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‘Half my stuff got stuck in Milton Keynes’: Removal firms struggle to cope with stamp duty rush

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Blackbirds and starlings are singing. Over the fields in the distance I can see the July morning sunlight glinting on a sandy bay.

It’s the first day in the farmhouse we have just bought in the Scottish Borders; a dream come true, frankly.

And yet I am stressed as hell. I moved on Wednesday, but only half my stuff arrived at the new house. It wasn’t until 6pm that I learned that the rest was in a lock-up 300 miles south in Milton Keynes and it wouldn’t be arriving for a further 48 hours.

On the move: As many as 100,000 people are moving house each month; paying on average about £1,200 to use a removal service

On the move: As many as 100,000 people are moving house each month; paying on average about £1,200 to use a removal service

So I am writing this with the computer perched on a packing case. As for the kitchen table, three legs are propped in a corner. 

I heard one of the removal guys saying they hoped the fourth was on the other van. I hope so, too.

I have got off lightly. Up and down the country the national blood pressure has reached an unprecedented high level this week as homeowners rushed to complete their transactions and moves before the stamp duty ‘holiday’ ended yesterday.

There simply are not enough removal companies to cope. As many as 100,000 people are moving house each month; paying on average about £1,200 to use a removal service. 

The median distance moved by UK homebuyers in 2020 was 10 miles, an increase of 1 mile from the 2019 average.

It’s estimated that every 100 miles adds £100 to the bill. A light has been shone on the removals business and what it reveals is not always pretty. My removals team arrived about 4pm and finally left just before eight.

I had a testy conversation with the ‘team leader’ before he left about the ‘missing’ truckload of stuff. I was just getting into my stride when a thought occurred: ‘Hang on, are you driving back tonight?’

They were. Another six hours on the road. I let him go. For all the stress we housemovers are under, spare a thought for the people shifting the boxes.

May their bonuses reflect the incredibly hard graft they are putting in; pretty cheerfully, in my team’s case.

‘I have never seen a period like the last ten days,’ says Raz Hussein, owner of the removal company I used, Daniel Adams of Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire.

In demand: But there simply are not enough removal companies to cope with the high number of people moving home

In demand: But there simply are not enough removal companies to cope with the high number of people moving home

Ian Studd, director general of the British Association of Removers (BAR), has a bleaker message: ‘Many moves may not have been completed by the stamp duty deadline. There was not sufficient availability to cover the demand.’

BAR has 450 UK removals companies on its books, completing 280,000 home moves in Britain during an average year.

Yes, I can hear the bleak laughter from hundreds of frustrated movers. ‘Ahh, you’re missing a leg from your kitchen table. Poor you.’

At least my deal went through smoothly and I got a removal company.

Pressure has been building up in the property chains for weeks as solicitors triaged clients. Only after exchange can you confirm your contract with the removers.

I was moving the contents of a large house 360 miles north. It suddenly looked as if there’d be no one to move us. 

Tips for a smooth house move 

  • Ask for evidence of professional qualifications (eg membership of a removals trade body).
  • Carry out due diligence on who you may be inviting into your home. British Association of Removers’ (BAR) membership can be verified by clicking on Trading Standards’ TSI logo found on members’ own websites.
  • Ask for references.
  • Look for feedback reports and customer reviews.
  • Always get a minimum of two quotations. Quotes must be considered on a like-for-like basis (i.e. Is the service provision described exactly the same) and not simply on the price at the bottom of the page.
  • Check the T&Cs for potential additional charges and how/when they may be incurred.
  • Allow sufficient time for all of the above to happen and a formal contract offer to be made and accepted.
  • Finally, don’t move on a Friday (everyone else does).

But Daniel Adams came through. The question remains: have companies such as these grasped at every piece of business they can without considering whether their logistics can cope?

Raz Hussein denies this. He says the extra pressure ‘was not about how many jobs we took on, but the date changes that customers were experiencing due to chains trying to complete before June 30.’

Daniel Adams chose not to belong to the BAR. ‘It’s a paid subscription and we opted not to be members,’ says Hussein.

Ian Studd thinks it’s not always a question of fees. He says the BAR rigorously audits every company it deals with. Not all satisfy the selection criteria and some companies are asked to leave. He continues to ‘bang the drum’ about the lack of regulation in the removals industry.

‘There is nothing to stop a person buying a transit van today and calling themselves a removals expert tomorrow. This can leave the consumer at risk of being ‘gazumped’ at short notice.’

He also points out that I chose his company even though they are not BAR members. Well, at that stage I didn’t have much choice.

What will I do next time?

Outside the window, the lambs bleat and a deer leaps gracefully through a dewy field. It feels like the forever home. Just as well. I’m not going through all this again.

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Godwin submits plans for Dorset mixed-use development (GB)

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Godwin Developments has submitted a planning application for Woodbury Park, a brand-new commercial development located at a prominent 4.85-acre site in Bere Regis, Dorset. Proposals include four purpose-built drive thru and drive to roadside retail units, with renowned restaurant brands PopeyesStarbucks and McDonald’s already lined up to take space, which has been designed to their specifications.

 

The scheme will also feature a 12,000ft² block of up to eight units, with associated parking and turning facilities. The units will be two storeys high, with the flexibility to combine into larger floorplates, if required by potential tenants. The block will be built speculatively and will target BREEAM Very Good, including features such as air source heat pumps, low energy lighting and highly efficient building fabric, to name a few.

 

Situated off the Townsend Roundabout at the northern entry point of Bere Regis, the site benefits from a high passing traffic flow of over 27,000 daily vehicles. It occupies a key location at the intersection of the A31 and A35 alongside the main arterial route connecting Poole and Bournemouth to Dorchester.

 

The Woodbury Park scheme will further Godwin’s commitment to local regeneration and job creation by enabling up to 250 new employment opportunities. Roles are anticipated to be primarily in retail, distribution and logistics, as well as services, manufacturing, technology and the creative industries. Local people will also benefit from the inclusion of several EV charging points, the first in the area.

 

Claudine Tracey, Development Manager at Godwin Developments, said: “The site’s high traffic flow, lack of similar offering close by, and proximity to existing Shell garage and trade park make Woodbury Park a sought-after location for a range of occupiers – including coffee and quick service restaurant brands. We are also delighted to be delivering the UK’s first Popeyes drive thru as the company expands its footprint in this country. In addition, our development will deliver a variety of local employment opportunities for Bere Regis through the provision of flexible industrial and logistics space suitable for new and existing businesses. The scheme at Bere Regis showcases Godwin’s unique capability to successfully combine industrial and roadside retail to maximise a site’s potential through complementary uses.”

 

Stuart Pratt, Director at Godwin Developments, commented: “The recent boom in takeaway food consumption and hyper-local convenience shopping is bringing ever more exciting brands to the roadside retail sector. At the same time, demand for industrial and logistics space is continuing to grow with units of varied sizes – including trade parks – experiencing a substantial lack of supply. For these reasons interest from investors into both sectors has been very strong in the past year; and we expect the trend to continue throughout 2022 on the back of strong consumer fundamentals.”

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Barings and HBD secure planning for London logistics scheme (GB)

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Barings and HBD have secured detailed planning for a strategic logistics scheme in Rainham, London, transforming a 20-acre brownfield site. The new development, Momentum London, is being delivered by Barings and HBD in a joint venture partnership. It will create 381,814ft² of new logistics and industrial space across four units ranging from 41,000 -171,000ft².

 

The scheme will target Net Zero Carbon, BREEAM “Excellent” and an EPC “A+” rating. This is being achieved by dynamic design, careful consideration of materials, zero use of fossil fuels, maximizing photovoltaic solar panels, battery storage and intelligent building systems. The units will be 100% EV ready, including passive fleet charging to the yards.

 

The logistics park will be set in landscaped environment with picnic and public areas, as well as direct access onto the Thames Cycle Path, so that it brings further social benefits to the area. Positioned on the River Thames, with potential for jetty access, Momentum will offer an easy stepping stone into Central London and out via the A13, just minutes away.

 

Darren Hutchinson, Head of UK Real Estate Transactions and Managing Director at Barings, said: Momentum London will be a strategically located logistics scheme with strong environmental and social credentials, beneficial both to future occupiers and the communities around it. Logistics is one of Barings’ preferred investment sectors and Momentum London exemplifies the kind of developments we’re seeking, with a keen interest in exploring joint ventures like this one with HBD.”

 

Simon Quine, Senior Development Surveyor at HBD, said: “Industrial and logistics space remains in very limited supply across London, particularly larger distribution units. Momentum will plug that gap within the M25 and provide modern, sustainable logistics and distribution space to serve London and the wider South East market. Landscaping and wellness have been thoroughly considered, with careful design considerations and enhancements to the Thames Foot and Cycle path, which we hope will help occupiers to attract and retain staff.”

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Mirrored furniture trend can create the illusion of space in your home

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Mirrored furniture provokes strong emotions. Some see it as the epitome of bad taste, flashy and bling. Others know that mirrors have magic powers.

A mirrored table or cabinet makes a room or a hallway appear more swish and spacious. It’s a trick that bars and restaurants employ to ensure their establishments appear roomier and more inviting — and they can add lustre to your home, too.

Choosing a piece of mirrored furniture also sends out a sign that you are aware of one of the year’s trends — the return of Art Deco, the influential style that emerged in the 1920s. 

Reflections: A mirrored bedside table. The power of the mirror to create an impression has been recognised for centuries

Reflections: A mirrored bedside table. The power of the mirror to create an impression has been recognised for centuries

It blended forms that celebrated modern machinery with decorative elements drawn from Greco-Roman culture and nature. 

The mirror was a favourite material, used on the surfaces of furniture and walls to supply a shimmering silver and gold effect.

Probably the most famous piece of Art Deco architecture is New York’s Chrysler Building. Completed in 1930, its sunburst-patterned stainless steel spire remains one of the key elements of the Manhattan skyline.

Art Deco console tables, drinks trolleys and other items from the era of the building’s construction sell for thousands on auction sites such as 1stdibs underlining the growing appeal of this aesthetic. 

Jamie Watkins, the co-founder of fabric and wallpaper company Divine Savages, explains Art Deco’s allure for a new audience.

‘Art Deco, with its bold geometrical patterns was such an iconic period for design: it’s synonymous with glamour and luxury.’

The resurgent popularity of Art Deco is also based on its practicality: a mirrored piece works with almost any interior, adding interest and depth.

The power of the mirror to create a wow impression has been recognised for centuries. 

Examples of this technique include the round mirror on the wall behind the bride and groom in Jan van Eyck’s 1434 Arnolfini Portrait in the National Gallery. It sends out the message that the couple are discerning — and wealthy.

Cheers: B&M's £25 oval drinks trolley with two mirrored shelves

Cheers: B&M’s £25 oval drinks trolley with two mirrored shelves

The hall of mirrors in the palace of Versailles was designed to be a place of beauty, but also to display the financial resources of Louis XIV, the Sun King. Mirrors were a luxury item until an inexpensive manufacturing process was invented in the 1830s.

In 2022, it is possible to pick up mirrored pieces for under £100. B&M has a £25 oval drinks trolley with two mirrored shelves that would lend an air of Thirties elegance to any gathering. The £94.99 Ellison serving cart (a U.S. term for drinks trolley) from Wayfair has a similar vibe.

If you believe that the right mirrored trolley would save you money on trips to bars, the larger £144.95 gold oval mirrored trolley from Melody Maison could be the thing.

A mirrored cocktail cabinet will dazzle guests. The £1,200 Primrose & Plum champagne and gold cabinet has a Jazz-Age feel.

The £299 Venetian sideboard from Furniture Market, meanwhile, is a more modestly priced way to conjure up the party spirit of the Roaring Twenties.

The show flats of apartment blocks are often equipped with mirrored cocktail cabinets containing bottles of spirits and crystal glasses. This makes buyers dream of dinner parties, with a prelude of aperitifs, but also serves to make the apartment appear even roomier.

A console table in the hall also creates an illusion of space which can be amplified by the addition of a lamp. HomesDirect365 has a range in the style of almost every era including Art Deco, Regency, the 1960s and the 1970s. Prices start at £233.

The bedroom is often the most cramped room in either a house or flat which is why this can be the best place to experiment with mirrored furniture. 

The desire to preserve family harmony is another reason. The other members of your household may prefer the kitchen and living room to be slick and understated, seeing anything mirrored as excessive.

In the bedroom, however, you can indulge your decor fantasies. Habitat has the one-drawer Hepburn bedside table for £76.

Next offers the antique effect Fleur bedside table which costs £225 for the one-drawer version and £275 for the two-drawer version. 

The Fleur is also available as a six-drawer chest for £599 or a £1,150 double wardrobe if you seek to waft around your bedroom channelling your inner 1930s Hollywood screen siren. 

Dunelm’s Venetian mirrored dressing table also offers a chance to live out your dream of silver screen stardom (£449).

If mirrored furniture has brought out your party animal, kindling a passion for Art Deco in every guise, Divine Savages offers Deco Martini wallpaper whose design is based on the geometric forms, with a hidden Martini glass within the print (£150 per roll).

Some of your guests may not be too busy checking out their reflections on the doors of the mirrored cabinet to notice this subtle and witty detail in the wallpaper.

Savings of the week! water jugs… Up to 52% off 

The Sandvig hammered-glass jug from made.com is half-price at £22

The Sandvig hammered-glass jug from made.com is half-price at £22

Sitting outside on a sunny afternoon is already delightful. But it is even more enjoyable if you are sipping on a cool drink or an iced coffee from a generously sized jug, or maybe even a Pimm’s. The arrival of the July sales means bargains abound.

If you prioritise practicality, Ocado’s textured lustre plastic picnic jug has 33 per cent off at £8.

The price of the pleasingly geometric plastic smoky-grey Prism jug from Wayfair is 16 per cent off at £10.10. 

If you would like to feel as if you are in the south of France, John Lewis has the plain glass Arles wicker-wrapped jug. It is reduced from £25 to £12, down 52 per cent.

Wanting something more elegant that you can also use for flowers? The Sandvig hammered-glass jug from made.com is also half-price at £22.

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