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Water Abstraction – ‘Use it or lose it’


The Environment Agency now seems to be following up on Defra’s response, earlier in the year, to the consultation on reforming the Water Abstraction Management System.  The EA is beginning to tackle unused licences as part of a longer term reform of Abstraction Licences as outlined in the consultation.  They have written to hundreds of holders of licences that have been unused in the last 10 years and asked to confirm if they still need the licence and to produce suitable evidence showing why they wish to retain it.

The response to the consultation gives the intention that by the early 2020s replacement abstraction permits will be issued with permitted volumes that are based on abstractor’s usage over the previous 10 years:  

‘The historical assessment period we use for calculating recent actual abstraction will also have an impact on the permitted volume that abstractors receive in the new system. We want to ensure that the final choice meets the following criteria:

• Matches with robust records of abstraction held by the Environment Agency.
• Is long enough to capture normal variations, for example crop rotations.
• Includes significant dry periods.

Unused volumes will be removed, although subject to appeal...and with no compensation payable.

Furthermore, permits will not be time limited, however, will have flow based controls to protect the environment that will restrict abstraction.  Exemptions from the need for Abstraction Licences are also to be reformed and be brought under the licensing system.

In essence it appears that abstraction volumes will be reduced and the Environment Agency will have much greater flexibility and control to prevent abstraction when they feel that abstraction poses a risk to the environment.  A glimmer of light, however, was given in the consultation response where it was stated that:

“At any time when flows are high, abstractors will be allowed to take water to store it. There will be no seasonal permits. The new permits will allow abstractors to take water at any time when flows are high meaning they can store it for when flows are low and make better use of reservoirs.

”This appears to be a sensible approach, however, requires that you either have a reservoir to hand or to invest considerable capital in water storage facilities, an investment that will be very hard to justify with today’s commodity prices. Richard Corbet is an associate partner with Balfours.

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Will the annexe to a main house attract additional 3% stamp duty?


Lots of people have been focused on completing property transactions prior to 31 March, the last day when second homes did not attract the additional 3% SDLT.  

Now more people are focused on the effect of this legislation and in particular how it is going to affect a flat or annexe attached to the house.  To be classified as a separate dwelling for tax purposes an annexe must have independent access but could still be physically part of the same building.  

To be liable to the new 3% stamp duty, annexes must be valued at £40,000 or more and be able to be sold as a separate residence.  Planning permissions restricting the use of annexes solely for the purpose of the main house allows the annex to be exempt to the additional 3% tax.  

Separate cottages however, that can be sold separately, will now fall liable for the extra 3% stamp duty.

Tim Main of Balfours comments, "stamp duty being paid on flats and annexes integral to a main house, appears to be an unintended consequence of the new tax and possibly not what the government wanted as they have recently been encouraging extended families to live together.”



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Ivy Cottage high finish


A charming stone cottage which has been refurbished to a high standard is on the market with Balfours.

Ivy Cottage, true to its name sits in a rural position on the eastern fringe of Church Stoke, in the hamlet of Hyssington.  The towns of Montgomery and Newtown are four and ten miles respectively, while Shrewsbury and Ludlow are some 19 miles.

The four bedroom cottage maximises many period features while optimising fresh living. There are three reception rooms on the ground floor, currently used as dining room, sitting room and study.

In addition the approximately four metre square kitchen links through to a large conservatory maximising the outstanding views. The first floor provides a master room with en-suite shower room, plus three further bedrooms and a family bathroom.

Its location within the Marches area on the Shropshire Welsh border, gives rise to extensive unspoilt countryside offering an abundance of recreational opportunities. Agent, Scott Kemsley, of Balfours says: “Ivy Cottage is located in a truly unspoilt location where local communities thrive within the natural beauty.”

A double garage and store are also part of the package with Ivy Cottage wrapped by garden and parking. The property is marketed with a guide price of £375,000, for more information call Scott Kemsley on 01743 353511.

Please click here for further details.


Ivy Cott main

Ivy Cott conservatory

Ivy Cott kitchen

Ivy Cott dining

Ivy Cott sitting

Ivy Cott bedroom

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Outstanding apartment


A first floor, two bedroom apartment, less than half a mile from the town centre has been launched to the market with a guide price of £200,000.

90 The Old Meadow is in a charming location near to the River Severn and English Bridge. Balfours town sales manager, Alistair Hilton explains: “This is a highly accessible and desirable apartment which was built by David Wilson Homes and finished to a very high standard, with well laid out space.

”From a communal entrance the apartment has a reception hall with storage cupboard. The main living space is open plan with kitchen living area and two sash windows to the west. There are two double bedrooms with fitted wardrobe, one en-suite and one with separate bathroom.

This is a fabulous area, with wonderful riverside walks linking to Shrewsbury’s quarry park, plus walking distance access to the hub of the county town with its fine dining, shopping and multiple amenities and services.

Please click here for property details.

Old Meadow 1

Old Meadow 2

Old Meadow 3

Old Meadow 4

Old Meadow 5


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Country market stronger with greater demand and healthy supply


Balfours’ London office has seen a 37% increase, in the last two months, of prospective buyers looking to move out of London; a surge driven by a cocktail of global and local factors, according to head of sales at Balfours, Tim Main.

The initial catalyst to the increase was the stabilising of the London market and the Prime Ministers’ announcement of the referendum on our EU membership. Other underlying factors contributing to the switch, from the capital as a sellers’ market, to a buyers’ market, include global economic turmoil, increase in stamp duty in 2014 and 2016 and the fall-out from the Panama papers.

Tim Main explains: “Our London Office research has revealed that the majority of applicants move out for their children, either for schools, or a better quality of life. However, affordability and lifestyle change have jumped up the list.

“Other factors are modern mobile technology enabling greater flexibility to work from home, part or full time. People are also realising London is increasingly congested meaning it can take less time to commute from the country than from their existing London base. It is fact that some London journeys are taking longer today than they did a century ago.

”Director at the London office, Bob Bickersteth comments: “The country market is much stronger, with greater demand and a healthy supply of properties – the surge in enquiries is good news for rural counties, such as Shropshire.

”Tim adds: “In recent times we have been able to achieve sales with London buyers who are on a mission to make the next chapter in their lives happen. Next week we hope to build on the drive for rural retreats when we will be attending ‘The Move to the Country Show’ at The Chelsea Old Town Hall. Here we expect prospective buyers to be seeking the spectrum of country properties, from country estates and rectories to farmhouses and cottages.

This year’s “Move to the Country Show” will take place on Thursday 28th April 2016 between 2 and 7pm at The Chelsea Old Town Hall, London, SW3 5EE.

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Driving for legal landlords


Would you use a car without current paperwork of its safety and legality? If the answer is no, Charlotte George, MARLA asks: “Why do so many landlords and tenants enter into flawed agreements for residential properties?

”She says research recently released by one of the UK’s leading insurers found that one in ten private landlords have no formal agreement in place with their tenants. It also found that of the landlords who don’t use a letting agent, more than half use adapted tenancy agreements from either old agent contracts or other landlords, or an updated template downloaded from the internet, similar to an outdated MOT.

Charlotte says: “We were quite staggered to learn that of landlords who don’t use letting agents, 58% used adapted tenancy agreements. The lack of professionally reviewed tenancy agreements may explain why more than one in eight (13%) landlords have experienced disputes specifically arising from tenants’ rental contracts in the past two years.

“Letting legislation is changing so quickly that we all have to be on our mettle. The Tenant Deposit Protection scheme is a positive move to ensuring landlord tenant issues can be sorted efficiently, in terms of time, money and hassle factor. Despite the TDS being a legal requirement since April 2007, 9% of landlords have not informed their tenants that their deposit is in a government-backed deposit protection scheme and incredibly 4% haven’t even taken a deposit from their tenants.

”She continues: “It is basic that tenants and landlords need a contract in place to protect both of their interests. Contracts, deposits and deposit protection all help to make clear what is expected from each party when renting a property, and to minimise disputes where possible.

”When it comes to rights and protection, 38% of landlords in England have never heard of the government’s ‘How to rent: the checklist for renting in England,’ which explains the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants and it is a legal requirement that tenants are given a copy of this. “We would urge landlords to familiarise themselves with the checklist as a minimum, or better still talk to a professional – just as you would before getting behind the wheel of an unfamiliar car,” Charlotte adds.

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