The Problem with Plastic

According to The Independent “Humans have produced about 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic since 1950”.Researchers writing in the journal , Science Advances ,warned that if current trends continued some 12 billion tonnes of plastic waste would be in landfill sites or the natural environment by 2050.

Campaign groups suggest that the average person throws away the equivalent of 1,212 Coca Cola bottles or 4,600 plastic forks each year. Scientists from a number of Universities in a paper published in Science Advances state that “The growth of plastics production in the past 65 years has substantially outpaced any other manufactured material”.

“The same properties that make plastics so versatile in innumerable applications – durability and resistance to degradation-make these materials difficult or impossible for nature to assimilate.”

“Thus , without a well-designed and tailor- made management strategy for end-of-life plastics, humans are conducting a singular uncontrolled experiment on a global scale, in which billions of metric tons of material will accumulate across all major terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems on the planet.”

In October 2014 shops in Scotland began charging 5p for single-use plastic carrier bags. In the first year the number of plastic bags handed out in stores was slashed by 80%- the equivalent of 650million carriers. Scottish government research concludes that a reduction of 650 million bags means a net saving of more than 4000 tonnes of plastic and other materials each year.

MPs are now considering a 25p latte levy on disposable coffee cups to reduce waste. Apparently the UK throws away 2.5 billion paper cups every year with less than 1% being recycled. The rest are incinerated or buried in landfill sites because they have an inner-lining made of plastic which paper mills struggle to remove.  The Environment Audit Committee is calling on the Government to introduce a minimum 25p charge on disposable coffee cups to cut waste in the same way as the plastic bag levy.  It seems that MPs are open to the idea but want to ensure that any levy would trigger a change in behaviour not merely an increase in price.

In our office we do our best to recycle as much as possible but these figures suggest we should be doing considerably more to protect our environment.

Value of Privately Owned Housing Stock Reaches New High

New research by Halifax has revealed that the total value of privately owned UK housing stock has surpassed £6 trillion for the first time.

Since 2007 the total value of private residential property in the UK has grown by £1.94 trillion (or 48%) to an estimated £6.02 trillion. The average value per household in the UK now stands at £256,912, up from £187,310 in 2007, representing an increase of close to £70,000 (37%)

This increase has been driven by a 45% rise in the average house price and the stock of privately owned homes expanding by 1.9 million from 21.5 million to 23.4 million.

Net housing wealth peaks as homeowners reach retirement age, with 40% of wealth in households with owners aged over 65. Three in five (61%) of homeowners in this age bracket are mortgage free. Almost a quarter of total household wealth is held by householders in the age group from 55-64. 47% of those aged 25-45 have a mortgage and account for 15.4% of total housing wealth. Just 0.1% net housing wealth is held by those aged 16-24.

I have been a residential conveyancing practitioner for over 24 years and I would be delighted to advise you on buying and selling property. If I can help please contact me Alison Gourley on 0141 552 3422 or by email ajg@mitchells-roberton.co.uk

Christmas Closing

Please note that our office will be closed from 5pm on Friday 22 December until 9am on Wednesday 3 January.

If you require urgent assistance, an emergency out of hours number 0141 552 3422 will be in operation between 9am-5pm, Wednesday 27 December to Friday 29 December.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Email Downtime from 2:30pm, Tuesday 18th September

Please note that from 2:30pm on Tuesday 19th September, we are anticipating a disruption to our email service due to planned maintenance works by our Internet Service Provider. The downtime may be up to four hours and any messages sent to us during this time will be delayed. If you need to contact us urgently, please call our switchboard on 0141 552 3422. We apologize for any convenience this may cause.

Parkers Take Note

I was chatting to someone the other day who said they had received a parking ticket for parking their van in a Morrison’s car park for four hour. The gentleman said he was just going to throw it away because it was unenforceable.

With my solicitor’s hat on I told him that this unfortunately was a common myth and that recently motorist ,Carly Mackie, received the largest ever parking fine in Britain amounting to £24,500. Ms Mackie had been issued with multiple parking charges by Vehicle Control Services Limited who were employed by the factors of her parents’ housing estate to provide a parking scheme. In the estate there were visible signs , eight in all,  advising that a permit was required to park in the area and the consequences of a fine if the terms and conditions were breached.

Despite this Ms Mackie parked her car outside her mother’s home and ignored the almost daily parking charge notices on her windscreen. She wrongly believed she was entitled to park her mini without a permit within the private parking area and that the tickets were unenforceable. Ms Mackie had been offered a parking permit but declined on principle.

However the private firm Vehicle Control Services Limited took her to court last year when she had racked up an £18,500 bill for ignoring more than 200 penalty notices. The action raised at Dundee Sheriff Court was defended by Ms Mackie on the basis that Vehicle Control Services Limited had no right to issue the parking charges and therefore she was under no obligation to pay them.

Generally speaking the public accepts that Local Authorities are able to issue parking tickets known as a fixed penalty. But car parking operators are able to issue parking charges for private car parks provided they display signs in the parking area setting out the terms and conditions of use.  If a motorist parks a car within a private parking area  which has clear signage setting out terms and conditions of using the car park then the driver is taken to have accepted the terms and has entered into a contract which if breached can lead to charges being applied.

In a written judgement of the case Sheriff George Way said Ms Mackie had “entirely misdirected herself on both the law and the contractual chain in this case” and ordered her to pay £24,500.

So be warned!

Dementia and the World of the Arts

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I recently read a very moving and interesting article in The Observer of 16/7/2017 by Nicci Gerrard called “Say it with a picture or a song”. It resonated with me for certain  reasons, primarily because of the work we do here with adults with incapacity and our involvement with Project Ability Glasgow, an art project creating opportunities for people with disabilities and mental health issues.

As Nicci Gerrard explains “A few weeks ago turning on the radio, I hear a voice saying that creative writing can help wounds heal faster. Startled I turn the volume up. Volunteers were given small wounds; half were then asked to write about something distressing in their life, the other half about something mundane. The wounds of the confessional writers healed substantially more quickly. A thought or a feeling is felt on the skin. Our minds, which have the power over our bodies, are in our bodies and are our bodies: we cannot separate the two. Words, self expression, can tangibly help pain and suffering. Art can be medicine for body and soul”- potent words indeed.

An all party parliamentary group inquiry into the arts, health and well being has been gathering evidence over the last two years and has come to the unambiguous conclusion that the arts used appropriately by health professionals can help with some major social challenges of an aging population, long-term illness, loneliness and mental health ,saving money in the health service. As Lord Howarth of Newport co-chair of the all party group said “The arts have a vital role to play for people with dementia. Research demonstrates that visual arts, music, dance, digital creativity and other cultural activities can help to delay the onset of dementia and diminish its severity. This not only makes a huge difference to many individuals but also leads to cost savings. If the onset of Alzheimer’s disease ( which accounts for 62% of dementias) could be delayed by five years, savings between 2020 and 2035 are estimated at £100bn. Those are powerful statistics, but this isn’t just about money; the arts can play a powerful role in improving the quality of life for people with dementia and for their carers”.

There are projects the length and breadth of the country in theatres, galleries, community centres hospitals and care homes. As Nicci Gerrard describes” I attended one of the monthly sessions at the Royal Academy in London where people who have been art- lovers through their life- and are art-lovers still come to talk about a particular work, led by two practicing artists. We sat in front of an enigmatic painting by John Singer Sargent and there was an air of calmness, patience and above all time and there were no wrong opinions. There are many ways of seeing. People with dementia are continually contradicted and corrected, their versions of reality denied: it’s Sunday not Friday; you’ve already eaten your breakfast; I’m your wife not your mother; anyway you are old and she is dead….In this humanising democratic space, people were encouraged to see, feel, remember and express themselves. Slowly at first they began to talk. There was a sense of language returning and of thoughts feeding off each other. They were listened to with respect and were validated.”

Nicci Gerrard also mentions in her article the film “Alive Inside”. It is a documentary which follows social worker Dan Cohen founder of the non-profit making organisation Music & Memory as he fights against a broken health care system to demonstrate music’s ability to combat memory loss and restore a deep sense of self to those suffering from it. Nicci Gerrard points to an emotive example “an old man with advanced dementia sits slumped in a wheelchair. He drools; his eyes are half closed and it’s impossible to know if he is asleep or awake. A few times a day, soft food is pushed into his mouth. Then someone puts earphones on his head and suddenly the music that he loved when he was a strong young man is pouring into him. His eyes open and knowledge comes into them. His toothless mouth splits into a beatific grin. And now he is dancing in his chair, swaying. And then this man –who doesn’t speak any longer –is actually singing. The music has reached him, found him, gladdened him and brought him back to life.”  The arts creating a miracle of which there should be more as we realise the wonderful benefits of the artistic world.

To find out more about Project Ability, please visit http://www.project-ability.co.uk/

The First Digital Memorial Garden in Scotland

The first digital-led memorial garden is to open in Saline in Fife after Landsales Direct, a Scottish company won planning permission. The garden will feature small plots of ground in which purchasers can place mementoes of loved ones. However the plots will not be marked out with any visible signs and can only be located using digital technology on smart phones. John MacCallum of JM Planning Services, who is the planning agent representing Landsales Direct said “ The means of people locating the time capsule for their loved one will be through digital technology so they will be able to access it using a QR code.”

The idea of a historic cache of goods or information placed with the intention that they will be accessed at a future date by using a QR code seems somewhat at variance. It is widely debated when time capsules were first used but current evidence suggests they were used as early as 1876 but may be prior to that. In 2014 a Revolutionary-era time capsule was found at the Massachusetts State House dating back to 1795. And now in the digitally- led new memorial garden  items will be interred  along with a buried microchip and a “life story” website  about the deceased person can be triggered  on their phone using a QR code.

So what is a QR code? It is a Quick Response Code which is a type of two-dimensional barcode that can be read using smart phones and dedicated QR reading devices. Whilst a standard barcode stores up to 30 numbers a QR barcode can store up to a massive 7,089!

It is not clear how the memorial garden space will be allocated nor how the owners of the garden will package the various elements such as QR codes but what it does do is pose questions about ownership of digital assets after death. As most of us use some aspect of online shopping, banking or social media it can cause difficulties for executors to deal with your online assets after your death if you do not leave up- to – date information. This has to be balanced of course with the need to maintain security over passwords.

This first digital-led memorial garden I am sure will not be the last and there is little doubt that people should now be thinking about how their digital assets are dealt with when they are gone. If I can help in any way or you would wish to have more information please contact me Marcus Downie by email on marcus@mitchells-roberton.co.uk  or by phoning 0141 552 3422.