News

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire has announced that coastal communities across England will receive funding of more than £36 million to develop and improve tourist attractions, create jobs and promote socio-economic growth.

A total of 70 projects across the British coastline from Cornwall to Cumbria have been picked for the funding and have been broken down into two categories.

The Government has awarded 26 projects from the Coastal Communities Fund, which was introduced in 2012, and 44 from the Coastal Revival Fund, which launched in 2015.

The 26 Coastal Communities Fund projects are forecast collectively to support more than 15,000 jobs, and attract up to £40 million in additional investment from public and private sector sources.

Brokenshire commented on his determination to support investment and development in coastal communities, to create an economy that works for everyone.

He said "all of the ambitious projects receiving funds were designed and developed by local people who know what will make the biggest difference to their areas".

Since the launch of the two funds, a total of 350 projects have received £180 million across England. The Government remains on track to invest over £200 million in the British coastline by 2020.

Some projects chosen for the funds include:

  • Connecting Cumbria's Hidden Coast project, awarded £1.06 million from the Coastal Community Fund;
  • Blackpool Museum Project, awarded £1.75 million from the Coastal Community Fund;
  • Seafront Improvement in Milford-on-Sea, awarded £50,000 from the Coastal Revival Fund;
  • Salcombe Jubilee Pier Revival in Salcombe, awarded £50,000 from the Coastal Revival Fund.

For more information, see:

A train refurbishment company has been sentenced this week after exposing workers to hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).

Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard how Faiveley Transport Tamworth Limited exposed workers to uncontrolled and unrestrained exposure to vibrating tools from 2005 to 2015.

Employees used a number of vibrating tools including sanders and air-fed cutting equipment to refurbish train doors.

In 2015 an employee raised concerns regarding symptoms similar to HAVS as a result of exposure to the air-fed cutting tool used to remove rubber seals from train doors. Despite the company being made aware of this, it failed to take prompt action to manage the risk of exposure to HAVS.

Another employee reported he used grinders up to 8 hours a day often until his hands were in pain.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found Faiveley Transport Tamworth Ltd failed to consider the risk to its employees and agency workers of exposure to hand transmitted vibration tools over a prolonged period of time.

The investigation found that there was little or no oversight by management to control exposure to vibrating equipment and there was an absence of a safe system of work including control, monitoring and maintenance measures.

Faiveley Transport Tamworth Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, was fined £90,000 and ordered to pay costs of £45,000.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Theresa Hewkin said "this was a case of the company completely failing to grasp the importance of HAVS health surveillance".

"If the company had understood why health surveillance was necessary, it would not only have ensured that it had the right systems in place to monitor workers' health but would have identified from the outset that one of their employees has primary Raynaud's phenomenon and should not have been made to work with vibrating tools because of his likely heightened susceptibility".

For more information on this subject, see:

  • Control of Vibration at Work Regulations SI 2005/1093;
  • L140 - Hand-arm vibration;
  • HSG61 - Health surveillance at work;
  • HSG170 - Practical ways to reduce the risk of hand-arm vibration injury.

Following an Environment Agency prosecution at Worcester Crown Court this month, a businessman pleaded guilty to three charges relating to the illegal operation of waste sites.

The defendant was sentenced to one year in prison suspended for two years and ordered to pay £30,000 costs.

The businessman operated under the trading names of UKBF Group Ltd and Plastics Recycling Ltd, at the car park for Smethwick Drop Forge Ltd (SDF), land and units at the Gemini Business Park (GEMINI), and Cherry Tree Farm in Stanford Bridge.

The defendant deliberately and over a prolonged period, accepted waste onto each of the three sites. He did so without the necessary environmental permits and in breach of the registered waste exemptions required to ensure there was no risk to human health or to the environment.

He avoided costs relating to the waste activity and failed to produce waste records as required by law, with well known companies as customers.

When Environment Agency officers visited the sites, they found large amounts of assorted types of waste, including hazardous waste, being illegally stored and treated.

Large quantities of plastics contaminated with dairy and wine products were found at the GEMINI and SDF sites, with no measures in place to prevent the liquids from polluting the nearby canal and River Severn. The quantities found could have caused significant harm to the environment, including to fish and invertebrates.

Complaints were received by the Environment Agency about rat, fly and odour problems at the GEMINI site caused by large amounts of food waste waiting, being stored and processed on site. The SDF and GEMINI sites were also deemed to be at high risk of fire by a Fire Community Risk Manager.

Following warnings and an enforcement notice being issued, the defendant gave Environment Agency officers repeated assurances that he would remove the high risk waste types and apply for the necessary Environmental Permit. Waste was moved between the SDF and GEMINI sites, and when the defendant was evicted from the GEMINI site, it was then moved to Cherry Tree Farm.

The defendant eventually abandoned the waste filled sites. The landowners are continuing to work with the Environment Agency, and the companies from where the waste originated, to clear the site.

Speaking after the case, an Environment Agency spokesperson said "waste crime is a serious offence with tough penalties as it can damage the environment, blight local communities and undermine those who operate legally. This case sends out a clear message that we will not hesitate to take action to ensure the protection of the environment and avoid harm to health. Businesses can support us with this by carrying out their Duty of Care and Due Diligence checks to ensure that they are using legitimate companies to deal with their wastes and not criminals...".

Spring Statement 2019 update
Published: 20 Mar 2019

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a £3 billion Affordable Homes Guarantee Scheme in the Spring Statement last week, as well as money for the Borderlands Growth Deal.

He listed the work the Government is doing to raise the level of housebuilding and deliver infrastructure, including the "largest" investment in roads and £37 billion National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF).

Although, all extra funding that could be provided for housing and other sectors, will depend on an "orderly" Brexit, where a deal with the EU has been agreed upon before the departure.

Affordable homes

Housing associations in England will be able to borrow £3 billion through the Affordable Homes Guarantee Scheme to support the delivery of 30,000 affordable homes.

Hammond stated £717 million from the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF), which totals £5.5 billion, will be used to create up to 37,000 homes at several sites, including at Old Oak Common in London, the Oxfordshire-Cambridge Arc and in Chesire.

The Oxfordshire-Cambridge Arc will also receive £445 million from the Housing Infrastructure Fund to help create more than 22,000 homes.

These measures all aim to help the Government with its commitment to build 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.

Hammond added that the Spring Statement builds on commitments in the 25-year environment plan; the Industrial Strategy and the Clean Growth Strategy to ensure that wildlife is not compromised when delivering infrastructure and housing. He said the Government will mandate net gains for biodiversity on new developments in England to deliver an overall increase in biodiversity.

Growth deals

The Chancellor said up to £260 million would go towards the Borderlands Growth Deal. The Scottish Government has announced that the Government would invest up to £85 million over 10 years into the Borderlands as part of the deal.

This is alongside the announcement that allocated £102 million for the Carlisle Southern Link Road from the HIF. The support of which follows the signing of an agreement at the beginning of March for an Ayrshire Growth Deal. The UK Government is to invest £103 million over the next 15 months. The Scottish Government would match this, with regional partners taking the total to more than £250 million.

Projects include:

  • £80 million investment "to position" Ayrshire as one of the UK's leading centres of aerospace;
  • £23 million to build Ayrshire's history of manufacturing;
  • £24 million to help harness the potential of local energy generation. £18 million will go towards the creation of a Centre for Research into low-carbon energy at the Hunterston industrial hub;
  • £14 million to improve the region's digital connectivity and infrastructure.

A ministerial statement published alongside the Spring Statement details that £60 million would be invested in 10 English cities from the Transforming Cities Fund. This will go to 30 schemes, including upgrades to bus stations, new cycle lanes and road improvements.

The cities that will receive funding includes:

  • Derby and Nottingham, £7.2 million;
  • Leicester, £7.8 million;
  • Portsmouth, £4 million;
  • Sheffield City Region, £4.2 million;
  • West Yorkshire Combined Authority, £2.2 million;
  • Southampton, £5.7 million;
  • North East Combined Authority, £10 million;
  • Norwich, £6.1 million;
  • Plymouth, £7.6 million;
  • Stoke-on-Trent, £5.6 million.

Hammond also noted that progress is being made on growth deals for Mid Wales and Derry/Londonderry.

Planning

The Chancellor's ministerial statement says the Government will, in the coming months, introduce a "package of reforms" that will allow greater change of use between premises and a new permitted development right that will see buildings extended upwards to create new homes.

A green paper will be published on how "greater capacity and capability, performance management and procedural improvements can accelerate the end-to-end planning process".

Reactions

The Spring Statement has received mixed reactions.

President of the RTPI Ian Tant noted there are some "useful measures" like the Affordable Homes Guarantee and the ending of fossil fuels heating homes by 2025, but "the state of finance in local authorities, especially local planning capacity, is a real worry and, sadly, there is nothing in the statement today to alleviate that".

Planner and MP Helen Hayes said the funding was "pitiful" whilst the National Housing Federation (NHF) has welcomed the £3 billion guarantee scheme, but put emphasis on the need to build more social housing.

For more information, see:

Cadbury pulls treasure ad campaign
Published: 20 Mar 2019

Cadbury's new campaign for a "real treasure hunt" has been temporarily suspended after a massive outcry from archaeologists who said that the advert "encourages illegal excavation and looting".

In one of its latest campaigns, the chocolate giant encouraged children to "grab a metal detector" and dig holes and look for hidden treasures such as silver and gold coins, in heritage sites and protected locations. It might sound innocent, however there are certain legal requirements to "hunting real treasures" that must be met.

The first issue is trespassing - anyone who wishes to carry out metal detecting on land must obtain permission to do so from the owner of the land. Once permission is obtained, detecting and excavating must be done in an orderly manner.

Secondly, on the majority of protected sites such as Scheduled Monuments, Sites of Special Scientific Interests (SSSIs), or land owned by the Ministry of Defence, metal detecting is prohibited without permission of the appropriate authority. There also might be certain agri-environmental arrangements in place that require special permissions and reporting of findings when metal detecting.

Lastly, the Treasure Act 1996 requires treasures of certain specification (such as old Roman or Viking treasures that were the subject of the Cadbury's hunt) must be reported to the coroner and cannot be kept without permission. Anyone who fails to comply with these requirements is guilty of an offence and might be subject to a fine or even three months imprisonment.

Archaeologists and scientists argue that through this ill-advised campaign, Cadbury could have reversed the decades spent trying to promote responsible engagement with archaeological sites. Some even branded the campaign as "theft of cultural heritage".

Metal detecting can be a great hobby if carried out responsibly, it also often helps to discover new archaeological sites. By following the guidelines set out by the National Council for Metal Detecting and making sure detecting is appropriately planned, permission obtained and significant findings reported, metal detecting can at times provide great findings.

For more information on this subject, see:

Heathrow expansion plans go to court
Published: 15 Mar 2019

A hearing into a mass of legal challenges to the Government's support for a third runway at Heathrow Airport began at London's High Court this week.

It is set to last for two weeks and will focus on the implications of the airports National Policy Statement (NPS).

The legal actions are being backed by a coalition of local authorities around the West London airport as well as environmental groups like Plan B, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.

The Mayor of London has also lined up his arguments against the proposals. The proposals do not yet have planning permission and require a development consent order (DCO), which is currently in progress.

Also due in court is Heathrow Hub, who have argued that extending one of the existing runways would be a more cost-effective way of expanding the airport.

The issues under scrutiny by the High Court include:

  • air quality, the increased surface transport will breach air quality limits and/or slow down their achievement;
  • bias, the decision to choose the north-west runway over the other options was a foregone conclusion;
  • climate change, the Climate Change Act 2008 and the Paris Convention were not properly considered;
  • habitats, as Heathrow was chosen over Gatwick despite it effecting more European-level protected sites compared to Gatwick;
  • noise, the effect of noise from an expanded Heathrow has not been properly assessed;
  • surface access, the impact on the surrounding road network has not been properly assessed.

BDB Pitmans' Planning Act 2008 specialist Angus Walker has commented that given the size of the case, he would not expect judgement on it for a couple of months, after which the losing side may take the case to the Court of Appeal. Meanwhile Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL) is preparing an application for a DCO, a consultation it held on airspace and future operations closed a week ago, and a full statutory consultation is planned for June.

"If the judicial review is successful and part or all the NPS must be reconsidered, Heathrow could still carry on - it is not necessary for an NPS to be in place for a DCO application to be made and decided. HAL will have to decide whether to press on with its consultation and then the preparation of its application depending on the outcome of (or continuing litigation about) the judicial reviews".

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said "the climate minister has admitted we're in the grip of a climate emergency. The environment secretary has declared air pollution one of the biggest threats to public health in the UK. So how can ministers justify building a runway that's bound to make both problems much worse? Governments are very happy to talk the talk when it comes to protecting the air we breathe and the climate we all share, but unfortunately, getting them to walk the walk often takes legal action".


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