Diary

With little sign of property prices deflating in the near future, first-time buyers in the West Midlands will be delighted to hear of a house costing just £300 in the heart of Birmingham.

The 12m2 Mudhouse, made predominantly from soil compressed into bricks, was developed as part of the Festival of Xtreme Building. Not only is it cheap as chips, but it also boasts a zero carbon footprint.

The habitable home was built in partnership with local companies including Associated Architects and Whitby Bird. It was displayed as part of a series of proposals to solve the country's housing crisis. A larger version will be built next year as a model in the city's Centenary Square.

Most transport protests focus on preventing highway projects, but residents of one Devon community are embroiled in a court battle to keep their road open.

The A30 Fingle Glen Business and Community Centre Action Group has lost a High Court appeal against Highways Agency plans to close a road junction giving access to the village of Tedburn St Mary. This would lead to the village's decline because of a fall in passing trade, members argue.

The residents launched their legal challenge on the grounds that they had not been consulted about the closure. The Highways Agency says there has been plenty of time to respond to its plans and insists that the junction is a safety hazard. It notes that 11 accidents, two of them fatal, have occurred there since 1990.

Its solution, a £3 million flyover into the village, had to be scrapped due to a lack of central government funding that left it with no option but to close the junction. Diary wonders whether Swampy could be tempted out of retirement to help keep the road open.

Commuters on the tube who are shoehorned into hot, pungent carriages on a daily basis would be amazed to hear that London offers the best public transport system in the world.

According to the results of a TripAdvisor poll of 800 globetrotters, the capital's public transport outshines other major cities such as New York, Paris, Tokyo and Washington. The travellers claim that London offers the safest mode of public transport and the best taxi service, although it drops slightly down the ranks in terms of cleanliness.

The good news comes as no surprise to London mayor Ken Livingstone, who was pleased to hear that the capital had secured top spot for the second year running. "We are seeing the fruits of real and sustained investment in London's public transport, a break from the previous policy of deregulation and choking off resources," he insists.

Politicians are renowned for avoiding difficult issues and shadow environment secretary Peter Ainsworth gave a masterclass last week in his Conservative Party conference speech.

The Tories are working hard to play down the glaring conflict between John Gummer's quality of life report and John Redwood's economic competitiveness review. Ainsworth only mentioned the incompatible offerings together in one sentence, and then only to make the point that both groups "are united in agreeing that it's time to stop tinkering". Party unity, it seems, is safe once again.


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