News

Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust has been fined after refurbishment work undertaken in an accommodation block at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital exposed employees and contractors to asbestos.

Telford Magistrates' Court heard how in June 2012, Trust employees were removing fixtures and fittings from the empty flat when they disturbed asbestos containing materials (ACMs). The Trust then failed to take adequate measures to deal with the initial release of asbestos, exposing other contractors who later worked in the flat.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the Trust did not properly record ACM on their estate. The Trust had arrangements in place to manage asbestos, however the overall management plan for dealing with asbestos was not recorded in a clear and concise manner, or effectively communicated to its employees and contractors working on site.

The Trust had insufficient auditing procedures to ensure that the arrangements contained in the policy and management plan were fully implemented, working properly and effective. The procedures in place upon the discovery of asbestos were inadequate and the Trust failed to prevent re-entry into the contaminated area by other workers.

Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations SI 2012/632, fined £16,000 and ordered to pay costs of £18,385.80.

After the hearing HSE inspector David Kilvin commented that the Trust should have controlled this risk by identifying type, location and condition of any asbestos-containing materials by implementing suitable precautions to prevent its disturbance.

He added, "although there is no indication that members of the public at the hospital were exposed as a result of the failings, asbestos related diseases are currently untreatable and claim the lives of an estimated 5,000 people per year in the UK".

"This prosecution should act as a reminder, not just to Hospitals but to anyone in control of the repair and maintenance of non-domestic premises, of the need to ensure that correct control measures are put in place to ensure that exposure to asbestos is prevented, so far as is reasonably practicable".

The European Commission has published a new Environmental Implementation Review (EIR) for the UK.

The main purpose of this report is to determine how well the UK implements EU environmental policy and law across different sectors and administrations.

The challenges

The EIR published in 2017 found that UK had three main challenges that must be improved for the correct implementation of EU environmental policy and law, which included:

  • improvements to air quality in urban areas, in particular, reducing the concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2);
  • tackling water pollution, especially nitrate pollution from agricultural sources;
  • improving the protection of natural habitats by completing the Natura 2000 designation process for marine sites, focusing more on protecting species and habitats outside the limited UK Natura 2000 terrestrial network and developing an overall protection strategy for dispersed species.

The issues found

The report found that the UK still failed to comply with the necessary improvements to air quality in many urban areas where the NO2 levels exceed the EU limit values. However, in 36 out of 37 non-complaint zones for air quality, there were some improvements found, although not great enough to bring those zones into compliance.

On water quality, diffuse nitrate pollution from agricultural sources and urban water pollution remains an issue in parts of UK.

In terms of nature protection, the report found some improvements, such as the implementation of the protection of the harbour porpoise, however, the protection of offshore birds still remains an issue and there is no overall protection strategy for dispersed species to date.

The report also found that since 2017, the UK has not yet organised an EIR national dialogue that would help it to address the above challenges and improve co-operation between devolved governments.

The progress and some good practice

The UK has made progress in phasing out the burning of blanket bogs and is implementing actions to end this practice altogether.

The report found a few examples of good practice presented by the UK, such as:

  • publishing a 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment, which sets out the general, long-term priorities for environmental policy and implementation of the circular economy which is one of the key EU environmental strategies;
  • the UK is among the best-performing Member States on resource efficiency. Only 4% of British companies have not applied any resource efficiency measures, the lowest rate in 28 EU countries and only 12% say they do not intend to take further measures;
  • Central Scotland Green Network aims, among others, to include an integrated habitat network and improve landscape quality. This project runs until 2050 and is the largest green infrastructure project in Europe by far;
  • the use of alternative fuels in new passenger cars sold in the UK has considerably increased over the past few years. Furthermore, the UK is the first Member State that has been able to reduce the difference in the price of diesel versus petrol to zero.

The verdict

Although the UK can present some areas of excellence, such as resource efficiency and bold plans for the long-term improvements to the environment, there are a few major issues that are still not being addressed two years following the publication of the previous report in 2017.

The UK is still failing to improve on the main challenges which are crucial to appropriately implement EU environmental policies and laws. In particular, the issue of poor air quality has been highlighted by both EU regulators and their UK counterparts, bringing the UK Government to court over inaction and lack of improvement on illegal air pollution which harms human health and the environment.

MPs have called on the UK and Welsh Governments to consider a range of low-carbon energy projects in north-west Wales following the suspension of work on the Wylfa Newydd nuclear power station.

A Report from the UK Parliament's Welsh Affairs Committee has been looking at the economic impact of the decision by Japanese company Hitachi to halt work on its proposed new nuclear plant, earmarked for an existing nuclear site on the island of Anglesey.

Rising costs were behind the decision to halt work.

MPs on the select committee also ask the Governments, Local Authorities and other partners involved in the emerging North Wales growth deal to ensure that other projects in the deal are funded and accelerated to fill the gap left by the hiatus over the power project.

The Report stresses the importance of capitalising on the geographical benefits of the Anglesey site and the skills of people working in the area, by considering a range of possible energy projects.

It confirms the Governments and other interested partners should work together on a proposal for a small modular nuclear reactor at Trawsfynydd, site of the now-decommissioned Magnox nuclear power station in the Snowdonia Natural Park in Gwynedd.

The MPs argue that if Hitachi is not prepared to resume development, the UK Government should encourage it to sell the site to another developer willing to reactivate the project, and seek out companies to develop alternative low-carbon energy projects.

For more information on this subject, see:

Government to pay for safer cladding
Published: 09 May 2019

The Government has agreed to pay the costs of replacing cladding, like the type used on Grenfell Tower, on around 150 private blocks in England with a safer alternative.

The costs are an estimated £200 million.

Housing Secretary James Brokenshire had previously said that the bill should be footed by the owners, not the taxpayer, but he has since acknowledged the long wait for any remedial work to be carried out has caused anxiety and stress for those living in high rises. He has also commented that owners had been trying to offload the costs on to leaseholders.

The Grenfell Tower fire of June 2017 was one of the UK's worst modern disasters, with flames racing up the exterior of the building and spreading to all four sides in a matter of minutes. The west London building was destroyed and 72 people killed.

A public inquiry into the incident heard evidence that the highly combustible material in the cladding was the primary cause of the spread of the fire. Latest Government figures reveal that 166 private residential buildings out of the 176 identified with aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding - the same type used on Grenfell Tower - are yet to start works on removing and replacing it.

With some building owners trying to pass on the costs to residents by threatening them with bills running to thousands of pounds, Mr Brokenshire admitted he had changed his mind on demanding freeholders pay up for safety work: "What has been striking to me over recent weeks is just the time it is taking and my concern over the leaseholders themselves - that anxiety, that stress, that strain, and seeing that we are getting on and making these buildings safe."

Grenfell United, a group of survivors and the bereaved, said the positive news offered hope to people feeling at risk at home: "This result is a testament to residents themselves, in social and private blocks, who refused to be ignored. The truth is we should never have had to fight for it."

Scottish Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has been giving details of Scotland's proposed bottle return scheme to MSPs, moving the battle against plastic a little further towards a better environmental outcome.

In essence, when a consumer in Scotland buys certain plastic, can or glass drinks containers, they will be charged an additional 20p. When they return the empty container to the store, they will be refunded the 20p as an incentive to dispose of it correctly. The refund can either be done over the counter or via a reverse vending machine, which issues the refund once a container has been fed into it.

Importantly, the only premises that will be exempt from doing this are those that sell drinks to be consumed on site, such as pubs.

There are other exemptions as well, such as HDPE-made plastic bottles, which usually carry milk, which will be excluded as milk is seen as an essential product. PET plastic bottles which are commonly used to contain most drinks are included, as well as glass bottles.

The Scottish Government intends to introduce legislation later this year in order to make the scheme final, and it will contain a 12 month transitional period to allow businesses to prepare for the implementation of the scheme.

Whilst this scheme will undoubtedly lead to a reduction in plastic litter in the streets and in the marine environment, it is important that the waste is still properly collected and recycled once it has been returned. The scheme will be managed by an independent, private, not-for-profit company says Scotland.

Samantha Harding, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said, “We wholeheartedly congratulate the Scottish Government . . . we will be urging environment secretary Michael Gove to build on Scotland’s ambition and go one better, by making sure every drinks carton is also included within England’s deposit system.”

Other environmental groups such as WWF Scotland and Friends of the Earth Scotland have praised the scheme. Elsewhere in the UK:

  • England is consulting on a bottle return scheme;
  • Northern Ireland is currently considering such a scheme;
  • Wales was involved in the research for the English consultation, but says it is the third best place in the world for recycling, and is considering whether a bottle collection scheme would support this or not.

Badger sett stops home development
Published: 07 May 2019

It is a strange situation when two different environmental factors fighting against each other sandwich local and national planning policy. However, that is seemingly what happened in a recent planning appeal concerning a patch of countryside to the north east of Crawshawbooth near the Pennines.

On one side of the planning battle, we have a development proposal for a five-bedroom house that would be built to Passivhaus standards (ensuring high energy efficiency and low ecological impact), and would also be off-grid, increasing its environmental credentials. In a world which is increasingly conscious of its environmental impact, such a development would surely be a bonus.

On the other side, is a badger sett on the proposed development site, occupied by a single badger. Under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, it is an offence to interfere with a badger sett, unless a licence has been granted to do so by Natural England. Breaching this law can lead to a prison term of up to six months and/or an unlimited fine. Wildlife protection is also a serious environmental consideration and so protecting the badger from the development would also be a bonus.

Then, in this case, right down the middle of this battle are the planners, who have strict policies and laws to follow in making a planning decision, and must consider only material planning issues when making that decision.

The original planning application for the house was rejected by Rossendale Borough Council because of the potential impact of the development on the rural setting and character. Following the appeal, planning inspector Katie McDonald concluded that the location was suitable. However, the inspector agreed that the impact of the development on the character would be substantial, although because of the design of the proposed house and proposed mitigation, it would actually be acceptable.

However, in the planning appeal, the main consideration went to the lonely badger. The inspector had no indication from Natural England as to whether a licence would be granted to interfere with the sett should planning permission be granted. Due to local and national policies, combined with protection given in UK law, this sett cannot be ignored.

As a result of the lack of information the inspector had regarding the badger sett, alternative provisions or whether proposed measures would lead to a negative impact, the inspector applied the precautionary principle and decided the proposal would harm the badger.

Balancing the planning issues before her, the inspector decided that the environmental benefits of the proposal and also some key policy considerations, such as a lack of demonstrable housing supply, would be outweighed by the potential harm to the badger which has the full protection of the law. The appeal was therefore dismissed.


« Previous  3  4  5  6  7   8  9  10  11  12     Next »