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Would you like to live next door to this?

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Ugly: Section of uneven, too-thin foundation

Ugly: Section of uneven, too-thin foundation

WOULD YOU LIKE to live next door to this? Inadequate, defective and missing foundations, crumbling masonry, no ring beam?

A two-storey extension, on the back of no.43 Felinfoel Road, Llanelli, went up in 1988. A further single-storey extension, loosely tacked on to it, followed in 1990. It has loomed over the back yard of the next-door house, no.41 Felinfoel Road, ever since.

Clive and Pam Edwards live in no.41. They have accumulated, over 28 years, boxes of correspondence about the defective extensions. The quantity of information is so great that dissecting and analysing it is a colossal task that few people would want to undertake.

The gist, though, is relatively simple. Botched and faulty decisions in the past have blighted no.41 – and have also damaged no.43.

In June 2003, Waterman Burrow Crocker, civil and structural consulting engineers commissioned by Dyfed- Powys Police, said at the end of a long list of serious defects that ‘we would therefore class the extension as a dangerous structure’.

Nothing was done at the time.

Part of the outer skin of the building was removed after a 2006 report by Wyatt and Watts, consulting civil and structural engineers, said it was dangerous. There were no wall ties securing it to the inner skin, and in a high wind it might have collapsed – onto the home of Clive and Pamela Edwards.

But the numerous other defects and potential dangers remained.

In September 2007, Martin Watts of Wyatt and Watts wrote to Tim Rees at solicitors Douglas-Jones Mercer, acting for Carmarthenshire County Council, saying: “The partial removal of the outer blockwork skin has effectively removed the original dangerous structure concerns but resulted in new stability concerns for the now exposed inner skin and flat roof construction to no.43 under high winds and storms. The removal of the outer skin has also made both properties more vulnerable to rain and damp penetration at this location.”

And that is the situation today.

COUNCIL CHIEF EXECUTIVE FORBIDS STAFF TO INSPECT PROPERTY

Carmarthenshire County Council’s planning authority maintains the line that the problem is nothing to do with them, just a neighbour dispute. Chief Executive Mark James CBE has taken charge, refusing to allow officers to carry out risk assessments, and refusing to allow any staff to answer questions from Mr and Mrs Edwards’ councillor, Bill Thomas, as well as from the Edwardses themselves.

Despite this declaration of ‘nothing to do with us’, the council is organising an inspection every two years. The most recent, on May 22, 2015, found rat droppings above the ground-floor bathroom of no.41, which shares a party wall with no.43 – the wall which now lacks an outer skin. The rodents have chewed through electrical cables, said Mr Edwards.

Nevertheless, Martin Watts of Wyatt and Watts reported ‘no discernible change in the physical condition and stability of the visible areas of wall between the two properties since my last inspection in August 2012’, although the ‘continued exposure of this wall to the elements has caused increased damp issues and damage to wall finishes, particularly to the visible wall areas within no.43’. Yet, ‘based on these findings, I do not consider this wall is presently in a dangerous condition’. The council has used this finding to absolve it from having to organise repair. Not indefinitely – Mr Watts also wrote that the ‘present construction arrangement cannot be left in this state indefinitely’. For how much longer, he does not say. Is 28 years not long enough?

Mr Mark James’ order for officers to do nothing about 43 Felinfoel Road appears to conflict with advice on the council’s own website, in a section on ‘Dangerous Structures’, which starts: “If you are concerned that a building or structure may be dangerous, you can contact us at any time. In the interest of public safety, a 24 hours a day service is provided to cover office and non-office hours with the aid of Careline to cover out of office incidents concerning dangerous structures.

“Where necessary, the danger will be removed immediately by our own specialist contractors under the close supervision of an experienced senior building control officer who will ensure that the work is carried out in the most suitable way.”

The problem with no.43 seems to be that the council does not believe the structure dangerous enough to force it to act – although, 13 years ago, Waterman Burrow Crocker said: “Events such as high winds or softening of the subsoil below the foundations may cause the structure to become overloaded and collapse.”

The Herald asked Carmarthenshire County Council for a statement, and this was the response: “We believe that we have explained the position fully to Mr and Mrs Edwards in correspondence and have nothing to add.”

MEGA STRESS

The stress of living next to the awful extension has taken a severe toll on Clive and Pamela Edwards.

They cannot solve the problem – no.43, currently unoccupied, belongs to Mr Simon Baier. Mr Baier is an engineer who lives at Woodland Manor, Llangennech Park, between Llanelli and Pontarddulais.

He and Julie Baier own a small company, SGB Engineering Ltd, which changed its name from Grantrise Ltd on July 7, 1997.

Mr Baier had the extensions built and received a grant of £3,994 from Llanelli Borough Council, which approved the works as satisfactorily completed, a conclusion with which none of the structural engineers who have examined it since would agree, given the defects they all catalogued.

Mr and Mrs Edwards could try to sell their home – but who would buy it, with next door’s defective extensions looming over the kitchen and back yard? In addition, the two-story extension uses the whole of the party wall between the properties as the remaining lower portion of the outer skin, and that wall

 has voids in it due, said Clive Edwards, to the extension builders’ decision to remove no.41’s rear chimney breast. Mrs Edwards’ great aunt was living there at the time, and at 88-years-old, not fully aware of the damage being inflicted.

NEIGHBOUR ALSO DISTRESSED

Simon Baier, owner of no.43 Felinfoel Road, said he would like nothing better than to solve his extension problem. “I have wanted to complete it for almost 30 years,” he said. “I have gone down the legal route; my solicitor and Mr Edwards’ solicitor have agreed party wall repairs in the past, and on three or four occasions builders have started work, but they need access to no.41 to do the work, and Mr Edwards has not let them continue. In fact, he has asked them to leave.

“I even said to the council to go and do the repairs and send me the bill, but Mr Edwards would not let the council’s builders onto his property.

”At the moment, I am trying to get an enforcement order to allow builders access to no.41. It’s cost a fortune in legal fees – I reckon over £60,000 just since 2007.

“I can’t live in no.43. Water has come in and the upstairs ceilings in the extension have fallen down, and the ceiling in the kitchen extension downstairs.

“The market value of the house would be about £130,000, but the best offer I have received so far is £58,000.”

Mr Edwards agreed that he would not let builders on his property to do shoddy repairs, but said he was not aware of Mr Baier’s request for the council to do the rebuilding, and also said he had never knowingly asked council-contracted builders to leave. “I would be happy if the council came along to do the work,” he said. “It would have to be done in line with Building Regulations, and I am sure the council would insist on that.”

GRANT GAVE ILLUSION OF RESPECTABILITY

Why has the faulty extension next door not been rebuilt?

The conflict is not about doing repairs: both Mr Baier and Mr Edwards know that repairs must be done. It is about the scope and quality of repairs. “The extension must comply with the plans drawn up for the original planning application,” said Mr Edwards. In his view, that includes proper foundations and the inclusion of a ring beam – but rebuilding the whole structure would be far more expensive than tidying it up.

Llanelli Borough Council – later part of Carmarthenshire County Council – approved the first, two-storey extension and gave it the grant of £3,994. Why the faulty work was passed as satisfactory, when it lacked building regulations approval, has never been explained. The grant gave the extension an illusion of respectability.

Carmarthenshire Council officers, including Chief Executive Mark James, appear to have been vexed by Mr Edwards’ frequent, detailed letters, to the point of opting to ignore them.

Legislation for dangerous buildings should provide the means for the council to rebuild the extension and take a charge on the property to cover the cost of the work, but the word ‘dangerous’ is open to interpretation. The latest check, in 2015, says the two-storey wall is not imminently dangerous – but that it cannot remain ‘indefinitely.’ The check did not include the defective foundations, but did record rodent droppings – hardly beneficial to the health of Pam and Clive Edwards; in fact, potentially dangerous.

COUNCILS HAVE VAST RANGE OF POSSIBLE ACTIONS

The law does not require a structure to be tumbling down before a local authority can act. Samuel Townend, a barrister at Keating Chambers, wrote in ‘Dangerous/defective buildings and the role of the local authority’, published in Local Government Lawyer in May 2014, that: “The range of possible actions that can be taken by a local authority when faced with a defective or dangerous building or structure within its jurisdiction are vast. With fore-thought, early action, albeit involving some initial expense in preparing an application to the courts for a relevant order, avoids the local authority taking the risk of being liable to pay sometimes heavy compensation to parties affected that have not themselves caused the danger to eventuate.

“If a local authority, knowing about a defective or dangerous structure, leaves matters until emergency action is required, it has only got itself to blame if it subsequently faces claims for compensation.”

If the wall of no.43 collapses on no.41, Carmarthenshire County Council could not claim ignorance of the dangers. Waiting until the danger level reaches fifty nine minutes to midnight is not a sensible option, because action can be taken if a structure is ‘defective’ – and the extensions to 43 Felinfoel Road have been defective for 28 years.

Section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 is one of the options proposed by Mr Townend in his article. This gives a local authority the right to serve an abatement notice on the owner of the defective premises or structure, for a nuisance caused by a structural defect.

Section 77 of the Building Act 1984 is also a possibility. The council can apply to a court for an order requiring the property owner to carry out remedial work – and if he or she refuses, the council can have it done and recharge the owner.

Clive Edwards, who is a cancer sufferer, is desperate for remedial action to be taken. “We can’t sell our house for anything like its real value,” he said. “Who would want to live here? We don’t go out into the yard now, because we can’t bear to look at the monstrosity.”

It is a monstrosity, which might crush their house, and them with it, and also a monstrosity which is a nightmare for owner Simon Baier.

And it all began with incompetent, potentially dangerous work which Llanelli Borough Council should not have approved, but did – an error which, uncorrected, has led to a seemingly intractable problem 28 years later.

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Kwarteng gambles on rush for growth

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CHANCELLOR of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng unveiled his and Liz Truss’s economic vision for the UK on Friday morning.

The headlines are straightforward.

There will be £45bn in tax cuts by 2027; however, the largest cuts – national insurance cuts, the abolition of the cap on bonuses and the highest income tax rate- benefit only high earners.

MAIN POLICIES

Cut in the basic rate of income tax to 19% from April 2023;

National Insurance will not rise as scheduled, and the Government will reverse the current year rise as of November 6;

New Health and Social Care Levy to pay for the NHS will not be introduced;

The top rate of income tax was cut from 45% to 40%;

Cancel the rise in corporation tax which was due to increase from 19% to 25% in April 2023;

Rules around universal credit tightened by reducing benefits if people don’t fulfil job search commitments;

VAT-free shopping for overseas visitors;

End of the cap on bankers’ bonuses;

Planned increases in the duties on beer, cider, wine, and spirits cancelled;

Government to discuss setting up investment zones with 38 local areas in England.

Alongside the above, the Chancellor announced plans to remove environmental safeguards for building developments and reduce the regulatory burden on financial institutions.

KWARTENG LEAVES LABOUR AN OPEN GOAL

In an interview with Rishi Sunak during the Conservative leadership contest, Nick Robinson observed that it would be a nasty surprise for the former Chancellor when he found out who’d been in power for the last twelve years.

Kwasi Kwarteng followed Liz Truss’s preferred method of operation: he pretended they hadn’t happened.

The Chancellor comprehensively dumped on the policies pursued over the last dozen years by successive Conservative governments, for a decade of which Liz Truss has been a member.

His statement was, as one ministerial colleague said, “a game changer”, although perhaps not in the way he envisaged.

So complete was the change of economic policy that it leaves an open question about how Mr Kwarteng and his Cabinet colleagues ended up in the same political party as most of their backbench colleagues and served under the last three Conservative leaders.

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves did not miss the open goal. Even as Mr Kwarteng and Ms Truss shook their heads on the government benches, she hammered home that the Chancellor’s statement was an admission the record of Conservative governments since 2010 was one of a failure to deliver growth or a viable economic plan.

THE SUPPLY SIDE FIX

The Chancellor and Prime Minister’s rationale is that cutting taxes for the already well-off will benefit all citizens as they are incentivised to invest and act in entrepreneurial ways. In addition, reducing regulation for businesses will encourage increased commercial enterprise.

They believe the growth stimulated will make up for any loss in tax revenues as increased economic activity, encouraged by lower taxes, leads to increased government revenues.

That approach is called supply-side economics, which focuses on increasing the supply of goods and services through growth.

In every developed nation where the Government’s brand of economics has been tried, two things have happened: a cataclysmic bust has followed a short-term burst of economic activity.

In addition, wealth inequalities – and the UK is already grossly unequal – are embedded and made worse.

Low taxes on the wealthiest do not distinguish between those who generate wealth through their industry or create economic activity through business investment and those who inherit wealth or sit on capital without producing anything.

“THE RICH WILL REJOICE”

Wales’s Finance Minister, Rebecca Evans MS, responded: “Rebecca Evans, Minister for Finance and Local Government, said: “Instead of delivering meaningful, targeted support to those who need help the most, the Chancellor prioritises funding for tax cuts for the rich, unlimited bonuses for bankers, and protecting the profits of big energy companies.

“Instead of increasing funding for public services in line with inflation, we get a Chancellor blithely ignoring stretched budgets as public services find their money is not going as far as it did before.”

Plaid Regional MS Cefin Campbell said: “This Budget will see the rich rejoice as their bonuses rocket and their tax bill sliced, once again it will be the poorest and most vulnerable bearing the brunt of the disastrous cost of living crisis.”

 Plaid Cymru’s Treasury spokesperson, Ben Lake MP, added: “Tax cuts for the super-rich will do absolutely nothing to drive growth in the Welsh economy.

“I urge the UK Government to recognise that our Government in Wales must be given the fiscal tools to unlock our economic potential ourselves. That is the only way to improve the lives of people across Wales.”

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Finance, Peter Fox MS, said: “Today shows that the UK Conservative Government has a comprehensive plan to provide a sharp boost to the economy by putting cash back into people’s pockets. Labour in Wales has the power to cut taxes in Wales but chooses not to.

“Mark Drakeford needs to take a leaf out of Liz Truss’ book and take immediate action to support hard-working people and struggling businesses, stimulating the Welsh economy rather than stifling it.”

Scott Corfe, Research Director at Social Market Foundation, said: “The Chancellor is taking a very high-risk gamble with the economy.

“If his package of enormous tax cuts and ‘supply side reforms’ fails to translate into significantly higher economic growth, we risk further falls in the pound and surging gilt yields as investors lose confidence in our ability to pay our way in the world.

“That, in turn, means higher inflation, an unsustainable trajectory for the public finances and steeper interest rate rises – potentially deepening rather than alleviating the cost of living crisis.”

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The world watches HM Queen Elizabeth II laid to rest in state funeral

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THE QUEEN’S state funeral is taking place with ceremonial processions in London and Windsor today. This is the latest update at 12:40pm.

The UK’s longest-serving monarch will be laid to rest after a state funeral.

The Royal Family, world leaders and dignitaries have descended on Westminster Abbey to honour the life of Queen Elizabeth II, after her death at the age of 96.

At 10.44am, the Queen’s coffin travelled from the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament) to Westminster Abbey for the state funeral.

This is a very short journey, and was not be part of the public procession.

The state funeral service

The state funeral service was conducted by the Dean of Westminster and The Sermon and the Commendation will be given by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

During the Service, the Prime Minister and the Secretary General of the Commonwealth read Lessons.

The Archbishop of York, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and the Free Churches Moderator said prayers.

The Procession from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch

At the end of the Service, Her Majesty’s coffin wase borne to Wellington Arch, via The Mall on the State Gun Carriage.

The King’s Guard gave a Royal Salute as the Coffin passes the Queen Victoria Memorial.

All processions and services are being broadcast on near-all national television and radio channels.

Once the coffin reaches Wellington Arch, it will be placed in the State Hearse. The parade will give a Royal Salute and the National Anthem will be played as the State Hearse begins its journey to Windsor.

Procession from Albert Hall, Windsor to St George’s Chapel

When the Coffin reaches Windsor, the State Hearse will slow to join a Procession to be formed up on Albert Road to travel via the Long Walk to St George’s Chapel. Members of the Royal Family will join the Procession in the Quadrangle at Windsor Castle. Minute Guns will be fired on the East Lawn, Windsor Castle by The King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, and Sebastopol Bell and the Curfew Tower Bell will be tolled throughout the Procession.

The Procession will halt at the bottom of the West Steps of St. George’s Chapel where a Guard of Honour, found by the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, will be mounted. The Queen’s Coffin will be borne in Procession into the Chapel.

The Committal Service

The Committal Service will begin at 4pm, and alongside His Majesty The King and Members of the Royal Family, the congregation will be made up of past and present members of The Queen’s Household, including from the private estates. Also in attendance will be Governors General and Realm Prime Ministers.

The Service will be conducted by the Dean of Windsor, with prayers said by the Rector of Sandringham, the Minister of Crathie Kirk and the Chaplain of Windsor Great Park. The Choir of St George’s Chapel will sing during the Service.

Prior to the final Hymn, the Imperial State Crown, the Orb and the Sceptre will be removed from Her Majesty The Queen’s Coffin, and placed on the Altar. At the end of the final Hymn, The King will place The Queen’s Company Camp Colour of the Grenadier Guards on Her Majesty’s Coffin. At the same time, The Lord Chamberlain will “break” his Wand of Office and place it on the Coffin.

As The Queen’s Coffin is lowered into the Royal Vault, the Dean of Windsor will say a Psalm and the Commendation before Garter King of Arms pronounces Her Majesty’s styles and titles. The Sovereign’s Piper will play a Lament and The Archbishop of Canterbury will pronounce the Blessing. The National Anthem will be sung at the conclusion of the Service.

Not seen on the streets of London since the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965, the State Gun Carriage will be pulled by 98 Royal Navy sailors, with a further 40 marching behind acting as brakes. The King and Members of the Royal Family will again follow The Queen’s Coffin in Procession. The Procession will include detachments from the Armed Forces of the Commonwealth, as well as detachments of the British Armed Forces who held a special relationship with The Queen.

A Private Burial will take place in The King George VI Memorial Chapel later that evening, conducted by the Dean of Windsor.

The Queen is to be buried together with The Duke of Edinburgh, at The King George VI Memorial Chapel.

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Arrangements for the Funeral of Her Majesty The Queen

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THE TRAGIC death of Queen Elizabeth II set into motion an intricate period of mourning across the country, which will close with her State Funeral on Monday, September 19. 

Arrangements for Britain’s longest-reigning monarch’s funeral have been carefully detailed for many years. The Queen herself signed off on every detail before her death. The details were kept private until King Charles III gave his final seal of approval. 

The State Funeral of HRH Queen Elizabeth II will take place at Westminster Abbey on Monday (Sep 19) at 11.00am. 

Following the Queen’s death, her oak coffin—draped with the Royal Standard for Scotland and a wreath of flowers—sat in the ballroom at Balmoral, where estate staff had the chance to pay their last respects.

On Sunday morning, gamekeepers carried her coffin to a waiting hearse before she left Balmoral for the final time. 

The first stage of the Queen’s journey saw the royal cortege travel to Edinburgh and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. 

An honour guard made up of the Royal Regiment of Scotland greeted the hearse in Edinburgh with a royal salute before the coffin was transferred to the Throne Room by a military bearer party.

On Monday, September 12, a procession was formed on the forecourt of the Palace of Holyroodhouse to convey the coffin to St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh. 

The King and members of the Royal family took part in the procession and attended a service in St Giles’ Cathedral where they received the coffin. 

Queen Elizabeth’s coffin was laid in St Giles’ Cathedral, guarded by Vigils from The Royal Company of Archers, to allow those in Scotland to pay their respects. 

On the afternoon of Tuesday, September 13, The Queen’s coffin travelled from Scotland by  Royal Air Force aircraft from Edinburgh Airport. It arrived at RAF Northolt on Tuesday evening. The coffin was accompanied on its journey by The Princess Royal. 

The Queen’s coffin was then conveyed to Buckingham Palace by road, to rest in the Bow Room. 

The coffin was received by her family in a small private ceremony before her official lying in state. 

On Wednesday, September 14, the coffin was borne in procession on a gun carriage of The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster. 

The Procession travelled via Queen’s Gardens, The Mall, Horse Guards and Horse Guards Arch, Whitehall, Parliament Street, Parliament Square and New Palace Yard. 

After the coffin arrived at Westminster Hall, the Archbishop of Canterbury conducted a short service assisted by The Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, Dean of Westminster, and attended by The King and Members of the Royal Family, after which the Lying-in-State began.

During the Lying-in-State, members of the public will have the opportunity to visit Westminster Hall to pay their respects to The Queen. 

Members of the public were able to file past the Queen’s coffin during its first full day of lying-in-state at Westminster Hall on Thursday.

Brass plaques in the 11th-century hall mark the spots where Edward VII lay in state in 1910, George V in 1936, George VI in 1952 and Queen Mary a year later. The hall, which is 900 years old, is also where wartime British Prime Minister Winston Churchill lay in state in 1965.

The Queen was laid-in-state in Westminster Hall until 6.30am Monday (Sep 19) morning. The coffin will then travel in a procession led by King Charles III and his family when it is moved at 10.44am from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey. 

He will walk with the Princess Royal, the Duke of York and Earl of Wessex and behind the quartet will be the Queen’s grandsons, Peter Phillips, Duke of Sussex and the Prince of Wales.

The Queen’s coffin will be carried during the procession on a 123-year-old gun carriage towed by 98 Royal Navy sailors in a tradition which dates back to the funeral of Queen Victoria.

The procession will be led by a massed Pipes & Drums of Scottish and Irish Regiments, the Brigade of Gurkhas, and the Royal Air Force.

It will arrive at the west gate of Westminster Abbey at 10.52am when the bearer party will lift the coffin from the gun carriage and carry it into the Abbey for the state funeral service.

The service will begin at 11am and will be conducted by the Dean of Westminster.

Westminster Abbey has a capacity of approximately 2,200 people.

Heads of state and dignitaries from around the world are expected to be invited to the British capital to join members of the royal family to celebrate the Queen’s life and unwavering service to the nation and Commonwealth. The majority of leaders were asked to take commercial flights to London for the funeral. 

Many members of royal families across Europe are expected to attend the funeral. The White House has confirmed the attendance of President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden. 

Leaders from across the Commonwealth, of which the Queen served as head for the entirety of her reign, are expected to attend. Many other world leaders are also expected to attend the funeral. 

At approximately 11.55am the Last Post will sound, followed by two minutes of silence to be observed in the Abbey and throughout the UK.

Reveille, the national anthem and a lament played by the Queen’s piper will bring the state funeral service to an end at around noon.

After the service, the Queen’s coffin will be returned to the gun carriage by the bearer party and a procession will travel to Wellington Arch at Hyde Park.

At Wellington Arch the royal family will watch as the Queen’s coffin is transferred to the new state hearse, before it begins its journey to Windsor Castle.

At 3.06pm, the state hearse will approach Shaw Farm Gate on Albert Road, Windsor, and join the procession which will be in position.

At 3.10pm the procession will step off via Albert Road, Long Walk, Cambridge Gate, Cambridge Drive, George IV Gate, Quadrangle (South and West sides), Engine Court, Norman Arch, Chapel Hill, Parade Ground and Horseshoe Cloister Arch.

At approximately 3.40 pm the King and other members of the Royal Family who are walking in the procession join it at the Quadrangle on the North side as it passes into Engine Court.

At 3.53pm, the procession will halt at the bottom of the West Steps of St George’s Chapel in Horseshoe Cloister.

The Queen will be laid to rest following a committal service at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, which will begin at 4pm.

She will be interred with the Duke of Edinburgh in King George VI’s Memorial Chapel in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, in a private service at 7.30pm on Monday.

The burial service, conducted by the Dean of Windsor and attended by the King and royals, will remain entirely private.

Britain is projected to spend an estimated £78 million on Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral.

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