Imposing barricade, or poorly manicured hedge? Police in Brussels are covered in hay sprayed from a combine harvester during a protest by EU farmers (Photo: AFP)

 

The 2015 Rugby World Cup kicks off at Twickenham on Friday night with England fans hoping that their team can use home advantage to secure a resounding opening victory against Fiji.  A healthy winning margin will enhance England's claim to be serious a contender for the Webb Ellis trophy.  As expectant fans, the editorial team behind The Weekly are anticipating positive, free-flowing rugby, but not necessarily a "slam-dunk".  This metaphor probably needs to be reserved instead for the All-Blacks Pool C game against relative rugby minnows Namibia - a team that in 2003 was on the wrong end of the largest winning margin in World Cup history.  The Kiwis target margin to beat the record is 142 points and we aren't betting against them!   
  
 Frustrated developers are still waiting to hear whether current office-to-residential permitted development rights (PDR) will be extended.   The relaxed planning rules, which have resulted in a surge of new homes,  are due to expire in May 2016.  However, the expected policy extension has yet to materialise amid opposition from councils concerned about the loss of office stock and its impact on local economies.   An in-depth assessment of PDR’s impact published this week by The British Council for Offices (BCO) and CBRE supports the councils’ arguments that office stock has been depleted on an unprecedented scale.  Indeed the headline findings show that more than 6 million sq ft of office space in England was converted to residential use in 2014 under the prior approval regime - almost double the conversion rate witnessed at the previous peak in 2008.  In London, which has seen the focus of development, it is estimated that as much as 10.4m sq ft of office space could be lost by May 2016 if all current approvals are implemented.  The question for the Government policy makers is whether supplying more homes (in whatever form) remains the over riding priority.  

 The release of Channel 4 reality TV series, "Hunted", this week has already sparked office break-out room debates about whether state surveillance in the UK has gone too far.  For those not up-to-speed with proceedings, Hunted features 14 volunteer "fugitives" who have been tasked with going off-grid and escaping capture for 28 days.  In pursuit, a dedicated task force of professional trackers led by a previous head of counter-terrorism for the City of London.  The show asks whether it is possible for a person to simply disappear in an age when simply withdrawing money from an ATM machine, or using your mobile will give the authorities your exact location and lead (in this case) to inevitable capture.  The answer - one episode in - is that being a successful fugitive is harder than you might think.  And before you rush to sign up for Series 2 thinking it sounds like a nice respite from the drudgery of the school-run or the commute, the makers of the programme have reserved the right to search your home, hack your personal data and even interrogate your family!  Debating the merits of our Big Brother society whilst watching the series unfold from the sofa is likely to be far more comfortable!

For more information please contact tim.burke-murphy@stbridesmanagers.co.uk

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