Lunchtime news Monday 26 November 2014

The average household debt, including mortgages, has doubled in the past seven years to £33,000. PricewaterhouseCoopers said a rising number of applications for loans, credit cards and overdrafts are being turned down, and debts are likely to increase further during the next 12 months when 1.4 million people come off cheap fixed mortgage rates, adding an average of £140 to monthly bills. Consumer debt in Britain stands at £1.3 trillion, and mortgage payments as a percentage of income are now at a five-year high, taking up 17.7 per cent of income.

At the same time, house prices are now falling at the fastest rate since July 2005 and the number of new buyers entering the market is also down, according to Hometrack figures for November. Hometrack said that the ‘media focus on the fallout from the credit squeeze, along with relatively high interest rates, is resulting in widespread caution among homeowners, the majority of whom do not need to move and who are sitting back until the outlook clears’. Houses are taking eight weeks on average to sell, up from 6.9 weeks a month ago, while the number of new buyers is down 9.1 per cent in a month.

The commercial property market is potentially facing its worst year since the crash of the early 1990s, according to the world’s biggest property consultant, CB Richard Ellis. It predicts that returns will plunge to almost zero, down from 18.1 per cent last year, following a correction which wiped an estimated £14 billion of the value of the £350 billion investment market.

The Confederation of Business Industry says Britain is certain to miss its 2020 target to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. However the CBI is optimistic that the country will meet its 2050 target, and estimates that the cost to every household only be just £100. The report recommends increased spending on research and development, targeting energy efficiency and low-carbon technology, limiting car emissions, increasing nuclear technology and expanding the EU’s carbon trading scheme.

Data from Communities and Local Government has shown that four square miles of green belt land has bee lost to development each year since 1997, totalling an area the size of central London. The land includes areas owned by the Crown Estates, Oxford University, BP and Thames Water. A spokesperson from the Campaign to Protect Rural Egnald said the figures were much higher than thought: ‘For many of us, that countryside is getting further and further away as the green belt gets constantly nibbled at.’