Category Archives: Property

Electric cars – where can we charge them (and other problems)?

I’m afraid I have shamelessly lifted this article from a recent Spectator website. It attracted a very high number of interesting comments, which I cannot begin to reproduce.

But the many problems of electric vehicles – including not just the initial cost but also their weight, the environmental impact of the raw materials, their high demands on the electricity network and of course, as mentioned below, the obvious problem of where they can be charged especially in a crowded city – are beginning to dawn on people. True, some houses on Fawnbrake Avenue have been able to convert their front gardens to a parking space, thereby solving one of the problems. But a majority of residents don’t have that option. And lamp-post charging sets off a whole number of other complications.

 

“With their private jets and gas-guzzling mansions, delegates at Cop26 have been widely criticised for an elitist attitude towards the environment. Nothing better demonstrates the gulf between policymakers and ordinary people than over the charging points for electric cars. It is one thing to install a home charging point for your car if you own a large house up a crunchy gravel driveway – indeed, according to the property website Rightmove, owners of such properties have been fitting charging points with great enthusiasm, with a 541 per cent increase in the number of homes being advertised with such a facility over the past year.

But what do you do if you live in one of the 43 per cent of homes which do not have off-street parking? In fact, you don’t necessarily have to be of modest means to live in such a house – there are plenty of city centre homes, in Belgravia and such places to boot, which open straight onto the pavement. Owning a car in a city has not been easy ever since controlled parking and traffic wardens started to appear in the 1960s, but it is just about to get a whole lot more difficult. Even if you can find somewhere to charge an electric car the electricity is likely to be several times more expensive than plugging it in to your home supply.

That said, there have been some trials with on-street recharging points, which may be coming to a street near you soon. Under the Go Ultra Low City Scheme, 1000 on-street charging points were installed in London in 2019 – utilising existing lamp-posts. You are not going to get a rapid charging point from the electricity supply to a lamp-post – they are limited to 3.7 kW – but it is enough for an overnight charge. Reading, too, has been experimenting with fixing sockets to existing lamp-posts.

But there are still many problems to overcome. In Reading, many street lamps proved to be unsuitable because there are installed on the nearside of the pavement, which would have required a cable to be dangled dangerously across the footway. Pedestrians face enough obstructions without having to step over an electric cable every few yards. That problem could be overcome by excavating small channels beneath the pavement so that a cable can be run across without tripping people up. One company, Greenmole, in association with Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Salford has been installing just that: channels which lead from a motorist’s own home to the roadside, to enable charging. It comes at a price – such an installation will cost you around £3000. But there is a bigger problem, too: very few people have a reserved parking place directly outside their home – even where parking permit schemes exist they tend to allow parking on a street-by-street or area-by-area basis, not to individually-designated parking spaces.

As more electric cars come into use, there are going to be intense battles over this. Should homeowners be allowed to claim parking spaces directly outside their homes so they can charge their vehicles more easily – and if so, what should they be charged for the privilege? After all, the public highway is supposed to be a facility for all, not for bits effectively to be privatised for the exclusive benefit of nearby property-owners. In any case, reserving parking spaces outside homes is not going to help everyone. If you have a house, say, divided into three flats, who, if anyone, gets to bag the single streetside parking space?

One thing is for sure, until the problem of charging electric vehicles on the streets is solved, properties with off-street parking are likely to command an even greater premium than they already do. The Battle of Cable Steet is long remembered as the struggle between communists and fascists in the 1930s. The Battle of Street Cabling has yet to come.”

One of the most unusual houses in Herne Hill …

… is an archetypal 1930s modernist home in Dorchester Drive, which has just come on the market after 65 years.

It starts with Kemp & Tasker

Who? Leslie Kemp and Frederick Tasker were English architects who practised in the 1930s as Kemp & Tasker.
They are best known for their cinemas (many now demolished, inevitably), although they are also responsible for several notable 1930s/modernist buildings in South London and Kent, often constructed by an energetic firm of builders, the Morrell brothers of Bromley.
These include the Dorchester Court flats between Herne Hill and Dorchester Drive, which as many local people will know are now owned by a neglectful property company harbouring ambitions for deleterious extensions.
However the Morrell brothers also built individual family homes including two Kemp & Tasker designed houses just up the road from our street, on Dorchester Drive. Indeed, the Morrells designed and built that whole street, each house being different from its neighbours.

Dorchester Drive

In 1934, one particular Kemp & Tasker house design was submitted to the Daily Mail’s Ideal House Competition.

The Morrells embraced and promoted this design, claiming in a glossy brochure  (unearthed for us by our learned neighbour Laurence, who indeed spotted that this distinctive house has come on the market) that it could be built to order anywhere. And so it was.

It’s red

Unlike another No 10 with a famous black door, number 10 Dorchester Drive, two streets up from here, has in fact a red door and windows and is one of the three known Kemp & Tasker examples of this design that still exist – and it is now on sale.

Morrells brochure for K&T house


Form an orderly queue

The 5-bedroomed  house is said to be fundamentally in good order, having been lived in and cared for by the same family – Mr & Mrs Eysenck – since 1956. Hans Jürgen Eysenck, the celebrated and latterly controversial psychologist, died in 1997 and his wife Sybil Eysenck died in March 2020, which explains why the house is now on the market for the first time in 65 years.
The property is being marketed through estate agents Hamptons. Their blurb announces that

“… this house now provides the opportunity for a buyer to breathe new life into a well-loved family home to create something really special in terms of style and space. It has wonderful features such as curved doors, original hardwood flooring (beneath existing carpets), original Crittall windows, the fabulous ‘sunspan’ curved window in the lounge, grand iron staircase and original tiled bathroom. There is a wraparound garden and off-street parking on both sides.”

However, the buyers will need to find £1.75 million, plus a fair bit more for the necessary updating. Insulating all those big windows will also be quite a challenge. The red paint will probably be replaced by something more muted from Farrow & Ball or Mylands.

Disappointed dreams

Incidentally, the Morrell brothers (they were twins) also built a much bigger house, for themselves, at no. 5 Dorchester Drive. But they managed to go bankrupt and never got to live there.

Bike theft

You probably don’t need the warning … but just in case, this was posted by someone in SE24 on the Nextdoor website earlier today.

“Stolen bike (Herne Hill, SE24).

Hello all, make sure you keep any bikes firmly locked up, preferably inside at the moment. Someone broke into our communal entrance hallway and stole my hybrid bike on Tuesday night (I’ve now found my bike being sold on Gumtree in Barking 🙄).

 

Our neighbour’s son was also mugged for his bike too recently.

Bike theft is on the rise in the lead up to Christmas so be extra careful. If you’re buying a bike off somewhere like Gumtree, I recommend asking for a picture of the frame number. You can then check if it’s been registered as a stolen bike on websites like Bike Register .”

Work carried out in people’s homes

Thought this might be useful/reassuring for neighbours.

The latest government guidelines for coping with  Covid-19, updated early this morning (25 March),  states that “work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms.

Again, it will be important to ensure that Public Health England guidelines, including maintaining a 2 metre distance from any household occupants, are followed to ensure everyone’s safety.

“No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households.

“No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild.”

SE 24 IS A PROPERTY HOTSPOT!

Yes, according to a report in last Friday’s Times property pages (paywall, probably) , spotted by a sharp-eyed neighbour (thank you, Fred!).

After 19 consecutive months of price falls — down 2.9 per cent in Greater London since a peak in July 2017, and 15.7 per cent in prime central London since a peak in 2014 — there are signs of life in the market again. It’s probably too early to talk of “recovery” but there are real signs of life in the not-so-quite central areas, because of their relative affordability. A London estate agent quoted in The Times says “Most banks are only willing to lend 4.5 times wages. Even if you’re a couple earning £100,000 combined, there are only a few pockets left in London where a normal person can afford to buy.

Candidly, one might think that Herne Hill, at least, no longer offers many bargains for people seeking to trade up. It may be less expensive than, say, Dulwich but ‘affordability’ isn’t a word that springs to mind, most would say.

London Property Hot Spots 2019

Meanwhile property experts say that even if the market is showing glimmers of recovery, it’s hard to believe it will return to the heady heights of 2017 any time soon, when affordability is still such a problem. “We have had a resetting of prices that was well overdue,” one says. “The idea that double-digit annual house-price inflation is somehow a good thing is peddled by knaves and fools. What we want is a stable housing market.”

The relative ‘hotness’ of housing markets is measured by a new seller’s advisory service, Prop Cast™., whose chart is shown above. Their basic service appears to be free. It measures buyer demand levels to help predict how quick and easy or slow and hard it will be to sell your home. It tells you whether your market is hot or cold, and puts you on the same page as reality ‘so you make smarter decisions about your sale’.

Should we call the architect?

There’s a word of warning in all this. Maybe “potential” isn’t what people are looking for. One estate agent says family houses are selling better and faster because of a lack of decent stock.

“Middle-class millennials want to buy a house that’s already done up, they don’t want to do the work. If you’re prepared to do work, there’s a lot more choice,” he says.

Time to raid the savings?