Two Nottinghamshire farming companies have been fined a total of £28,800 for causing pollution to a pond through the discharge of maize silage effluent from Sutton Grange farm in Sutton-cum-Lound near Retford.

The pollution incident resulted in the death of 35 fish and at the time caused a significant impact on the local groundwater.

Sutton Grange AD Ltd and Sutton Grange Services Ltd were successfully prosecuted by the Environment Agency at Mansfield Magistrates Court this month.

The excessive amount of maize stored, coupled with the manner in which it was kept, caused a runoff of highly polluting maize silage effluent. There was also a failure to comply with the Water Resources (Control of Pollution) (Silage, Slurry & Agriculture Fuel Oil) (England) Regulations SI 2010/639 on the part of Sutton Grange Services Ltd in relation to the second pile of maize.

The two companies pleaded guilty to three charges of breaching environmental regulations following a number of pollution incidents in October and November 2015, all arising from maize storage and clamping operation at an anaerobic digestion plant at Sutton Grange farm.

Sutton Grange AD Ltd were fined £6,000 and Sutton Grange Service Ltd were fined £2,800. Each company were ordered to pay costs of £10,000 as well as a victim surcharge of £170.

The Court heard how Sutton Grange AD Ltd, which holds an environmental permit for the operation of its anaerobic digestion activities, failed to ensure that proper systems were in place to ensure that only uncontaminated surface water was discharged into the ponds.

Sutton Grange AD Ltd stored a significant amount of maize on a purpose-built clamp which was built on top of a manhole linked to a stone outfall at Bluebell pond. Sutton Grange Services had been contracted to carry out clamping operations.

Following an earlier report from a member of the public about a possible fish kill at the lake behind Sutton Grange Farm in October 2015, officers received further notification of a pollution incident at the same pond. The officers attended and found dissolved oxygen levels in the pond were extremely low. They also found the maize clamp was blocked and contained yellow liquid. The liquid was flowing downwards across the farmyard.

Further inspections of the site showed silage effluent had escaped the shallow perimeter drain surrounding the maize mound and was leaking into the manhole which discharges to the stone outfall in Bluebell pond, resulting in the fish kill and significant impact on groundwater quality.

In mitigation, the Court heard that both companies had taken a number of steps to improve operations at the site to ensure that no further incidents such as this would happen again. Neither company had any previous convictions and were given credit for their early guilty pleas.

An officer speaking on behalf of the Environment Agency said the companies had "failed to act in accordance with environmental laws and as result they have caused pollution to a pond in the close vicinity of the farm and the local groundwater".

"Pollution of any watercourse is a serious offence because of the devastating impact it can have on fish, wildlife and ecosystems. These were entirely preventable incidents, which led to the pollution of watercourses in the area and we hope this case sends a strong message to the farming industry that their activities have the potential for serious impacts on the environment".

The Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Gove, has invited organisations to apply for the second round of funding under the government scheme to reduce food waste.

The fund aims to help charities and other organisations to handle and redistribute leftover food by investing in infrastructure, such as weighing equipment, storage solutions, warehouses, industrial fridges and freezers as well as labelling equipment and vehicles.

New figures show that redistribution of surplus food has almost doubled in the last three years, with enough food saved to produce the equivalent of 133 million meals a year. The Resource Action Fund is the second round of a £15 million scheme announced last year by Mr Gove to specifically address surplus food from retail and manufacturing.

Currently around 55,000 tonnes of surplus food is redistributed from retailers and food manufacturers every year. It is estimated that around 100,000 tonnes of food, equal to around 250 million meals a year, is edible and readily available but goes uneaten. Instead that surplus is sent away for generating energy from waste, anaerobic digestion or animal feed.

During a conference hosted by Food Waste Champion Ben Elliot, many major food businesses, including Nestle, Tesco, Sainabury's and Waitrose, signed a pledge to take action on food waste, including a very distant goal to halve food waste by 2030.

The Local Government Association (LGA) is calling for tougher sentences for fly-tippers as the most recent analysis shows nobody in the last year was given the £50,000 or 12 months imprisonment, which is the maximum penalty under the sentencing guidelines introduced in 2014, if convicted at a Magistrates Court.

If the offender is convicted in a Crown Court, they could face an unlimited fine and up to five years imprisonment.

Cuts to local budgets and increased costs of waste handling has lead to a greater escalation of fly-tipping across England, however courts have failed to impose the toughest sentences available, therefore not acting as a deterrent for rogue operators.

In 2017/18 there were almost a million recorded fly-tipping incidents in England, a 40% rise from 714,637 in 2012/13, according to the statistics published by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). For minor offences councils can issue fixed penalty notices, however, they are often unable to enforce this power due to the pressure on their budgets.

The analysis carried out by the Press Association states that with councils facing pressure on their budgets, the majority now charge for bulky and garden waste collections, which could potentially encourage people to fly-tip.

Cllr Martin Tett, chair of the LGA's environment board said that dumping of waste illegally on roadsides, verges and outside homes is "inexcusable environmental vandalism".

He also added: "Councils are doing everything they can to try and deter fly-tippers. However, prosecuting them often requires time-consuming and laborious investigations, with a high threshold of proof, at a time when councils face significant budget pressures.

"Consistent and hard-hitting prosecutions are needed to deter rogue operators and fly-tippers. Councils also need adequate funding to investigate incidents and ensure fly-tippers do not go unpunished."

The LGA is calling for the Government to review guidance to the courts to ensure significantly tougher sentences for worst offenders and ensure councils have enough funding to investigate and prosecute fly-tippers across the country.

For more information on this subject, see:

Welsh housing minister Julie James has confirmed that work is already underway to create a new, separate planning inspectorate for Wales. At the moment, there is a single planning inspectorate for England and Wales which deals with planning casework and appeals.

The new planning inspectorate is expected to be established by May 2021, which is the end of the current Welsh Assembly term. However, until then, planning applications for major planning infrastructure projects and also for appeals must continue to be made to the existing planning inspectorate.

Ms James said, "Planning law and policy has diverged and continues to diverge at an accelerating rate from England, in order to meet the unique needs of communities and businesses in Wales. We are also moving forward to consolidate and unify planning law in Wales to form a separate Welsh planning code.

"For these reasons, I have instructed officials to begin work on a separate, dedicated service for Wales."

Based on these comments, we could also see a shift in the way planning legislation in England and Wales is dealt with in the near future. At the moment, several planning laws apply to both England and Wales, with some containing variations on provisions for either Wales or England. However, it seems like this needs to change in order for Wales to properly manage its unique planning requirements.

Whatever happens, we'll keep you posted and up-to-date with legislation.

UK enjoys coal-free week
Published: 10 May 2019

Back in 1882, Queen Victoria was on the throne, Tottenham Hotspur was founded, the Royal Courts of Justice were opened, and the Holborn Viaduct power station was built.

The power station became the first coal-fired public electricity generating station in the world.

Since that day, the UK has almost continuously used coal to generate electricity which, we now know, is a major contributing factor to climate change. That was until two years ago, when the UK managed to go an entire day without using coal for electricity for the first time since the power station opened. Now, the UK has managed to generate electricity for an entire week without coal for the very first time in 137 years.

The last coal generator came off the system at around 1.30pm on 1 May 2019, and the generator was still off the system at the same time on 8 May 2019. Most of the electricity generated during that time came from gas turbines (45%), nuclear plants (21%), wind (11%), solar (6%) biomass (6%) and hydro (1%), with a further 10% of energy coming from imports.

With the Government pledging to phase out coal-fired power by 2025, and with a potential climate catastrophe waiting for us in the relatively near future, weeks like these are going to be essential in promoting the importance of cleaner and more renewable energy sources.

Fintan Slye, director of National Grid ESO, said, "Zero-carbon operation of the electricity system by 2025 means a fundamental change to how our system was designed to operate – integrating newer technologies right across the system – from large-scale offshore wind to domestic-scale solar panels to increased demand-side participation, using new smart digital systems to manage and control the system in real-time."

The Land and Property department of the Greater London Authority (GLA) was fined last week for serious failings in safety management, after an advertising hoarding collapsed onto a man in front of his wife and two children.

Southwark Crown Court heard how in January 2014 a family of four were hurrying along the pavement to Catford Station to shelter from a storm when a wall and hoarding was flown onto the father, causing him to lose consciousness and end up hospitalised.

The man suffered facial and skull injuries, including a fractured eye socket, and had to have a titanium plate inserted into his left cheek area. The whole family remain affected by the incident.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that GLA Land Property Ltd (GLAP) employed a company to manage and maintain this site. The investigation found that GLAP failed to oversee the contract properly, resulting in the wall not being maintained.

The wall developed a crack which weakened, causing the hoarding to act like a sail in strong wings, eventually leading to its collapse.

GLA Land and Property Ltd of Broadway, London, pleaded guilty under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, was fined a total of £250,000 and ordered to pay £14,653 in costs.

HSE inspector Ian Shearring said: "a set of simple arrangements to inspect and maintain the wall would have picked up on the imminent danger to any passer-by. Instead, a whole family was traumatised by seeing the father sustaining serious injuries from being struck by hoarding as it collapsed. It was only a matter of luck that no one was killed on the day outside a busy station".

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