Planning application fees increased and charge for Article 4 applications introduced

Article 4 directives

Planning application fees increased and charge for Article 4 applications introduced recently as the government seeks increases and changes to the planning application fees charged in England with effect from 17th January 2018.

Across the board this means an increase of around 20%, with the fee for a Householder Application increasing to £206. As part of other changes charges are now introduced for planning applications required only because the normal national Permitted Development Rights have been removed by the local planning authority through the introduction of an Article 4 Direction.

One typical use of Article 4 Directions is to apply them in Conservation Areas to remove Householder Permitted Development Rights to make alterations such as replacing doors and windows. Previously, where such planning applications were required these were ‘exempt’ from a local planning authority fee – in the same way that Listed Building Consent is exempt from a planning fee.

This exemption is now removed and a Householder Application fee will be applied for such alterations required because of imposition of an Article 4 Direction. (Article 4 Directions are also increasingly used to restrict some types of permitted development to change the use of buildings, typically converting some classes of industrial commercial buildings to residential use).

Importantly the increased fees will be ‘ring fenced’ so that the additional monies must be spend on Council planning services. In response to a recent survey most Councils are saying the extra income will mostly go to increasing professional staffing resources dealing with planning applications; some are saying they will direct more senior staff into giving pre-application advice.

My hope is that more senior professional officer time is directed to giving useful authoritative pre-application advice including to householders and for routine Conservation Area applications. It remains to be seen whether the new fee encourages more LPAs to introduce Article 4 Directions?

It is currently estimated these apply in around 15% of all English Conservation Areas.

Full details on the new fees are available here

Written for us by
Michael Thornton MRTPI
Independent Planning Consultant – Merit Thornton Planning and Community Consultants Ltd”

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Aluminium or uPVC – making the right choice for you

Aluminium-front-doors

Should you choose aluminium frames for your new windows (or doors), or is uPVC a better option? It’s not always a straightforward choice, so you’ll need to consider the following when selecting the best material for your home.

Just Windows and Doors Ltd  who are GGF members and Fensa registered, have kindly written the following article for your consideration. Do you agree with their suggestions or have other solutions?

Price

For many people, price is the overriding concern when making a big purchase like this. And on that front, uPVC frames are a clear winner; a cheap and cost-effective material, they’ll set you back around half of the cost of aluminium frames.

Thermal efficiency

Thermal efficiency is the extent to which your window frames can keep the heat locked into your home. The less warmth you lose through the windows, the more you’ll save on your heating bills. More efficient frames will also keep you comfortable, especially during the colder months. Both aluminium and uPVC can provide excellent thermal efficiency.

Aesthetics

How good will your new window frames look? Will they suit the style and appearance of your home? While modern uPVC frames are available in a range of colours or, if you prefer, realistic wood effects, they can’t rival the slimness and flexibility of aluminium. If aesthetic appeal is your main concern, aluminium is the likely choice for you.

Durability

It’s important to consider how your window frames will fare against the weather, and what will be their likely lifespan.  uPVC windows are strong and sturdy, and could last you as long as 20 years in the right conditions; however, aluminium is a superior material that will endure for much longer. In particular, if you live in a coastal area at the mercy of the elements, aluminium is unquestionably the right choice for you.

Maintenance

Will you have to spend much time looking after your window frames? Are they vulnerable to wear and tear? uPVC window frames are famously low-maintenance; all that they require is the odd wipe-down with a damp cloth, and they’ll be good as new. Aluminium demands a little more TLC, but a monthly clean and a periodic check is all you’ll need to commit to.

Security

Many people, understandably, worry most about the security of their windows and doors. If a solid and secure window frame is your top priority, aluminium is the material you’re after. There’s no stronger substance to protect your windows and keep your property safe.  However, uPVC window frames come a close second; so if your budget doesn’t quite stretch to aluminium, it’s a good, solid second choice.

Environmental considerations

Your choice of material will have an impact on the environment – but which has better green credentials? One factor we considered above is thermal efficiency; this is best considered on an individual basis by checking the u-value of your frames. Your windows’ expected lifespan is another consideration; longer-lasting frames will have a smaller impact on the environment because they won’t need replacing so soon.

Finally, think about what will happen to your frames once they do need replacing. While it is possible to recycle uPVC, aluminium is certainly much easier to melt down and re-use. On the whole, aluminium wins out on the environmental front.

Link to Just Windows & Doors web site for further information

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Sign of the times or time to shine

watermark

Entu (UK) PLC (the Entu Group) are suffering serious financial challenges which has seen a substantial slide in the value of their shares in recent times and according to the Double Glazing Blogger, likely to be placed into administration unless a third party purchaser can be found very quickly for all or part of the group.

Entu (UK) PLC, is registered at company house as Co reg 08957339 and were formed on the 25th March 2014. Also registered at the same address is  ENTU (UK) HOLDINGS LIMITED Company No. 09237919 formed 26th September 2014.

According to financial details on the website Endole their last set of accounts showed they had a turnover of nearly £88m (down £11m) employ 360 people and have seen their nett worth fall from £7m to -£8m

The group consists of Zenith, Weatherseal and Job Worth Doing and was formerly part of the Brian Kennedy empire until he resigned in September 2014

For many trading conditions this year have been tough and the possible demise of a large group is just a sign of the times we live in. Although there was a bubble immediately after the Brexit results (which masked the challenges which lay ahead) this year as the pound has weakened, we’ve seen raw materials squeeze margins and homeowners tighten belts and reduce spending on major items.

However there are two interesting things which stem from this.

Firstly is that many of the investment decisions made by city investors are done purely upon the money making effectiveness of the operation. Because direct sell companies have always made money selling volume produced shiny white window frames, they expect them to do so in the future.

Few if any, of these investors appreciate, the seismic shift towards more costly but highly desirable wood foil finishes with authentic detailing, like the R9 flush sash, the Bygone or Vintage sash window from masterframe or new jointing methods like TIMBERWELD® which has changed the value proposition away from the big brands with mass produced products, towards smaller, less well known producers, making prettier windows.

Secondly is the length of investment term. Given most SME’s don’t have a planned exit, their focus tends to be towards making the best product which gives the best chance of survival. The larger investors however, take a longer term view.

Sadly some will not wish to take on the existing company with the debts and financial commitments so the fate of the 360 employees is likely to end with the business however, if this business fails there will be others wishing to expand their own empire (and re-employ) through the acquisition of group businesses, because they see the future, post Brexit, as extremely promising.

Faced with 2 or 3 years of challenges and reductions in the number of installations, then there is every expectation that following Brexit the country will see a boom period, buying British products from British companies for British homes and the bigger your organisational net, the more you’ll catch.

Perhaps it is now time to invest, in new products, in new innovations, in new market share, because the time to shine is just 18/24 months away

It will be most interesting to see how the larger companies compete without new products to stop the consumers slide towards smaller, independent family businesses.

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What should you look for in an energy efficient bi-folding door?

red brick house

Bi-folding doors have become increasingly popular in recent years, and it’s no surprise.

Not only do they lighten up a room significantly, but they create a rather enviable inside/outside space. By folding the doors fully back, you have an uninterrupted view out into your garden, essentially bringing your garden into your room and vice versa.  But as bi-folding doors take over an entire wall space, on top of the aesthetic appeal, you should also ensure that your doors are energy efficient, helping keep your home as warm and comfortable as possible, whilst keeping your bills low.

So, what you should look for in an energy efficient bi-folding door?

Quick Slide Ltd very kindly provided their thoughts on this subject as follows.

U-values

U-values measure how effective a material is as an insulator. The lower the U-value, the more efficient the material. The more efficient the material, the lower your energy bill will be. With bi-folding doors you generally want a value of 1.4 or lower to ensure that you have optimal thermal performance. There are a variety of energy efficient bi-folding doors, with low U-values. For example, WarmCore doors have been developed to achieve a U-value of 1.4W/m2K with double glazing, and a U-value of 1.0W/m2K with triple glazing.

Weather Testing

A suitable weather resistant bi-folding door should have undertaken a weathertightness test, more formally known as a BS6375 Part 1. This tests the air permeability (varying levels of air pressure are applied to the material, testing the amount of air leakage), watertightness (water is sprayed at varying pressures to see at what point it starts to penetrate) and wind resistance (varying levels of wind pressure are applied to see what the maximum resistance levels are). Purchasing a bi-folding door that has undertaken a weathertightness test, ensures you the peace of mind that your doors will keep your home fully insulated from all weather conditions.

Polymide Thermal Barrier

Aluminium bi-folding doors that have been upgraded to polymide thermal barrier technology over old resin thermal barrier give at least a 30% improvement to thermal efficiency. The advanced profile technology creates a thermal transmittance barrier between the cold outside and the warm inside.

CE Marking

All UK manufactured bi-folding doors should be CE marked. In order for a product to receive this accreditation, the manufacturer must present evidence under a series of categories, this includes thermal and weathertightness. Therefore, you can rest assure that any door you are purchasing with this marking, will be within the UK standard for both thermal and weathertightness.

Quick Slide Ltd have not paid for this article, nor have we paid them. The views expressed are their own. Other companies wishing to publish informative articles should submit them to the editor. 

Read more about their Bi folding doors here, their website claim they are

A well-established business specialising in the manufacture of sliding sash windows, casement windows and doors, bi-folding- and sliding patio doors in PVC-u, Aluminium and Timber. We work with professionals to ensure we provide our trade partners with the highest quality of windows and doors throughout the UK at all times.

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White Gold a new comedy series based in South Essex

Cold Callers

White Gold a new comedy series based in South Essex

According to reports South Essex has seen cameras filming a new comedy series around Ballards Walk, Laindon.

The new BBC comedy is set in the 1980’s According to the BBC: “It is a story of dodgy shenanigans, scams and petty rivalries – alongside free-flowing drugs, cash and sex.”

Further filming is due to take place across South Essex in the coming weeks

Wonder how accurate they’ll be?

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BOGOF, double glazing advertisement man ordered to pay back tax

BOGOF

Burnley based double glazing advertisement  man for Safestyle UK, Jeff Brown has been ordered to pay over £53k having failed to submit tax returns since 2009.

Brown, famous for his BOGOF catchphrase on the window adverts, “Buy one you get one free, I said, you buy one you get one free” reportedly earned over £350k for this work and match day room host for Burnley and Accrington Stanley.

The judge at Burnley Crown Court warned Brown that failure to pay the sum within the next 3 months would see him spend 12 months inside. Seems much of his life he has worked in the cash economy because when the police inspected his house, bundles of notes were found.

“If you know of anyone who is committing tax fraud you can report them by calling our 24-hour hotline on 0800 59 5000.”

Read the full story here in the Mirror, Lancashire Telegraph or Manchester Evening News.

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Condensation, explained, again.

condensation

Condensation, explained, again.

Seems every year about this time, we get interested in condensation or at least the causes of it. Ray Rabett the technical director of Masterframe Windows ltd wrote the following article to explain what condensation is, how it is formed and possible solutions to avoid it.

Broadly there are three types of condensation which often get talked about when referring to double glazing, replacement windows or doors.

External.              Water droplets on the outside of the insulated Glass unit (IGU),

Internal.               Water droplets on the room side of the IGU and

Inside.                  Water droplets which form inside the two glass panes of the IGU.

Let’s start with some science. The process of water droplets forming on any surface, is in essence, exactly the same as fog, water droplets forming a thick dense bank of moisture but is accelerated because of the surface temperature of a wall or glass unit.

I realise some of this will sound techy but please stick with me whilst I explain Relative Humidity (RH). This is the point when water vapour (a gas) turns back into a liquid (water) in the atmosphere. The transformation occurs at 100% saturation, the RH is then measured as a percentage of the volume of moisture in the atmosphere of that figure.

The difficulty is that RH varies as the air temperature changes. Higher temperatures (RH) will hold more water vapour, by volume is needed to saturate the atmosphere, but the RH is always measured on the same scale.

Therefore as the temperature rises, if no extra water vapour is added to the atmosphere the effect is the RH will fall and vice versa, if the temperature drops and no water is extracted from the atmosphere the RH will rise.

Next we need to understand the Dew Point (DP) The DP is the actual temperature that the transformation of the vapour to a liquid will occur, i.e RH 100%.

There are many references on the internet for a simple calculation to work out what the DP is depending on the 2 variables, the atmospheric temperature and the RH, which references to some work done by Lawrence, Mark 2005

Dew Point = (Temperature-((100-RH)/5)

Eg.         Room temperature 20 degrees Celsius

Relative Humidity 55%

DP = (20-((100-55)/5)

DP = (20-(45/5)

DP = (20 – 9)

DP = 11

In this example any surface which has an 11 degree surface temperature will accelerate the transformation of the water vapour to a liquid by cooling the air immediately in contact with that material to a point that the RH will rise to 100% . This water will adhere to the material surface in the form of condensation droplets.

Visible water inside the IGU is the easiest one to explain

The IGU is made up of multiply panes of glass held apart by a spacer bar which has a small primary seal between the spacer bar and the glass and a larger thick secondary seal around the perimeter of the IGU which is giving structural strength to the IGU, in most cases the IGU is now filled with an inert gas.

The spacer bar is filled with a material called desiccant, a form of silicone gel granules similar to the small packers of material found in the box of a new electrical good. This material is used as it absorbs moisture. Over time the IGU seals will degrade, moisture will work its way through the sealants and eventually the desiccant will become saturated, not able to absorb any more moisture. Eventually the DP inside the IGU will be achieved and the vapour converts back to a liquid on the cold surface. Once this happens the unit has reached the end of its lifetime and needs replacing.

Next is external condensation.

Primarily during the spring and autumn months this is more common. Water droplets will be witnessed on the exterior of IGU’s. This has happened because during the day the RH has built up in the atmosphere. Overnight the temperature has dropped to a point where the DP has been reached in the air at the point where it is in contact with cold surfaces, resulting in the formation of water droplet. This can be seen on the exterior of the IGU’s, but also on vehicles and the ground which is also going to be cold by comparison to the day air temperature.

If the outside air temperature falls enough then this will manifest itself into advection fog (condensation in free air).

As the temperature rises during the day the condensation on the outside of the IGU will evaporate away as the RH effectively drops, the DP rises and the atmosphere can support the water vapour.

Lastly internal condensation on the glass (room side).

As explained the condensation forming on the glass is the by-product of the transformation of vapour back to a liquid at DP.

Modern day fenestration products are far more airtight then products of years ago, therefore there is very little draughts ventilating the property and reducing the RH.

During our normal living activities, people exhaling vapour, boiling a kettle, cooking, baths / showers, drying clothes on radiators and even house plants are all adding vapour into the property atmosphere, increasing the RH.

This is not necessarily a problem, however if the heating is on a timer and the property cools down at night, then it is plausible that the property atmosphere will reach DP and condensation will form on the cold surfaces, IGU first, them mirrors, china and eventually even the wall corners of the rooms. This is not an issue with any material just our living habits.

There are some particle suggestions that can help with condensation. Ultimately we need to control the RH, simply changing the air supply in the property or extracting high levels of vapour when cooking or showering will help to keep the RH under control.

Furthermore, managing the property heat can also help, if there are high levels of RH in the property, then if the property cools down, the RH will increase and the DP will be achieved. Keeping the property a couple of degrees warmer could eliminate the condensation.

Lastly if all else fails a small dehumidifier will reduce the RH by mechanically extracting the water vapour from the atmosphere.

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Plastic casement windows get permission in a conservation area

17

Plastic casement windows get permission in a conservation area, according to the  Maidenhead advertiser It seems the son of celebrity chef #MichelRoux , top chef Alain Roux has got into hot water by fitting windows without permission then successfully applying for retrospective planning permission.

The property is believed to be staff quarters in The Terrace, near The Waterside Inn and in a conservation area. The article suggests that for this reason, planning permission is required, but this is incorrect.

Firstly it does not need permission because of where it is; it needs planning permission because as a property which is connected to a commercial business the “permitted development rights” have been removed.

Had the building been owned privately, with no rented accommodation or business etc, it would probably have had the PDRs meaning owners can change their windows to ones of “similar” appearance. That’s what the NPPF guidelines actually state, “similar” appearance.

The question is “do these replacement windows look similar?”

I suggest not.

They may be excellent quality windows, made well and fitted nicely but the fact remains that as casement windows they are dissimilar to the originals, they open in different directions and standout from neighbouring properties.

Like so many owners, he probably installed casement windows hoping to save money against real sash windows which are more expensive; however there are many modern sash window solutions which enable window replacements to go undetected because they are “VERY similar” to the existing windows.

Pity really because whatever saving he made buying casement windows, he has probably lost on the value of his property.

Seems permission has now been granted with Retrospective planning permission. I must say this seems odd given that the council has now established a precedent for the area.

How can they now decline permission for other casement window installations when these are so obviously “dis-similar” to the original sash windows.

If planners are to have any respect from homeowners, they must be consistent in their rulings.

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ASA Rule on misleading advertising but which company?

price of double glazing

The Advertising Standards Agency has investigated a company and decided it was guilty of breaches to the ASA codes. Specifically it had misleading advertising, artificial “close by” dates and concerns regarding their “free” offers. Yet it is not clear which company they mean!

As a respected body to adjudicate on advertising standards, surely it is not too much to ask that the ASA themselves make it clear which company they have reviewed? That way consumers are protected from the organisation in question, and not confused by other companies with similar names. Otherwise what’s the point?

Take for instance the recent case in Scotland. On 3rd August following two complaints, the ASA upheld the complaints on 3 issues on case number A16-334084 and ruled that;

“The ads must not appear again in their current form” and that “their closing dates for future promotions must not be extended unless circumstances outside their reasonable control made it unavoidable.” Furthermore, “they must ensure that they do not describe a product as “free” unless that was the case and that the basis of their price comparisons were made sufficiently clear and supported with robust evidence”.

Misleading advertising, which company is it?

Well they refer to the company as The UPVC Company Block 1, Etna Industrial Estate Craigneuk Wishaw Lanarkshire ML2 7XQ. Only there is no such incorporated company!

Now The UPVC Company could be the trading name of a sole trader in which case it would not be registered at company house. If that’s the case it would be well worth the ASA saying, “Mr X, trading as The UPVC Company” so that consumers can be suitably alert to the questionable selling practices of “Mr X” and other companies with similar names, could be protected.

If you Google, The UPVC Company the case becomes ever more interesting. Two web sites spring up, www.upvcdoorcompany.co.uk and www.upvcdoor.co.uk.

As neither have complied with the law by disclosing the company name or registration number on the site, it is difficult to determine if these websites are related or entirely separate from each other.

Lets assume they are not connected.

Surely one would seek to distance itself from the other especially if one was guilty of misleading advertising. Hence the ASA must be clear with the actual name of the company concerned, so as to avoid any innocent companies with similar names being wrongly accused or consumers being confused further.

However the first of these sites displays a logo with The UPVC Company.

Again, no company reference number or name of the site owner, so it is virtually impossible to determine who is behind the web site. Dig a little deeper into the site Privacy Policy and things become a little clearer, or so you’re lead to believe!

The UPVC Company recognises the importance of protecting the personal information and the privacy of data provided by you (and that which may personally identify you) which we collect when you use the UPVC Company website and the services offered on the Website referred to in this policy as ‘Personal Data’.

This Privacy Policy Statement sets out the data processing practices carried out by UPVC Company Home Improvements Limited when using the Internet. By using our website you agree to the collection and use of your personal information as detailed below. If you have any requests concerning your personal information or any queries with regard to these practices please contact us.

Only there’s no company listed at company house called, UPVC Company Home Improvements Limited, either!

However, there have been three companies registered at Etna Industrial Estate, Craigneuk, Wishaw, Lanarkshire, ML2 7XQ, two of which have ceased trading, namely;

And a third which was incorporated well before either of the two above, namely;

We have no idea if or how these companies are in anyway related. The only known connection is that they each operate from the same address. As the ASA case for misleading advertising relates to a business earlier this year, it suggests it is the latter company, the UPVC DOOR COMPANY LIMITED which is in breach; however it would be so much simpler if they made this clear in their communications.

Although we have yet to receive any reviews about this company one review web site has just 12% recommending the company, with 38 of the 49 reviews rating them with just 1 star service, read more here http://www.reviewcentre.com/reviews230805.html

If you wish to read the full ASA findings, you can follow this link

Read the full case here

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Zenith Staybrite Ltd pleads guilty

glazing

Zenith Staybrite Ltd pleads guilty to 5 breaches of Consumer Rights Protection via its legal representatives at Guildford Crown Court on Friday 15 July.

Consumer Rights Protection should deter companies; their directors and sales people from misleading offers that disguise “time limited special offers” by using artificially inflated initial prices, sometimes referred to as “Drop selling”.

Consumers feel pressured into making immediate decisions because they falsely believe that the “discount” was time limited, when actually it was artificially high, to test the buyers appetite.

Please understand that It is not illegal to have a list price for windows, doors and home improvement goods which starts high and has discounts applied to it, providing these reductions are also listed, are genuinely available and well documented.

For instance if a retail customer offers a company  a 10% discount in return for their home being a show house for the area, that’s ok, providing it is detailed and available to all.

Zenith Staybrite Ltd, originally called Home Install Limited, was formed in 2008 (company reg number 06516827).

They are FENSA registered and according to their website, they trade as Zenith Home. They are Registered in England No. 06516827, operate from Joseph King House, Abbey Farm Commercial Park, Horsham St Faith, Norwich, NR10 3JU and proud to be part of the ENTO Group  more importantly they are “Authorised and Regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority”

It seems this investigation has taken two years to come to court but Buckingham and Surrey trading standards are delighted to have won the case which confirmed the firm were engaged with quoting inflated prices to make discounts look better.

According to the Surrey News there were 5 offences which included a house builder being offered a huge reduction of more than 50%, from £52k down to £22k, other cases saw reductions to just £16k from £25k starting price. Seems this was very common practice as eight other house builders suffered similarly.

Six other defendants from Zenith Staybrite Ltd  were also charged with unfair trading charges, but found not guilty because of the lack of evidence, however they did sign written undertakings, not to use unfair trading practices themselves or risk legal action.

Seems the victims in this investigation into unfair and high-pressure practices, could now be compensated as Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards seek compensation from the firm.

According to the Surrey News Richard Walsh, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Localities and Community Wellbeing, said:

“This was a major investigation over two years into high-pressure sales tactics which drove customers to make on-the-spot purchases they might not otherwise have made and we hope the outcome will serve as a warning to firms across the country tempted to resort to such practices. Our advice to consumers is always to be wary of deals and discounts which seem too good to be true and hard-sell tactics geared towards rushing them into signing on the dotted line.”

It is unclear how long the compensation case will take, but sentencing of those found guilty will be held on Friday 7 October.

So how would you avoid being conned by inflated prices, how do you know if something is very competitive because of a genuine offer or simply the result of artificially high prices to start with?

Well for starters, never feel forced to buy, take your time, consider alternative quotes, ask neighbours if they have contacts or recommended tradespeople.

Ask yourself how can someone do this same work for half the price, something cannot be right. Most companies who comply with regulations, registrations etc pay extra for memberships, so their costs will be higher but you’ll have more redress should things turn bad.

Always pay by credit card, you have extra protection, ensure deposits or stage payments are additionally covered by your chosen company with IBG Insurance Backed Guarantees so that if they scarper with your dosh, you have other routes to claim a refund.

Most of all, do some research, check to see if the company belongs to a trusted trade organisation like the Glass and Glazing Federation (The GGF) who have their own rules of conduct for all members which comply with the code for trading standards or backed by the Double Glazing Conservatory Ombudsman Scheme (DGCOS)

Use sites like ours to check their accreditations, read independent reviews on our website (not written by or added by the company themselves), and check with schemes exist or is it just a clever marketing trick to get you to sign up.

Remember if you buy from the internet you can return goods regardless of being faulty or not (because you haven’t seen a sample) and you have extended time to cancel a contract (just over 1 year) if the company fails to inform you of your cancellation rights, at the time of signing the contract.

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