News

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced a plan to further relax planning laws to try and get more homes built. The aim is to build 300,000 homes a year, and the new announcement clearly signals that the Government believes the planning system is a barrier to development.

The planning system is designed to ensure future building is appropriate, sustainable and right for an area. Planners have a difficult job in trying to balance several factors for each and every planning application, no matter how small the proposed development is. They must take into consideration, amongst other things, environmental, social and cultural impacts as well as potential living standards and whether the standards provided by a development can or will be supported for many years to come.

The Government seems to be targeting permitted development rights once more. It already relaxed permitted development laws to let offices be converted into homes, subject to conditions, which was contentious at the time, leading to concerns that improper development would take place. Now the government wants to ease planning laws to:

  • encourage builders to build upwards, and also build more homes above stations so they are closer to public transport hubs;
  • allow the demolition of vacant commercial, industrial and residential buildings and replace them with homes.

However, without proper planning checks, there is a risk that home building could take place in inappropriate areas, or put undue stress on services if more people live in a place with limited key infrastructure such as schools, shops and suitable roads. 

The Government will also be launching a register of brownfield sites soon. This will show areas of unused land in order to encourage councils to make the most of that land first.

Mr Jenrick said, "I want everyone, no matter where they live, to have access to affordable, safe, quality housing and live in communities with a real sense of place – as part of our mission to level up, unite and unleash the potential of this country. We must think boldly and creatively about the planning system to make it fit for the future, and this is just the first step, so we can deliver the homes communities need and help more young people onto the ladder."

Only last month, the Local Government Association (LGA) reported that since 2009/2010 over one million homes which have been granted planning permission are still waiting to be built. You can read the full story here.

New budget announced
Published: 11 Mar 2020

Today the Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivered his first budget in the House of Commons; it is also the first budget following Brexit.

Here, we compiled a summary of some of the most important pledges the Government has made for the next few years, which are relevant for Cedrec users.

Environment and energy

  • introduction of the plastic packaging tax, which will come into force in April 2022;
  • also in April 2022, manufacturers and importers of plastic products that have less than 30% recycled content will be charged £200 per tonne;
  • £640 million "nature for climate fund" which will help to protect natural habitats and planting 30,000 hectares of trees;
  • £5.2 billion investment in flood defences over the next five years;
  • £120 million in emergency relief for communities affected by this winter's flooding and £200 million for flood resilience;
  • scrapping subsidies for red diesel used for off-road vehicles and machinery for most sectors, however, the subsidies will remain in place for farmers and rail operators;
  • increased "taxes on pollution" and increase funding for green transport solutions by £1 billion;
  • fuel duty will remain frozen for another year;
  • levy on electricity will remain frozen and levy on gas will increase, which is aimed to divert people to greener energy;
  • extra £900 million for research into nuclear fusion, space and electric vehicles.

Housing and planning

  • the Government pledges to spend more than £600 billion on roads, rail, broadband and housing by 2025;
  • £1 billion fund to remove all unsafe combustible cladding from all public and private housing higher than 18 metres (however, the Chancellor mentioned that he also wants the developers and property owners to "do their fair share")
  • stamp duty surcharge for foreign buyers of UK properties is to be levied at 2% from April 2021.

Safety and welfare

Information was provided in relation to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease:

  • statutory sick pay will be paid to all employees who choose to self-isolate, even if they do not have symptoms, during the COVID-19 outbreak;
  • Contributory Employment Support Allowance benefit claimants will be able to claim sick pay from day one, not after eight days as it was before;
  • companies with fewer than 250 staff will be refunded sick pay payments for two weeks by the government during the current coronavirus outbreak.

The European Commission is preparing to present and consider its new circular economy package which aims to bring to an end the culture of throwing products away and lead society back to a culture of reuse and repair.

The current system of production tends to accept that the product being made will end up as waste at some point in its life. The circular economy aims to remove disposal from the lifespan of a product and instead ensure that products are designed in such a way that if they break or are no longer needed they can be reused, repaired or components recycled.

The EU wants to make sure that everyday items such as mobile phones, electronic products and packaging are designed and manufactured in such a way as to allow them to be reused or repaired.

The circular economy package aims to:

  • reduce the impact that a product has on the environment;
  • increase the amount of recyclable materials contained in a product;
  • introduce a new way of purchasing whereby the producer of a product maintains ownership of that product making them responsible for reliability, performance and repair.

Ultimately, the EU wants to ensure that manufacturers have a big enough incentive to ensure its product doesn't break or can be easily repaired as the manufacturer themselves will be responsible for it.

Even though the UK has officially left the EU, it is in a period of transition which requires the UK to comply with any new rules introduced by the EU before the implementation period ends. Even if the package is introduced after the implementation period, it would be difficult for the UK to ignore such a package as any products manufactured in the UK and placed on the market in the EU would have to conform to the rules, and any imported items covered by the package would comply with the rules anyway.

In any case, the Environment Bill 2020 currently being considered by Parliament contains proposed resource efficiency measures to, amongst other things, force producers to think about materials used and the life-cycle of a product, similar to the circular economy package being presented by the EU.

Research from the Government funded Energy Systems Catapult has claimed that becoming climate neutral by 2050 is possible but still a huge challenge.

Originally published in 2015, the "Options, Choices, Actions" report illustrates two cost-optimised decarbonisation pathways for the UK energy system to meet its 2050 climate targets.

The two pathways have been called clockwork and patchwork, with both taking into account different scenarios.

The report has outlined that in order to reach the current goal of 2050, people would need to stop flying and almost completely stop eating red meat.

To achieve the 2050 goal, the Government will need to invest heavily in new technologies including bioenergy, carbon capture and storage (CCS), new nuclear, offshore wind, gaseous systems, the efficiency of vehicles and efficiency/heat provision for buildings the report claims.

The updated report "Options, Choices, Actions: How could the UK be low carbon by 2050?" originally written in 2015, has said the UK can achieve an affordable transition to a low carbon energy system over the next 35 years with the right planning.

Modelling from Energy Systems Catapult has shown abatement costs ranging from 1-2% of GDP by 2050, with the potential to achieve the lower end of this range through effective planning.

The report shows that the 2050 target is possible, and the Chief Executive Officer, Jonathan Wills, has said:

"It is our hope that these scenarios can help ensure the debate on how best to achieve the low carbon transition is based on informed evidence."

Viridor Waste Management Ltd was fined following an incident on 27 February 2017, where an employee was crushed by a reversing 22.5-tonne shovel loader driven by an on-site contractor at the company's recycling site in Crayford.

The employee was working in the area as banksman, assisting a lorry to manoeuvre into a bay while a shovel leader reversed out of the bay independently, knocking him into the ground and driving over the lower half of his body. He suffered life-changing injuries, including several serious fractures and internal injuries. 

An investigation carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Viridor Waste Management Limited failed to organise the workplace in a way to ensure the safe movement of traffic for pedestrians and vehicles. This prosecution was also the fourth in the company's four years of business, two of which related to fatal incidents. The company was found in breach of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations SI 1992/3004 and fined £400,000.

Speaking after the case the HSE inspector Megan Carr said: "This incident is a reminder to the waste and recycling industry as to the importance of good workplace transport control which can often be achieved by simple pragmatic steps to avoid such incidents from occurring. HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards."

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has stressed that they will not tolerate violence, aggression or abuse of its staff, after a man was arrested for a public order offence.

An inspector was carrying out an investigation into a Teesside waste and recycling site belonging to Jacob Alexander Thompson in August 2019. When arriving on-site, the inspector was subjected to repeated verbal abuse and offensive language and was physically threatened when Mr Thompson walked across the yard, stepped towards him and raised his fist as he aggressively told him to leave.

Mr Thompson was sentenced on Monday 17 February 2020, at Teesside Magistrates' Court, following an investigation by Cleveland Police. He pleaded guilty to an offence under the Public Order Act 1986 and was ordered to pay £100 compensation and costs of £85. He also received a conditional discharge of six months.

Principal inspector Victoria Wise commented: "Thompson’s aggression, threats and abuse were wholly unacceptable. The HSE will not tolerate any form of violence, aggression or abuse.

"Our inspectors are warranted to attend premises to carry out their job to ensure the safety and health of those working there. Any aggressive or violent words or actions taken against HSE staff in the course of their duties will be reported to the police."


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