New Security Systems to Prevent Scams and Fraud on Facebook Marketplace are Essential

Facebook Marketplace can do more to prevent fraud

Facebook Marketplace is meant to be a local ‘neighbour to neighbour’ site. This sales system is created in a similar vein to the local newspaper advertising concept, which has been so popular all over the western world, before online social media existed. (1)

Therefore, commercial sellers i.e. individuals selling multiple expensive items like cars, are not suitable for this platform. It would be easy for Facebook Marketplace to identify an account with numerous expensive and similar items for sale and ‘pause’ any selling activity.

It is a simple business development task to program Facebook Marketplace (or any other online selling platform) to require additional financial verification for certain accounts. This could apply to any commercial sellers or accounts selling multiple products, to further protect ordinary domestic account users who want to trade personal items, in the traditional way.

It is very possible for Facebook Marketplace to delete many thousands of untrustworthy seller’s accounts on their site. Programming extra security code into the process of serving Facebook Marketplace content will help to eradicate a situation whereby an unsuspecting UK resident becomes a victim of ‘phishing’ or some other financial trickery. Phishing is when an honest person gives away their banking details or downloads a virus onto their computer, unintentionally.

Age controls, such as introducing an initial government identity (ID) sign in feature, can automatically check if a user’s age meets the criteria for an online sales platform. This additional security method could be a way of preventing vulnerable young people being victims of fraud unnecessarily.

It would not be difficult to install an initial ID government sign in step. It could be rolled out across the whole selling website and would only take experienced programmers a few days to set up. More official government legal regulation is needed to support parental controls and ensure minors are not able to be unwittingly financially manipulated by scammers online. Age controls are already normal practice for signing into many online organisations in several countries in Europe, such as Denmark.

Facebook Marketplace is owned by Meta and they could afford to introduce an identity checked secure payment system for buyers and sellers to work alongside their e-commerce trading website. They already have a payment system now called Meta Pay (which used to be called Facebook Pay) which also covers payments on Instagram and Messenger (a system within Facebook which is like direct email). Given the current level of scams advertised on the platforms at present, many folks will be understandably hesitant to upload their banking details to Facebook. (2)

Facebook Marketplace can make more systems to prevent scams and fraud

Facebook Marketplace and other online trading platforms such as eBay, Etsy, Folksy, NotOnTheHighStreet, Vinted and Amazon are a big part of retail sales in the UK. Undoubtedly, they are here to stay in our modern cultural life. It is wise to listen and look out in the press for new schemes and scams that can ruin an otherwise modern, fun, efficient and often worthwhile way of shopping in our busy daily lives.

Facebook Marketplace can absolutely afford the time and resources to do more to prevent fraud on their platform now. Politicians need to put pressure on law makers to encourage legislation to ensure there are more security checks on the site to rid Facebook Marketplace of fraudsters and introduce more protection for innocent consumers across the United Kingdom and beyond, who are unwittingly becoming victims of these greedy and wicked scammers.

Rules to prevent digital giants exploiting unfair market advantage when advertising products will help Facebook Marketplace users avoid scams

In November 2023 the Competition and Markets Authority introduced legislative guidelines to ensure that “Meta will no longer be able to use certain data obtained from competing businesses that advertise on its platforms to gain an unfair advantage.” This means that Meta cannot use marketing data obtained from businesses using its advertising services. This is important as the CMA states that Meta has 10 million advertisers, with a revenue estimated at £4-5 billion in 2021. (3)

Amazon and Meta have both committed to follow the CMA’s monitoring guidelines to ensure competition works effectively in the digital sector across the United Kingdom. (3)

This means that Facebook customers have the option to ‘opt-out’ of Facebook Marketplace using their advertisement interaction data to then automatically show them relevant products and services in the future. This is one easy way that everyone who is concerned about their privacy and security online can limit unwanted business marketing appearing on their feeds and account pages. The ‘Accounts Centre’ in Facebook has an ‘Ad Preferences’ section that gives users to choose to review their settings for receiving information from advertisers across their social media platforms. (4)

The online technology magazine ‘digital trends’ recommends following this process: Click on the dots on the top right-hand side of every unwanted advertisement that pops up on your feed. Select ‘hide all ads from this advertiser’ from the ‘Why am I seeing this ad?’ within the ‘Options’ menu that appears. (5)

We approached Facebook Marketplace for their comments about how they are tackling governing bodies in Western countries are struggling to catch up with the massive changes in the way we work, live, play and shop in the digital age. We expect to see more direction and intervention from governments and their appointed organisations as political leaders strive to balance the power that the Tech Giants have successfully amassed, with the needs of protecting a diverse community.

Online platforms can be tremendous communication engines that can achieve wonderful connections and do good deeds. At the same time society also needs more safeguards in place to guard members or the public from the unsafe disadvantages and pitfalls involved with combining social media, virtual strangers and monetary exchanges.

See our previous article about the potential pitfalls of online trading platforms like Facebook Marketplace, tips to avoid any problems and how Facebook Marketplace Can Do More To Prevent Scams and Fraud on their popular website.

  (1) ‘Discover, buy and sell goods with Facebook Marketplace’ Facebook Marketplace official website, 23 February 2024 (2) ‘Meta Pay’ Help Pages, 23 February 2024 ‘Meta Pay’ Help Pages (3) ‘CMA protects competition by curbing Meta’s use of ad customers’ data, Gov.UK, Competition and Markets Authority, 3 November 2023 ‘CMA protects competition by curbing Meta’s use of ad customers’ data, Gov.UK, Competition and Markets Authority (4) ‘How can we help you?’ Help Centre, 23 February 2024 ‘How can we help you?’ Help Centre (5) ‘How to opt out of targeted ads on Facebook’ Alina Bradford, 11 July 2019 ‘How to opt out of targeted ads on Facebook’ Alina Bradford Ref: A209AHV8

Facebook Marketplace: How Meta Can Do More to Prevent Scams and Fraud.


What is Facebook Marketplace?

Facebook Marketplace is an online trading website where Facebook members can trade new and second-hand items. Facebook Marketplace has “over one billion shoppers per month” according to The Times (1) Facebook Marketplace is owned by Meta Platforms who also own several other social media companies including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

The e-commerce platform “connects sellers and buyers through meaningful interactions and unique goods” say the company who are competing with other established classified advertising sites like eBay and Craigslist. (2)

Keep Facebook Marketplace purchases simple and affordable just in case

If you are new to using Facebook Marketplace or any other online selling platform it is advisable to make relatively small purchases, compared to your overall monthly budget, in order to manage any risk in inadvertently entering into a significantly dodgy deal. If you are selling things you own, it is preferable to meet unknown buyers outside your home, or in a public place.

It is a good idea to arrange to physically try out any object or piece of equipment you intend to buy, to make sure it is good working order. Check it looks exactly as you imagine and performs as you expect it to, before handing out any hard-earned cash. (3)

Users can usually avoid fraudsters by being tech savvy and using common sense

Several of the aforementioned scams are also common on other sites and apps in 2024. It is not just Facebook Marketplace that is affected by fraudsters and thieves. However, the advice is ‘buyer beware’ and check everything out carefully. If something looks too good to be true it probably is.

Taking a friend to personally visit properties advertised online is advisable especially for women (who are twice as likely to be victims of sexual assault in the UK). (4)  It is prudent to avoid spending any money if you are tired or if you have had a drink or two, as online fraud is increasingly sophisticated.

Monitoring young people’s purchases on Facebook Marketplace with a caring oversight is worthwhile. It is also wise to support older folk, who may be easy prey to technologically savvy deceptive actors online, as many seniors did not embrace the digital era until relatively late in their lives.

When shopping online and on Facebook Marketplace using a credit card can offer some protection on faulty items, or in the case of if a purchase is not received as expected. Using PayPal for online purchases can offer extra protection as well as obscuring your banking details as this ‘third party’ payment gateway can get involved to help resolve the issue if there are any problems.

Josh Kirby at The Times Money Mentor suggests that PayPal might be able to refund a payment if the item is not received satisfactorily, especially if the product purchased is described specifically in the ‘Goods and Services’ function of PayPal’s website. (1)

If the worst should happen Facebook Marketplace do offer the facility of reporting any suspected scams in a section called ‘more options’ (see top right once in your account) but it is better to proceed on the side of caution in the first place. Never be rushed into paying for a product as this is a technique often used by those who want to stress innocent internet users into making an expensive mistake online.

Potential Pitfalls of Facebook Marketplace: Financial Scams

Unfortunately, there are also negative aspects to buying on Facebook Marketplace. The Times lists fake payment confirmations, counterfeit currency and rental scams as the top three methods of committing fraud which leads to the financial detriment of genuine Facebook users. (1)

“The drawback is that there isn’t a built-in payment feature, so it’s down to you to arrange payment or meet up in person.” states UK based Which magazine. (5)

Fake payment confirmations can mean a situation where scammers pretend, they have paid you for items that you have given them, when in fact they have not paid at all. They might use fake branded graphic images to convince you that they have paid in full using a well-known payment transfer service, when this is actually a lie.

There are several ‘varieties on a theme’ of delivery scam. A frequent delivery scam can occur when an unexpecting consumer may be duped into paying freight or courier charges, in order to deliver a tempting but fictional advertised purchase (such as a second-hand car) that will then never arrive.

Always check a car’s registration details with an online vehicle history report check, before you commit to anything. See the advice from the UK governments website (link below) on how to ‘buy and sell a vehicle’ in a hassle-free way. (6)

Genuine Facebook users accounts can be hacked in order to provide a legitimate looking profile, to advertise a distrustful seller’s wares. It is smart to be suspicious of any accounts that look like individuals that are currently selling dozens of expensive items, such as automobiles.

We found that there were sellers are selling 40 or more cars that are obviously priced ‘too cheap’ on one individual Facebook Marketplace account. It is an easy fix for Facebook Marketplace’s algorithms to pick up and then flag these dodgy traders, that are posing as legitimate members of the public, as possibly fraudulent offers.

It would take a capable programmer a minute or two (and one or two lines of code) to make a system that marks an account as ‘likely fraudulent’ and suspend the questionable adverts, pending an investigation by a member of Facebook Marketplace staff, to manually check if it actually is a in fact a genuine seller on not.

Facebook Marketplace is designed for members of the public in a community to privately trade with each other in good faith. Therefore, if posts look like a commercial scale showroom, it should send warning signals into the minds of any law-abiding citizen, that they need to proceed with caution.

It is always sensible to follow a selling website’s guidelines. Staying within the apps messaging service (instead of corresponding with direct personal emails) for example is intelligent, as this request can help to flag up warning signs of a rogue seller who is trying to break the rules, for their own illicit monetary gain.

Any sensitive personal information such as contact information can be used to try and obtain credit (or another type of benefit) by untrustworthy sellers. Extra caution when sharing private details is needed when corresponding on Facebook Marketplace or any other website.

Gift card scams involve a residential customer being asked to purchase gift cards to pay for a variety of online items. The untrustworthy sellers ask the buyer to transfer the numeric reference details of one or more genuine voucher plastic store cards. If someone asks to be paid in gift cards, it is a scam!

‘See it to believe it’ and prevent fraud when shopping online

Scammers may turn up at your house or place of work and try to pay for products you have advertised on Facebook Marketplace using fake or counterfeit money. Always check cash carefully. The Bank of England has issued an excellent leaflet that can help anyone easily check that cash notes are definitely issued by the English Bank, using the security features that are pre-designed into each note. (7)

Verifying any accommodation in person is absolutely crucial. This is because rental scams are common on Facebook Marketplace. It is easily misleading when criminals create sophisticated and inviting posts about accommodation that appears available, complete with attractive accompanying images.

Shockingly, often rental properties posted on Facebook Marketplace are just imitations of previously let flats and houses and the fraudsters are just after your deposit transfer.  Any digital payments made in advance will then not be returned, when you then discover the awful truth about the non-existent home.

The UK government has a service called RentProfile that uses Land Registry data to check that landlords actually own property they are renting out, which helps detect rental fraud. (8)

Potential Pitfalls of Facebook Marketplace: Poor Quality or Dangerous Products

Stolen and fake goods and any products that do not meet the Trading Standards requirements can often be sold on Facebook Marketplace and other online marketplaces too. It is particularly important to consider any potential health or safety problems, such as a fire risk, that can be associated with buying items with poor manufacturing quality. The Trading Standards website is a good place to read and obtain more information about consumer rights and this official site has a postcode business checker feature too.  (9) (10)

We approached Facebook Marketplace for their comments about how they are tackling swindling merchants and cheating traders posing as honest citizens. At the time of the publication of this article we have not received a response. See our next article for more details of how New Security Systems to Prevent Scams and Fraud on Facebook Marketplace are Essential

  (1) ‘Seven Facebook marketplace scams to watch out for’ Josh Kirby, Chief Writer, The Times Money Mentor, 12 January 2024 ‘Seven Facebook marketplace scams to watch out for’ Josh Kirby, The Times Money Mentor (2) ‘Discover, buy and sell goods with Facebook Marketplace’ Facebook Marketplace official website, 23 February 2024 ‘Discover, buy and sell goods with Facebook Marketplace’ Facebook Marketplace (3) ‘Buy and sell responsibly on Facebook Marketplace’ Facebook Help Centre, 23 February 2024 ‘Buy and sell responsibly on Facebook Marketplace’ Facebook Help Centre (4) ‘Sexual offences in England and Wales overview: year ending March 2022’ Office for National Statistics, 23 March 2023 ‘Sexual offences in England and Wales overview: year ending March 2022’ Office for National Statistics (5) ‘What are my rights if I buy and sell on Facebook Marketplace?’ Hannah Downes, Which? Online consumer magazine UK, 26 September 2023 ‘What are my rights if I buy and sell on Facebook Marketplace?’ Hannah Downes, Which? (6) ‘Buy, sell or scrap a vehicle’ Gov. UK, UK Government official website, 19 February 2024 Buy, sell or scrap a vehicle’ Gov. UK (7) ‘How to check your banknotes’ Bank of England, PDF online leaflet, 23 February 2024 ‘How to check your banknotes’ Bank of England (8) ‘Landlord checks by RentProfile help prevent rental fraud’ HM Land Registry, 12 January 2017 ‘Landlord checks by RentProfile help prevent rental fraud’ HM Land Registry (9) ‘Online and distance selling’ Gov.UK, Trading Standards UK Government advice, 23 February 2024 ‘Online and distance selling’ Gov.UK, Trading Standards UK Government advice (10) ‘Looking for Consumer Help and Advice?’ Chartered Trading Standards Institute, 23 February 2024 ‘Looking for Consumer Help and Advice?’ Chartered Trading Standards Institute ref: A208AHV20 article ref: HE209AHV5

What are 3D printers and why would you want one in your home?


What are 3D printers?

3D printers are a piece of technological equipment that can print three-dimensional objects. There are several suppliers that manufacture 3D printing products for home use. 3D printers are usually about the size of a traditional 2D paper printer and are designed to sit on top of a table or workbench. Larger printers for commercial use are also common.

Bambu Lab 3D printer printed colour filament 'poop shoot' Photo by A. Howse
Bambu Lab 3D printer printed colour filament ‘poop shoot’
Photo by A. Howse

Which types of 3D printers are available?

Most common type of 3D printers are the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) types. FDM 3D printers extrude filament onto a bed and build the object as layers. Other types of 3D printers are resin and also metal printers.

Resin printers work by using light at specific light frequency (405Nm) to solidify the resin. Resin printers gives the highest quality results but as it is resin, it has some environmental and toxicity considerations so they are generally only chosen if a custom built studio lab area can be specifically designed to overcome these drawbacks.

Metal printers work by using a laser to heat up a metal powder which then solidify. Metal printers are currently very expensive and cost from £400,000 and upwards so are not usually used in a domestic setting.

How do 3D printers know what to print?

Usually, a design is created by a 3D printer user or designer with specialist Computer Aided Design CAD software on their device or PC. One professional software choice is AutoDesk Fusion 360 or Autodesk also make Tinkercad which is a perfect program for beginners to CAD of all ages. (7) (8)

After the design is created it has to be converted into a language that the 3D printer understands. Software for converting the 3D CAD design into the printer language is called a “slicer”. It basically analyses the 3D object and based on the settings of the software, it will convert the 3D model into a script that the 3D printer can process. It is possible to make a specific design from scratch that will suit almost all requirements.

3D Designs that have already been created are often saved to a design library so other 3D printer users can also use them easily, a bit like making a new sewing pattern and then sharing it online.

The new or the carefully selected pre-existing 3D design is then downloaded to the user’s device. Then the 3D design is then uploaded or ‘sent’ to the 3D printer, usually using internet wi-fi, although some printers will conveniently pass on the digital design information using a computer cable or SD card.

Bambu Lab 3D printed angel tree topperPhoto by A. Howse
Bambu Lab 3D printed angel tree topper
Photo by A. Howse

How do 3D printers work?

The printers use filament which is stored on reels rather like storing old fashioned rope or haberdashery trimmings. Arms or rollers move a print head according to digital instructions received by the unit.

Depending on the type of 3D printer, either the base of the unit stays in situ and the guides and rollers move the printer head as required through the x, y and z axis (horizontal, vertical and the perpendicular orthogonal or depth axis) or the print head stays put in the Y axis and the bed is moved by the machine as required.

The string like filament liquifies when heated by the print head and then the extruded material quickly sets into a solid state again where it is immediately cooled by fans on the print head. The item is printed onto a plate or ‘bed’ of the printer at the base of the printer.

The printed object is created by building up many fine horizontal layers much like a traditional ceramic coil pot or a layer cake. Typically, these layers are 0.2mm high. You can change the “layer height” to get either a faster print and a bit less quality or even a lower resolution, which gives a much finer result but the time it takes will increase accordingly.

The latest 3D printers are able to store different coloured reels in a storage rack usually on top of the printer. This enables multi-coloured prints featuring amazing levels of detail, printed text and decoration.

Commonly used filament such as PLA (polylactic acid) and ABS (acrylonitrile styrene) is affordable for beginners and available in an impressive array of hues and finishes from most manufacturers and a whole host of 3D printing accessory suppliers.

Why would you want a 3D printer and who are they for?

3D printers can be used to make things at home for personal use such as personalized presents for loved ones. 3D printers are brilliant for fixing and making new parts for broken appliances and creating useful objects for using around the home. 3D printers are ideal for making holiday decorations and crafting accessories. These modern printers are perfect for both hobbyists and engineers and everyone in between.

The process of 3D printing uses a lot of different skills such as creativity and problem solving as well and technical skills and so 3D printers can be a fun way to provide an educational activity for the whole family. Schools, collages and universities often include 3D printing projects into their teaching programs and developing products for 3D printing can be a practical team activity, that helps to develop soft skills such as communication too.

3D printers are very common in industrial and commercial settings and can come in a variety of sizes, scales and types. Larger printers can print using strong metal alloy materials. 3D printers can produce moulds which then can be used to make a range of different products for domestic and commercial use.

Small business owners who are proficient in 3D printing often develop a niche product range of 3D printed products which they can sell online via their own websites and also on larger sites such as eBay or Etsy. Some creatives make things to sell which then can help pay for adding to their studio and updating their range of printers over time.

3D printing is not considered an expensive activity for the hours of fun that can be had creating an unlimited possibility of items, a roll of 3D printer filament is typically 10 Pounds and upwards for 1 Kg. Second hand printers start at around £50 on sites like eBay and the latest 3D printers can be £100 upwards.

However cheaper 3D printers have a tendency to require a lot of tinkering and therefore a lot of time is spent on getting the desired quality of prints. Quality printers usually cost from £400 and upwards. Buying cheap usually means a lot of time (and filament!) is wasted so opting for an inexpensive printer at the start of a new 3D printing hobby is usually a false economy.

One advantage of this type of machine is that many accessories can be printed by the printer itself. Usually there are several clever people who have already created free designs for the most useful printer accessories to help any printer run smoothly and efficiently.

Second hand 'home assembled' 3D printer more than 5 years old.Photo by A. Howse
Second hand ‘home assembled’ 3D printer more than 5 years old.
Photo by A. Howse

What 3D printer to choose for home use in the UK?

The AnkerMake website helpfully suggests considering the following aspects when choosing to buy a 3D printer for general use:

Define your needs, (identify) price range, (determine) build volume, (evaluate) print quality required and (assess) filament compatibility.

Many of the latest 3D printers are available ready to assemble like a piece of Ikea furniture or alternatively they can be pre-built and ready to ‘plug and play’ upon delivery. It is cheaper to build the 3D printer yourself, although, if you are new to this type of printer, it would definitely be worth asking a more experienced friend or professional to help guide you. This ensures you can get up and running without any off-putting teething problems. YouTube is also a good source for information and guides on 3D printing subjects.

The teams’ recommendation is the Bambu Lab X1-Carbon Combo 3D Printer!

It is wonderful to have a filament station on top of this marvelous enclosed printer which gives the option to enjoy multi-colour prints with filament all neatly organized and ready to go in a specially designed printer station which sits on top of the smart looking silver 3printer cabinet.

“Bambu Lab builds state-of-the-art 3D printers that break the barriers between the digital and physical worlds, bringing creativity to a whole new level. Right now, we have three sites located at Shenzhen and Shanghai in China and Austin, Texas of U.S.” states the Bambu Lab website. (6)

The Bambu Lab X1-Carbon Combo 3D Printer won Time magazine’s ‘Best Inventions award for 2022 and we can see why. A ‘game changer’ for domestic or community 3D printing, this unit enables a fuss free system that works ‘out of the box’ and minimizes all the troubleshooting, fussing and tinkering often associated with the first generations of 3D printers for home use. (4)

The Bambu Lab X1-Carbon Combo 3D Printer is not a cheap edition to a home technology collection at around £1300 each. However, the fast and excellent quality colour printing, generally good looks and easy to use interface will enable you to enjoy and explore a world of useful and joyful pieces that can be quickly manufactured to fix and develop household items and create leisure equipment or entertain and amaze your friends.

“Bambu Lab is a consumer tech company focusing on desktop 3D printers. Starting with the X1 series, Bambu Lab builds state-of-the-art 3D printers that break the barriers between the digital and physical worlds, bringing creativity to a whole new level.” (4)

The Bambu Lab 3D printer is also surprisingly quiet and fits in a home interior without any problems. You can also watch what the printer is currently doing on your phone, tablet or PC via an Bambu app interface which allows you to direct the printer’s activities from wherever you are.

Tony Hoffman at PC Magazine independently reviewed the Original Prusa i3MK3S Plus as the best 3D printer for 2024 in his opinion. The Original Prusa i3 MK3S plus is an open framed 3D printer that comes with a user manual and is highly rated for quality with its only disadvantage being the relatively small print bed size for the price of around £800.  (1)

AnkerMake manufacture 3D printers and as well as their own products they recommend Elegoo Neptune 3 Pro printer as a great choice for a quiet printer with a large printing bed size for the option of making larger pieces. (5)

What is the future of 3D printing?

To see the latest in what the 3D printing industry has developed attend the TCT 3Sixty 2024 which is promoted as the UK’s definitive industrial 3D printing and Additive Manufacturing event at the NEC in Birmingham on the 5-6th June this year. There are several inspiring talks arranged by the organisers to showcase what major companies are doing with 3D printing technology in the UK this year. (3)

Although PLA is an inert type of plastic filament and is often used for children’s toys, there are concerns about how environmentally friendly the industry is, when producing fresh items using any 3D printer system (rather than printing pieces to mend existing products we already use.)

BambuLab write that they are passionate about the “commitment to creating the next generation of eco-friendly 3D printers – pushing the industry forward toward a future with a much lower carbon-footprint.

3D printers can save energy and therefore carbon emissions by producing prints at home that meet the needs of a consumer without the need for taking a car out for a shopping trip for example.

3D printed healthcare'Scouts Do Things' post July 2020
3D printed healthcare
‘Scouts Do Things’ post July 2020

Over the last decade there have been many medical uses developed for 3D printers. It has been amazing to find out about the custom-made prosthetics and other medical and health support accessories, that can really help people of all ages live better lives. 3D printers were used during the covid19 lockdowns to help make protective visors and more for healthcare workers.

Many wearable technology health gadgets are made using 3D printing techniques and we predict that personalized wearable art and custom-made accessories will continue to expand into all our lives in the future.

Many talented designers have harnessed the power of colour 3D printing to create stunning figures, jewellery, sculptures and home accessories. Some 3D printed products also use other technologies such as ‘raspberry pie’ mini computers and LED lighting to explore what is possible to build using this medium.

We predict that this trend will continue to gain momentum as a generation of young people who have had access to these exciting machines within their educational experience continue to create innovative products and companies. One design limitation for producing 3D printed treasures at home is the size of the print be and the cabinet height of the printer.

Recently some advanced makers have found ways of making expanding forms (like a popular 1980’s classic toy: the slinky) interlocking sections and even weaving fabric squares that can be connected to form larger surfaces or larger objects in the same way that the famous Lego brand bricks can be used in multiple ways to form an endless number of things. So perhaps the only real limitation of using 3D printers in the future is your own imagination.

(1) ‘The Best 3D Printers for 2024’ Tony Hoffman, PC Magazine UK, 31 January 2024 ‘The Best 3D Printers for 2024’ Tony Hoffman, PC Magazine UK (2) Original Prusa i3 MK3S plus, Prusa Research by Josef Prusa, 1 February 2024 (2) Original Prusa i3 MK3S plus, Prusa Research by Josef Prusa (3) TCT 3Sixty 2024: Registration now open for UK’s definitive industrial 3D printing and AM event’, TCT Magazine, 14 December 2023 TCT 3Sixty 2024: Registration now open for UK’s definitive industrial 3D printing and AM event’, TCT Magazine (4) Bambu Lab X1-Carbon Combo 3D Printer, Bambu Lab website, 8 February 2024 Bambu Lab X1-Carbon Combo 3D Printer, Bambu Lab website (5) ‘The 10 Best Budget 3D Printers for 2023: Affordable Excellence’ AnkerMake Official website, 1 February 2024 ‘The 10 Best Budget 3D Printers for 2023: Affordable Excellence’ AnkerMake Official website (6) ‘Bambu Lab’ About Us, official website, 8 February 2024 ‘Bambu Lab’ About Us, official website (7) ‘Can Fusion 360 create a model for 3D printing?’ Autodesk official website, 8 February 2024 ‘Can Fusion 360 create a model for 3D printing?’ Autodesk official website (8) ‘All you need is a ‘what if…’ Autodesk Tinkercad official website, 8 February 2024 ‘All you need is a ‘what if…’ Autodesk Tinkercad official website

Is Reaching NetZero for Heating the UK’s Homes an Unlikely Pipe-Dream Vision?

What grants and energy efficiency help schemes are available in 2024 in the UK?

Although Rishi Sunak’s government are intentionally working towards NetZero policies, unless you are on a very low income and/or receiving benefits there is currently no simple government help to upgrade insulation and heating systems in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

UK citizens need to be homeowners or tenants who have prior permission from their landlords (or landladies) in order to make physical changes to their properties. Installing any new environmentally friendly systems or insulating upgrades that minimise bills and make energy efficiency improvements to their homes, requires consent from the homeowner.

However, across the British Isles, individual bill payers are often eligible for benefit and grant payments or discounts directly from their energy suppliers as appropriate to each type of scheme, as we will outline further below.

The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) is a government energy efficiency scheme in England, Scotland and Wales designed to tackle fuel poverty and help reduce carbon emissions. This is focused on low-income households. (1)

The Local Authority Delivery (LAD) provides funding for energy efficiency upgrades and low-carbon heating in low-income households in England in some areas who are receiving funding from central government. (1)

UK government energy support grants for older people

However, if you live on your own and are aged over 67 (born before 1957) there is a winter fuel payment of £500 or £600 that is not income related in terms of assessment. (2)

Older couples or people who live with older people in the UK need to check their specific payment eligibility with their local councils as they may be eligible for a few hundred pounds one off payment towards their heating bills this winter. (2)

Local councils have budgets for emergency financial support under the local welfare assistance scheme for people who experience a short-term crisis. This welfare scheme could include repairing or replacing a sudden broken boiler in a house with vulnerable people, who are without any savings, for example. (3)

Cost of living and energy support payments for people receiving means-tested benefits and/or disability benefits

For those on qualifying low-income benefits there are additional winter fuel ‘cost-of-living’ benefit payments that are automatically paid to households that are already receiving regular benefits. These payments are up to £900 in total and often made in 3 payments. (3)

Standard energy credit meter customers on pension credit and certain other benefits like universal credit will be eligible to receive £150 towards their bills from their supplier, which may be in the form of pre-payment top up vouchers. (2)(3)

Home upgrade grants (HUGs)

Off-grid properties in certain postcodes are eligible for grants towards upgrading their EPC certificates, if they are currently less than a band C (e.g. D to G.) This could include help towards insulation and energy efficient heating systems such as heat pumps. Qualifying depends on certain postcodes and not all councils are offering this grant at the moment, so homeowners will need to enquire with their local councils. (4)

More information about who is eligible to receive winter fuel payments and grants and benefits to help pay winter energy bills and payments are available at the Citizens Advice service website and also the Age UK website.  (1) (2)

The CAB is open every week day in most towns in the UK and the organisation can help with financial advice and help with advice about managing bills and any legal matters, as well as finding out if you and your family is eligible for any government scheme help. The CAB also has a telephone consumer helpline (see below) (1)

Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)

‘The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) enables small-scale generators to receive payments from electricity suppliers for electricity which they export back to the National Grid, providing certain criteria are met.’ (5)

Examples of low-carbon technology system types that may enable UK residents to benefit from SEG payments include: Solar photovoltaic (solar PV) wind, micro combines heat and power (micro-CHP) hydro, anaerobic digestion (5)

These alternative energy system installations must be located in Great Britain and have a total installed capacity (TIC) of no more than 5MW, or no more than 50kW for micro-CHP. See the link below for more details about these ‘pay back’ schemes. (5)

Conclusion – current UK government schemes do not fast-track us to NetZero homes by 2050

All solutions for improving domestic home heating rely on first considering modern insulation methods. Balancing the thermal efficiency of an existing property to maximise a home’s efficiency at retaining heat, whilst maintaining and improving air-quality within the interior space, is important.

Currently the government are focusing their financial support on helping low-income residents with extremely high energy bills during an ongoing cost-of-living crisis that affects millions of households across the British Isles. This will do something to help the alarming rates of fuel poverty currently existing throughout the United Kingdom. (1) (2)

In 2024 there is very little support or no support available to UK tax paying working people of all average and high-income levels, who all face high cost of living costs, who may be interested in financially investing in energy efficient upgrades, to improve the environmental standards and minimise the bills in their properties.

Individual households who may choose to install the latest alternative energy systems will most likely be home owners who are looking to stay in their properties for at least a decade, in order to ‘break even’ on their investments and eventually receive the long-term financial benefits of the high up-front costs of installing a new environmentally friendly home energy systems (for example: solar panels or heat pump systems).

Therefore, budgets and/or savings of many thousands of pounds are required to cover these upfront system upgrade costs, which is a luxury position that is open to relatively few consumers in the country at this current time.

Although new alternative energy systems such as hydrogen ready boilers connected to the national energy grid are undoubtedly the future for achieving NetZero in densely populated countries like the UK, the current selection of products and solutions is very limiting in many small buildings such as the homes that most of us actually live in.

For example, unless you live in an area that is considered warm all year around, stand-alone heat pumps are not a brilliant solution. A very large garden for pipework is often required which does not apply to the majority of the population, who couldn’t afford to dig it all up and totally remodel it all anyway.

Even if you have the right type of sun facing roof, the amount of solar energy available in the UK in the winter will not be enough to independently run a family home’s heating at present, let alone sell it back to an energy supplier for a profit.

That is not to say that choosing to make alternative energy improvements is not worth it in the long term, but that the current ‘green’ home schemes available do very little to inspire or support average home owners to want to devote their hard earnt savings to upgrading their existing boilers unnecessarily.

More central government investment in alternative energy product development and infrastructure is urgent. More training in regulated installers and engineers is also a priority in order to reach home alternative energy system ‘roll out’ objectives of any significant scale to have an impact.

As we approach an election in 2024, any new leadership worth its salt will need to propose a massively better strategy than we currently have in order to reach anywhere near the ambitious target of achieving NetZero homes in the UK by 2050.

There is still a potential for our island to ‘be the change we want to see in the world’ when it comes to alternative energy provision. As previous UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested; we could lead the evolution to NetZero homes in the UK, as we lead the industrial revolution in the 19th century. (4)

Of course, whether rapid industrialisation was a brilliant development for the planet in the long run, is of course controversial, for obvious reasons!

The current uncoordinated situation with a mishmash of mediocre schemes and non-existent incentives. The housing crisis in England means that unless there is a major change in investment, infrastructure and leadership, this idea of delivering a country full of impressive alternative energy driven domestic heating, is currently a very unlikely pipe-dream vision.

See also related article: Delivering Domestic Heating in Energy Efficient Homes Needs Mojor Policy Improvements in the UK (1) ‘Grants and benefits to help you pay your energy bills’ Citizens Advice UK, 25 January 2024 ‘Grants and benefits to help you pay your energy bills’ Citizens Advice UK Citizens Advice Bureau telephone helpline (Mon-Fri, 9am – 5pm) 08082231133 (2) ‘Warm Home Discount’ Age UK, 25th January 2024 ‘Warm Home Discount’ Age UK (3) ‘Housing and energy grants’ Clare Casalis and Andrew Capstick, MoneySavingExpert, 13 December 2024 ‘Housing and energy grants’ Clare Casalis and Andrew Capstick, MoneySavingExpert (4) ‘Heat and Buildings Strategy’ HM Government, published 19 October 2021, updated 1 March 2023 ‘Heat and Buildings Strategy’ HM Government (5) ‘The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)’ Ofgem UK Government Organisation, 25th January 2024 ‘The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)’ Ofgem UK Government Organisation (6) ‘Help with energy efficiency, heating and renewable energy in homes’ 10 January 2024 ‘Help with energy efficiency, heating and renewable energy in homes’ Commons Library UK  

Delivering Domestic Heating in Energy Efficient Homes Needs Major Policy Improvements in the UK

The current situation and NetZero challenge

For several years the UK government has aimed to deliver a strategy that sees England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland reach Net Zero by 2050. The Energy Saving Trust defines this as “achieving a balance between the carbon emitted into the atmosphere, and the carbon removed from it.”

The Energy Saving Trust declares optimistically that the country will ‘unlock’ £90 billion in investment to achieve this important aim. Emissions from homes, transport, agriculture and industry will need to be substantially cut. (1)

Why to we need to aim for NetZero in the UK domestic heating sector and what can be done?

Carbon dioxide is emitted when fossil fuels are burned to meet our demand for energy. There are also other greenhouse gases but carbon dioxide is the most significant problem causing global warming and other severe weather-related problems globally.

Carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) “refers to a suite of technologies that enable the mitigation of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from large point sources like power plants, refineries and other industrial facilities, or the removal of existing CO2 from the atmosphere.” (2)

“Approximately 14% of carbon emissions in the UK are contributed by the usage of fossil fuels for home heating.” according to Greenmatch. (3)

As part of central government policy in 2021 eligible households in the UK could apply for government grants to the value of up to £5000 to upgrade their property and invest in low carbon technologies such as heat pumps for their home heating. However, applications for the Renewable Heat Incentive closed at the end of March 2022. (4)

“Making our buildings more energy efficient and moving away from fossil fuel boilers will help make people’s homes warm and comfortable, whilst keeping bills low.” Stated the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in 2020 as part of previous Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Ten Point Plan. (5)

Currently the main heating solutions currently in use are: gas boilers, low-efficiency electric heating, high carbon oil and liquified petroleum gas (LPG) boilers (usually in off-grid homes) and solid fuel systems such as wood or coal. (6)

Citizens in the UK in 2024 are facing higher than ever costs of owning or renting a home. The heating bill is usually the largest monthly payment that most households make after their rent or mortgage is deducted (often around 50% of home bills).

Average salaries are around £30,000 and the average house costs around £300,000 which means homeowning is a privilege not possible for the majority of adults in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In 2022 less than 20 percent of adults under 64 years of age owned their own homes outright in England and this only increases to 35 percent of over 65 years olds in England. This is relevant as it is only the homeowners who will initially pay for upgrading the housing stock in the UK due to the large sums of money and long-term commitment involved in making the major system changes required. (8)

A British Gas guide says heating bills in an average UK home is between £2000 and £3000 per year and this month the standing charge has been raised significantly. The price cap which governs the prices suppliers can charge has also been raised again and this will affect all households, especially the poorest, during the ongoing cost- of-living-crisis in the UK. (9) (10)

Martin Lewis at MoneySavingExpert calls this standing charge system a moral hazard as it disenfranchises customers who want to control their bills by turning the heating right down or off. (11)

The UK government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy

The UK government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy does not offer any ‘quick fix’ solutions to upgrading the aging and inefficient housing stock in the UK. The UK governments Heat and Buildings Strategy survey has highlighted that there is a shortage of heat pump installation engineers. This is important as heat pump installation must comply with Part L and Part P of the Building Regulations. Therefore, existing engineers need to be upskilled in order to install new style heating systems. (12)

The current UK buildings strategy report updated in March 2023 advises that “The Green Homes Grant voucher scheme for England offered vouchers to fund up to two thirds of the value of energy performance and low-carbon heat measures up to the value of £5,000 for homeowners and residential landlords. (or 100% up to the value of £10,000 for low-income owner-occupiers). (12)

More than 133,700 applications were received, and more than 79,200 vouchers have been issued.” However, the Green Homes grant was severely criticised as a “slam dunk fail” as only around 47,500 homes actually benefitted from the scheme, which cost the tax payer over £50 million in administration fees. (13)

The report also points out that local authorities have been given funding to additionally support low-income households in England. This is often delivered through council tax reductions. (12)

The Home Upgrade Grant (HUG) was introduced in 2022 and intended to support upgrades to the worst-performing off-gas grid homes in England. £150 million funding was granted for the first phase of HUG, and a further £950 million funding has been and is available over 2022/23 to 2024/25. (12)

The Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) aims to upgrade social housing stock which does not meet EPC band C criteria and £800 million was earmarked to be allocated to these improvements. (12)

Hydrogen is an ‘indirect greenhouse gas’ and ways in which to utilise hydrogen which can be produced using low-carbon methods and used for energy solutions in the UK in the future, are currently being investigated by government, industry and regularity bodies.

It is hoped that hydrogen might be able to be piped into houses replacing the need for gas boilers which are currently installed in most homes around the British Isles. Investing in a hydrogen ready gas boiler may be a good option for millions of semi-detached and mid-terrace homes connected to the grid. This could happen gradually as homeowners need to replace their existing gas boilers at the end of their lifespan. (12)

What home heating choices do UK citizens have that help towards reaching NetZero

Citizens in the UK can choose to reduce their household emissions in order to help meet the government’s 2050 Net Zero objectives, if they have savings or expendable income to contribute to the project. One main area is replacing a gas or oil boilers with a more environmentally friendly alternative. The three main options are currently: heat pumps, solar water heating and biomass heating systems. (6)

Hydronic Heat pumps

These can be ground source or air source and occasionally a water source heat pump.

“They work by absorbing heat from a source (in the environment) and transferring it to a fluid, which is compressed to increase the temperature further. The heat is typically transferred from the fluid into water, which is then used to provide heating and hot water to your home.” (6) Air source heat pumps (ASHPs) absorb heat from the air. Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) absorb heat from the ground.

“As the cold snap bites, it’s time to mention networked ground source heat pumps as a solution to our heating needs, especially for complex-to-decarbonise homes such as high-rise social housing blocks or terrace streets. Due to their discreetness, how they work and the steady ambient temperature of the ground, networked ground source heat pumps provide efficient, cost-effective heating (and cooling) whatever the weather.” Says Tamsin Lishman CEO of The Kensa Group. (4)

However, “domestic-scale heat pumps only provide low temperature heat.” (12)  Heat pump systems used in larger properties such as commercial buildings or communal residential flats are more suited to obtaining higher temperatures.

Heat pumps can be used ‘in reverse’ as cool air pumps which can be useful as global temperatures rise. Hybrid heat pumps can offer benefits including reducing the reliance on natural gas boilers, whilst still offering a good level of thermal comfort. These heat pumps do not help the UK reach Net Zero due to the gas still being burned and the use of refrigerants that contain hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in some products. (12)

Solar Water Heating

Solar panels also called ‘collectors’ use solar energy from the sun to heat up water that is then stored in a hot water cylinder. (6) The water can be made hotter using a conventional boiler or an immersion heater, which is also useful for when solar energy is not available during darker cloudier days.

Biomass Heating

Wood pellets, chips or logs “heat a single room, or to power central heating and hot water boilers.” The energy saving trust explains how although this method is essential burning fossil fuels, sourcing the wood locally is better for the environment. Biomass can be a more sustainable option when the materials are sourced in a way where there are new plants and trees that continue to grow in place of wood used for fuel.  (6)

The above technologies can be used in combination to obtain optimum flexible heating results for both keeping a warm home and enjoying hot water when required.

“In 2018, domestic burning through wood burning stoves and coal fires was the single largest contributor to national emissions of particulate matter. These particles can cause respiratory illnesses and heart disease. Burning of wood and coal also releases nitrogen oxides, which lead to ozone layer depletion, formation of acid rain, as well as causing respiratory diseases.” (14)

Therefore, great care and consideration needs to be taken when choosing bioenergy to ensure this choice of fuel burning is helping UK residents to move towards NetZero.

Bioenergy can help achieve the environmental targets committed to by the government. This is by reusing materials and fuel of ‘biogenic origin’ such as when manure storage and waste disposal is treated with anaerobic digestion to produce biogas (e.g. biomethane) and bioliquids (e.g. bioLPG), or solids such as wood pellets or chippings. (12)

These treated biofuels can then be used to heat buildings of all types including homes and can be suitable in rural or ‘off-grid’ locations as the best solution for meeting energy efficient needs of a household. However, these solutions are still in need of infrastructure development before they become a widely used heating choice for UK homes.

Summary of the 3 main energy efficient heating systems currently available

All of these three heating solution options above cost upwards of £5,000 thousand pounds and could total more than £20,000 depending on the chosen system. Property location, size of indoor and outdoor space and the age and type of home, as well as the needs of the household, will dictate which options is (or options are) most suitable for each specific home upgrade project.

Councils do not currently have a range of alternative energy home heating schemes to offer to average working and tax paying home owners (or renters) this spring 2024 (see our next article for more information of help with energy bills for those on benefits). The poster image with this article reaches a council web page which requests ‘registrations of future interest’ which is no real help for those eager to upgrade their homes in order to reach our Net Zero targets. (15)

For those with the wherewithal to continue their home upgrade projects regardless, there are suppliers out there in England. Contacting the local council for a list of registered companies who are certified to safely install or deliver these alternative heating systems and getting multiple cost quotes is a sensible idea from the Energy Saving Trust. (7) See our next article for more details of why we urgently need a better energy efficient home heating government policy strategy to reach NetZero by 2050 in the UK.

    (1) ‘What is net zero and how can we get there?’ Energy Saving Trust, 18 January 2024 ‘What is net zero and how can we get there?’ Energy Saving Trust (2) ‘What is carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) and what role can it play in tackling climate change?’ London School of Economics and Political Science and Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, 13 March 2023 ‘What is carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) and what role can it play in tackling climate change?’ London School of Economics and Political Science and Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change (3) ‘Heat and Buildings Strategy – UK Announces Grants to Promote Green Heat’ 18 January 2024 ‘Heat and Buildings Strategy – UK Announces Grants to Promote Green Heat’ (4) ‘We need to urgently replace inefficient heating in UK homes’ Kensa CEO, BDC News Team, Building Design and Construction Online Newspaper, 17 January 2024 ‘We need to urgently replace inefficient heating in UK homes’ Kensa CEO, BDC News Team, Building Design and Construction (5) ‘The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’ Policy Paper, UK Government, 18 November 2020 ‘The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’ Policy Paper, UK Government (6) CCC (2018), ‘Biomass in a low-carbon economy’, p. 66 CCC (2018), ‘Biomass in a low-carbon economy’, p. 66 (7) ‘A quick guide to low carbon heating’ Energy Saving Trust, 9 February 2021 ‘A quick guide to low carbon heating’ Energy Saving Trust (8) ‘Share of homeowners in England in 2022 by age’ Statistica website, 16 October 2023 ‘Share of homeowners in England in 2022 by age’ Statistica website (9) ‘What is the average energy bill in Great Britain?’ British Gas, 19 January 2024 ‘What is the average energy bill in Great Britain?’ British Gas (10) ‘Energy Price Cap’ Ofgem, UK Government, 19 January 2024 ‘Energy Price Cap’ Ofgem, UK Government (11) ‘Martin Lewis: Why are energy standing charges so high and what can be done?’ Martin Lewis at, 2 Jan 2024 ‘Martin Lewis: Why are energy standing charges so high and what can be done?’ Martin Lewis at (12) ‘Heat and Buildings Strategy’ HM Government UK, published 19 October 2021, updated 1 March 2023 ‘Heat and Buildings Strategy’ HM Government UK (13) ‘Green Homes Grant Was a ‘Slam Dunk Fail’, Report Says’ Homebuilding and Renovating, 2 December 2021 ‘Green Homes Grant Was a ‘Slam Dunk Fail’, Report Says’ Homebuilding and Renovating (14) ‘Government takes action to cut pollution from household burning’ Press Office UK Government website, 21 February 2020 ‘Government takes action to cut pollution from household burning’ Press Office UK Government website (15) Solar Together’ Chichester District Council, West Sussex (‘no active scheme’ in 2024 page) ‘Solar Together’ Chichester District Council, West Sussex (discontinued)

Traditional Christmas Celebrated but More Modest Festive Parties Rounded Off 2023

A Traditional Family Christmas was Celebrated Across England

With a few exceptions the main theme across England this December was preparing for a relatively modest and traditional Christmas with (for those who are lucky enough) the nearest and dearest ones in our lives.

A cost-of-living crisis and political unrest internationally mean that there was an atmosphere of low-key thanksgiving for the blessings that this year has brought. These grateful sentiments have been embraced by millions of us adults who are fortunate enough to enjoy a relatively normal Christmas with our families and friends.

There have been Christmas parties, especially for the younger people in our communities. The shops have been optimistically full of sequined garments although it is unclear yet whether anything much more than a flock of fleecy onesies was eagerly purchased, in any great quantity, ready to dazzle with ‘strictly come dancing style’ during this winter’s social season.

In December The Guardian wrote that food and drinks “sales in London were up 3% in October versus last year, but fell 2.5% outside the capital.” (1) Radio 4’s news program interviewed hospitality sector leaders who have observed that Christmas parties involving meeting for drinks after work, instead of the traditional sit-down meal type of festive dining, have become the new normal as employers look to stick to their cautiously sized entertainment budgets.

Traditional Christmas room decoration, John Lewis, Chichester, West Sussex. Photo by A.Howse
Traditional Christmas room decoration, John Lewis, Chichester, West Sussex. Photo by A.Howse
It’s all about the Christmas trees

Festive trees symbolising the bringing of light and hope for future friendships and neighborhood harmony have been especially popular all over the United Kingdom and beyond. Natural materials are favored wherever possible as everyone looks to consider the environment. Trees have often been large and given center stage in public places and just dressed with white or gold lights. Simple baubles in classic colours of red or silver and gold have been ideal for making trees glow with festive spirit.

In England real Christmas trees reflected the simplicity of a traditional Winterfest and were pride of place in millions of houses that could afford to choose this fragrant treat. However, there is a debate to be considered about the carbon footprint of real trees especially when you consider transportation and recycling costs.

Old, handblown glass and artisan made special Christmas tree decorations are particularly treasured by many in Great Britain. Unique decorations are perfect as a small token gift to mark the holiday and thank loved ones for their support during the year.

English country houses and visitor attractions like Petworth House in Sussex magically transform into Christmas palaces to the enthrallment of local and international visitors alike. Twenty-four different traditionally decorated grand festive firs transformed rooms covered in antique furnishings and some of the country’s finest artworks into royally picturesque interiors of breathtaking beauty. (2)

Lights and trees reach across all the cultures and religions in the UK and make inclusive displays that positively improve rural and city environments for everyone, during the long dark nights and grey days in England.

Petworth House, National Trust, kitchen ready for Christmas, West Sussex. Photo by A. Howse
Petworth House, National Trust, kitchen ready for Christmas, West Sussex. Photo by A. Howse
Traditional seasonal activities and pastimes

A focus on providing a magical traditional Christmas for children during these difficult times for many has inspired creativity and seen a reemergence of handmade crafts, vintage games and activities such as ice-skating.  Booking online to visit Father Christmas was easy in most neighborhoods and Santa’s grotto popped up in visitor attractions, shopping malls and garden centers all across the United Kingdom.

‘Make Your Own’ activities are popular this year as people look for activities to do at home that amuse children and adults alike without spending very much money. Paper decorations and origami figures easily add joy to any inside space. Wreath making classes were available in the runup to the big day, all over the British Ilses, for friends to enjoy making memories and something special together.

Shopping online is as busy and thriving for all types of retailers as ever. However, this year hundreds of Christmas markets around the country tempted locals and visitors alike to shop local and support businesses and makers in their counties economic area whilst simultaneously gaining a wonderful festive experience.

There was a lovely atmosphere at many of the Christmas markets with folk using the opportunity to spend quality time with friends and enjoy some mulled wine or hot chocolate while listening to live buskers sing and play festive tunes. Carol services and community singing events are still really popular across the UK and the school nativity is an important fixture on any primary school parent’s schedule. (3)

Christmas pop and rock music classics from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s are essential listening for everyone in England and the shops and radio stations mean that it is almost impossible to get halfway through December without hearing George Micheal’s iconic ‘Last Christmas’ playing out soulfully somewhere.

Reading of all varieties has been the chosen way to spend nights by the fire or inside a cozy home for English residents of all ages. and we are happy to report that bookshops such as Waterstones are featuring as prominently as ever on our high streets, despite the emergence of competitive online retail giants like Amazon.

Watching classic family entertainment on TV is still a well-loved ritual in most houses over the winter holidays. In millions of houses the Christmas Day afternoon tradition of watching the 3 o ’clock Queen’s speech now stars King Charles III but still resonates with those who support a traditional way of life in Britain and are fans of the monarchy.

Christmas specials are still essential for any series with lots of fans that is worth its salt. Jamie Oliver and Mary Berry and many other famous chefs show the country how to ace their festive spreads and impress the guests. Streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime, Netflix and channels such as Disney as well as original broadcasters like the BBC have shown an amazing selection of movies of all varieties to keep even the hardiest binge watchers of TV series, enthusiastically enthralled. (3)

Gyles Brandeth jumpers at Petersfield Museum, Hampshire. Photo by A.Howse
Gyles Brandeth jumpers at Petersfield Museum, Hampshire. Photo by A.Howse

Clothing gifts and gifts for the home

A key trend is hand knitting and crochet items and handmade gifts such as painted ceramics were also popular. Indoor and winter flowering plants in simple pots are everywhere as uplifting yuletide gifts as well.

Gyles Brandeth is known as a writer, artist, broadcaster and sometimes member of British parliament. His collection of bright eccentric handmade jumpers captured the imagination of the general public during the 1980’s when they were worn on television and celebrities also ordered copies of these original pieces. (4)

This season the Petersfield Museum in Hampshire exhibited a jolly selection of these wooly treasures to the delight of the cultural attraction’s visitors. The event finished on the 23rd of December but many jumpers can be viewed and purchased at the brands website Gyles and George. (5)

Knitted and crocheted dresses and sweaters are set to be trendy throughout 2024 so there is still time to pick up those needles and get ready for next Christmas too.

Hillier Garden Centre Christmas display, West Sussex. Photo by A.Howse
Hillier Garden Centre Christmas display, West Sussex. Photo by A.Howse

Food and drink gifts

Special bottles of alcoholic drinks (or spicy non-alcoholic alternatives) and even pretty hampers of Christmas goodies have been in widely creatively curated, or ordered and whisked off the supermarket shelves. These simple gifts for close family also make more luxurious gifts for friends and business partners and are always eagerly accepted as donations towards a jolly holiday week or two.

Gingerbread houses and baking festive decorations (that are sometimes edible) are both good examples of this idea. (6)

Home cooking and handmade food gifts were the focus of many families annual get togethers as people use their time creatively to make the most of the simple pleasures of sharing special meals and entertaining times with their nearest and dearest. Cookbooks are still really in fashion as there are always more recipes to try in the new energy efficient air fryers recently purchased around the country. Even vintage cook books are reappearing in many homes as rediscovered treasures.

The Ideal Home Show at Christmas was held at Kensington Olympia in November to make the most of the trend for meeting friends and buying treats earlier in the winter season. Hundreds of small businesses showcased their fun, practical and often delicious product selections. There was a real buzz as ‘experts’ on stage advised how to prepare an English home for guests complete with professional hosting tips. Hundreds of visiting folks enjoyed sampling all the flavoursome treats available in the Ideal Home Show at Christmas food hall. (7)

Toy Soldiers at Christmas Ideal Home Exhibition 2023 Olympia, London. Photo by A.Howse
Toy Soldiers at Christmas Ideal Home Exhibition 2023 Olympia, London. Photo by A.Howse

Pets and animal themed characters keep Christmas fun

A stunning white scene of many furry white reindeer complete with snowflake caked antlers and ‘snowy’ Christmas trees greeted lucky show visitors to London’s Christmas Ideal Home Exhibition. A perfectly traditional Father Christmas happily chatted with exhibition attendees from the luxury of his big red sleigh. (7)

Animals and pets are really special to almost everyone in this rather unreliable and often overwhelming world we live in at the moment. Therefore, products and services that are animal themed or aimed at pet owners are in all the events, high streets and markets in England at the moment.

Most animals are good for our mental and physical health and we can’t get enough of them and their crazy antics cheering us up over the colder winter months. Thousands of Christmas cards and gifts feature animals of all sorts this year. Peace doves are understandably having a moment and cute cats and dogs are here to stay and are as celebrated as the reindeer and farmyard animals of any classic Christmas nativity.

Gluten free crumble top mince pies. Photo by A.Howse
Gluten free crumble top mince pies. Photo by A.Howse

Futuristic interpretations of more traditional Christmases to follow

2023 saw the sad passing of Queen Elizabeth II and the somber funeral where the world paid their respects to an outstanding leader who was popular and respected across the Commonwealth and internationally. Shortly afterwards an elaborate coronation of King Charles III in London and the United Kingdom was also televised and watched all over the world by many millions of people.

During recent years developments in technology have expanded the possibilities of communicating large scale events to a global audience and this year welcomed wonderful enchanting exterior light shows into current vogue.

Beefeaters at Tower of London, Crown and Coronation. Phto by A.Howse
Beefeaters at Tower of London, Crown and Coronation. Phto by A.Howse

The Coronation and the Crown show at The Tower of London celebrated the history of the English monarchy and the coronation, telling the story through classical music and stunning ever changing projected colour visuals which used the famous monumental and ancient architecture as its striking backdrop. We will eagerly look out for more musical 3D lightshows next winter. (8)

Even if a traditional Christmas is here to stay the way we engage with businesses and each other has changed for most English residents. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok are very much a major part of inspiring and communicating all the latest tips and tricks for experiencing maximum enjoyment over the holidays.

Companies of all sizes, often working in partnership with influencers who demonstrate their wares, can now bring their festive products and seasonal services directly to their customers. Fans of individual brands can relax and scroll through their feeds on their hand-held devices. Making purchases and home delivery orders is now as easy as a click of a button.

Photos and videos posted online share get-togethers and celebrations with neighbours and family located everywhere, in an instant. Online groups for everything you could ever think of provide companionship and support for those having a quieter festive week or two, for whatever reason. Influencers and experts give advice, recipes and tips for everything from cooking turkey safely to perfect outfit and present ideas when attending formal Christmas dinner parties at the in-laws.

Digital gifts are a growth area and provide a way of sending an experience that can be chosen by the receiver and scheduled at a later date that suits the individual. Digital greeting cards, Zoom and WhatsApp parties and homemade phone family videos are bound to continue to be shared between millions of people all over the world during the holidays next year too.

Artificial intelligence may not be able to write a Christmas number one anytime soon but virtual reality games are bound to introduce exciting nostalgic Christmas experiences in faraway Nordic lands without the need for even leaving the house. Fake Christmas is a term used to describe throwing a full Christmas event on days that do not conventionally follow the usual dates of a late December Christmas.

Families are increasingly diverse, divided and non-conventional than ever. As people are traveling more again and working life gets more demanding and businesses are increasingly expected to provide services around the clock every day of the year, we may find more fake Christmas or extra Christmas days become the norm. So, get used to feeling festive over the whole winter season as people look for creative ways to enjoy a traditional Christmas together, in whatever flexible ways work for them and their loved ones.

(1) ‘It’s pretty brutal out there’: Struggling UK pubs and restaurants pray spirit of Christmas past will reappear, Rob Davies, The Guardian, 4 December 2023 (1) ‘It’s pretty brutal out there’: Struggling UK pubs and restaurants pray spirit of Christmas past will reappear, Rob Davies, The Guardian (2) Petworth, National Trust, 4 January 2024 Petworth, National Trust, 4 January 2024 (3) Christmas Markets, BBC News, 4 January 2024 Christmas Markets, BBC News (4) Christmas on the BBC, 4 January 2024 Christmas on the BBC (5) Petersfield Museum and Art Gallery, 4 January 2024 Petersfield Museum and Art Gallery, (6) Gyles and George website for Gyles Brandeth’s jumper collection and online shop, 4 January 2024 Gyles and George website for Gyles Brandeth’s jumper collection and online shop (7) Hillier traditional Christmas decorating, 4 January 2024 Hillier traditional Christmas decorating, 4 January 2024 (8) Ideal Home Show – Inspiration for your ideal Christmas, 4 January 2024 (9) ‘Crown and Coronation Tour’ Tower of London, 4 January 2024 ‘Crown and Coronation Tour’ Tower of London

Are We Adicted to our Premium Coffee Houses in a Cost-of-Living Crisis?

The coffee industry in the UK looks forward to 2024

Over the last decade premium coffee sales have been a growth market in the UK with a nation of tea drinkers adopting the taste for freshly brewed coffee beans prepared by expert baristas. The coffee shop industry is said to be worth £4.9 billion in December 2023 and there are currently more than 8000 coffee chains operating in the United Kingdom and more than 25 thousand individual coffee shops.   (1) (2)

The largest chain in the UK is international brand Costa coffee. which opened a new store as part of Tesco’s supermarket development in Chichester, West Sussex this season, taking over from Harris and Hoole who already have a busy high street premises in the medieval city on the English south coast. It only takes a few weeks to construct and develop a new store ready to open, especially if all the equipment and supplies are prepared ready at a centralized head office who are used to delivering new outlets smoothly.

In many areas across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland there are now a wide selection of coffee houses with a mix of well-known high street brands. Independent café businesses offering a unique hand crafted coffee drinking experience have increased in popularity. (2)

Coffee shops in most towns were relatively resilient throughout and after the pandemic lockdowns as they were usually able to offer takeaway services instead. However city areas that did not get the usual flow of thirsty commuters were temporarily affected.

Construction of new Costa coffee shop in Tescos Chichester, West Sussex. Photo by A.Howse
Construction of new Costa coffee shop in Tescos Chichester, West Sussex. Photo by A.Howse

Over the last two years many people have been economising due to rising inflation (including rising energy prices) and the cost of living crisis. A coffee that costs more than £4.50 may be out of many folks spending budgets nowadays. However, thousands of cafes may have benefitted from taken custom away from restaurants and bars as friends, colleagues and family members still want to meet up somewhere warm and socially vibrant, that is still relatively inexpensive as an outing.

Premium drinks are still popular and items such as Costa’s new luxury Frappe’s can become a filling snack instead of a more expensive lunch out. So ‘scaling back’ dining out behavior by consumers may continue to support coffee shop sales. A continuing trend could be seen in 2024 that some UK residents are staying a home or packing a picnic instead of visiting a coffee shop as part of a regular routine. This change in consumer habits could well be simultaneously offset by other customers enjoying a cheaper alternative to more traditional dining options by visiting a coffee and cakes style cafe.

Costa coffee shop Chichester, West Sussex, ready to open. Photo by A.Howse
Costa coffee shop Chichester, West Sussex, ready to open. Photo by A.Howse

Inflation has affected the price of goods and services in the UK and Europe. In the UK minimum wage rises, which are important to reduce poverty for those on low incomes, combined with high rates and taxes (that businesses have to pay regardless of how much they sell) all make running a coffee shop enterprise a tall order, to run successfully.

Café culture and possible threats to the rising demand for coffee

Many medical experts have extolled the virtues of enjoying one properly brewed fresh coffee every day. There are claims that the elements in this delicious brewed drink are beneficial to brain and gut health as well as contributing to a fine cardio vascular system.

Some influencers and health professionals have advised cutting down or cutting out caffeine to maintain an optimally healthy diet and optimising mental health more recently. Coffee shops do offer different decaffeinated beverages as alternative options, so this may not be a game changer. Developing and communicating the processes of de-caffeination to consumers is important to keep them wanting to invest in a specially prepared and priced brew.

The environmental impact of importing beans from far flung places and ensuring that coffee is ‘fair trade’ and kind to the communities where it is produced, is increasingly important to consumers highly conscious about their spending choices. Similarly packaging quantity and material choice is of interest to coffee buyers.

All segments in the coffee industry in the UK declined in sales in 2022 as households and companies look for ways to cut back financial spending.

Homeowning or renting and paying for utilities is unexpectedly expensive especially in large cities this year. Working long hours and balancing family caring responsibilities is hard for many. There is an uncertain economic outlook set against a backdrop of awful wars and deeply concerning events internationally. Consequently there are reports that stress and sleep problems are more widespread than ever, as the post pandemic cost of living crisis affects nearly everyone. A recent Nuffield health survey of 8000 people revealed that only 36% of adults are getting a good nights sleep in the UK. (3)

A silver lining is that this situation can be positive for coffee sellers. Millions of people reach for their favourite cup of ‘pick-me-up’ as adults with responsibilities look to balance and get their most out of their work, studies, leisure time and family life.

Full display ready to open at Costa coffee shop, Chichester, West Sussex. Photo by A.Howse
Full display ready to open at Costa coffee shop, Chichester, West Sussex. Photo by A.Howse
The outlook is warm for the coffee industry

Over the next five years consumer experts Mintel predict that coffee sales will start to rise again as inflation and interest rate rises ease, helping the economy to have positive growth again once more. Millions of shoppers who have been looking for easy ways to reduce their monthly outgoings have made simple swaps to lower price coffee brands. Retailers competitively priced ‘own brands’ coffees have been seeing really strong sales compared to previous years.

Some cities have dozens of coffee themed cafes and there may be an oversupply in one area in 2024. It is possible in some towns that there simply may not be space to survive for any ‘mediocre’ businesses that neglect the needs of their discerning coffee fans under the current economic conditions.

Opportunities to be the cream of the coffee shop crop in 2024

However there are opportunities to embrace contemporary café culture as people of all ages look for ways to enhance their lives by taking a refreshment break during their busy days, working on their devices in a peaceful and warm place with good wi-fi or meeting friends in a sociable environment that gets them out of the house.

The last few years have taught us all the value of slowing down and taking time to enjoy a drink or snack is good for our mental health, digestion and avoids the need for unnecessary take-away packaging. Most UK coffee houses will happily fill any reusable insulated bottles with their visitors chosen blended drinks.

In Denmark and other European countries Mc Donald’s coffee is served in large glass soda glasses or china mugs which are then put in a dishwasher which dramatically reduces the amount of single use plastics.

Coffee houses of the future may increase turnover by selling ‘loose’ coffee and tea to customers with their own recyclable containers as well as other products and provisions providing a local venue for ‘packaging free’ purchasing.

Cleanliness is key and anti-bacterial surfaces and hygienic facilities are deliberately sought out by all ages avoiding the spread of germs and viruses. All ages love to visit fashionable places and younger customers often particularly seek the best ‘Instagram’ worthy interiors to record their meetups as online updates that reflect their physical world lives.

Smart café owners may look to develop new menus and beverages that perfectly chime with the sophisticated desires of an increasingly educated, globally ethically conscious and environmentally savvy clientele.

  (1) Cafes and coffee shops in the United Kingdom (UK), Statista, 19th December 2023 Coffee Shops in the UK, Report by Statastita (2) UK Coffee Report 2022, Mintel Consumer Market Research, 2nd January 2023 (2) UK Coffee Report 2022, Mintel Consumer Market Research (3) ‘Nuffield Health 2023 Healthier Nation Index: Only 36% employees get a good nights sleep’ September 2023 ‘Nuffield Health 2023 Healthier Nation Index: Only 36% employees get a good nights sleep’  

Peter Walker’s Peace Doves Soar in English Cathedrals


This autumn an immersive art installation by UK sculptor Peter Walker has flown into to medieval Chichester cathedral to inspire West Sussex residents and international visitors alike. It is perfect timing for raising our eyes to the heavens and reflecting on how to encourage world harmony in these difficult times.

The wonderfully visually striking work comprises “fifteen thousand handmade paper doves suspended above the cathedrals historic Nave.”

Schools, local community groups and members of the public have written individual messages of ‘peace, love and hope’ that are all contained within each of the paper bird’s wings.

Peace Doves Installation in Chichester Cathedral by Peter Walker - view from main aisle. Photo by A.Howse
Peace Doves Installation in Chichester Cathedral by Peter Walker – view from main aisle. Photo by A.Howse

From the 30th September and until mid-November 2023 Peter Walker’s immersive sculptural artwork has been on display to the public.

Visitors to Chichester Cathedral can see the temporary avian themed exhibition every day and whenever the church is open. During services visiting local and tourists will be invited to join the worship or stand at the back and admire the original piece featuring throngs of handcrafted hanging birds. Spending time within the 948-year-old cathedral is free and donations to the building and its maintenance are very welcome.

There were a selection of special events and talks throughout the season that required booking in advance on the website. (1)

Peace Doves by Peter Walker Art Installation at Chichester Cathedral, view from main aisle centre. Photo by A.Howse
Peace Doves by Peter Walker Art Installation at Chichester Cathedral, view from main aisle centre. Photo by A.Howse

Peter walker works in a variety of mediums including, paper, fabric, stone, bronze and light. Walker also works in collaboration with a company called Luxmuralis to create light installations using digital media and the type of commercial lighting that you might find in a large-scale entertainment music venue.

Images are projected onto historic buildings exteriors and ecclesiastical interiors creating interesting colourful effects that can be a permanent artistic statement. Alternatively, the ephemeral design can be changed frequently, set to music and turned off and on to meet the needs of the intended audience or the service attendees.

In a recent interview with Church Times Peter Walker explains his decision to develop his work as a light and space artist “It’s not painting by numbers. I’m not trying to make the original arches and architecture disappear: it’s creating a conduit for people, opening up an emotional pathway.”

There is a lot of division and discord amongst leaders across the globe and we head into 2024. We need artists like Peter Walker more than ever to remind us that peace, hope and love are important. The message that peace, hope and love remain key values for us all to strive for and develop, as we look for what unites us in our communities both locally and globally, whatever our religion or beliefs.

Peace Doves by Peter Walker at Chichester Cathedral, view towards entrance doors. Photo by A.Howse
Peace Doves by Peter Walker at Chichester Cathedral, view towards entrance doors. Photo by A.Howse
(1) Peace Doves, Chichester Cathedral website, 23rd November 2023 Peace Doves, Chichester Cathedral (2) Peter Walker sculptor on Facebook 23rd November 2023 Peter Walker sculptor on Facebook (3) Luxmuralis, projection art gallery website, 23rd November 2023 Luxmuralis, projection art gallery website (4) ‘Peter Walker, the artist who makes light work’ Church Times, 14 April 2023 (4) ‘Peter Walker, the artist who makes light work’ Church Times

Coastal Communities Bounce Back After Storm Ciaran Batters UK


Ciaran is biggest gale since The Great Storm of ‘87

The storm ‘clean up’ and recovery work continues on the south coast of the United Kingdom, as well as several other areas across England and France, who were all hit with record wind speeds and high tides at the beginning of this month.

Storm Ciaran was the most intense storm to hit the British Isles since the ‘Great Storm’ of autumn 1987 according to the Met Office (United Kingdom Meteorological Office). A shipping forecast severe gale warning was issued on Wednesday 1st November (in Plymouth in Devon) which read:

“Southerly gale force 8 veering westerly and increasing violent storm force 11 or hurricane force 12 later” The sea state was declared likely to be: “Very rough becoming high or very high later”

On Thursday 2nd November the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Resilience Forum announced a ‘major incident’. A ‘major incident’ was also declared on the island of Jersey. The Hampshire fire service warned that there was a “potential risk to life” and damage to buildings, falling trees and flooding were reported. (1)

The highest wind speeds in England were recorded on the west coast on the night of 1st November reaching 63 knots or 72 miles per hour in Dorset and Cornwall. Two French weather stations in Brittany reached gusts of over 100 knots or 115 miles per hour. Tragically the Met Office described how “Across western Europe more widely, heavy rain and flooding linked to storm Ciarán reportedly led to at least 13 deaths.” (2)

Ciaran hit areas on the south of the UK, the Channel Islands and the west coast of France the hardest. Many other regions and counties are also attributing ongoing electrical and flooding related problems to Ciaran’s intense wind and rainfall. (3)

A tornado was reported on the eastern side of Jersey in the Channel Islands. 150,000 homes mostly across the west of England and Wales were left without electrical power and millions of residents in southern England experienced power cuts. (2)

Fishbourne railway line floods, West Sussex, storm Ciaran. Photo by A.Howse
Fishbourne railway line floods, West Sussex, storm Ciaran. Photo by A.Howse

Buses waded through flooded roads bravely in Sussex and Hampshire while rail and flight services were widely cancelled. Ports such as Dover were closed until calmer conditions returned.

Ciaran clear up continues

As many residents finally enjoyed some dryer weather over last weekend the Met Office announced further caution because of another storm named Debbie, which crossed the country from the south on Monday bringing further blustery gales and heavily wet weather.

In Guildford and surrounding districts in Surrey three water treatment plants were without power after the massive gale caused serious problems resulting in thousands of homes without a supply of fresh water. There was some chaos as Surrey’s residents were advised only to drive on the roads if leaving home to pick up bottled water from one of the hastily set up water ‘pick up’ stations around the centre of the busy commuter city of Guildford.

Stream water gushes in Fernhurst Surrey. Photo by A.Howse
Stream water gushes in Fernhurst Surrey. Photo by A.Howse

The Royal Surrey Hospital also declared a major incident because of the lack of water supply and local care homes were also put under pressure as they strived to provide provisions for their vulnerable residents. (3)

After Surrey residents spent the first few days of November rushing about looking for supplies of bottled water, a week later on the 9th November Surrey Live news reported that:

“Thames Water said they have fixed the issue at Shalford treatment works which left thousands of homes in Surrey without a water supply this week – now a new issue has arisen at a different water treatment centre. 504 postcodes are now affected by a fault at Ladymead Water Treatment Works” (3)

Thames Water apologized to customers and advised that a £30 compensation would automatically be applied to their account for water shortage affected households. However local residents who had lost water and dealt with low pressure for a week complained to The Guildford Dragon news. Many Surrey locals are annoyed about the lack of communication with Thames water, blaming decades of underinvestment since the utility companies’ privatisation, for the inability to deal with the relatively unextraordinary amounts of rainwater at the beginning of the winter season. (4)

Night view as roads flood in Chichester harbour West Sussex, storm Ciaran, photo by A.Howse
Night view as roads flood in Chichester harbour West Sussex, storm Ciaran, photo by A.Howse

Not everyone was upset by flooded roads, electrical outages and transport problems. There was some cheer in a pub near Chichester in West Sussex which unexpectedly benefitted from the unpassable overflowing roads down to the picturesque harbour. The small friendly team at The Berkeley Arms finally relaxed last Sunday night after a whole coach load of tourists decided to order lunch at once, at this handsome traditional pub.

After being unable to travel on further to their original Solent seaside destination the day trip visitors were happy to find a warm welcome at the inn. “It was a bit hectic but we managed to serve everyone with a good hot meal.” The Berkeley Arms bar lady admitted with a smile. (5)

Boat floods, rainbow on horizon, Chichester harbour, Photo by A.Howse
Boat floods, rainbow on horizon, Chichester harbour, Photo by A.Howse

(1) ‘Storm Ciaran: Major incident declared on south coast of Hampshire amid high winds and heavy rain’ Steve Deeks, The News (Portsmouth) 16th November 2023 ‘Storm Ciaran: Major incident declared on south coast of Hampshire amid high winds and heavy rain’ Steve Deeks, The News

(2) ‘Storm Ciaran, 1 to 2 November 2023, Met Office, UK ‘Storm Ciaran, 1 to 2 November 2023, Met Office UK (3) ‘504 more Guildford postcodes without water due to new Thames water issue.’ Lucy Williamson, Surrey Live, 9 November 2023 ‘504 more Guildford postcodes without water due to new Thames water issue.’ Lucy Williamson, Surrey Live (4) ‘Anger with Thames Water Remains Over Its Handling of Water Supply Interruptions’ Martin Giles, The Guildford Dragon, 8 November 2023 Anger with Thames Water Remains Over Its Handling of Water Supply Interruptions’ Martin Giles, The Guildford Dragon (5) ‘The Berkeley Arms’ Pub in Old Bosham, Sussex, 16 November 2023 ‘The Berkeley Arms’ Pub in Old Bosham, Sussex website

Is Unexploded Ordnance Still Relevant to Life in the UK?


What is Unexploded Ordnance?

The United Kingdom’s parliamentary government website describes unexploded ordnance as “explosive weapons that did not detonate when they were employed and still pose a risk of detonation.” (1)

It is estimated that there are 100,000 tonnes of unexploded material lying in the sea (marine environment) and on land around the British Isles from World War I and World War II. There are two ways of dealing with items that are discovered, still containing a powerful charge. High Order detonation which is exploding the found object with extra detonation. Low Order detonation involves firing a small charge at the explosive causing it to burn out without detonating. (1)

Although many teams of specially army personnel were dedicated to clearing any unused mines or other dangerous items left during the international conflicts of the early in the 20th century, it was not possible to uncover every potentially life-threatening device. Unexploded ordnance or UXO is still to the present day often found in Great Britain, primarily in areas that were significant during World War I and World War II.

As well as the risk of explosion, chemical leakage and environmental pollution can occur from items originally prepared for armed combat. Specialist private commercial services can also be contacted to make any area safe. An example of this type of security company is Brimstone and also 1st Line Defence based in Hertfordshire who provide free factsheets on their site. (3)

“Some of the most densely bombed cities included Birmingham, Bristol, Coventry, Exeter, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Plymouth, Southampton and Portsmouth, with the areas most at risk from being bombed being docks, airfields, major cities, manufacturing sites and industrial centres.” advises Brimstone specialist UXO handlers, on their website. (4)

Specialist agencies agree that UXO’s can still be found today and could appear in a variety of sizes and designs. These may include: WW2 high explosive bombs, WW2 incendiary bombs, parachute mines, rockets, projectiles, grenades, landmines and mortars according to Brimstone.

What should you do if you suspect you have found a UXO?

Members of the public are reminded that if any suspicious package is found, even if it is small, it is best to keep well away from the object and call the police for assistance, following any instructions given by police (like evacuating the area).

The UK government’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation provides guidance regarding procedures to ensure the health and safety of workers and members of the public who may be using ex-Ministry of Defence land for new purposes and constructing new developments. This includes directions of how to contact an Explosive Ordnance Clearance team if an UXO is discovered unexpectedly. (2)

Police Force’s around the country provide information and education about this aspect of keeping the public safe, in order to inform local citizens about the dangers and what they should do. In September Hampshire and Dorset emergency services held a special family style event in Portsmouth harbour to demonstrate and celebrate the unique role that the police force, fire and medical emergency departments play in our communities in the UK. Experts from the emergency services were on hand to talk to the public about health and safety and the excellent work that all the emergency services do every day and night.

In January an unexploded World War Two device was found in the Isleham Marina area of Mildenhall in Suffolk. The police dispersed the area and ensured bomb disposal experts diffused the object so residents could return to their homes safely. (5)

Do UXO pose a threat in the UK?

Although the UK has experienced nearly a century of peace on its countryside, shores and waters UXO still remains an ongoing but relatively rare threat to people working on construction projects or men, women and children simply exploring the great outdoors.

A report by Matt MacDonald construction experts advising on the development of Bank station in London in 2011 warns that: “In recent decades there have been several incidents in Europe where Allied UXBs have been detonated with at least three incidents causing fatalities. Although no fatal incidents related to UXB (unexploded bombs) have occurred in the UK in recent years, data from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal industry show that from 2006 to 2009 approximately 15,000 items of ordnance ranging from aerial delivered bombs to Land Service Ammunition (such as mortar rounds and grenades) have been removed from construction sites.” (6)

The Matt MacDonald report for London Underground continues to state how “It is estimated (between 2006 and 2009) that about 5% were live and still fully functioning. The number of items of Small Arms Ammunition recovered during this period possibly runs into tens of thousands.”

Key points to remember about UXO in the UK

If you or anyone else that you know is working on a construction site or private property redevelopment along the south and east coast of England (or any of the areas mentioned above that are known to contain UXO’s) it is wise to enquire about if the area has been health and safety assessed for the presence of UXO before digging or using any electrical tools or mechanical equipment. If unsure consult an expert to assess the area in advance of commencing works.

Ordtek provide UXO risk management and are based in Norfolk and have an interactive map of affected areas in and around the United Kingdom, the Channel and neighbouring countries, on their website. (7)

In the unlikely event that you are out exploring the coastal waters, seaside or countryside and you come across an item of any size that looks like it could be a possible UXO, quickly move away and stand well back and if there is no immediate danger then call the non-urgent enquiries UK police telephone hotline by dialling 101.

  (1) ‘Low Order deflagration for UXO disposal for the commercial sphere Unexploded Ordnance’ Parliament UK website, 2 November 2023 Unexploded Ordnance’ Parliament UK website (2) Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) Policy Instruction, Guidance for Unexploded Ordnance in Infrastructure Activities, 2 November 2023 Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) Policy Instruction, Guidance for Unexploded Ordnance in Infrastructure (3) 1st line Defence risk management, Mitigate the risk of UXO on your project, 2 November 2023 1st line Defence risk management, Mitigate the risk of UXO (4) ‘What is Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)?’ Brimstone, 4 September 2023 ‘What is Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)?’ Brimstone (5) ‘Unexploded WW2 device found in Mildenhall basement’, BBC News, 24 January 2023 ‘Unexploded WW2 device found in Mildenhall basement’, BBC News (6) ‘MACC UXO Threat Assessment, Report For London Underground’, 2 November 2011 (6) ‘MACC UXO Threat Assessment, Report For London Underground’ (7) ‘Ordtek Mine Map, Offshore UXO contamination’, 2 November 2023 ‘Ordtek Mine Map, Offshore UXO contamination’