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Issue:- 20 February 2013

City to work with small builders to revitalise vacant land

LIVERPOOL City Council is launching a new pilot project to bring vacant land across the City back into use for small scale housing projects.

The City's Property and Asset Management team has drawn up an initial list of 16 Council owned sites, some of which have been vacant for decades. This land; which includes sites in Walton Village, Kirkdale, Croxteth and Princes Park; will now be marketed to individuals or groups who may be interested in small-build housing developments.

The plans aim to bring some of the City's vacant land back into meaningful use and stimulate growth in areas where little interest has been shown in housing development for many years. Most of the sites previously contained housing which was demolished.

Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, said;- "We are taking every possible step to drive forward housing growth in this City. A big part of this is making the most of our assets, so we can support the delivery of new homes in areas which need it most. At the same time, we want to tackle the problem of vacant, derelict land which blights our communities.  We have a number of sites which are suitable for small schemes. Making them available to builders or individuals who want to build their own home makes eminent sense, as part of our wider work to provide affordable housing in every part of our City and attract people back into our communities. We will now be inviting submissions from individuals or organisations who want to work with us to deliver schemes. We are looking for projects of quality design, which can be delivered quickly, and which will complement the area in which they are located. I have pledged to deliver 5,000 new homes for our City by 2015 and this is the type of innovative approach which will be so important in achieving that target."

The 16 brownfield sites identified by the Council range from 286sqm to 9622sqm in size. As such, the majority are suitable for between one and five houses; with three bigger sites in Croxteth, which formerly held tower blocks, suitable for larger custom build proposals.

Liverpool City Council will shortly be advertising the available land and contacting small builders, community organisations, social housing providers, charities and people who wish to build their own house, to invite expressions of interest.

Assistant Mayor and Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Ann O'Byrne, said:- "We have talked extensively with small-build organisations in this the City - and we know that there is certainly an appetite and demand for these types of schemes.  We want to respond to that, and identifying these initial sites is a major step in the right direction. I'm confident that it will help get a range of small build schemes off the ground. This is a pilot project, and if it is a success we'll be looking to bring forward more sites in the future. We'll also be working with Liverpool organisation Comtechsa to promote the use of local architects and builders where possible. These plans will help bring a new lease of life to areas of the City which have been in desperate need of regeneration for many years. It will also help small builders turn their ideas into reality and empower communities in the redevelopment of their neighbourhoods. Most importantly, it will allow us to transform vacant land into the high quality, affordable housing which this City so badly needs."

Housing schemes which focus on the re-use of obsolete or under-used land in built-up areas are known in the urban planning industry, as 'infill' developments.

The City Council owns the freehold to the land and plans to dispose of the sites by way of a long leasehold. The Council is inviting expressions of interest for both individual sites and for groups of sites, and from individuals as well as small builders interested in small scale (1 or 2 new build units) to larger scale proposals (above 5 units).

Expressions of interest will be expected to include a financial offer for the site, and interested parties will be asked to provide a range of other details, including their financial arrangements to deliver the proposal; a timetable for delivery; design principles; how the site will be managed; and any wider social, economic or environmental benefits to be delivered. All proposals will be assessed by the City Council with a decision on the outcome of the initiative taken by late Spring.


SALES of dashboard car cameras are soaring as motorists seek to protect themselves from crash claims.

Insurance companies report camera evidence is increasingly being used as "an independent witness" to establish who is at fault after an accident and protect an innocent driver's premium from shooting up.

Car parts and leisure retailer Halfords has seen demand for the dashboardmounted mini video cameras double over the past year and say the devices could easily become as common-place as sat-nav's, which are used by 2 out of 3 drivers.

The in car cameras, known as dash-cams, record the view through the windscreen and capture events before, as the car travels along the road.

With prices starting as low as £50 many motorists are seeing this purchase as a sensible investment, not only to protect their no-claims bonuses, but also to combat crash for cash fraud claims.

The Insurance Fraud Bureau estimates around 30,000 so called "cash for crash" incidents take place every year, costing insurers around £350 million and pushing up premiums for honest drivers.

Halfords Product Manager Alec James said:- "We've seen interest in dash-cams double over the past year, with a corresponding increase in sales but this may be the tip of the iceberg. With around 28 million cars on UK roads and only a small proportion yet to realise the benefits in-car cameras the market could be substantial. If the use of dash-cams became as common-place as sat-nav's it would be a market worth in excess of £2.5billion.  The knowledge that even a minor bump can cause a significant financial penalty if it results in the loss of a no-claims bonus and rise in your insurance premiums, as well as the rise in fraudulent 'cash for crash' claims, is also driving up demand."

Dash cams do not currently make drivers eligible for automatic discounts on premiums but if camera footage proves you were not to blame for an accident yours would be treated as a "no-fault" claim. Consequently your no-claims bonus would be unaffected; you would not be charged an "excess" penalty and would not face a sharp rise in your next year's premiums.

Also insurers believe that in the future in-car cameras could result in a reduction in costs as having one would encourage drivers to stick to speed limits and in general drive more carefully, in the same way telematics has had a positive effect on young motorists by monitoring their driving and reducing accidents by at least 30%.

The recorded footage from dash-cams could also be used by defendants against accusations of lane-hogging or tailgating on motorways following new fixed penalty legislation which came into force last August.

Alec James added: added:- "Our range of in-car cameras incorporate technology that has been widely used by the emergency services for many years and and capture high-quality digital footage which is essential for insurers."

Fishy fuel seized at Liverpool docks

A 23 year old man from Northern Ireland has been arrested after HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) seized almost 20,000 litres of suspected laundered fuel, in a load of fish, at Gladstone Docks in Liverpool.

HMRC Road Fuel Testing Unit officers were checking ferry traffic arriving at the port yesterday morning when they uncovered 20 containers of illegal diesel in a lorry. The load, which had arrived by ferry from Dublin, was described as fresh fish. It has an estimated loss of £16,000 in UK taxes and duties.

Sandra Smith, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said:- "Our activity today has stopped a large amount of illicit fuel entering the legitimate market, preventing further revenue loss and helping legitimate traders fight unfair competition. It is wrong that honest businesses should be undercut by criminals and those involved in making or selling laundered fuel. Fuel fraud is organised criminality. Buying illicit fuel not only funds crime, it supports and encourages these dangerous activities within our communities. If anyone has information about fuel fraud we would encourage them to contact the Customs Hotline on:- 0800 59 5000."

The vehicle was seized by HMRC and the illegal fuel will be environmentally disposed of or used to fuel the National Grid.

Investigations continue into this seizure.

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