Two companies have been sentenced this month following the death of a five-year-old girl who became trapped while using a lift at home in Weymouth.

The family moved into the property in 2009, owned by Synergy Housing Limited, as part of the Aster Group. The property had an internal lift used by the five-year-old's brother, who used a wheelchair. 

In 2015 the five-year-old got in the lift to get her brother's phone from upstairs. She put her head through a hole in the vision panel and as the lift moved upward, the five-year-old's head got stuck between the lift and the ground floor ceiling. She died of her injuries.

Aster Property Limited managed a contract with Orona Limited on behalf of Synergy Housing Limited for the maintenance and repair of lifts, including the lift at the property in which the five-year-old lived.

Synergy Housing also had an agreement from 2013 with Aster Property Limited to arrange the maintenance and repair of lifts and to control the work.

When one of the perspex vision panels in the lift became damaged in early 2013, this was not fixed or replaced. In May 2015 an Orona engineer visited the property to inspect the lift and noted the vision panel was damaged.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found failures by the three companies:

  • Synergy Housing as the family's landlord had primary responsibility for the safety of the lift at the property;
  • Aster Property as the company to which responsibility for arranging lift maintenance issues fell;
  • Orona who were responsible for the relevant lift maintenance and repair work.

Synergy House Limited pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and has been fined one million and ordered to pay costs of £40,000.

Synergy Housing accepted that its duties were not to be delegated and that the failings of Aster Property were part of its breach. The charge against Aster Property Limited was ordered to be left to lie on the court file and was not separately sentenced.

Orona Limited pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, fined £533,000 and ordered to pay costs of £40,000.

HSE inspector Leo Diez commented on the case, that these companies "failed in their duties" to put systems in place to ensure the lift was kept safe, and more could have been done.

During the investigation the HSE found:

  • tenants were not provided with safety critical information concerning the operation of the lift;
  • no risk assessment was carried out following the change of lift used when the five-year-old's family moved in;
  • concerns raised during service inspection were not addressed including:
    • the perspex vision panel had been damaged for up to 18 months prior to the incident which had been reported in an inspection in 2015,
    • problems with the emergency lowering and lack of emergency hand winding wheel during the entirety of the families tenancy had been shown in documentation from at least January 2011,
    • the key switch used to control operation of the lift had been modified from factory installation to allow removal of the key in any position, meaning it could be operated by anyone at any time;
  • concerns raised by the brother's health workers were not taken seriously enough;
  • according to HSE guidance, lifts carrying people should be inspected every six months but, in this case, the lift was serviced only four times between 2009 and 2015 and was not thoroughly examined since 2012.

HSE inspector Leo Diez added: "Companies should know HSE will not hesitate to take the appropriate enforcement action against those who flout health and safety law".

Subsidies for coal, oil and gas are not falling despite EU pledges to tackle climate change.

The UK leads the EU in giving subsidies to fossil fuels according to a report from the European Commission. It found there was €12 billion a year in support for fossil fuels in the UK, significantly more than the €8.3 billion spent on renewable energy.

The report warned that the total subsidies for coal, oil and gas across the EU remained at the same level as 2008. This is despite both the EU and G20 having long pledged to phase out the subsidies, which hamper the rapid transition to clean energy needed to fight climate change.

Germany provided the biggest energy subsidies, with €27 billion for renewable energy, almost three times the €9.5 billion given to fossil fuels. Spain and Italy also gave more subsidies to renewable energy than fossil fuels.

As well as Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and Ireland all gave more to fossil fuels. The report is based on 2015 Eurostat data, the latest available, and found that across the EU renewable energy received 45% of subsidies and fossil fuels 33%.

The report said policies were being pursued to cut carbon emissions and meet the Paris climate agreement goals of limiting global warming to well below 2C about pre-industrial levels. Despite this and international commitments, the report stated that fossil fuels subsidies in the EU have not decreased.

The total fossil fuels subsidies in the EU were €55 billion in 2016. Experts have stated this is a very high number, given the approaching deadlines for some phase out promises.

A significant part of the UK fossil fuel subsidies identified by the commission is the 5% rate of VAT on domestic gas and electricity, cut from the standard 20%. The UK Government did not dispute the data but denied that it provided any subsidies for fossil fuels under its own definition and that of the International Energy Agency.

A Government spokeswoman commented that the UK do not subsidise fossil fuels: "We're firmly committed to tackling climate change by using renewables, storage, interconnectors, new nuclear and more to deliver a secure and dynamic energy market at the least possible cost for consumers".

Shelagh Whitley from Overseas Development Institute (ODI) was dismissive of the Government's claim to provide no fossil fuel subsidies. Stating the Government were lying, she said: "It's absurd. They are playing games and continuing to prop up a centuries old energy system".

She said the definition of subsidies, accepted by the UK and 163 other nations includes "government revenue that is otherwise due, foregone or not collected" such as reduced tax rates. Other countries, such as Germany and Italy, call such tax breaks subsidies, and the UK also gave tax breaks for oil and gas operators in the North Sea. Whitley said that rather than arguing about definitions, the UK should use its tax system to accelerate the transition to clean energy.

In September, Chancellor Philip Hammond said the Government had "forgone" billions of pounds by choosing not to implement a scheduled rise in duty on petrol and diesel. "The fuel duty freezes since 2011 have meant that the exchequer has foregone around £46bn in revenues through to 2018-19".

Labour Shadow Business and Energy Secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey said: "the balance of the UK's energy subsidies are all wrong. Denmark and Germany won big by investing early-on in what is now a hugely profitable offshore wind industry. The UK must not miss out on the opportunity to lead the world on the next generation of renewables, and support should be geared towards these technologies of the future".

Friends of the Earth CEO, Craig Bennett added: "Spiralling climate change is going to cost people and our economy huge sums of money, through the damage, disruption and instability it causes. So it's astonishing that the UK government is still throwing taxpayers' money at some of the world's largest oil and gas companies. Ministers must switch funding to rapidly boost energy efficiency and renewables"

On 7 January 2019 the Environmental Protection (Miscellaneous Amendments) (England and Wales) Regulations SI 2018/1227 began to come into force.

They make various amendments, including changes to the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to insert provisions giving power to certain authorities in England to serve notices offering a person the opportunity of discharging any liability to conviction under the new household duty of care for waste.

It is now an offence to fail to take measures to make sure that the transfer of household waste is only to certain authorised persons.

They also amend various provisions of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations SI 2016/1154, including amendments relating to:

  • new conditions for environmental permits authorising certain waste operations;
  • flood risk activities; and
  • radioactive substances activities.

These will come fully into force on 7 April 2019, and aim to strengthen the assessment and enforcement of operator competence by requiring the operator to periodically supply the regulator with information that demonstrates that they comply with recognised competence standards. So as a result, Competence Management Systems (CMS) are a recognised alternative to WAMITAB.

The standard is now UKAS accredited through LRQA and is recognised by the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales as a method of demonstrating technical compliance on permitted sites where a technically competent person needs to be present as part of the permitted operational requirements.

CMS is a bespoke system designed to meet the requirements of a site's environmental permit. It can be incorporated into current environmental and quality management systems (ISO 14001 and 9001) and certificates a whole business as competent instead of an individual. This means that attendance hours for technically competent persons is no longer an issue, as the whole business is certified as competent.

The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), the Civic Voice and the Bath Preservation Trust have raised concerns over the extension of permitted development rights.

Government proposals set out in their consultation on planning reform to support the high street and increase the delivery of new homes, seek to extend permitted development rights by allowing the upwards extension and conversion of non-domestic properties into dwellings.

The TCPA acknowledged that converting employment building to residential can be done to a good standard and deliver homes, however doing so through means of permitted development would result in very limited oversight and scrutiny of developments. They claimed that current permitted development has resulted in poor quality housing that in turn has adverse implications for the health and well-being of residents. The TCPA believe extending upwards to create new homes should be encouraged but subject to the full planning process.

Executive Director of the Civic Voice, Ian Harvey, said that the charity support the idea of encouraging a greater mix of high street use, however he raised concerns that: ''given the high visibility and prominence of upward extensions and potential impact on the street scene, local character and amenity, very careful consideration of such proposals must be required.'' They believe full consideration should be given to the design, external appearance and impact on amenity and character of the area for any proposal to extend up to the highest building in a street.

Chair of the Civic Voice, Joan Humble, commented: ''We may end up with poor-quality designed housing without consideration for the wider built environment, something we know is key to successful high streets.''

Worries have also been voiced by the Royal Town Planning Institute in relation to the Government's proposals over the potentially serious implications for local authorities who would not be able to collect planning fees and developer contributions if the developments were made under permitted development. They state that permitted development rights should be used for simple minor changes and not new developments on such a scale which they believe require scrutiny under a full local planning application.

For more information, see the:

  • Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order SI 1995/418;
  • Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order SI 2015/596.

Hitachi have suspended work on a new nuclear development project at Wylfa Newydd in Anglesey over rising costs.

The company have been in discussions with the Government since June 2018 about project funding but the two have failed to agree terms.

If the £13 billion plant would if scrapped, place thousands of jobs at risk. It was anticipated around 9,000 workers would be involved at the building of two nuclear reactors at the sire which were due to be operational by the mid-2020s.

Ken Skates, Wales Economy Secretary hopes that the plan won't be scrapped entirely, he said: ''If it is paused then work must begin immediately across governments and with local government and with the business community in ensuring that there are job opportunities in the short term whilst we find a new investor for the project.''

The site at Wylfa Newydd was identified as one of six sites for the most significant wave of new nuclear power construction globally. Only one of these sites is currently under construction, with another three abandoned.

Currently there are eight nuclear power sites in the UK that are generating power, and only one of those eight will be operational by 2030. The GMB Union have warned of ''the very real prospect of a UK energy crisis''.

Duncan Hawthorne, Chief Executive officer of Horizon Nuclear Power, the wholly owned Hitachi subsidiary behind the Anglesey scheme, said:

''We have been in close discussions with the UK Government, in cooperation with the government of Japan, on the financing and associated commercial arrangements for our project for some years now. I am very sorry to say that despite the best efforts of everyone involved we’ve not been able to reach an agreement to the satisfaction of all concerned.

"As a result we will be suspending the development of the Wylfa Newydd project until a solution can be found. In the meantime, we will take steps to reduce our presence but keep the option to resume development in future. Clearly this will have a significant impact for all involved with our project.

"We will also engage closely with the many international and UK-based stakeholders who have strongly supported the project’s development, especially our lead host community of Anglesey, represented by the Isle of Anglesey County Council and Welsh government.''

The CBI's chief UK policy director, Matthew Fell, said: ''The government has to demonstrate it is committed to meeting our climate change targets by supporting new low-carbon power supply. The loss of new nuclear projects could leave us more heavily dependent in the long run on fossil fuels, which could risk our legally binding climate targets.''

The Government have said they have a range of options available for meeting future energy demand, including renewables, storage, interconnectors, new nuclear and more.

A Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) spokesperson commented: ''As the Business Secretary (Greg Clark) set out in June, any deal needs to represent value for money and be the right one for UK consumers and taxpayers. Despite extensive negotiations and hard work by all sides, the government and Hitachi are unable to reach agreement to proceed at this stage.'' They also added that the land at the proposed site for the Wylfa Newydd project was owned by Hitachi, and they had indicated the company wished to retain ownership while it discussed future options with the government.

The Welsh Government has produced a Consultation as part of the Working with Communities: Geological Disposal of Higher Activity Radioactive Waste, which aims to widen the search for a willing host community and a suitable site for the development of a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) in Wales.

The document has been developed by Radioactive Waste Management Ltd to bring together the key relevant existing policy, legislative and regulatory requirements that will apply at various points during the Siting Process during the evaluation of sites which may be suitable to host a GDF.

Geological disposal involves placing higher activity radioactive waste deep underground to ensure that the hazardous materials that come from the nuclear energy industry as well as radioactive hospital waste, are kept away from people and the environment, by containing it in a suitable geological environment for many years.

The document provides an overview of the Siting Process, which could take up to around 20 years.

During the Siting Process, the Radioactive Waste Management Ltd will have to satisfy many legal requirements for the purpose of constructing and operating a GDF, in particular:

  • land use planning consent;
  • Environmental Impact Assessment;
  • Habitats Regulations Assessment;
  • obtain a Nuclear Site License under the Nuclear Installations Act 1965;
  • meet the nuclear industry security obligations; and
  • obtain environmental permits for operating such sites.

Responding to this consultation

The Consultation is open for responses from 16 January 2019 until 14 April 2019.

The form to be used for responses to the Consultation can be accessed on the Government's website.

For more information, see the:

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