2020 has been a year for the history books, the global Covid-19 pandemic has rocked the world and we will be feeling the shock waves for years to come.

In 2019 no-one knew what a ‘lockdown’ was, by March 2020 we were in one and the property market, as well as everything else, was shut down completely for seven weeks.

But it is not all bad news, the UK property market has enjoyed a mini boom since reopening after the lockdown largely fueled by the government temporarily cutting stamp duty. Many people were reconsidering their lifestyles and looking for larger homes or properties with outside space.

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There is optimism around the property market at the moment, but it remains to be seen what impact the fallout from Covid-19 will have both on the volume of transactions and house prices.

As we reflect on 2020, here are our most-read stories from the past 12 months.

Surge in Airbnb makes permanent homes harder to find

27th January 2020

Surge in Airbnb

A study by London Councils claims that 2% of London housing stock is advertised for short-term letting on platforms including Airbnb, Booking.com, and TripAdvisor.

The survey, by the body representing the capital’s 33 boroughs, found that more than 73,500 flats and houses are available on the six leading online letting portals – equating to one in 50 London homes.

London Councils says the trend is making it harder for London residents to find a permanent roof over their heads. The figures also follow reports of short-term lets being used as a base for antisocial parties, criminal activity and prostitution.

London Councils has called for greater regulation of the sector, including compulsory registration and more powers for local authorities to crack down on irresponsible owners.

Darren Rodwell, executive member for housing at London Councils, said: “At a time when almost one in 50 Londoners is homeless, it’s ridiculous that, potentially, one in 50 London homes is rented out as a short-term let.

“The market is growing out of control. Boroughs are hearing more and more complaints about short-term lets linked to antisocial behaviour and even criminality.”

London residents can currently let out their homes for up to 90 nights a year without needing planning permission.

The survey found the properties on the online letting platforms, Airbnb, Booking.com, HomeAway, HouseTrip, Niumba and TripAdvisor.

According to London Councils, the capital risks “lagging behind” other cities when it comes to regulation of the market – such and Paris and Barcelona, which have mandatory registration and heavy fines breaches of the rules.

Read more about this story on the Evening Standard’s Homes & Property website.

Euston St Pancras Station announced for Crossrail 2

24th February 2020

St Pancras International Crossrail

Euston St Pancras, a new station uniting these two massive transport hubs, could be created by 2030 as part of the Crossrail 2 network, it has been announced.

With HS2 given the go-ahead by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, the area around Euston, St Pancras and Kings Cross is set to become an even bigger transport hotspot than it is already.

And, while the opening of the Crossrail Elizabeth Line has been postponed until 2021, plans are pressing ahead for Crossrail 2 — a rail link running from Surrey to Hertfordshire, via central London.

Not an entirely new station, Euston St Pancras would be created by linking up Euston and King’s Cross St Pancras via two, 250-metre platforms, l20 metres below the ground, reached by cross-passage walkways. The station would be built beneath Somers Town, the area behind the British Library.

There would be entrances and ticket halls in St Pancras and King’s Cross stations with an additional new station entrance in Grafton Place near Euston.

Euston St Pancras would link Crossrail 2 to the Victoria and Northern lines, as well as high speed services to the Midlands and the north. As with all 11 proposed Crossrail 2 stations, Euston St Pancras would have step-free access.

Crossrail 2 is being planned to increase transport capacity following estimates that by 2030 London’s population will have grown to 10 million. Thirty Crossrail 2 trains would run through Euston St Pancras each way per hour, with room for 14,000 more passengers during peak times.

The route for Crossrail 2 hasn’t been finalised and will need to go before Parliament. If approved, the estimated build time is up to eight years. However, TfL believes Crossrail 2 could be completed as early as 2030.

Read more about this story in The Londonist.

Landlords should check their properties meet energy efficiency standards by 1 April

9th March 2020

MEES Regulations for Landlords

Landlords in England and Wales have less than a month to ensure that their properties meet standards set out in the Domestic Minimum Energy Efficiency (MEES) regulations. The regulations require all rental homes to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of at least E.

The MEES regulations came into force in April 2018, making it illegal for a landlord to grant a new tenancy for a residential property with an EPC rating of F or G. From 1 April 2020, MEES will apply to existing tenancies. The penalty for breaching the regulations is a fine of up to £4,000.

If you are worried about bringing your property up to standard in time, you may qualify for an exemption. Grounds include if your tenant refuses to consent to improvements or if carrying out the necessary works will cost you more than a £3,500 cap. You will be expected to carry out measures up to this cost cap and to register your property on the PRS Exemptions Register.

There are several steps that you can take if your rental property currently has an EPC rating of less than E – some of which can be done simply and cheaply. Consider switching to LED lightbulbs, installing loft installation and fitting a smart meter, for example. While more costly, a new boiler could improve your rating to the required standard and be a good investment. Grants for improvements may also be available from local authorities and other sources.

Jessica Slater, a real estate litigation solicitor at London law firm, Joelson said: “Given that the date for compliance is fast approaching, landlords should be taking immediate steps to ensure that any properties within their portfolio that currently fall below EPC rating E are improved without delay.”

Read more about this story on the What Mortgage website.

Highbury features in Sunday Times best places to live, 2020

13th April 2020

Highbury best place to liveHighbury has been named one of the 10 best places to live in London by The Sunday Times for having, “Islington’s good looks,” while being “far from the madding crowds of Upper Street.” 

The newspaper’s annual round-up of the UK’s best neighbourhoods is often regarded as the definitive guide to where to live now. 

According to the guide, Highbury Fields is, “the loveliest residential square in London,” thanks to its Georgian townhouses and 29-acre green space with tennis courts, adventure playground and leisure centre. The Sunday Times also highlights Highbury Fields School; a girls’ state secondary rated outstanding by Ofsted. 

Highbury Park, with its range of independent shops including hardware store, greengrocer and fishmonger, gets a mention as does the Highbury Barn Tavern for its locallysourced meats. The family-run Highness Cafe and Tea Room is recommended for its sourdough with smashed avocado. 

The area’s Blackstock Road is liked for its cool-factor – including Ink@84, a bookshop serving artisan gin, and reclaimed furniture emporium, Gathering Moss. 

Topping London’s best places to live 2020 is nearby Victoria Park Village in Hackney, described by the guide as, “simply a lovely place to live”. The area is praised for its proximity to green-flag Victoria Park (home, in normal circumstances, to All Points East festival). It has its own selection of independent shops – there’s a fishmonger, greengrocer and cheesemaker here too – and a real community feel. 

Joining Victoria Park Village and Highbury in the top 10 are Muswell Hill, Walthamstow and previous winner, Bermondsey.   

If you’re contemplating a house move, but not sure where is right for you, The Times’ property editor, Helen Davies has sound advice. “Think about everything you love and everything you hate, then make sure that you have access to the good things while minimising exposure to the bad ones.”  

 How to restyle your home – without leaving it

11th May 2020

Restyle your home in lockdownWhile the country waits for news of light at the end of the lockdown tunnel, the world of home interiors has adapted well to the new normal.

From furniture stores to interior designers, businesses have embraced the nation’s wish for home makeovers without the need to visit a store or showroom. 

Whether it’s a desire to improve the spaces where we’re spending our time, anxiety about colleagues viewing our messy roomduring video calls or the impact of glimpsing inside the homes of celebrities, the lockdown has seen a boom in interiors sales. Retailers and design companies have risen to the challenges, with everything from Zoom and FaceTime consultations to webinars and videos. 

John Lewis has interiors consultants offering free Instagram briefings, followed up with notes, mood boards and shopping lists. A similar service is available from the store’s nursery advisors. Says customer experience manager, Peter Cross: “We’ve got to serve a new virtual Britain”.  

According to chic furniture and kitchens emporium, Neptune, which has three stores in London: “Our virtual doors are wide open, whether it’s a video session with a designer, a phone chat with a home specialist, or just a second opinion by email.” Meanwhile, both Heals and Aram Store have staff on call for queries, anMy Furniture is providing showroom video chats. 

An example of inventive use of tech, the virtual reality app from Stitched lets you experiment with curtain and blind fabrics using a photo of your window. And John Cullen Lighting is offering free webinars on tips and tricks to transform you home and garden with the right illumination. 

Several design services are also doing virtual consultations, including Topology Interiors and Zoom that RoomWhile Secret Styling Club offers services including a “midi makeover”, where stylists create personalised mood boards with revamp suggestions. 

Read more in this Evening Standard Homes & Property article. 

Green-fingered newbies reap rewards

26th May 2020

vegetable gardening

One positive effect of the lockdown has been a massive increase in the number of people taking up vegetable gardening, in a green revolution that is changing the way people think about food and sustainability. 

As with the explosion in home-baking, the start of the covid-19 crisis saw people across the UK investing in seeds, which have now sprouted. The resulting seedlings are being shared among local communities and through social media in a modern take on the “good life”. 

According to the Royal Horticultural Society, hundreds of thousands more newbie growers are looking for advice on its website compared to last year, with views of its how to compost pages up by 500%. 

North London TV producer Carla Francome started cultivating a patch of land previously covered by paving slabs. She has been sharing tips and seedlings on Facebook, including with aelderly, self-isolating neighbour. She said: “I do wonder if I’ve suddenly become 75. But I’ve found fiddling around outside, with the birds singing, getting fresh air and fingers covered in dirt, is a delightful way to spend time.” 

In addition to these social benefits, gardening has a proven feel-good factor that really does improve mental health. A 2018 study found that 10 weeks of gardening produced similar benefits to 10 weeks of cognitive behavioural therapy. 

Says Dr Alan Kellas, green care expert at the Royal College of Psychiatrists. “There is considerable evidence that 120 minutes’ exposure to nature a week is a key factor in maintaining positive mental health.  

“If you plant a seed, you think in terms of weeks and months, not the 24-hour news cycle. It’s a retreat and it is one of the best ways we have found to cope.” 

Read more about this story on the Guardian website. 

How has the pandemic changed property searches?

8th June 2020

Pandemic impact on property searches

As lockdown measures are eased, homebuyers are reflecting on the new normal when it comes to property search priorities.

While Londoners may have begun drifting back to the office, it’s likely that home working will be a feature for many of us in the future. Consequently, those looking to move are asking whether a prospective property is suitable for extended periods spent at home.

At the start of the pandemic people acted quickly to adapt their properties into makeshift offices – and schools, with studies created in attics, alcoves, even gardens. Whether Covid-19 could spell the end of open-plan living is difficult to call. However, people will be looking for flexible spaces, which can accommodate different family members, working together in harmony, should lockdown resume in the future.

According to Professor Yolande Barnes of University College London: “Homeowners are reassessing their space for what lies ahead. I do not think this is going to be a one-time crisis or a one-off lockdown.

“Buyers and tenants will be more discerning and from now on, every time they view a new property they will be thinking, Can I live in these four walls in a lockdown?”

Other effects of the pandemic include a possible boom in property transactions, as people begin acting on the life-changing decisions they made during lockdown.

Property portals have already seen a surge in searches for homes with gardens. According to Rightmove, the number of Londoners looking for rental homes with gardens jumped by more than 100% in a week, once the market opened after lockdown. People are prioritising outside space, with families looking for places to play above aesthetics.

Green transport may also be on buyer’s agendas. Good walking and cycling routes could figure, as people look for a greener commute that avoids the need for public transport. Electric car charging points may grow in demand too.

London builders have reported an increase in enquiries about outbuilding and basement conversions. Homes with room to grow are likely to be sought after as people seek the potential to create lockdown spaces, such as games rooms, yoga studios and, of course, offices.

Read more about this story in the Evening Standard Homes & Property.

Surge in demand for homes with gardens

22nd June 2020

surge in demand for homes with gardens

A month after estate agents resumed trading following lockdown, extra space – indoors and out – is expected to be top of buyers’ wish lists.

According to the May report from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), there has been a surge in demand for homes with private gardens and access to green space, with room for an office also in demand.

RICS surveys its members each month. Its latest report reveals that 81% of members predict increased demand for homes with gardens or balconies. Almost three-quarters (74%) anticipate more people wanting to live close to parks and open spaces.

Conversely, 78% expect a fall demand for tower blocks with 58% believing built-up urban areas will be less of a draw. For 68%, more private space and fewer communal areas will also be in demand.

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist, said: “There are already signs that those looking to buy a house are responding to the conditions created by the pandemic by seeking out properties with gardens or balconies and nearer green space.

“These and other similar features are likely to increasingly command a premium over higher-density urban locations, according to respondents to the survey.”

A survey by property portal Rightmove has also seen increased interest in acquiring more space. The study found that more than half of buyers and renters will consider lockdown when looking for in their next home, with two or three-bedroom houses top of their list.

The RICS survey for May asked about the number of buyer enquiries. Only 5% of members reported a fall in demand during the month – a dramatic improvement on April, when 94% said buyer interest had decreased.

Read more about this story in the Evening Standard Homes & Property.

£5,000 green grants for homeowners

9th July 2020

The chancellor, Rishi Sunak has announced a new scheme offering England’s homeowners up to £5,000 in vouchers to fund energy-efficient improvements.

The £2 billion Green Homes Grant scheme was set out in the chancellor’s summer statement on Wednesday 8 July. It is part of a package of measures aimed at kickstarting the economy following the coronavirus pandemic.

The money will pay for cavity wall and floor insulation in an effort to cut carbon emissions, while helping to sustain thousands of jobs.

From September, homeowners will be able to apply online to join the scheme and find details of accredited local suppliers. Once a customer has approved a quote from the supplier, a voucher will be issued, with the government picking up at least two-thirds of the bill – or all of it in the case of the poorest households.

Mr Sunak said: “As Britain recovers from the outbreak, it’s vital we do everything in our power to support and protect livelihoods across the nation.”

The grants are part of a wider £3 billion package of green measures aimed at helping the UK reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Other moves including better insulation for public buildings and a £50 million fund to retrofit improvements to social housing properties.

Improved insulation could also save people around £600 a year on energy bills. Business Secretary, Alok Sharma said: “What [the scheme] ultimately means is lower bills for households, hundreds of pounds off energy bills every year. It’s supporting jobs and is very good news for the environment.”

While broadly supporting the scheme, Labour have called for the government to do more for people in rented homes.

Read more about this story on the BBC and Sky News websites.

Stamp duty holiday sees post-lockdown housing boom

24th July 2020

stamp duty holiday housing boom

As homes go back on the market after the lockdown freeze, estate agents have reported a surge in demand with the number of buyer enquiries going “through the roof”.

Latest figures from property portal Rightmove show an increase in house prices and the number of transactions, with London asking prices up by 0.5% since lockdown began in March. The average cost of a home in the capital is now £641,854, a cash increase of £3,209.

The figures show buyer enquiries up 75% on the same period last year. And 44% of the homes, put up for sale since the freeze ended on 13 May, are now under offer with reports of transactions going to sealed bids.

Much of this demand is attributed to the announcement of a stamp duty holiday by the chancellor, Rishi Sunak in his summer statement on 8 July.

The move means buyers of homes costing less than £500,000, in England and Northern Ireland, will pay no stamp duty until 1 April 2021. The zero rate is also payable on the first £500,000 of more expensive properties, meaning savings of up to £15,000 on each transaction.

The boom has also been fuelled by buyers looking to change their home circumstances after the pandemic, with increasing demand for gardens and more space for working from home.

Miles Shipside, Rightmove’s director and a housing market analyst said: “The spring market has now picked up where it left off and has been accelerated by both time-limited stamp duty holidays and by homeowners reappraising their homes and lifestyles because of the lockdown.

“These figures are the earliest indicator of house price trends. They show prices gently rising not falling, and this will be reflected in the coming months.”

Read more about this story in Homes & Property and The Guardian.

Government extends deadlines for Help to Buy

10th August 2020

help to buy schemes extended
The government has announced an extension of the Help to Buy scheme, benefitting buyers whose new home purchases have been delayed as a result of coronavirus.

House builders now have until 28 February 2021 to finish building qualifying homes. The previous deadline was the end of December 2020.

Help to Buy is designed to make a foot on the housing ladder more affordable. It offers both first-time buyers and movers an equity loan of up to 20% when purchasing a new-build property – 40% in London.

As a result of the scheme, London buyers with a 5% deposit can apply for a 55% loan – making it easier for them to secure a mortgage and find an attractive rate, as well as reducing their monthly repayments. However, after five years, interest will need to be paid on the loan.

The government has also confirmed that some buyers will be given extra time to complete their purchases. As long as they reserved their home by 30 June this year, and have experienced purchase delays as a result of coronavirus, they will have until 31 May 2021 to complete.

A new version of Help to Buy will launch in April 2021, but it will only be open to first-time buyers and will involve price caps. The scheme will close completely in 2023.

Many eligible projects were delayed during lockdown because building sites were shut for weeks, only reopening once strict social distancing measures were in place.

Alex Rose, director of new homes at property portal Zoopla, said: “Demand for Help to Buy properties is unwavering, so this news is a temporary relief for house builders and agents alike, but most importantly to those thousands of buyers whose Help to Buy purchase might otherwise have been jeopardised.”

Read more about this story in the Evening Standard Homes & Property and Mail Online websites.

Attitudes to credit scores revealed

1st September 2020

attitudes to credit scores

Anyone who has ever applied for a mortgage knows the importance of having a good credit score. But only half of Britons have checked their score in the past month, according to new research from pollsters YouGov.

Most people taking part in the survey thought that maintaining a good credit score was important (83%) with 48% saying it was very important. Women are more likely to prize a good score (52%) than men (43%). When looking at age groups, the 18 to 24s are the most likely to believe that keeping their credit score in the top category is very important (57%) – compared to 46% of those aged 55+.

Almost a third (32%) say they check their score less often than once a year, however, 27% monitor theirs monthly. Respondents were also asked when they last checked their scores – a fifth had done so in the past month, but 37% said they had never checked.

There are three main credit reference agencies – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Each of them will calculate your credit score based on the information they hold about you. The score can give you an idea of how favourably a lender will look upon you when you apply for a loan, credit card or mortgage deal. A high credit score will also help access the best rates available.

Checking scores is important for anyone who could need to apply for credit. According to consumer organisation, Which?: “Not regularly checking your credit report could mean errors could go uncorrected. In 2019, we found that one in five people who did check their report found [it was] wrong. If you see any mistakes on your credit report, you should contact the credit reference agency to get them corrected.”

There are things you can do to improve a low credit score, ranging from making sure you are registered to vote to careful budgeting to keep your use of credit low.

In the survey, 18% said they frequently try to improve their score with 33% doing so on occasion. Almost half (47%) said they do not try to change their score for the better.

Read more about the survey on the YouGov website.

Homes sell at record speed

14th September 2020

homes sell at record speed
The stamp duty holiday, coupled with pent-up demand, has led to a huge increase in speedy sales, according to Rightmove. New figures from the property portal reveal that the number of homes selling within seven days is up by 125% on a year ago, and at the highest level in a decade.

The data reveals that one in seven homes is selling within a week, with a third taking less than a fortnight to find a buyer.

The stamp duty holiday, introduced by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak in his summer statement, moved the threshold at which buyers pay the tax from £125,000 to £500,000 – until 31 March 2021.

More than 200,000 homes had offers accepted between the Chancellor’s announcement on 8 July and 31 August. In London one in 10 homes went under offer during the period – double the number a year ago.

Aside from the stamp duty holiday, sales have been driven by people looking for larger houses with outside space, following their experience of working at home during lockdown. As a result, one in five three-bedroom semis sold in a week compared to one in seven a year ago. However, flats are being snapped up too, with 8% selling in seven days compared to 5% last year.

As with any market conditions, the homes which are selling fastest are those which look most appealing to buyers and are realistically priced. Miles Shipside from Rightmove said: “There’s no point rushing a home to market without carefully thinking through the best way to market it and making sure it looks its best.”

But he also cautioned sellers about the short window presented by the stamp duty holiday. “The conveyancing log jam created by the pause and subsequent market surge means that people thinking of coming to market really need to do so in September or early October if they want to have a chance of completing with enough time to beat the stamp duty deadline.”

Read more about this story in the Evening Standard Homes & Property.

Green flags for six Islington parks

26th October 2020

Islington Parks
Six Islington parks have been awarded Green Flag status in the latest round of accolades for the UK’s most beautiful and well-managed green spaces.

Highbury Fields, Caledonian Park, Fortune Street Park, Wray Crescent Open Space and Landseer Gardens have all been newly awarded green flags.

Highbury Fields is Islington’s largest park with children’s playground and Highbury Pool and Fitness Centre. It contains a Designated a Site of Local Importance to Nature as well as being surrounded by some stunning terraces of Georgian and Victorian architecture.

Gillespie Park, Islington’s largest nature reserve with its own eco centre, also retained the green flag it was awarded last year.

Green Flag Community Awards were handed out to Arlington Square Gardens, Mary Tealby Peace Garden in Paradise Park and King Henry’s Walk Gardens.

King Henry’s Walk Garden is a beautiful community space in Newington Green, reclaimed from a derelict site in 2007 and run by volunteers. It has plots for cultivation by residents, who don’t have gardens of their own and is open to the public on Saturday afternoons.

Cllr Rowena Champion, Islington Council’s executive member for environment and transport, said: “As part of our commitment to a cleaner, greener future, Islington Council is determined to ensure that our green spaces are the best they possibly can be, in order to boost ecological diversity and provide a safe space for local people to exercise and relax.”

She said the awards would not have been possible without the “outstanding efforts” of council staff, conservation volunteers and community groups.

The Green Flag scheme is run by the organisation, Keep Britain Tidy under licence from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Lockdown restrictions led many Londoners to use and appreciate their parks like never before, as Keep Britain Tidy chief executive Allison Ogden-Newton explained: “This year, more than ever, our parks and green spaces have been a lifeline and we know that millions of people have used them to relax, meet friends, exercise or simply escape for a short time.

“It is testament to the incredible dedication and hard work of parks staff and volunteers that, despite the challenges that went along with record numbers of visitors, Islington Council has achieved the highest international standards demanded by the Green Flag Award.”

Read more about this story in the Islington Gazette and find out more about Islington’s parks on the council website.

Hackney sees surge in ‘millionaire’ rows

9th November 2020

Hackney Property Prices
Hackney has seen a massive increase in streets with homes costing more than £1 million, according to figures from Rightmove. The research, from the property portal, shows a 900% rise in the number of streets where the average house attracts a £1 million price tag – up from three in 2015 to 30 in 2020.

Areas which have seen the biggest rise include Dalston – once dubbed Islington’s ‘poor relation’. Here, the number of £1 million streets has grown by 600% in five years. The cost of addresses near leafy and cool Victoria Park have also shot up, with a four-bedroom townhouse close to the park now costing up to £1.4 million.

Hackney is attractive to buyers because it offers more space – both indoors and out. This is a key consideration in 2020, particularly as England enters its second coronavirus lockdown, with homebuyers willing to forgo a prime central location for a roomier home.

Film locations often sell homes and Hackney is no exception. One of its most expensive streets is Meynell Crescent, where prices average nearly £1.5 million – the street featured in the film Run Fatboy Run starring Simon Pegg and Thandie Newton. Three-bed Victorian terraced homes in Fassett Square, said to be the inspiration for EastEnders’ Albert Square, also cost between £1.2 and £1.4 million.

You don’t have to be a millionaire to live in Hackney though, the average price across the borough is currently £564,000, down slightly (0.8%) on a year ago.

Nearby Finsbury has also joined the club with 24 ‘millionaire’ streets – up from just six in 2015. New high-end developments, where flats cost more than £1 million, are thought to be behind the area’s surge.

Outside London, Edinburgh is the city to see the biggest increase in streets with the price tag since 2015.

Read more about this story in the Evening Standard Homes & Property.

Sculpture marking feminist icon unveiled at Newington Green

23rd November 2020

An artwork celebrating 18th century writer and thinker, Mary Wollstonecraft has been unveiled on Newington Green.

The sculpture, by acclaimed artist Maggi Hambling, presents Wollstonecraft as an “everywoman” figure, cast in silvered bronze and rising out of a swirling mass of female forms.

Its creation follows a decade-long campaign to commemorate the radical, author and “mother of feminism” who lived in Newington Green. According to campaigners, the move is important as more than 90% of London’s monuments celebrate men.

Writer Bee Rowlatt, chair of the Mary on the Green campaign, which raised £143,000 to fund the sculpture, explained the significance of Wollstonecraft: “Her ideas changed the world. It took courage to fight for human rights and education for all.

“Mary Wollstonecraft was a rebel and a pioneer, and she deserves a pioneering work of art. This work is an attempt to celebrate her contribution to society with something that goes beyond the Victorian traditions of putting people on pedestals.”

Born in London in 1759, Mary Wollstonecraft was a leading philosophical thinker and the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. She founded a school for girls in Newington Green, but died in 1797 after giving birth to her daughter, the author Mary Shelley.

Not everyone is happy with the sculpture, however, with criticism from commentators centring on the depiction of Wollstonecraft as a tiny naked figure. Feminist author Caroline Criado-Perez, described the choice of sculpture as, “catastrophically wrong” and “insulting” to Wollstonecraft. Locals too have shown their feelings by robing the figure in everything from T-shirts to bras made from gaffer tape.

Maggi Hambling is regarded as one of the UK’s greatest living artists, but reactions to her work are often mixed. Her best-known piece Scallop, on Aldeburgh beach, celebrates composer Benjamin Britten.

Hambling points out that the new sculpture is ‘for’ Mary Wollstonecraft, not ‘of’ the writer. She said: “This sculpture encourages a visual conversation with the obstacles Ms Wollstonecraft overcame, the ideals she strived for, and what she made happen.”

Read more about this story on the BBC website and find out about the Mary on the Green campaign here.

(Photo by Islington Borough Council)

Heat pumps – what you should know about the home-heating revolution

7th December 2020

Heat PumpsThe majority of us currently heat our homes with gas boilers, but their days are starting to look numbered. As the UK aspires to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, heat pumps are often hailed as the heating and hot water solution of the future. The government has already ruled that within three years all new homes must be heated by renewable technologies and has set a target of having 600,000 heat pumps installed by 2028.

While householders won’t be forced to rip out existing gas boilers for the foreseeable future, heat pumps are something to think about if you need to upgrade. But what exactly are they? How much do they cost and will they keep you warm enough?

How do heat pumps work?

There are currently two sorts of heat pump – ground or air source. These low emission, electrical devices suck warmth from the air or the ground to power radiators which heat your home. They sit outside your building and look a bit like air conditioning units.

How much do they cost?

Fitting a ground source pump is expensive (around £20,000-£25,000) because of the excavations involved. Air pumps are a cheaper option. Models made by Japanese air conditioner manufacturers, such as Daikin and Mitsubishi, cost between £4,000 and £6,000, plus installation. You may also need to replace your radiators, meaning the average total for a four-bed detached house is around £15,000. However, government incentives including the green homes grant scheme can knock a considerable amount off the bill.

Will my home be warm enough?

Yes, heat pumps are widely used in colder climes including Scandinavian countries. Criticism of the pumps has centred around the belief that they don’t create as much warmth as a boiler. It is true that they heat radiators to around 40-45C, compared to the 60-80C with gas. You may need bigger radiators to achieve the same level of heat and to leave them on for longer, but installing one could still mean savings on your energy bills.

Read more about heat pumps in the story in the Guardian.

Best wishes for 2021

Here at M&M Property we are optimistic about the north London property market in 2021 and are looking forward to working with both our new and existing clients.

We wish you health and prosperity in 2021.