News

Autumn Budget 2018 announced
Published: 30 Oct 2018

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond, this week announced a new budget for the coming period 2018/2019.

In the speech, he focused mainly on the improvements to the UK economic growth, reduction to borrowing, paying off debts and preparations for Brexit.

Something to keep in mind, the majority of the pledges are based on the UK setting up a deal with the European Union on Brexit. If there is no deal achieved by 29 March, it could adversely affect the UK's economy, which would mean that a lot less funding will be available to spend on certain sectors, with money focusing on trying to keep things such as transport and trade running as smooth as possible. If there is a no deal, a new budget could be announced for Spring.

Although the focus of the speech was "ending the era of austerity", there were few environmental and planning pledges that we have decided to share with you.

Environmental pledges

The key points of this Budget relating to the environment are:

  • plastic tax, which will impose a new charge on the manufacture and import of plastic packaging that contains less than 30% of recycled plastic; this will be subject to a separate consultation;
  • the Government will set up a Woodland Carbon Guarantee Scheme, which will support the planting of around 10 million trees by purchasing up to £50 million of carbon credits for the planting of qualifying trees;
  • provision of £10 million of funding between 2019-2020 and 2022-2023 for local community street trees and urban trees;
  • plastic and waste innovation fund, which will involve deploying £10 million to research and development and another £10 million to "pioneer innovative approaches" to boosting recycling and reducing litter, such as smart bins;
  • provision of £10 million of funding to the Environment Agency to help with cleaning up fly-tipped waste and tackle illegal waste sites;
  • £20 million additional funding will be allocated to support more local authorities to meet their air quality obligations;
  • Climate Change Levy (CCL) - the Budget sets the CCL main rates for 2020-21 and 2021-22 and continues with the Government's commitment to rebalance the main rates paid for gas and electricity. The electricity rate will be lowered in 2020-21 and 2021-22. The gas rate will increase in 2020-21 and 2021-22 so it reaches 60% of the electricity main rate by 2021-22. 

Planning pledges

The Government is determined to "fix the broken housing market" which means building more houses in the right places, which would make housing more affordable and drive productivity.

The key points of the Budget on planning include:

  • further commitment to implement pledges of last years' budget, including an extra £500 million for the Housing Infrastructure Fund, which now stands at £5.5 billion, delivering up to 650,000 homes;
  • planning reform which, following consultation, will allow the new permitted development rights to allow upward extensions above commercial premises and residential properties and allowing commercial buildings to be demolished and replaced with homes;
  • introduction of a simpler system of developer contributions that provides more certainty for developers and local authorities, while enabling local areas to capture a greater share of uplift in land values for infrastructure and affordable housing;
  • strategic housing deals, including a provision of £10 million capacity funding available to support local authorities in areas of high housing demand to deliver above their Local Housing Need.

Cedrec's take

There are no pledges made to introduce a "latte levy" on disposable cups, which for some green activists is a huge problem. Although such charges could end up being passed onto the customer.

This Budget also failed to mention any investments in renewable energy sources for the coming year, which could further affect investments such as onshore wind power.

Also, illegal waste disposal and fly-tipping is a massive problem for the Environment Agency, local authorities, blighted communities and undermines operators who dispose of waste legally. A £10 million pledge to help curb this problem, which between 2016-2017 cost the taxpayer around £600 million, could be considered to be insufficient.

The non-profit health insurer BHSF Limited submitted the results from its survey this month on 897 UK employees who work at least two days a week from home. The survey found that one in five employees received a workstation assessment in person and that businesses are failing to extend the care that employees receive in the office to that at home. It noted that women felt particularly let down and those over 50 were most vulnerable. BHSF added that a failure to protect employees benefiting from flexible working practices could result in a rise in musculoskeletal issues in the future.

Three-fifths of respondents said they received no help or guidance from their employer on how to set up their workstations correctly. Out of the 36% who had received support, 60% of those had an ergonomic assessment; 22% in person and 38% online. Since working from home 37% admitted they had noticed new back pain.

Only 30% of women said they had received help to set up their workstations correctly, compared to 45% of men. The survey also found that 30% of women had workspace set aside such as a desk or office, compared to 43% of men. In addition only 26% of those aged over 50 could remember receiving assistance from their employer to set up their workstations correctly.

A contributing factor to the back pain reported was the lack of a proper workstation. 27% said they worked at tables rather than desks, 11% worked from their sofas, and 3% admitted working from their beds.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provide employer guidance on employees working safely with display screen equipment (DSE) such as PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones. The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations SI 1992/2792 apply to workers who use DSE daily, this includes home workers. Employers must:

  • do a DSE workstation assessment;
  • reduce risks including ensuring regular breaks from DSE work is taken;
  • provide an eye test if a worker asks for one; and
  • provide training and information for workers.

Incorrect use of DSE, poorly designed workstations or work environment can lead to pain in necks, shoulders, backs, arms, wrists and hands as well as fatigue and eye strain. The causes may not always be so obvious.

Physiotherapy lead for BHSF Stuart Nottingham said: "There is a lot more that employers could be doing to prevent back pain in their employees, from ensuring their homes workstation is set up correctly to providing them with guidance on active working strategies such as getting up from sitting on a regular basis, or advice on simple exercises they can do to prevent back pain and other musculoskeletal problems."

Following part of a five-year post-implementation review of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) SI 2013/1471, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has suggested changes to the Regulations. It was found that the Regulations were fit for purpose, but recommended some amendments.

They recommended to extend the list of eight occupational diseases, which had replaced the former forty seven "specified ill health conditions" in previous Regulations. The current list included; carpal tunnel syndrome, cramp in the hard or forearm, occupational dermatitis, hard arm vibration syndrome, occupational asthma and tendonitis. These health conditions required the responsible person to follow the reporting procedure under RIDDOR. The HSE state this excludes health conditions "of specific interest to HSE from a regulatory and scientific perspective". This included; silicosis caused by dust exposure, decompression illness among divers, and some forms of chemical poisoning.

The objectives of RIDDOR were to: implement requirements of European Directives and meet relevant legal obligations; to provide information to guide enforcing authorities' regulatory activities; to ensure duty holders are aware of healthy and safety failures; and to provide data for national health and safety targets. The simplified reporting arrangements in RIDDOR were brought in on the recommendation of the 2012 Löfstedt review of the health and safety regulation.

The review also recommended a change to regulation 5 of RIDDOR which covers injuries to non-workers. RIDDOR states where any person not at work, as a result of a work-related accident suffers an injury to which they are taken to hospital, the responsible person must follow the reporting procedure. The HSE has noted that in the leisure sector, particularly theme parks and fairgrounds, there has been an over-reporting of minor injuries to the public, despite only requiring notification if hospital treatment is required. HSE recommend aligning the requirements similar to those of workers, which list specific injuries such as major limb fractures.

Employment minister Sarah Newton cleared the review for publication at the start of October.

This month the Environment Agency published its Regulating for People, the Environment and Growth (RPEG) report. The report sets out the regulatory performance of businesses holding environmental permits in England and the effectiveness of the Agency's regulatory approach.

The report showed that 93% of the 14,000 businesses the Environment Agency regulates demonstrated good compliance with their environmental permit conditions. However businesses which harmed the environment faced record penalties. The courts issued a total of £25.5 million in fines for environmental offences brought by the Agency, compared to £8 million in 2016. 

The Chief Executive of the Environment Agency Sir James Bevan noted in the report that "waste crime continues to blight local communities, legitimate businesses, and the environment." The Agency is closing more than two illegal waste sites everyday, with 812 illegal sites being shutdown in 2017/18. Nevertheless they are discovering a similar number of new illegal sites. The report acknowledges that more needs to be done about waste crime as it becomes more organised. This will be addressed in the forthcoming waste crime review, which will examine how the Environment Agency, partners and the law enforcement system can best tackle the problem.

The report also highlights the increased use of Enforcement Undertakings for less serious environmental incidents. In 2017/18 there were a record £2.2 million worth of Enforcement Undertakings accepted by the Agency compared to £0.9 million in 2016. This amount benefited environmental charities, organisations and projects. By companies admitting liability and making a financial contribution to put right the harm they have caused, both the environment and communities benefit. 

Other findings in the report include:

  • serious pollution incidents fell to 419, down 18% from 2016;
  • the number of persistently poorly managed sites reduced by 18% from 2016;
  • since 2000 the businesses regulated by the Environment Agency have reduced emissions of nitrogen oxides by 71%, sulphur oxides by 93% and fine particles by 51%;
  • 5 millions tonnes of waste is spread to land for agricultural benefit compared to 3 million in 2011;
  • radioactive discharges from the nuclear sector have decreased and the Environment Agency's work on new nuclear build is helping secure around £60 billion investment in low carbon electricity.

For more information on this subject, see:

Flats proposal rejected on appeal
Published: 29 Oct 2018

An appeal relating to the proposed development of a three-storey block of flats has been dismissed by an inspector, mainly due to a concern that the flats would not fit in with the surrounding area.

The appellant wanted to demolish a detached home in Harrow Weald, Harrow, and build a modern, three-storey block of flats containing six flats in its place, with provision for parking, bins and cycle storage. The existing hard surface outside was also to be replaced by a lawn.

Harrow Borough Council rejected the application on the basis that the proposed development was on garden land, in contradiction of its core strategy; the design is inappropriate and out of character for the area; the Flood Risk Assessment submitted was unsatisfactory; because of the poor amenity space and lack of privacy, it would provide a poor standard of living.

During the appeal, planning inspector J Ayres considered all four of the issues raised by the Council. The inspector noted that:

  • the proposal would boost the housing supply in the area;
  • the site is close to shops and services;
  • it would actually provide adequate living conditions for future occupiers and would meet relevant policies of the London Plan; and
  • conditions could be imposed that would suitably address any drainage issues.

Despite these material benefits which conflict slightly with the Council's original rejection of the scheme, the inspector determined that the "design, scale and mass of the proposal would result in significant harm to the character and appearance of the area. The benefits of the scheme do not outweigh this harm".

The scheme would, therefore, be contrary to the development plan and the material considerations mentioned above do not outweigh this conflict. As a result, the inspector decided that the appeal should be dismissed.

Steve Ogier from Guernsey applied for planning permission to build a single-storey eco-home on a plot of land approximately 150ft by 50ft. He was told that permission would be refused as the land was not in an area allocated for housing. After the planning permission was denied, things began to take an interesting turn.

Mr Ogier declared that the land was an independent state, named Everland, and announced himself as sovereign ruler. He then took the planning dispute to Guernsey's Royal Court, claiming nobody could stop him from building on the land because he was a sovereign ruler of the newly declared independent state.

In his argument in court, Mr Ogier cited the 1933 Montevideo Convention which sets out four criteria of statehood. It states that a state must have a permanent population, a Government, a defined territory and the capacity to enter into relations with other nations. Although it does not have a resident population, Mr Ogier stated that Everland had five citizens currently residing elsewhere.

The judge, however, disagreed with the case, partly because the plot of land did not have a population.

Although Mr Ogier admits that the case is comical, Guernsey's Government is taking it seriously and has applied for an injunction to prevent him from carrying out work on the land as it is firmly within the jurisdiction of the state of Guernsey.

This, however, has not stopped Mr Ogier pursuing his claim. He has promised not to build on the land, at least until he can prove that Everland is now an independent country.

Mr Ogier said, "I've sent an email to the United Nations and I'm awaiting confirmation. I've explained who I am and I'm waiting to hear whether it's enough to be considered independent. We’ve got no sports players in Everland so we won't be entering the World Cup, but we'll see where it gets. I intend to fight my corner and defend myself in the courts."


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