Monday, 16 June 2014

Courage and common sense gives bag charge every chance of success

The Break the Bag Habit campaign congratulates the Government today on updating its proposals for England’s carrier bag charging scheme so that it will deliver the greatest benefits for the environment, retailers and consumers.

In response to calls from environmental campaigners including CPRE, carrier bags made from any type of plastic and paper are now included in the scheme, as are the smaller retailers who made it clear they want to take part. The scheme now has the best chance of taking England a small step closer to its zero waste ambitions, as well as greatly reducing litter and the damage it does to wildlife on land and at sea.

Samantha Harding, spokesperson for the Break the Bag Habit campaign, says:

‘The Government has shown us with this decision that it is willing to listen and engage properly with its consultation process. In responding so clearly to the calls of our campaign, and the concerns of other people and sectors affected by this charge, we can celebrate that an effective charge will be introduced that is consistent with those in our other home nations’.

‘Now that the details of the scheme are clear, we hope retailers will voluntarily introduce the charge in England in autumn this year, at the same time as the scheme comes into play in Scotland. With over 8 billion bags being used every year, there’s certainly no reason to delay it for another year.’

Bag charge scheme has greater chance to succeed after Government decision

The Break the Bag Habit campaign welcomes the Government’s announcement today that it has included [small retailers / paper bags / biodegradable bags] within its proposals for England’s carrier bag charging scheme. This demonstrates that it has listened to the conclusive comments given in response to its consultation in December 2013.

The bag charge is designed to significantly reduce the 8 billion bags given out every year in England, in turn reducing the incidence of littering and choked wildlife. By including [small retailers / paper bags / biodegradable bags] the scheme will be less confusing for consumers and go some way to reducing our reliance on disposable bags.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Wolfson Prize: we still need a proper strategy to provide more housing while protecting the countryside

The Campaign to Protect Rural England warned today that the Wolfson Prize shortlist overlooks the main challenges in meeting  the nation’s housing needs. Any new garden cities should be properly planned with local agreement, a high proportion of affordable housing, and built on brownfield land before greenfield or Green Belt sites are considered.  

Shaun Spiers, CPRE’s Chief Executive, said: ‘We will study the shortlisted entries with interest. The Wolfson Prize is certainly an interesting exercise. At present the  Government’s planning approach, which too often involves imposing large developments on local communities through planning appeals, is not working. Garden cities may be part of the solution to our housing crisis, but only if they are locally supported, help regenerate our existing cities and provide significant amounts of genuinely affordable housing.  We need major policy improvements to meet these objectives and without, plans for new towns and garden cities will achieve very little.’

CPRE’s key requirements for meeting our housing needs, set out in the Charter to save our countryside, are:

·         don't sacrifice our countryside – three of the shortlisted entries focus on greenfield development when enough brownfield land remains available for over 1.5 million new homes. Disappointingly the proposal for a new garden city in the Black Country is only described as ‘interesting’ rather than shortlisted. There is concern about short-circuiting proper tests to find suitable locations through the planning process and also undermining  brownfield regeneration;

·         a fair say for local communities - there is a big risk of repeating the mistakes of the last Government's ‘eco-towns’ programme, i.e. a top down process of selecting sites for major development without local democratic input or support from local authorities;

·         more housing, but of high quality and in the right places. Are these proposals serious about providing the housing that is affordable, well-designed and environmentally sustainable?

Saturday, 14 June 2014

A mad dash for infrastructure will cost the countryside dearly

Following the Queen’s speech today (Wednesday), the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) warns of increasing threats to the countryside.

Responding to proposals to increase housing supply Shaun Spiers, chief executive of CPRE said:

‘We need to provide many more homes to meet the needs of a growing population but we need a robust planning system to ensure they are delivered in the best locations.  At present the Government’s planning approach, which too often involves imposing large developments on local communities through planning appeals, is not working.  We welcome measures to encourage the reuse of suitably sited public sector land and small housebuilders. 

Garden cities may be part of the solution but only if they are locally supported, help regenerate our existing cities and provide significant amounts of genuinely affordable housing.’ 

Responding to proposals to exempt smaller house builders from environmental controls, Shaun Spiers, said:

“It is bizarre that in the midst of a national debate about how to meet out energy needs the Government is relaxing rules so that house builders can build new homes that leak energy. 

“It’s right to support small builders - we’ll never get the homes the country needs if we just rely on half a dozen or so big firms. But why not help them to build sustainably, rather than the sort of draughty, badly-insulated homes that other countries stopped building years ago? This announcement is just storing up trouble for the future. It is bad for fuel poverty and bad for the battle against climate change.

Responding to proposals to that make fracking easier, Shaun Spiers continued: 

“The Speech also provides more evidence of the Government making life easier for fracking companies at a time when public confidence is at rock-bottom, and when the focus should be on the strongest possible controls to protect the environment and communities. That is not only right in principle, it’s sensible politics if the Government wants to get public consent to fracking.”  

Responding to proposals in the Infrastructure Bill to turn the Highways Agency into a company, Ralph Smyth, CPRE’s senior transport campaigner, said:

“We are deeply concerned by such a mad dash for roads reform – yet another threat to our countryside from ill-thought infrastructure plans.

  “The Bill would create a new roads company and lock its funding into law in a drive to deliver the biggest road-building programme in 50 years. This will not only mean further cuts to bus funding and rises in the cost of train tickets, it will also lead to silo thinking, making it harder to join up different forms of transport.

“Hundreds of miles of new and widened roads will threaten swathes of countryside, nationally treasured landscapes, ancient woodland and wildlife sites. We need to prioritise improving and reopening rural railways rather than risk damaging our landscapes for little gain.”

Friday, 6 June 2014

Solar farm planned for Newport Pagnell

Green Energy UK has submitted a planning application for a 30-acre solar farm at The Kickles, north of Newport Pagnell. Milton Keynes council had earlier ruled that an environmental impact assessment is not needed for the scheme.

The application is for solar farm with a connection capacity of up to 7.5MW, comprising the installation of photovoltaic panels, boundary fencing, security and CCTV cameras, site access and electrical infrastructure including a switch station, inverter units and transformer and temporary construction compounds for period of 25 years (14/01068/FUL).

Each of the 28,368 panels had originally been planned to be three metres high, but that has now been reduced to two metres.