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Welsh Government confirms vacant land tax plan

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Housing a priority: Mark Drakeford takes action on land-banking

THE WELSH G​OVERNMENT​ will put forward the vacant land tax idea to test the Wales Act 2014 powers, Cabinet Secretary for Finance Mark Drakeford has announced.

The Cabinet Secretary will set out the next steps for proposing a new Welsh tax as part of the tax policy work plan for 2018.

Since announcing a shortlist of 4 new tax ideas alongside the draft Budget in October, the Welsh Government has been examining the case for each of these.

The 4 tax ideas were: a social care levy, a vacant land tax, a disposable plastics tax and a tourism tax.

Although the vacant land tax idea will be used to test the Wales Act powers, work will also continue on each of the other 3 tax ideas.

The decision to take forward the vacant land tax idea follows engagement with stakeholder organisations, the public and across government.

A vacant land tax has been chosen both because it could help to incentivise more timely development, and because it could help prevent dereliction and aid regeneration.

Professor Drakeford said: “Housing is a priority for the Welsh Government. A tax on vacant land could prevent the practice of land banking and land not being developed within the expected timescales.

“The Republic of Ireland vacant sites levy provides a useful starting point for how a vacant land tax could work in Wales.

“The existing model in the Republic of Ireland and the relatively narrow focus of the tax make this the most suitable of the 4 shortlisted ideas to test the Wales Act.”

The Irish measure, announced in their government’s 2018 Budget, will mean that any owner of a vacant site on the register who does not develop their land in 2018 will pay the 3% levy in 2019 and then become liable to the increased rate of 7% from 1 January 2019.

If land owners continue to hoard land in 2019, they will pay 7% in 2020.

When the Welsh Government announced it was considering such a measure in October 2017, before the UK Government said it was considering a similar plan, the House Builders’ Federation raised the spectre of developers decamping en masse to England with their large projects. That threat, such as it was, has receded but the Federation of Master Builders is still concerned.

Speaking to BBC Wales, Ifan Glyn of FMB Cymru said: “If there’s a tax that’s introduced that can focus solely on land banking for financial reasons to maximise profits, we would absolutely agree with that.

“Our issue is we don’t see how this tax can differentiate between land that’s been banked for financial reasons and land that isn’t being developed or stalling for reasons outside the developer’s control.”

A further wrinkle in the system was identified by Dr John McCartney, Director of Research at Savills Ireland.

Speaking about what were then only proposals by the Irish Government to impose the vacant site levy, he said that increasing the vacant site levy to 7% could amplify “boom-and-bust cycles” in the construction sector.

Dr McCartney said that land is a raw material for developers and it is natural for them to carry a stock of development land.

“No developer will now carry a land-bank in a slow market. This means when a recovery follows developers will spend the early years on site assembly rather than the house building they could and should be doing,” he explained.

Responding to the announcement, the Welsh Conservative Shadow Finance spokesperson, Nick Ramsay AM said: “From the outset, Welsh Conservatives have opposed the ludicrous proposal for a tourism tax in Wales, one which would cause serious harm to businesses across the country.

“While we are pleased the Welsh Government has listened to us and decided against taking this idea forward, once the mechanism has been tested, we would not expect the Labour Government to return to the table with this proposal, one which has been widely criticised by the industry.

“Our vigorous campaign will continue until Labour’s Finance Secretary consigns this ludicrous proposal to where it belongs: the bin.”

Commenting on the decision to bring forward a potential vacant land tax, Mr Ramsay added: “On the surface, we welcome the fact that, as in England, the Welsh Government is exploring the viability of a vacant land tax but we await the full details of this proposal from the Finance Secretary.

“However, an important distinction must be made between land held for legitimate technical reasons such as detailed planning or a lack of skills and materials, and land which is held for purely commercial speculation.

“Speculation distorts the main purpose of releasing land for much needed development and it will be vitally important to fully consult with the sector to ensure the right balance is struck.”

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Ascona Group announces new Car and Truck wash facilities

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Charlie's Truck Wash

ASCONA GROUP, one of the UK’s fastest-growing forecourt operators, is pleased to announce two new vehicle washing partnerships as part of improvements to its unique roadside retail proposition across its forecourt estate.

As part of a new partnership with the American based PDQ Manufacturing, a leader for in-bay automatic vehicle washing facilities, Ascona Group will be the first in the UK to install the ‘Laserwash 360 Plus’, a touchless car wash system for its customers.

The partnership will initially expand the wash options at the Hinton Service Station, with a view to roll out the system to other sites under the Ascona Group’s brand, ‘Charlie’s Express Car Wash’ later this year. The partnership is a significant investment for Ascona and demonstrates its commitment to ever improving the experience for customers.

Ascona Group is also delighted to announce a strategic partnership with WashTec UK that will see Ascona introduce a ‘First of its Kind’ truck washing facility at the Tenby Road site on the A40 Eastbound in Carmarthenshire, which offers the very best technology available to HGV drivers.

The truck wash employs a fully ‘closed loop’ total water recycling system, the first of its kind in Wales, which recovers all water used within the wash process, filtering it for reuse with little or no water entering the mains drainage system. This system ensures Ascona not only has the best commercial wash in South Wales, but also offers customers one of the more environmentally friendly approaches in operation.

Commenting on the announcement, CEO Darren Briggs said: “From the very beginning, we knew that our sites must present our customers with a unique and compelling offer which is why we are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to improve our roadside retail facilities.

“These two new partnerships further demonstrate our focus on creating industry-leading propositions and we are really excited to be working with PDQ Manufacturing USA and WashTec UK. Together, we are keen to continue to build on the success of these new operations and we are actively reviewing multiple opportunities across the Ascona portfolio to roll out more units such as these.”

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Carmarthenshire cheese maker secures Co-op listing

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Caws Cenarth award

A CHEESEMAKER from Carmarthenshire has secured its first listing with the Co-op as part of the retailer’s continued focus on local and community sourcing.

Family-owned Caws Cenarth, which has cheese making in the family dating back to 1903, will now see two of its cheeses listed in more than 20 Co-op stores across the region.

Made on farm in Glyneithinog, Caws Cenarth will supply Co-op with its Organic Caerffili – which has a light and lemony taste with hints of sea salt – and, one of its best known cheeses the Organic Perl Las Mini – which is described as a blue cheese, golden in colour, with a creamy, gently salty taste that grows stronger with maturity.

Carwyn Adams, whose parents rekindled the family tradition for cheese making in 1987 with the creation of Caws Cenarth, said: “We are absolutely thrilled. I shop in our local Co-op and regularly thought how nice it would be to see our cheese on the shelf and, now that is to become a reality. Working with Co-op will support our business development, and raise awareness of our cheeses, not only across the region, but also further afield as visitors to the area often look for local produce to take back home with them as gifts or to remind them of their stay in the area.”

Jo Wadsworth, Co-op’s Community Buying Manager, said: “We are delighted to welcome Caws Cenarth onto our shelves. We know that our Members and customers value the quality and provenance of locally produced food and drink and, here at the Co-op we are focussed on supporting local suppliers as part of our commitment to creating value and making a difference in our local communities.”

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The 10 powerful stain removers you already have in your kitchen

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DID you know that you can remove grass stains with bicarbonate of soda, and that milk can work wonders with juice and ink stains? 

If your fabric has a tannin stain, don’t use soap on it – and if you have protein stains such as milk or egg, then cold water and soap are the answer.

These tips and many more are included in a new, free e-book from natural cleaning product company ALLAVARE. 

The company’s founder Ed Willes has put together his definitive cleaning guide which will enable you to save money and protect the environment while removing stains with ease.

ALLAVARE makes all its products at its headquarters in rural West Wales and sells them via its website and in selected shops across the UK. The business has its roots in a book of “cleaning remedies” created in the last century by housemaid Bette Smith. 

Bette grew up in London and went into service in 1922 at the age of 14. Starting out in Belgravia, she went on to clean in some of the UK’s most prestigious houses. She made her own cleaning products following formulas passed on by her mother, and collected them together in a book.

Bette became good friends with Ed’s mum Vanessa Willes and the secret formulas in “Bette’s Book” were first produced commercially by Vanessa’s company, Mangle & Wringer. 

Now, having moved from the Cotswolds to a farm in Llandeilo, Vanessa has handed Bette’s Book and the company to Ed, who has rebranded it as ALLAVARE (from the Latin “to wash”) and launched an extended range of products based on Bette’s cleaning remedies.

All ALLAVARE’s products are sustainable and contain no harsh chemicals, petrochemical ingredients, fillers, artificial fragrances or dyes. They rely on simple, natural ingredients such as lemon juice, vinegar and coconut oil. With an eye for recycling, they come in metal tins and refillable glass bottles.

Now, by sharing many of Bette’s secrets in an e-book, Ed hopes to help his customers get even more out of natural cleaning.

Ed Willes said: “We believe in helping our customers save money and protect the environment, so I decided to share many of the secrets from Bette’s Book with your customers for free. Her cleaning ‘remedies’ as she called them are simple and effective, and more people should have the chance to share in this knowledge. The e-book outlines the key types of stain and how to tackle them using ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen cupboard – and it includes recipes for cleaning scrubs and sprays, loo cleaner, floor cleaner and more.”

To download the full e-book head here: https://allavare.co.uk/pages/natural-cleaning-guide-ebook

10 natural stain removers and how to use them

Bicarbonate of soda

Use for: mud, grass and perspiration

A fantastic natural stain remover. It is safe and non-toxic and works on most surfaces to clean and deodorise them. In the laundry it can be added to hand washed items to help break down protein stains. As a stain remover, make into a paste with a little water and leave on for 30 – 60 minutes.

Cornflour

Use for: grease stains

Sprinkle onto fabric and rub gently. Leave for 30 – 60 minutes and brush off. Launder as normal.

Glycerine

Use for: tannin stains

Mix glycerine 50:50 with water and work into the back of the stain. Leave for 30 minutes. Launder as normal.

Milk

Use for: juice stains and washable inks

The original enzyme cleaner.

Lemon juice

Use as a: mild bleach

Apply directly to the stain and leave to dry. This is particularly effective on white fabrics and if left in the sun works doubly fast. On coloured fabrics a colour test is recommended.

Eucalyptus oil

Use for: grease stains, oil and tar

A naturally distilled oil. Add a few drops directly to the stain and leave for 10-15 minutes. Rub gently for thick tar stains. Air dry and repeat if the stain isn’t completely removed.

Soda water

Use for: tannin stains

Great remedy for coffee, tea, wine and other tannin stains.

Soap

Use for: grease stains

Great for collars and cuffs where it can be rubbed on prior to washing in hot water. Never use soap on tannin stains.

Washing up liquid

Use for: grease stains

It should preferably be a colourless, biodegradable, plant based detergent, which is fragrance free. Apply directly and agitate the fabric. Rinse in hot water.

White vinegar

Use as: a mild bleach

Perfect for use on urine stains as a deodoriser, mud and grass. Soak for 1 – 2 hours. On coloured fabric a colour test is recommended.

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