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Alan Partridge might have dreamed this up in a desperate pitching session

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The accusation that RTÉ never tries anything new or different is comprehensively demolished by Iarnród Enda (RTÉ One, Monday, 8.30pm). The name alone sounds like a concept Alan Partridge (had he spoken Irish) might have dreamed up during his desperate pitching sessions to the BBC executive who’d just sacked him. Yet here it is: a free-wheeling travel series in which the former taoiseach pedals along old railways lines that have been converted into bucolic greenways.

As taoiseach, Kenny often seemed on the brink of doing or saying something toe-curling. Yet during his time in high office he never managed to quite wedge his foot in his mouth. He is much the same in this gently ambling opening episode, which sees him journeying from Waterford city to Dungarvan, interviewing, mostly in fluent Irish, the characters he meets along the way.

Iarnród Enda has been compared to those BBC travel documentaries in which Michael Portillo chugs to far-flung parts of the world that the British previously conquered by bayonet. But there is little of the latter-day Dr Livingstone about Kenny as he by turns takes in Mount Congreve Gardens and a restored narrow-gauge railway in Kilmeadan.

Enda Kenny’s not exactly dynamite on screen. And you no longer have the silliest lockdown haircut of anyone you know: that honour now rests with the former taoiseach

He’s not exactly dynamite on screen. Of course, the last thing a programme such as this requires is a presenter brimming with charisma. Instead Kenny cuts a low-key figure, all tweed and flapping hair. (You no longer have the silliest lockdown haircut of anyone you know: that honour now rests with Enda Kenny.)

His destination is coastal Dungarvan, where a local sports historian explains that match specials taking Waterford supporters to All-Ireland finals in the 1940s and 1950s helped open up the county to rail travel. (You can only hope the “match special” was more luxurious than the cattle truck lined with damp newspapers by which CIÉ conveyed my brother, father and I back to Cork from the 1987 All-Ireland.)

Greenways are seen as an important part of the staycation industry, though some communities would understandably rather the Government just restore the old railway lines instead. Iarnród Enda doesn’t really delve into that, though Kenny does argue that greenways can boost tourism and help communities. He makes this point after reaching Dungarvan, where the chef (and Irish Times food writer) Paul Flynn is rustling up some manner of Waterfordian hotdog for the former taoiseach.

One funny aside is that Sky lists the show as “Iarnród Edna”. Maybe it was distracted by Horace Johnson’s decision to reopen the pubs in Blighty. Either way, that’s as close as Iarnród Enda comes to controversial, which tells its own story. Not all TV needs to set the world alight. And this really is the Enda Kenny of unscripted weeknight television. Slightly beige, maybe even forgettable at moments, but effective in its way and difficult to dislike.

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No reasons recorded for low rates of successful speeding prosecutions

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Fewer than one in five people prosecuted in court for speeding offences are being convicted, new data shows.

With a national average of just over 16 per cent, data covering a three year period between 2018 and 2020 shows conviction rates ranging from 7 per cent recorded in Co Mayo to 24 per cent in Co Wexford.

In total, of almost 60,000 court prosecutions, fewer than 10,000 concluded with a ruling against the driver.

While separate statistics show that 8,325 cases (14 per cent of total prosecutions) were either dismissed or struck out by judges, no information is available as to why.

“The Courts Service system does not record the reason a case was struck out unless the Judge includes the reason in their order,” Minister for Justice Helen McEntee told Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy who had sought recent information around mobile phone use by drivers.

“As such, the Courts Service does not hold complete statistical information on the reasons for any case being struck out.”

Fundamental issues

However, Parc, the road safety advocacy group which has analysed the data, said such a gap in knowledge is among a number of fundamental issues it is to raise with senior garda management and the Road Safety Authority (RSA) in a forthcoming meeting.

“If we don’t know the reason why [cases are being thrown out] then how are we ever going to fix it,” said chairwoman Susan Gray.

“Why are they failing in court, why so many, why are some areas like Mayo recording so few convictions, why is no one looking into this? In Mayo where the RSA is based, [there was a conviction rate of] 7 per cent over three years.”

The counties with the four major cities – Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick – accounted for 24,387 prosecutions, or 41 per cent of the total, and had a conviction rate of 19 per cent.

Outside of those areas, the counties with the highest number of speeding offences ending up in court were Kildare (6,948), Louth (2,600), and Wexford (2,055). Despite being an outlier in terms of prosecution rates, Kildare saw a conviction rate of just 10 per cent, the third lowest of 26 counties.

Conviction rates were the highest in Wexford (at 24 per cent) but three quarters of prosecutions still fell down for whatever reason. Following Wexford, drivers were most likely to be convicted in Dublin, Donegal, Longford and Westmeath (each 22 per cent), Louth (21 per cent) and Limerick (20 per cent) but no other county reached the 20 per cent mark.

Drivers were far less likely to see a conviction recorded against them in Mayo (7 per cent), Meath (8 per cent) and Kildare (10 per cent).

Catherine Murphy said the data raised a number of issues and exposed a traffic penalty system in need of greater consistency and cohesion.

“There can be a huge differential depending on what court you end up in and that shouldn’t be the case,” she said. “You would expect to see this [conviction rate] almost the reverse way around.”

She said there was no reason why data should not be recorded that shows why prosecutions do not proceed, or fail and that the overall road safety enforcement system required a less fragmented approach.

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BNP Paribas REIM acquires Barcelona office building (ES)

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BNP Paribas REIM acquires the iconic office building “Tanger 66” located on 66 Calle Tanger, in the 22@ District in Barcelona, from Blue Coast Capital. This asset is an emblematic building and an architectural landmark in Barcelona, with a total surface area of 7,211m². It is strategically located in the 22@ District, which is one of the most sought-after office area in Barcelona and a European hotspot. The District 22@ is a neighbourhood that used to house industrial sites before becoming one of the most important urban renewal projects in Europe and being rehabilitated to provide modern and elegant offices designed to meet the needs of businesses. The neighbourhood is now composed of more than 1,500 companies specialised in IT, energy, design, media or scientific research and is considered today as a space for constant innovation.

 

The “Tanger 66” building was re-developed from a textile factory into the first LEED Platinum office in Barcelona by Blue Coast Capital. It is composed of 4 floors and an 800m² terrace garden in the upper floor. It offers modern working spaces with training areas, collaborative spaces, computer laboratories, an auditorium and a cafeteria. The building benefits from an excellent connection to public transportation with metro, tram, bus and train stations only a few minutes away. It is fully let to Hewlett Packard.

 

Jean-Maxime Jouis, Global Head of Fund Management for BNP Paribas REIM commented: “This acquisition strengthens the BNP Paribas Diversipierre fund portfolio and fits perfectly with the fund’s strategy by adding a modern asset, fully let and located in a strategic location in Barcelona. In addition, the building is certified LEED Platinum, therefore it respects the funds’ commitments and more generally the environmental issues targeted by BNP Paribas REIM, whose strategy is to accelerate its funds’ goals in terms of ESG.”

 

Fraser Denton, Managing Director, European Real Estate for Blue Coast Capital said: “I am delighted for BNP Paribas REIM in finalising this transaction. Our re-development of T66 is an excellent example of Blue Coast Capital’s focus on creating exceptional real estate and is a leading example of real estate repurposing whilst achieving the highest level of LEED Certification.”

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House prices shot up £25k in a year in November 2021, ONS says

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Property prices surged 10 per cent annually in November 2021, according to the latest official figures.

This marked a small increase in price inflation compared to October, when prices grew by 9.8 per cent, the Office for National Statistics’ house price index shows.

The average house price was £271,000 in November 2021, which is £25,000 higher than the same time last year.

Climbing: The average UK house price increased by £25,000 in the year to November 2021

Climbing: The average UK house price increased by £25,000 in the year to November 2021

The figures confirm that house prices continued to climb, even after the stamp duty holiday finished at the end of September 2021.

The tax break, which lowered home buyers’ bills by up to £15,000, contributed to rapidly rising prices after it was introduced in July 2020.

This was despite the cost of a home increasing by £10,000 more than the maximum tax break.  

The number of housing transactions taking place also increased in November, growing by nearly a quarter compared October according to HMRC.

However, it was 16.4 per cent lower than the number of transactions in November 2020.

This suggests that the slight dip in October following the end of the stamp duty holiday may have been a temporary blip.

Rise: The rate of house price growth ticked up in November compared to October

Rise: The rate of house price growth ticked up in November compared to October

The average UK house price has increased dramatically since the pandemic started

The average UK house price has increased dramatically since the pandemic started

Phillip Stevens, director of Richmond estate agency Antony Roberts, said: ‘It was business as usual in November as property prices rose again following October’s dip, which came about following the end of the stamp duty holiday. 

‘There is plenty of evidence that buyer demand remains strong, especially for houses, and with relatively little stock available it is a house seller’s market.’

However, experts said that the spectre of rising inflation and increases in the cost of living could serve to dampen the housing market later in 2022.

On the market: This four-bed, three-bath detached home in Kirkby Lonsdale, Lancashire, is on the market with Hackney & Leigh with an asking price of £745,000

On the market: This four-bed, three-bath detached home in Kirkby Lonsdale, Lancashire, is on the market with Hackney & Leigh with an asking price of £745,000

In Trowbridge, Wiltshire, this five-bed is listed for £610,000 with agents Kingstons

In Trowbridge, Wiltshire, this five-bed is listed for £610,000 with agents Kingstons

Buyers in Largs, North Ayrshire, Scotland can snap up this four-bed, two bath detached home for £299,000. It is listed with estate agents at Corum

Buyers in Largs, North Ayrshire, Scotland can snap up this four-bed, two bath detached home for £299,000. It is listed with estate agents at Corum

This Victorian three-bed is marketed with Starkings & Watson in Norwich for £375,000

This Victorian three-bed is marketed with Starkings & Watson in Norwich for £375,000

This two-bed cottage near Hereford is being sold by Chancellors with a £210,000 guide

This two-bed cottage near Hereford is being sold by Chancellors with a £210,000 guide

This depends to some extent on whether there are further increases in the Bank of England’s base rate, which would likely push up the cost of a mortgage.

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: ‘There is further speculation that the Bank of England will raise interest rates by 0.5 per cent at its February meeting in order to counter rising inflation, and it remains to be seen what impact this will have on buyer confidence.

‘Squeezed affordability would be an issue, preventing first-time buyers in particular from getting on the ladder.’

Looking at the different countries of the UK, house prices increased 9.8 per cent over the year in England to reach an average of £288,000.

In Wales they grew by 12.1% per cent to £200,000, in Scotland by 11.4 per cent to £183,000 and in Northern Ireland by 10.7 per cent to £159,000.

The South West was the region with the highest annual house price growth, with average prices increasing by 12.9 per cent in the year to November 2021. This was up from 10.8 per cent in October 2021.

The lowest annual house price growth was in London, where average prices increased by 5.1 per cent over the year to November 2021, down from 6.7% in October 2021.

Despite being the region with the lowest annual growth, London’s average house prices remain the most expensive of any region in the UK at an average of £520,000.

Locations: Regionally, the South West saw the highest house price increases at 12.9%

Locations: Regionally, the South West saw the highest house price increases at 12.9% 

The North East continued to have the lowest average house price at £149,000, but prices still increased 8.7 per cent in the year to November.

The fact that the number of homes on the market is much lower than the number of interested buyers is another factor continuing to drive up prices, along with Britons’ desire to change their living arrangements due to the pandemic.

Nick Leeming, chairman at estate agent Jackson-Stops said: ‘Last year proved to be an astonishing year for the property market, with prices and demand defying expectations set by the pandemic in January. 

‘Whilst today we see average house prices up slightly from those recorded in October, the figures still reflect lack of supply in the market and are therefore impacting levels of demand in the year to November 2021.

‘It is evident that this imbalance between stock and demand will continue to underpin housing activity in coming months. 

‘This is reflected by what we are seeing across our branches where the complex and ongoing changes to the nation’s working patterns and lifestyle aspirations have only heightened the importance Britons place on owning a home.’

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