News

An appeal against a dismissed judicial review, of planning permission granted by Shropshire Council for an intensive poultry-rearing facility, has been allowed.

The facility was to be constructed on the operator's land, with the disposal of manure to be used as agricultural fertiliser on the operator's and third-party land. This was confirmed by an environmental impact assessment (EIA), which also considered the impact of odour and dust arising from the use of the buildings.

The appellant claimed that manure from the poultry buildings, when stored off-site and spread on agricultural land, would cause unacceptable odour and dust.

The Environment Agency advised that the operator would be required to put in place a manure management plan, dealing with the future storage and spreading of manure on his land under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations SI 2016/1154. It expressly stated that it would not be involved in the control of any issues arising from activities outside the installation boundary.

A permit was issued under the 2016 Regulations, allowing for activities including the "removal of birds and associated wastes from site". The permit required the operator to take appropriate measures in disposal or recovery of manure to prevent or minimise pollution. Shropshire Council granted planning permission, which the appellant challenged for failure to consider the effects of the development on the environment. The Judge at review stage was satisfied the permit was sufficient to control the management of manure off-site in order to protect the environment.

On appeal, the Judge confirmed it was clear that the planning officer had misunderstood the scope and effect of the future manure management plan to be put in place by the operator. He had failed to acknowledge that such a plan would relate only to the operator's land, not to any third-party land where the manure might be disposed of, with no assurance that the plan would control odour and dust pollution. He had also failed to provide his own assessment.

The EIA had discussed the proposed arrangements for the operator's land but not any third party's, nor had it specified the third-party land which the manure was going to be spread. It had also not assessed the effects of odour and dust arising from the storage and spread of manure. It gave no indication that the Environment Agency had concluded that the proposed storage and spreading of manure was not a potential source of pollution, which ought to be addressed in determining the planning application.

The Judge concluded "in my view the EIA for the proposed development was incomplete and unlawful, and this unlawfulness vitiated the council's decision to grant planning permission".

The appeal was allowed.

Valero Energy UK Ltd and B&A contracts Ltd have been fined after an explosion killed four workers and seriously injured another at an oil refinery in Pembrokeshire in 2011.

The Court heard that on 2 June 2011 five workers were emptying a tank in the Amine Recovery Unit using a vacuum tanker when the explosion and subsequent fire occurred. The explosion resulted in a fireball which severed the 5-tonne tank roof which was then projected 55 metres to hit a nearby butane storage sphere. The piece also narrowly missed a pipe track where a range of flammable materials were carried.

B&A Contracts, a long-term contractor at the refinery, was carrying out the work with the support from another contractor company, Hertel.

An investigation carried out by the Health and Safety Executive found that the explosion was most likely to have been initiated by the ignition of a highly flammable atmosphere in the tank. Emptying the tank for further cleaning and maintenance should have been a routine task.

The investigation also found that there had been longstanding failures within the refinery safety management systems. As a result risks posed by flammable atmospheres within the Amine Recovery Unit were not controlled or understood. At the time of the incident, the refinery was operated by Chevron Ltd, but ownership changed in August 2011 upon completion of the sale to Valero.

Valero Energy UK Ltd pleaded guilty for breaching provisions of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The Company was fined £5 million pounds and ordered to pay costs of £1 million.

B&A Contracts Ltd was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay costs of £40,000, for the same breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Andrew Knowles said "this incident, which had devastating consequences for all those involved, was entirely preventable. Many opportunities to take action to control risk were missed, that would have prevented the incident from occurring. It is important to realise that the incident could have had even more serious consequences had the butane sphere or pipe track been damaged by the flying tank roof."

The Home Office seeks views of the public on changes that should be made to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order SI 2005/1541 to ensure it is fit for purpose for all regulated premises. This Consultation focuses on "higher risk" buildings which are workplaces or mixed-use as part of the building fire safety reform following the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

This Consultation complements the Consultation ran by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government called Building a Safer Future: Proposals for reform in the building safety regulatory system and should be read in conjunction with that Consultation.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order SI 2005/1541 (Fire Safety Order) was introduced to consolidate the range of legislation relating to fire safety in the workplaces, reduce burdens in business and enforcing authorities from overlapping general fire safety regimes, and bring other non-domestic premises into scope of fire safety legislation.

This document includes no policy proposals, however, it takes account of relevant proposals set out in the Building a Safer Future Consultation, referring to the proposed changes that relate to the Fire Safety Order. This Consultation also seeks views on whether the Fire Safety Order requirements for a potential set of higher risk workplace buildings are proportionate in comparison with the proposed reforms in the Building a Safer Future Consultation for multi-occupied residential buildings of 18 metres or more.

The topics for consideration in this Consultation are set out in the following sections:

  • Section 2 provides a brief overview of the Fire Safety Order, seeking views and evidence on its scope and objectives;
  • Section 3 focuses on the overlapping frameworks for the parts used commonly in multi-occupied residential buildings as well as mixed-use buildings. This section aligns with Chapter 2 of the Building a Safer Future Consultation;
  • Section 4 asks respondents who are required to comply with the provisions of the Fire Safety Order to enforce it, to share their experience or observations of its general application and supporting guidance;
  • Section 5 focuses on the findings of Home Office analysis of fire risks by type of building and the identification of a set of "higher risk" buildings which are workplaces. It seeks views on whether the Fire Safety Order provides sufficient fire safety arrangements for "higher risk workplace buildings" in occupation by comparison with multi-occupied high-rise residential buildings. It also seeks views on whether the relevant aspects of the proposed reforms for residential buildings relating to fire safety should also be applied to "higher risk workplace buildings" under the Fire Safety Order.

The Annexes attached to this Consultation set out the relevant legal provisions of the Fire Safety Order as well as Government guidance on the relevant subjects.

Responding to this Consultation

This Consultation is open for responses from 6 June 2019 until 31 July 2019.

The preferred way to respond is by completing an online survey on the Home Office survey portal.

Alternatively, written responses can be sent via e-mail to FireSafetyUnitconsultations@homeoffice.gov.uk.

For more information, see:

The Ministry of Housing, Community and Local Government seeks views of the public on the proposed fundamental reform of building safety requirements, following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, to ensure that residents are safe and feel secure in their homes.

This Consultation builds on the recommendations from Dame Judith Hackitt's Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety. It proposes a fundamental reform of building safety requirements.

This very detailed consultation is divided into the following chapters:

Chapter 1 sets out the progress to date, including the immediate action taken, to increase building safety and the work being done to improve the experience for residents beyond high-rise homes and building safety.

Chapter 2 discusses the buildings proposed to be brought into scope, starting with all higher risk residential buildings over 30 metres in height to include multi-occupied residential buildings of 18 metres or more.

Chapter 3 describes the proposals for system reform with new, responsible duty holders who have robust duties across the whole life cycle of a building in scope, from design to demolition, focusing on a safety case approach. It is divided into three parts:

  • Part A sets out proposals for the duty holder regime which would operate in the design and construction phase;
  • Part B details the proposals for a new building safety regime when higher risk residential buildings are occupied;
  • Part C sets out duties that run throughout a building in scope's life cycle.

Chapter 4 sets out the intention to empower residents within a new building safety system with residents at its heart to ensure views and concerns of residents are never ignored by those responsible for managing the safety of the building.

Chapter 5 sets out the proposed oversight of building safety and wider regulatory system through the introduction of a single building safety regulator that would have responsibility, at a national level, for oversight of the building safety and wider building regulatory system, oversight of the new regulatory regime for buildings in scope of the new regime and oversight of work to drive increased competence of professions and trades working on buildings.

Chapter 6 describes the proposals to improve compliance and strengthen enforcement and sanctions within the new building safety regulatory system framework, including:

  • reinforcement of operating standards and provision of professional guidance;
  • proactive intervention and monitoring; and
  • credible and effective enforcement and sanction powers.

These fundamental reforms aim to overhaul the current system with the aim that it also responds effectively to future changes in the building environment, technological advances as well as any recommendations that might follow the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry.

The Government also wants to ensure that the new regime is flexible enough to expand over time, if needed, to target a wider range of buildings.

As part of the building safety reform, the Home Office also simultaneously seeks feedback on any changes that should be made to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order SI 2005/1541 to ensure it is fit for purpose for all regulated premises.

Responding to this Consultation

This Consultation is open for responses from 6 June 2019 until 31 July 2019.

The preferred way to respond is by completing an online survey on the Governmental portal.

Alternatively, written responses can be sent via e-mail to buildingsafetyconsultation@communities.gov.uk.

For more information, see:

The UK2070 Commission has proposed that the UK requires a spatial plan to guide its future development.

The Commission led by chair Lord Kerslake, highlights that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have spatial frameworks that play a "key role" in helping to shape their future development.

England however does not have one, meaning that there is "no common understanding of shared priorities beyond the individual nations".

The Commission says national and sub-national frameworks would help to resolve this problem, "identifying and connecting national economic hubs, providing a firm basis for long-term infrastructure investment, identifying priorities for a new urban policy and securing better national management for the natural and historic environment".

A 'Plan for England' would provide a long-term framework for major infrastructure investment and development. The Plan would need to be approved and owned by the Government, as well as be linked to devolved nations through a nationwide Reference Framework.

An independent body could produce the Plan, which should take into account emerging priorities from combined authorities and bring together existing or future trans-regional or province-level initiatives. The form and content of the Plan itself must be "supportive and encourage stronger sub-national strategic planning".

The UK2070 Commission is an independent inquiry into spatial inequalities in the UK. The Report says that these spatial inequalities mean the economic potential of the whole UK is not taken advantage of, and that there is an imbalance of wealth and opportunity that creates division and pressures in terms of population growth, housing affordability and overloading infrastructure in areas performing better economically. The Commission says there is a "compelling" case to explore these, particularly as they may be widened because of Brexit.

England could be split into four regions when it comes to strategic planning, something the Commission wants to investigate to see if this is the most appropriate split:

  • London and the South East;
  • North;
  • Midlands;
  • South West.

Victoria Hills, chief executive at the Royal Town Planning Institute said "the UK 2070 Commission's call for a serious rebalancing of the country's regional economies through better strategic planning needs to be urgently heeded. The RTPI has long championed the power of planning in tackling inequalities and entrenched patterns of economic and social development. The report we launched [last week] with the help of Lord Heseltine calls for joined-up planning across the North to do just this".

"We need commitment now from all levels of government to channel resources into reinvigorating our planning system to benefit everyone in the long term".

The UK2070 Commission also proposes:

  • greater devolution of powers and funding, including the creation of four new 'super regional' economic development agencies;
  • action to harness new technologies and strengthen local economies;
  • long-term investment through a new National Renewable Fund, which would rebalance the economy over a 25-year period.

For more information on this subject, see:

A construction company and its director have been fined after failing to ensure the safe removal of asbestos during demolition work.

Greater Manchester Magistrates' Court heard how Sherwood Homes Limited was the client responsible for the demolition of Crowton Mill in Northwich.

The results of an asbestos survey conducted in January 2017 identified the presence of asbestos containing materials on the site. The extra work required to remove the asbestos increased the estimated costs and timescale for the completion of the demolition.

An investigation carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Sherwood Homes Limited failed to ensure suitable contractors were used to carry out the asbestos removal work and demolition of the mill in February 2017. There was no record of a notification to the HSE to remove asbestos from the site and no details of how the asbestos containing materials were removed or how they were disposed were provided to the HSE.

Sherwood Homes Limited had received previous enforcement by the HSE, including a prosecution in 2018 in relation to their role as a construction client.

The company was found guilty of breaching the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations SI 2015/51, fined £170,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,406.

The company director pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 in relation to the company's failing of the 2015 Regulations. He was fined £6,500 and ordered to pay costs of £7000.

HSE Inspector David Norton commented, "asbestos is responsible for thousands of deaths in the UK every year but it only becomes dangerous when it is broken up and fibres are released into the air. Asbestos should only be removed by specialist contractors".

"Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards".


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