The Environment Agency has published a new economic assessment to aid planning for flooding and coastal risk management over the next 50 years.

The Study uses new data on climate change, population and mapping to set out potential future scenarios, and to assess how funding could be best allocated to meet these challenges.

The Report states that without sustained investment, future flood damage to properties and infrastructure in England will significantly increase. It estimates an average annual investment of £1 billion will be necessary up to 2065.

The overall benefit to cost ratio of the new estimates is nine to one, which means for every £1 spent on protecting communities, around £9 in property damages and wider impacts would be avoided.

A full range of climate change scenarios demonstrates that a number of measures are needed to ensure that communities are resilient over the next 50 years. These include:

  • building and maintaining large-scale engineered defences;
  • natural flood management techniques such as planting trees;
  • slowing the flow of water and property flood resilience for homes.

The findings also provide evidence for planning authorities and developers. Current planning policy and implementation limit the impact on flood risk, but investments and planning decisions will be vital to keep pace with population growth and climate change.

Julia Foley, Director Flood Strategy at the Environment Agency stated: "this report sets out the level of investment we need to consider over the next 50 years alongside the action we need to take to ensure that communities, businesses and vital infrastructure are resilient to flooding and coastal erosion".

"The scenarios are a key evidence base to inform our Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy, due later this year, and will help government, businesses and the insurance industry plan for the future".

The Reports findings highlight the importance of continued investment to protect infrastructure including transport and utility networks, 41% of which are located in areas which are at risk of flooding.

The impact of flooded infrastructure can be more extensive than the immediate water damage, impacting on supply chains, travel and access to key services like hospitals and schools. The National Flood Resilience Review sets out how the Government is working with utility companies, regulators and others to implement long-term resilience plans. 

The Environment Agency is investing £2.6 billion in flood and coastal erosion risk management projects between 2015 and 2021, helping to protect 300,000 homes. Later this year, the Agency will consult on its new Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy, which sets out the long term vision for a nation more resilient to flooding and coastal change.

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A distribution company based in Warrington was sentenced last month after an agency worker sustained serious, life-changing injuries whilst working in Cheltenham.

Cheltenham Magistrate's Court heard how in 2017 the agency worker arrived at the Gloucester depot to begin his first day of work with the Company as a multi-drop delivery driver.

After a brief induction process, the worker delivered his first drop successfully. However the address provided for the second drop was incorrect and therefore a delivery of 12 beer kegs was not made.

When on his next delivery, the worker used a pallet truck to manoeuvre the beer on the lorry to gain access to the next load on his list. He fell backwards from the raised tail lift onto the road and several kegs of beer fell and struck him.

The worker suffered serious injuries, including a traumatic brain injury and facial fractures requiring metal plates to be inserted into his skull.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the worker had no previous experience in using the type of pallet truck or tail lift involved in the incident. He was not given any practical training in the safe use of the machinery, nor was he made aware of safe working practices on how the pallet truck should be used on a tail lift.

The Company, as an employer, failed in its duty to carry out checks on the injured person's competence and previous experience. As a consequence of their failure to make these checks, they did not provide adequate training.

The Company pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7,203.14

HSE inspector Berenice Ray commented,"employers who use agency workers or contractors have a responsibility to first establish the workers' competence, taking into account their level of experience and familiarity with the work and work equipment, and then provide the appropriate level of training to ensure the work is done safely. If appropriate training had been provided, the life-changing injuries sustained by the agency worker could have been prevented".

Asbestos fine slashed on appeal
Published: 06 Mar 2019

The Court of Appeal has reduced the fine of an asbestos firm on the grounds that they were incorrectly treated as a large organisation.

In July 2017, Southwark Crown Court fined NPS London £370,000, after it pleaded guilty to failures relating to an asbestos survey during the refurbishment of a primary school.

NPS London managed the project on the behalf of the London Borough of Waltham Forest. Last week, the company that was engaged to carry out the demolition work - Squibb Group - also had its fine reduced from £400,000 to £190,000.

Applying the sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences, Judge Martin Beddoe first assessed culpability as high and said the risk of harm created by the offence fell into harm category 2. Under step two of the guidelines, NPS London is classed as a small organisation based on its annual turnover of £5-6m. This would have given a £100,000 starting point for the fine, with a category range of £50,000 to £450,000. However, the judge decided that NPS London was a large organisation because, "exceptionally, it may be demonstrated to the court that the resources of a linked organisation are available and can properly be taken into account".

The Majority of NPS London is owned by NPS Property Consultants, and the remainder by the London Borough of Waltham Forest. At the time of sentencing, accounts showed that the annual turnover of this joint venture parent company (the "linked organisation") was £125m. For a large organisation such as this, the starting point is £1.1m and a range of £550,000 to £2.9m. The judge therefore arrived at the final figure of £370,000, having taken account of relevant mitigating factors and the early guilty plea. 

NPS London appealed the fine on the basis that it should not have been classed as a large organisation, which the appeal court agreed.

In conclusion, they commented: "We think it clear that the judge was wrong to read the guideline as entitling him to treat NPS London as, or as if it were, a large organisation for the purpose of the sentencing. It is the offending organisation's turnover, not that of any linked organisation, which, at step two of the guideline, is to be used to identify the relevant table. This reflects the basic principle of company law that a corporation is to be treated as a separate legal person with separate assets from its shareholders.

"The mere fact that the offender is a wholly owned subsidiary of a larger corporation or that a parent company or other 'linked' organisation is in practice likely to make funds available to enable the offender to pay a fine is not a reason to depart from established principles of company law or to treat the turnover of the linked organisation as if it were the offending organisation's turnover at step two of the sentencing guideline."

They imposed a £75,000 fine, reduced to £50,000 to reflect the guilty plea. 

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The Government has been warned against complacency on climate change action after figures showed a slowdown in the rate of Britain's carbon emission cuts.

Emissions dropped for the sixth year running in 2018, to 361m tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent.

But there are signs the country's recent period of rapid progress is drawing to a close. The estimated 1.5% decline last year was considerably smaller than the 3.2% fall in 2017 and the 8.7% drop in 2014.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, the Shadow Business Secretary, commented "the Government are wrong to be complacent about the UK's falling emissions when we know that winning slowly on climate change is the same as losing".

Carbon Brief, a website which estimates emissions from an analysis of Government energy data, concluded that the decline of coal power over the past decade accounted for three-quarters of CO2 reductions over that period.

Policy editor at Carbon Brief, Simon Evans said "the lion's share of recent CO2 reductions have been due to falling coal use".

Nevertheless he noted that now the coal power sector has driven most of the UK's recent emissions cuts, other sectors have either stalled or became worse.

The Carbon Brief figures show oil and gas use, primarily used for vehicles, power and heating, have barely changed over the past few years. Transport has become the biggest single polluting sector, overtaking energy.

Evans said "the UK will not be able to meet its legally-binding climate goals in future without progress across all fuels and sectors".

The Committee on Climate Change recently said that emissions have begun to increase in some sectors, such as construction.

Experts say future emission cuts would not be necessarily more costly, but would be politically harder. Michael Grubb, Professor of Energy and Climate Change at University College London commented that more co-ordination of Government efforts is required.

"I don't see higher costs, but tougher lobbying and co-ordination problems which can't easily be tackled through economic instruments or auctions [as seen in the power sector]".

The official emission figures will be published by the Government later in March.

A survey carried out on 431 house builders across England revealed that 57% increased the rate at which they built new homes in the last year.

House builders have predicted a further rise of housing over the next 12 months, however only 48% believed the Government's target of building 300,000 homes a year on average by the mid 2020s was achievable.

Those surveyed cited worries over land availability, slow planning permission and skills shortages as barriers that were preventing them from building more homes. They expect that 22% of new homes will be classed as affordable homes to rent or buy.

Clive Docwra, managing Director of McBains who commissioned the survey, said "the construction industry relies on thousands of skilled EU workers because of skills shortages in the domestic workforce, and with these workers potentially prevented from working in the UK after the Brexit transition period ends in 2021, many housebuilders will be struggling to find the workforce needed to build the new homes that are urgently needed".

24% of those surveyed said the Government should incentivise large construction companies to develop more with speed and efficiency, to discourage them from holding on to land, such as introducing a land value tax. 19% of those surveyed also said the Government should provide loan finance to help support small and medium-sized developers build more homes.

£1.6 billion town fund proposed
Published: 05 Mar 2019

Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that a £1.6 billion fund will be established to boost growth in places that have not benefited from the "proceeds of growth in the same way as more prosperous parts of the country".

The money will go towards the creation of new jobs, training for local people and boosting economic activity, with communities having a say on how the money is spent. It will be targeting coastal communities, market towns and de-industrialised towns, with possible projects including new university campus' or railway stations.

The Stronger Towns Fund has been allocated to the regions as follows:

  • North West: £281 million;
  • North East: £105 million;
  • Yorkshire and The Humber: £197 million;
  • West Midlands: £212 million;
  • East Midlands: £110 million;
  • South West: £33 million;
  • South East: £37 million;
  • East of England: £25 million.

A bidding process will be used to allocate £600 million to communities in any part of England, but the Government explained it wants to ensure Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish towns benefit from the funding.

Local communities will be encouraged to come together to draw up proposals to "restore pride and create new jobs in their area".

May commented that "for too long in our country prosperity has been unfairly spread. Our economy has worked well for some places but we want it to work for all communities".

"Communities across the country voted for Brexit as an expression of their desire to see change - that must be a change for the better, with more opportunity and greater control".

"These towns have a glorious heritage, huge potential and, with the right help, a bright future ahead of them".

The fund has received criticism that it does not cover cuts to local authority funding. Labour MP Alex Sobel has also said it is a "drop in the ocean" compared with the cost of leaving the EU.

The funding has also been considered a bribe to influence MPs regarding Brexit.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire has dismissed this claim, that "this major new fund builds on more than £9 billion in City and Growth Deals we have delivered since 2010 to help hard working people reach their full potential and to build an economy that works for everyone".

"I look forward to working closely with local leaders to take forward their encouraging proposals and to hear what more they propose to bring benefits to their communities".

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