Friday, 31 May 2013

Bridget Whelan's Blog's - flooding of our home & garden 2012, part 1

In the first of a series of articles, Bridget Whelen provides an account of her experiences of the floods.

Not Again!
27th November 2012

I first came to live in our little house in 1971, as a child, when I came to stay with my grand parents after my parents divorced.  It was a place of all encompassing love and safety and remained that way for more than 35 years.  But that all changed on 20th July 2007. But we need to go back just a little earlier to start.

As a child I remember the River Severn flooding on a regular basis and in the winter months we would walk down to the local ford, or the Rocky as it is known round here, just to see how deep it was and could we still cycle over the foot bridge.  But it wasn't just round here, Worcester’s waterside area would also be flooded and having lived in the St.Johns area previously can often remember New Road being under water (that was when the traffic still flowed two ways along it! I suspect that there are not that many of you that can actually remember that).  People living in these areas coped and were prepared because it was a regular event and they usually knew exactly where the water was going to go.

As time went on, I noticed as a teenager in the mid 70’s each time it flooded it seemed to come a little further up Church street in the village and the ford was deeper. Gradually as time went on people up stream began to campaign for the flood defences and I can completely understand this, but what I couldn't and still don’t understand are the people that buy a property by the river and then seem to be totally surprised when it floods.  Ask a local if you are unsure, it may be beautiful in the summer and an ideal place to relax and watch the boats going by, but will it be quite the same in the winter when you have all the debris rushing passed from upstream or worse still sitting in your garden or home.  I do understand that not everyone can be choosy about where they live and I have the greatest sympathy for them and yes they do need these flood defences to protect their homes, however, this displaced water has to go somewhere.

Each year more and more places have defences but each year the water has to go somewhere else, and as I say gradually over the years more properties in the village were being flooded, some more than once a year. This takes us to July 2007, a little more than the typical British summer, it had rained continuously for days or was it weeks because it seemed like it, we had forgotten what the sun looked like and on that fateful afternoon of the 20th July the inevitable happened. Kempsey was underwater yet again but not just the usual victims, many more.  The main Road had become impassable and was under several feet of water and by 7 o’clock that evening so was our little house.  When friends said,
“I didn't know you lived that close to the River?” I had to reply
“I don’t, it’s about half a mile away, but the force of the Severn had pushed back up the little brook running through the village because it had nowhere else to go.”

When I was younger the car park at the Crown Inn, just along the road would be underwater as would the skittle alley but it rarely got any higher. But this time the whole of the area suffered, but we thought it’s just a one off, fluke of nature , the older villagers stating “ We've never seen it like this before” , so we thought it was just a once in a lifetime occurrence.  But then it became obvious that each time the Severn flooded that perhaps that was not the case, a local Action Committee was formed, FLAG, and thanks to their tireless campaigning it was agreed we too could have flood defences. Then back in the so called summer of this year they were unveiled.  Now we were confident it couldn't possibly happen again, WE WERE SAFE.

So on the evening of Saturday 24th November we went to bed safe in the knowledge that we would be dry in the morning and with one last look at twenty past midnight off to bed we went.  At 6 am Sunday morning we woke to that ever so familiar sound of lapping and bubbling water and no electricity.  It couldn't possibly be, but one look out of the bedroom window our worst nightmares were confirmed, we were an island again.  We could hear voices in the distance, which we later discovered were the emergency services evacuating people from Church Street, but here we are again on the Main Road underwater.  When we managed to get the lights back on, it was to find that we had about a foot of water in the house, but this wasn’t possible we are protected! As it got light and more people were around it had become apparent our wonderful, shiny new flood defences had failed us, but once they had been turned on the water disappeared as if by magic, but it was too late, the damage had been done.

So here we are, furniture ruined, sentimental items lost, back to where we were five and a half years ago, only this time it’s cold, no summer sun to help dry things out, no heating because our electric night storage heaters have been under water, and that familiar smell of wet and damp.  All these things were put into perspective though, when at my daughter’s, where we had gone for some respite and hot food and drink, we saw the news. 100 had lost their lives in a factory fire in Bangladesh trying to earn a living to support their families, we had only lost possessions, our family, friends, neighbours and pets were all safe, things can be replaced, people can’t.

Yes, I am upset, but more than that I am angry, this was preventable and should not have happened, but I have to spare a though for those now living downstream, as our defences will obviously push the water somewhere else and now they will be fighting for there own barriers, pumps etc.  I also would like people to think of the farmers that now have land covered in flood water, this is their livelihoods being ruined, but please remember when you are complaining about the price of your fresh vegetables and bread next year, especially if you are one of the lucky ones that has had your property saved by flood defences, that we have to pay the price one way or another.  My Gran having been a farmer’s wife and used to say, “You can’t beat Mother Nature”, she was right and if you push her, she will push back a damned sight harder.

So that is where we are now and why I am sat in bed at 6.30 on Tuesday morning writing this.  We are awaiting the insurance assessor to come, and today we will be moving as much as we can, but I have to say thank you to our wonderful children and their partners and for their help and the hot meals and to our beautiful grandchildren for making us smile and actually making me laugh so much last night my stomach hurt. We would also like to thank our friends for the numerous offers of help and rest assured we will be taking you up on them in the not so distant future.

Things are going to be difficult over the next few months with my health not being great, I know we will be relying on friends and family a lot and I thank them in advance, and although I may not be 100% physically ( and have to say I’m not so sure mentally, but that’s been a case for debate for many years) I am happy to say I should still be around to annoy and interfere in my kids lives for the foreseeable future!

Over the next few weeks I shall keep everyone updated about the state of our home and how the work is going, but I will have to go now and put my rubber gloves on for another day, love to all that know me and will speak to you again soon.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Simplification of CRC, proposed changes in Phase 1 - webinar Q&A

The following questions are a sample of those that were raised during the third of our free webinars on CRC held on 28th May 2013. 

These questions concern the changes to the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme that have recently been brought in by the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme Order 2013.  

Please note that this article is not intended to provide legal advice and should not be relied on.  It is not to be regarded as a full statement of law and practice in this area and specific advice should be taken on matters of concern.

Q Can you confirm whether electricity meter profile classes 1 & 2 for commercial property (i.e. student residences owned by the University) can be eliminated from 2012-2013 reporting?

A Accommodation that is provided in relation to a person’s education, employment or service falls within CRC, so energy consumed in student residences is not excluded in the same way that energy supplied to homes is.  However, the change to the rules concerning electricity (and gas) meters applies to all premises, and it applies for the final two years of Phase 1.  Our understanding is therefore that any supplies to student accommodation through profile class 01 and 02 electricity meters, or through gas meters that record under the 73,200 kWh threshold, do not need to be reported from now on

Q What about laboratory gas?

A Not having been in a lab since our schooldays, we're guessing that the gas is always, or almost always, used for heating purposes.  It will therefore have to be reported unless it is supplied through a meter which measures below the 73,200 kWh threshold, or the 2% de minimis applies.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Law Society Practice Note on Flooding Doesn’t Do Enough to Protect Potential Homeowners, Says Landmark Information Group

Following today’s publication of The Law Society’s Practice Note on Flood Risk, property and environmental information experts, Landmark Information Group say that instructions do not go far enough to protect potential homeowners.

The Practice Note advises that in all residential and conveyancing transactions, lawyers should mention the issue of flood risk to the client, and when appropriate, make further enquiries.

Chris Taylor, Product Development Director,  Landmark Information Group, said: “Today’s Practice Note has been a long time coming and, whilst it is a step in the right direction, it still falls woefully short of ensuring potential homeowners obtain comprehensive flood risk information about the property they are considering purchasing.

“The Practice Note states that solicitors only need ‘mention’ the issue of flood risk to clients. As we have seen in recent years, however, flooding is becoming ever more prevalent and widespread throughout the UK and is striking in areas that have never flooded before. 2012, for example, started with warnings of drought but ended as the wettest year in England since records began. Despite this however, the vast majority of homeowners and potential homeowners may be unaware of the risks they face.

“There are clearly high levels of confusion amongst homeowners regarding flood risk and where responsibility for determining a property’s risk lies. A Landmark-commissioned survey recently revealed that only 42% of people investigated their flood risk before buying their home, whilst 55% of property owners in the UK expect solicitors to automatically investigate a property’s flood risk as part of the conveyancing process[2]. This is simply not the case. With over half of the population misunderstanding what searches have been carried out for their property, the guidelines should be made clearer and solicitors should do more than merely ‘mention’ the issue of flooding to their clients.

“It is vital that legal professionals provide the most comprehensive information possible, covering all types of flood risk, including pluvial (ground water) flooding. This needn’t however, be a difficult and arduous task. Landmark has worked closely with the industry in developing its range of products to help remove the burden from solicitors and aid compliance.

“Our Environmental Reports have benefited from enhanced  flood data sets and mapping, and we have significantly enriched our Homecheck Professional Flood Report to provide professionals with a quick and easy means of advising a client on the level or risk to a property, as well as the likelihood of obtaining insurance at standard terms.”

Clive Read, Partner at SGH Martineau LLP, said: “The changes in our climate and increasingly wet summers have led to an increase in clients and lenders who are particularly concerned with a property’s flood risk. They want to be in full knowledge of a property’s risk in order that they may make an informed decision about whether or not to proceed with the purchase.

“SGH Martineau LLP uses Homecheck Professional Flood Report as it is the most thorough and detailed of its kind; it drills down to provide detailed information on individual properties, not simply postcode areas or streets. Given buying a property is usually the most expensive item one will ever buy, SGH Martineau LLP knows it is vital purchasers get the best possible information so they know exactly what it is they are buying.”

The report’s professional opinion removes the need for the solicitor to try to interpret factors on behalf of their client and also provides a means by which solicitors can dispel some of the common myths around flooding; for example many people believe that a property needs to be near the sea or a river to be at risk, however that is not the case. Surface water flooding (pluvial flooding) is increasing as a result of a number of factors, including more intense rainfall due to climate change. 1.9 million properties are at risk from surface water flooding, 50,000 of which are at a 1 in 30 annual chance or greater***.

Chris Taylor concludes: “The Statement of Principles, which commits insurers to continue to provide flood insurance for most homes and small business premises, comes to an end in July this year. It is, therefore, absolutely vital that conveyancers are taking all necessary steps to ensure that clients are fully apprised of any all environmental risk concerning a property transaction.”

Monday, 20 May 2013

Simplification of CRC, proposed changes in Phase 1 - webinar Q&A

The following questions are a sample of those that were raised during the first of our free webinars on CRC held on 8th May 2013.  We intend to repeat this webinar and there will be others in the series on CRC to follow from May 2013 to July 2013. 

These questions concern the changes to the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme that are due to be brought in by the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme Order 2013.  (This is referred to below as the CRC Order 2013.) Most of the questions concern the changes that will take effect in the final two years of the current phase of CRC, ie from compliance year 2012-13, since that was the focus of this first webinar.  However, some questions also address qualification for Phase 2. 

Please note that this article is not intended to provide legal advice and should not be relied on.  It is not to be regarded as a full statement of law and practice in this area and specific advice should be taken on matters of concern.
Q          Does gas used for heating other than space heating have to be reported, and does gas used for cooking count as heating gas?
 A             The draft CRC Order 2013 says: “... gas is consumed for the purposes of heating where it is used as part of a process where the primary purpose of that process is the generation of heat.”  This is not limited to space heating, it catches all types of heating.  There seems little doubt that the primary purpose of a cooking process is heating the food, so cooking usage must be included - unless the gas supply to it is through a meter that records less than 73,200 kWh in the compliance year, or the 2% de minimis can be claimed.

Q             How is a heated swimming pool dealt with now? 
 A             Assuming it is heated by gas, the energy used to heat it will remain within the scope of CRC because the gas is used for heating.  (Of course, if it is a domestic swimming pool it will not be caught.)

Q             Is energy used in temporary soldiers' accommodation (boot camps) caught?
 A             In general, the energy consumed in temporary as well as permanent buildings falls within CRC.  However, supplies to domestic accommodation are excluded, but "domestic accommodation" is limited to premises intended to be used as a person’s permanent home.  In addition, for the supplies to be excluded the accommodation must not be provided in relation to a person’s education, employment or service.  Therefore, even permanent soldiers' accommodation would not fall within the exclusion.  The CRC Order 2013 doesn't change this, but the changes to the types of meters that fall within CRC may have an impact: if the boot camps are supplied through profile class 01 or 02 meters, or through gas meters that deliver less than 73,200 kWh in the year in question, then these supplies do not need to be reported. 

Q             Does the energy consumed in buildings acquired after the qualification date count towards qualification?
 A             The Phase 2 qualification period ran from April 2012 to March 2013 and only electricity consumed by the organisation/group during that period counts towards qualification.  So, if a building was acquired on, say, 13th January 2013, you only need to include the electricity supplied to it from that date until 31st March 2013 in your total when determining whether you are above the 6,000 MWh threshold.

Q             How is electricity that is generated using diesel now dealt with?
 A             Diesel usage no longer has to be reported and CRC allowances will not have to be bought to cover the emissions.  Possibly this was the case in previous years too, depending on whether or not the diesel was on your Residual Measurement List (RML).  You may not be able to claim Electricity Generation Credits (EGCs) for the final two years of this phase, even if they were claimed in previous years, because a new EGC eligibility rule has been added: the electricity must be generated without using a fuel that is or should be reported in the annual report or that was included in the RML.  In other words, you will not be able to claim EGCs this year and next unless the diesel was not on your RML.  See section 4.3 of the EA's revised Phase 1 guidance document (issued February 2013).  EGCs go completely from Phase 2. 

Q             Will CRC auditors expect to see participants following the new rules with immediate effect?
 A             The new simplification changes do not yet have the force of law, although the CRC Order 2013 is anticipated to come into effect very soon and there is no realistic chance that the changes won't affect reporting this summer.  In the meantime, it would seem a little unreasonable to expect participants to have got their records completely ready for the changes that will apply from the 2012-13 annual report.  But you will need to report according to the new rules by the end of July so it would be as well to start gathering the necessary information now (eg which gas and electricity meters can be excluded, and which non-core ones that were not on your RML must be included).  The auditor may expect you to have at least made a start on working out how you will tackle this. 

Q             What is a settled half-hourly meter and a dynamic supply?
 A             These definitions are not changing.  The Environment Agency's revised Phase 1 Guidance contains a useful glossary.  It defines the above terms as follows (although the glossary provides additional information):

A [settled half-hourly] meter … is able to measure electricity supplied at least every half hour and … enables the supplier to comply with provisions of its licence to determine charges between that supplier and another licence holder in respect of the transmission and trading of wholesale electricity.

Dynamic supply is a technique for calculating half hourly electricity supply where the supply is unmetered. These data are used for settlement purposes and so, in CRC, are counted as a half hourly meter (HHM) settled on the half hourly (HH) market.

Dynamic supply is often used for street lighting.

Q             For an organisation that has fallen below the qualification threshold, how do you de-register for Phase 2?
 A             There is no need to de-register.  The CRC runs in phases that are separate from each other.  If your organisation/group doesn’t qualify for Phase 2 based on its April 2012 to March 2013 electricity consumption (through settled HHMs only), then it's not necessary to do anything because your existing registration is for Phase 1 only and will lapse at the end of this phase.  Just don’t register for Phase 2.

Q             How does the 10% estimation uplift affect the 73,200 kWh threshold for gas meters - if a gas supply is estimated at just under this threshold, must it be included as a CRC supply on the basis that applying the uplift will take it above 73,200 kWh?
 A             A supply of gas, for CRC purposes, must be measured by a "metering device", and the draft CRC Order 2013 defines that as “a device which during a year of a phase measures more than 73,200 kWh of gas supplied, in relation to the supply of gas.”  Therefore, it is at the very least arguable that the meter must actually measure more than 73,200 kWh for the supply to be a CRC supply.  In any case, it is only at the point that the supply is reported that an estimation uplift is applied, meaning that there will be no uplift if the participant decides that the supply is below the 73,200 kWh threshold and therefore does not need to be reported.  This point is not specifically addressed in the EA's revised Phase 1 guidance.  However, it may well have been considered by the EA previously, because the definition of a large point gas meter that applied in the first two years of the phase is very similar.   We have raised a query with the EA to find out if they agree with our view - which is that no uplift should be applied when considering whether the 73,200 kWh figure is exceeded.  Obviously, it would be best if you could obtain at least two meter readings at least half a year apart, then the issue does not arise.

Q             When will Carbon Counter be updated to reflect these simplification changes, and will information entered ahead of the updating be lost?
 A             Work is underway now to update Carbon Counter, in anticipation of the simplification changes.  Many of the changes will require users to input additional information that is not currently held within Carbon Counter, because it has not been required until now.  For example, users will need to identify which (if any) of their gas supplies are not used for heating, and which electricity meters are Profile Class 01 or 02 (or serving domestic accommodation in Northern Ireland).  The changes will not go live before the CRC Order 2013 becomes law but - assuming that does not happen right at the last minute before the 31st July reporting deadline - we are committed to updating Carbon Counter appropriately and in sufficient time to allow customers to compile their annual reports.  We know that Carbon Counter is viewed as an essential compliance tool and many participants would struggle to gather, handle and store the required data without it.  Please, don't wait until we have completed the necessary work before inputting your 2012-13 data, particularly if you have a large number of meters.  Start now, because you will have to go back into Carbon Counter to add the additional information before you are in a position to report, and that may take some time.  You need have no fear that the data will be lost or overwritten, it is all stored safely within Carbon Counter.  

Friday, 17 May 2013

Mary Dhonau OBE shares her experiences on flood recovery and trials new 4-day flood drying service.

As you know I have been flooded many times and over the years have  supported numerous communities and individuals in their recovery. I know from my own experience, and I have been told repeatedly by others, that one of the worst aspects of being flooded is the length of time it takes to dry a property, which results in many long months and even sometimes years out of your home.

I was recently approached by Clear Blue Flood Drying and asked to look into the service they offer which can dry a property within only 4 days. This seemed a tall order!  But seeing it first hand, and having been pretty convinced by them, I thought I’d send you the following information which may help you when supporting the victims of flooding. I know many of you will not be able to endorse any one system but in my book it’s good to know about any service that is available to help victims of flooding in their recovery.

Clear Blue Flood Drying is unique in offering a 4 day flood drying service throughout the UK. Using the latest hydronic drying technology they employ a combination of managed heat and airflow to supercharge evaporation, allowing them to dry properties to pre-flood conditions in only 4 days.

Their solution is the only rapid drying service to have been independently tested as safe to use on all buildings and materials. As specialists in flood drying, (which is their sole occupation), their team is led by construction experts who understand moisture movement and removal. Clear Blue is therefore able to remove flood water trapped in sub-floor areas without the need for invasive works.

The ability to release trapped moisture via evaporation leads to significant reductions in strip out, saving time and money in unnecessary reinstatement costs. As their testimonials show their unique solution can drastically reduce the time and costs of managing a flood claim and their services are in growing demand from a number of the UK’s major insurers, loss adjusters, plus residential and commercial customers.

In addition to these unique benefits their drying service can reduce the carbon footprint of managing a flood claim by up to 80%.

For further information visit: or contact:

Thursday, 2 May 2013

From Russia with Love

By Landmark Information Group

During the Cold War, the USSR undertook top secret military reconnaissance using aerial photos, satellite images, local knowledge and even spies to produce unique maps of the UK and other countries outlining points of strategic interest that may not necessarily have been available in the maps of the time. Every Soviet leader from Stalin to Gorbachev knew not only where you lived but how to get there by tank!

Owing to the confidential nature of the Soviet world mapping project, detailed theories on spy activity, including fake picnics in strategic points of interest, is based upon circumstantial evidence and speculation.

Available as part of the Envirocheck Historical Map report, these Russian maps were produced by the Russian Military between 1950 and 1997. They reveal many features not present on Ordnance Survey maps due to political and military sensitivities at the time. The maps include an additional 1,000 new and potentially contaminative features, along with 3,000 other named uses such as extra quarries, pits, military features, warehouses and much more, which are of use for environmental professionals.

Did you know?

  • The Russian maps of the UK are unique to Landmark
  • The Russian maps detail transport and energy infrastructure features (gas pipelines, electricity pylons) that do not appear on the OS maps of the time
  • 80 British urban areas were mapped between 1950 and 1997
Click here fore more information about the Russian Maps