the plunge. 

In terms of future costs potentially involved, having a swimming pool is like owning a boat, only the water is on the inside.

Heating a pool of the size you are looking at with a modern gas heater for a season without a cover would cost approximately £100 per week, but this would be considerably less with a cover fitted. 

Heating costs vary depending on the outside temperature and the required pool temperature.

Getting a heat pump is another option. These can be pricey and cost thousands of pounds to purchase. 

They require the pool to be covered and ideally need an ambient air temperature of 12 degrees or more to work effectively and reach a comfortable swimming temperature. 

On top of heating costs, running the electric pool circulation pump for a summer season would cost approximately £1,000. 

Some pool owners choose to run the circulation pump for limited spells of time. However, I don’t think this is a good idea. It’s false economy. 

First, the heating can only operate with the pump running, so you lose precious heat during the pump’s downtime. Second, the pool would require more help from chemicals to retain water quality. 

The swimming pool that comes with the house you are considering buying doesn’t come with a cover. 

A good quality ‘walk on’ hydraulic automatic pool cover could potentially set you back as much as £25,000 for a top-of-the-range one, though some less expensive alternatives are available. 

A manual roller or blanket cover could cost a mere £2,000 or so, with the latter offering good heat retention, but, in my view, no safety for children or pets. 

Pools need chlorinating and cleaning regularly. 

Depending on your choice of sanitiser, you should allow at least £100 a month for this. 

The pool would also need to be closed up professionally for the cold winter months and opened in the spring in the same manner. 

If you choose to keep the pool, a good weekly routine service and maintenance schedule would be the best way forward, and maybe a a pay as you enter turnstile for all the new friends you acquire when the mercury rises.

Weekly service charges vary from company to company, but anything from say £55 to £75 per week, excluding chemicals, would be reasonable.

You may decide that the best option for your family would be to get the pool filled in. Prices vary, but getting this done can cost thousands. 

For a start, the pool would have to be broken up at the bottom and along the sides. 

The walls would have to be taken down over a metre to allow for landscaping. A rough guide for the pool with the home you are looking to buy would be around £20,000 and possibility a lot more if there isn’t access for machinery.

In essence, a pool is an expensive toy that will be enjoyed for a handful of days in the summer and is a wonderful garden ornament which will impress any guests.  

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