It may be an apocryphal tale, but in the days of the Empire it is said that many passengers embarking for the tropics were persuaded to buy small packages labelled "Insect Destroyer", and further labelled with the instructions "do not open until required". When the packages were finally opened, it was discovered that they contained only two small blocks of wood and the instructions "Place the insect on one block and strike sharply with the other".

In these days of Consumer Protection and Trading Standards it might be hoped that this type of con is very much a thing of the past, but according to a report from the Electrical Safety Council, it is still very much with us. The latest manifestation is a range of "plug-in energy savers", normally sold over the internet or at car boot sales.

These devices claim to save money on electricity bills by doing some kind of "conditioning" to the supply which makes appliances run more efficiently. This is nonsense. The Electrical Safety Council tested four different models, all of which actually increased power consumption rather than reducing it.

More worryingly, all the devices tested failed to meet basic product standards. In all cases the pin dimensions were not correct. This means that the device would be a loose fit in the socket-outlet, which would cause arcing and overheating. All the devices tested were also of poor internal construction, making them a fire hazard. Several of them were CE marked, but the poor quality of construction would suggest that these marks were almost certainly forgeries. 

There have been reports that these devices are also being sold over the phone. Many elderly people have been targeted by telephone sales calls purporting to originate with one of more of the energy suppliers. Often the caller has the persons' name and address, and on some occasions even part of their credit card number. These calls are bogus and originate overseas, many from a holding company in the USA.

If you should be offered one of these devices, Action Fraud (www.actionfraud.police.uk) would like to know. You can also contact them on 0300 123 2040.

- Mark Jenkins

An artist's impression of the new project

 

Plans for a new 800-home waterfront community in Cardiff Bay were given the go-ahead earlier this year, with the construction work set to begin later this year.

While the city has seen many large scale development projects over the last several years, including the International Sports Village in the Bay and the St David's 2 shopping centre in the city centre, this £250 million project - named Cardiff Pointe, will be one of the biggest developments to the city in recent years.

The project, considered to be "the missing piece in the International Sports Village (ISV) jigsaw", is made up of four linked applications to build a total of 798 homes on vacant land off of Ferry Road, Watkiss Way and Empire Way. The building work will be done in six phases, with the earliest construction focusing on town houses and maisonettes.

The largest scheme is for 561 homes, including 392 apartments and 169 houses, on the peninsular of land between Cardiff Bay Yacht Club and the International Swimming Pool. Later phases will include 18 five-badroom waterside "executive" houses and two landmark towers which will cantilever over the water. At the foot of the towers will be shops and community facilities, with the local health board already indicating that it would interested in opening a "satellite surgery".

The second site, which is currently used as a temporary car park for the swimming pool, will see 79 homes built - including 43 apartments and 36 houses. The third application is for 63 apartments on land behind the Morrisons supermarket on Ferry Road, while the fourth is for 95 apartments on land off of Watkiss Way. These will be a mixture of private and social housing.

Committee chairman councillor Michael Michael said: "Overall I welcome this scheme - hopefully it's a sign that the city is moving forward."

(Full Story and picture source)

Last week saw George Osborne announce his fourth annual Budget to the British public, and it didn't look good for green energy policy. The Chancellor's shunning of renewable energy methods in favour of "low cost energy sources" such as shale gas has sparked outrage from a number of environment-friendly movements, particularly the Green Party and Greenpeace.

Speaking on Twitter, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas noted that "not a single word" was made concerning renewable energy in the Budget. In a longer statement made for the party's website, she went on further to say:

"With the UK's green economy now worth over £120bn - 9% of GDP - providing nearly a million jobs and generating a third of our most recent economic growth according to the CBI, it is completely inexplicable that George Osborne keeps pretending it doesn't exist."

In contrast to this, the Chancellor said that "creating a low-carbon economy should be done in a way that creates jobs - not costs them", yet didn't specify exactly how this should be achieved. Instead he continued to encourage the development of shale gas in the UK, stating that the government would set up a tax allowance for fracking companies developing gas fields. Shale gas is already notably controversial due to its extraction method - it involves pumping water, sand and chemicals into deep wells at high pressure, creating fissures in shale rock releasing the trapped gas.

This tax incentive also came under fire from Lucas, who considered it "outrageous that the Government is willing to gift more tax breaks to companies drilling for hard to reach shale". She continued by calling the whole thing a "costly gamble that risks keeping the UK addicted to polluting fossil fuels at precisely the time we should be leaving them in the ground". Greenpeace campaigner Lawrence Carter added: "Bungs to the gas industry make it harder for Britain to meet its climate targets and stifle the low-carbon sector, which provided one-third of all UK growth in 2011-12."

Despite all the evidence, it seems shocking that such a strong and fast-growing sector in Britain has been forgotten.

Full story: Support for Housebuilding should be chancellor's priority says CBI

It was roughly three years ago when the Government announced there was a considerable sum of money that was to be used for social housing building programmes. At the time of the announcement I was uplifted to think that the prospect could bring about an end to the recession. And being a country that isn't known for production, the only way we can produce a financial economy that breaks a recession is by a large scale house building programme.

With all the products used to build homes and all the new products that go into them, the wages earned by the construction workers goes back into the economy. Throughout my career on the tools, I was fortunate to go through two bad recessions - one in the late 80s and then another in the 90s, both of which I was constantly working within the M25 area doing new build work. I personally feel that, and the CBI agree, our most instant way to relieve this recession is to undertake a 50,000 new build affordable home project. If the Government had started their own social housing programme back then, things wouldn't have turned out the way they are today.

- Mark Lewis

Today at Access Training we are celebrating World Plumbing Day not only across our plumbing courses, but also what it means to become a plumber and the importance it has.

In the UK it's quite easy to take for granted the benefit of having safe drinking water and functioning sanitation systems. However many countries do not have this luxury, and following the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake and 2011 Japan tsunami (which happened 2 years ago today) it has become clear just how far the advancement in plumbing has come over the years and the devastation it can cause when it is taken away.

World Plumbing Day is an event initiated by the World Plumbing Council to be held on March 11th every year, celebrating the role plumbing plays in the health and safety of modern society. According to research, preventable diseases related to water and sanitation claim about 3.1 million lives a year, most of them children under the age of 5. Of these, around 1.6 million die of diseases associated with a lack of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.

By training to become a plumber, you are not only giving yourself a job and skill for life. You are providing a service which mankind has depended on for centuries and is constantly improving not just to make our lives better, but to also improve humanity's impact on the environment. Though its often underappreciated by the general public, plumbers play a huge role in keeping people safe and healthy every day.

There may only be one World Plumbing Day a year, but that doesn't mean we should only appreciate plumbers once a year.

For more information on Access Training's range of plumbing courses, contact us at 0800 345 7492.

TrustMark, the government-endorsed quality mark for tradesmen, have issued guidance for homeowners who are keen to take advantage of new Green Deal upgrades.

The new guidance has been issued amidst fears that an increasing number of Green Deal cowboys are in operation, who are quick to fleece householders for any other work which arises out of the Green Deal work.

The work carried out under the Green Deal is regulated by certain controls which have been put in place. However, as TrustMark chairman Liz Male explains, it is the supplementary work which does not fall under the bracket of the Green Deal which is the route of the problem.

“We want to give the Green Deal every chance of becoming a roaring success, boosting the energy efficiency and comfort of homes across the UK. However, with the oldest housing stock in Europe, we are also well aware that many homes will require essential repair and maintenance work before they are in a position where solid wall insulation, new heating systems and other upgrades can be installed. Much of this work will not be covered by the Green Deal and therefore the consumer protection safeguards we have put in place will not apply. In this instance householders should turn to TrustMark registered tradesmen to complete the work.

“Having lobbied hard for a code of practice, we will not allow the Green Deal to be used by rogue traders as a method of deceiving or conning the public. The guidance we have set out includes clear advice to Green Deal providers that they must ensure any ‘ancillary works’ are completed properly by vetted and insured tradesmen who work under the TrustMark banner”.

The advice being given to householders wishing to be a part of the Green Deal scheme is not to be tempted to ask an installer to carry out any repair work as they are already in your home. You should always insist on using a TrustMark registered tradesmen, even if you are offered the repair, maintenance or improvement work there and then.

The leaflet is free to download at www.trustmark.org.uk/green-deal/.      

The United Kingdom Government is due to announce changes to Part ‘P’. Part ‘P’ was introduced to improve the electrical safety within dwellings and requires some electrical work in dwellings to be pre-notified to building control authorities, or be carried out by members of an electrical competent person scheme. Part P is one of a number of approved documents that accompany the Building Regulations 2000.

The Building Regulations 2000 apply in England and Wales (Scotland and N Ireland have their own building regulations and versions of Part P). However, when the amendment to Part P comes out it will only apply in England.

The Building Regulations were devolved down to the Welsh Assembly in 2012; giving the Assembly the power to change the Building Regulations in Wales, and recent indications from the Assembly indicates there are no immediate plans to change the existing regulations.

So what does this mean for electricians?

If you work on the boarders of England, Scotland and Wales, you no longer have to only deal with the different paperwork and procedures devised by the different building control authorities when notifying work; you will now have different legislation requirements to cope with at the same time. This could end up being a paperwork nightmare, to such an extent that people may ‘forget’ to apply the requirements of Part P!

As Part P was intended to improve the electrical safety in dwellings, any watering down of its requirements could result in a compromise in people’s safety.

Surely the United Kingdom Government should ‘get a grip’ and unite with us a single set of regulations that apply in every area of the kingdom and help electricians to keep people safe in their homes.

Mark Jenkins.

The Green Deal has been launched by the government to help people heat and light their homes more efficiently and affordably. Britain has some of the oldest and most inefficient building stock in Europe and consumers pay a high price for running inefficient buildings. The innovative Green Deal financing mechanism allows householders to have energy efficiency improvements to their homes with little or no initial cash outlay and then to payback the cost of the measures over an extended period.

In the meantime, as well as enjoying improved comfort, householders will be able to reduce the impact of rising energy bills. The Green Deal has been designed to help finance the installation of a broad range of improvements from the insulation, glazing, microgeneration, lighting and heating sectors. The Green Deal’s ‘Golden Rule’ ensures that the savings associated with the measures must always match or exceed the installation costs.

Consumers will also receive advice about how they can save money by simple changes in behaviour. In short, you should save more than you spend. Interested householders will first receive a visit from an impartial, accredited Green Deal adviser, who will carry out a full survey of the home and a study of how the building is used. This information is used to produce a report which defines the measures recommended for each home. This report can be used to obtain quotations from as many Green Deal providers as desired. Once an acceptable quotation has been obtained and an agreement signed then an accredited Green Deal installer will carry out the work. The cost of the measures will be recovered by instalments applied to electricity bills for periods of up to 25 years.

Most of the 45 energy effi ciency improvements that qualify for Green Deal are well within the capability of a competent heating installer. With minimal additional training however, a further range of measures also becomes available. We are confident the majority of heating installers will be more than capable of implementing all such measures in order to take full advantage of the many new business opportunities that Green Deal will undoubtedly create.

Each Green Deal package of individual energy efficiency measures is carefully structured to ensure all measures are eligible for full or partial funding. Green Deal plans will be assembled in different ways depending on individual circumstances.

1. A very small number of Green Deal Plans will include measures that meet the Golden Rule & will receive 100% funding

2. Most arrangements will include a package of Green Deal measures that partially meet the Golden Rule but require additional funding from the improver

3. Green Deal measures for solid wall insulation (ie no cavity wall space) or difficult cavities will receive an ECO contribution to partially support the cost

4. Green Deal Plans for households in the Super Priority Group will receive 100% ECO funding under the Affordable Warmth Scheme.

There are grounds for genuine optimism amongst British tradesmen, as the Japanese engineering giant Hitachi follows up its £700m acquisition of the Horizon nuclear project by expressing its long-term commitment to the UK infrastructure sector.

The construction project is to include the development of two or three 1300MW advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR) plants in two separate locations, Wylfa in Anglesey and Oldbury in Gloucestershire. It is estimated that each of these sites will support between 5,000 and 6,000 construction jobs, with the first of the units operational by 2025.

British businesses are also buoyed by the news, as, based on the experience gained during the development of four ABWR plants in Japan, 60 per cent of the project’s budget will be spent on materials, personnel and services from the local area.

Hitachi also intends to create a legacy of nuclear skills and training in the UK by working with local colleges and universities to introduce training programs and develop a permanent base of nuclear skills in the UK, leading to global demand for their skills.

The Hitachi president Hiroaki Nakanishi, said: “This is the start of a 100-year commitment to the UK and its vision to create a long-term, secure, low-carbon and affordable energy supply. We look forward to sharing Hitachi’s corporate vision and nuclear business with the management and employees of Horizon, working harmoniously with UK companies and stakeholders for the delivery of this vital part of the UK’s national infrastructure and the creation of a strong nuclear power company.

Energy minister John Hayes is hugely encouraged by this deal and the message that the rest of the world will receive, “that Britain’s economy is open and stable and committed to the development of new sources of nuclear energy.”

The project is to be supported by the Office for Nuclear Regulation and Environment Agency, who will work collaboratively with Hitachi to provide certainty that the reactor design will be fit for use in the UK. It is expected this will be a relatively straightforward process, given the approval the design of the reactor has already received from US nuclear authorities. 

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