In our round-up of the weekend newspapers Prescott heads for a clash with the Lords and thatched homes come under threat from the European Commission.
That most English of sights, the thatched cottage, is under threat from European Commission, according to the Observer on Sunday. The paper reports that European rules have banned farmers from buying – or even being given – the seeds needed to grow the long-straw wheat traditionally used to thatch cottages. Shorter varieties of wheat, which are treated with pesticides and chemicals, have higher grain yields, but make an inferior roofing product.
In the Observer’s business pages, there is a report that John Prescott is heading for a clash with the House of Lords when the Housing Bill is debated on Wednesday. Prescott plans to give social housing grants to private developers, which he believes can build homes more cheaply than housing associations, but detractors are worried that private firms will cherry-pick the most profitable developments, leaving housing associations with the most unappealing projects.
This weekend’s Sunday Times heralds a proposed revamp of Oxford Street in London, which it describes as the most important street in London. Developer Ian Henderson reveals his dream of turning the shopping mecca into “Madison Avenue and the Champs Elysees rolled into one”. Henderson’s New West End Company, the consortium that manages Oxford Street, says that visitor numbers are dropping as shoppers head for out-of-town malls.
There is more shopping news elsewhere in the Times, with news that supermarket chains are branching out into property development, building above-store flats in London. The Times says an estimated 3,500 such flats are either being built or planned, with those above Marks and Spencer in Hamsptead being particularly desirable. South of the river, the most active developer in the borough of Lambeth is not a housebuilder, but Tesco.
The Independent on Sunday reports that Ryanair and Easyjet are unhappy about the proposed £3.5 billion expansion of Stansted airport, which airport operator BAA wants to fund by increasing landing charges. The scheme could add £2 to the average ticket price, which the budget airlines say they would have to absorb themselves in order to prevent a drop in business.