More piecemeal environmental policy making on the horizon?

Incineration tax could boost plastic recycling

Waste companies find it cheaper to burn rubbish than recycle it
Waste companies find it cheaper to burn rubbish than recycle itTIMES PHOTOGRAPHER RICHARD POHLE

A new tax on waste incineration is being considered by the government to help increase recycling of plastic and reduce the amount that ends up in the ocean.

Waste companies would have to pay a tax on every tonne of plastic they burn to encourage them to invest in new technologies that can turn plastic packaging into new products.

Less than half of plastic packaging is recycled and some types, such as plastic films and black plastic trays, are almost always incinerated or sent to landfill.

In the past five years the landfill tax has halved the proportion of waste collected by local authorities and buried in the ground to 15.7 per cent.

However, over the same period, the amount sent tax-free to incinerators has doubled to 10 million tonnes while the recycling rate has hardly changed.

Waste companies find it cheaper to burn waste than recycle it, partly because of the difficulty of separating different types of plastic but also because of lack of investment in the latest recycling equipment.

A Treasury consultation on using taxes and charges to tackle plastic waste closed yesterday and Robert Jenrick, the exchequer secretary, said an incineration tax was one of the options being considered.

Mr Jenrick said: “A number of submissions have advocated a tax on the incineration of waste. There is an argument for changing the incentives to discourage putting further waste to incineration. We would like to see less plastic incinerated, sent to landfill or exported and more recycled.”

He said the Treasury was also considering how the tax system could encourage manufacturers to use plastics that were easier to recycle and make products from recycled plastic.

Mr Jenrick confirmed that the government was considering a “latte levy” on disposable coffee cups. He met executives from Starbucks recently and discussed its trial of charging 5p for a disposable cup in 35 stores in London.

Early results suggest that a 5p cup charge is more effective than a 25p discount in getting consumers to bring their own reusable cup to a store. Only about 2 per cent of Starbucks customers claim the discount but this rose to 6 per cent when the charge was introduced.

Barratt chief says Persimmon bonuses have hurt industry’s name

Copied from

Reputation of housebuilders tarnished by generous bonus scheme that is ‘not the norm’, admits David Thomas

Building site with david 2015

The head of the country’s biggest housebuilder has said Persimmon’s decision to pay its executives eye-watering bonuses has saddled the industry with a reputation it pays its bosses too much.

Barratt chief executive David Thomas said the controversial bonus scheme, introduced in 2012, was “not the norm” and meant the industry was now having to fight off a perception its executives were netting excessive pay packets.

Persimmon’s latest annual report shows its long-term incentive plan helped chief executive Jeff Fairburn pocket £47m last year, while group finance director Mike Killoran was handed £36.7m with group managing director Dave Jenkinson picking up £20.3m.

Thomas told Building: “What you’ve seen is everyone getting dragged into it simply because it’s about housebuilders being paid too much money, so I think that reputationally it’s problematic for the industry, unquestionably.”

…. Sorry the rest of the interview is only available to subscribers, but you get the message – Persimmon are doing very nicely thank you very much.

A good old boy takes the day

The consultation period for the revisions of the National Planing Policy Framework closes at 11.45pm on 10 May 18.

It’s highly unlikely that it will make the decision making process any easier when it comes to dealing with unhappy residents, something the planning system appears to be destined to do almost every time a planning application is submitted.

Although the government are themselves elected, the policies contained in the NPPF are designed to set out government’s approach at the national level, with councils needing to produce their own, locally focussed policies to reflect local conditions and to a certain degree, views. The vehicle for ensuring this local position is applied consistently and more importantly equitably, in the Local Plan.

South Holland is currently working with Boston Borough to produce a new Local Plan, something that, with a bit of luck, will be completed by the end of the year.

National and local policies don’t always cover every issue that might arise when a planning application is submitted and this is where the planning committee come in. This is the locally accountable, democratic face of the planning system, used as a way of giving a voice to local people and allowing them to hear the arguments for both sides when an application is significant, or contentious.

However, whilst it’s good that local people have such access and a way of expressing their views, national and local planning policies always apply and will sometimes lead to tension and even conflict, when the outcome is not to the public’s liking.

Members of planning committees are required to be trained and to use this training when reaching decisions. They can of course use their judgement to weigh the issues presented during a debate and give more weight to one than another, but always keeping in mind the policy.

Unfortunately, on occasion, members choose to override policy completely and take what can only be seen , in planning terms, a perverse decision. When that decision is to refuse, an applicant has the right of appeal. However, when it is to approve you’re stuck with it with the perversity.

Such perverse decisions can take many forms, they are all frustrating and not a little embarrassing for a planning authority. This especially so when the decision is the opposite of a previous one, the application is no different from a previous one for the same thing and that decision was appealed against and upheld by an independent planning inspector.

The perversity in this particular case stems, it seems, from what I call the ‘good old boy syndrome’. The case that was made by supporters, on behalf of the applicant, was that he was local, hardworking, long serving and ‘deserved’ to be able to have a dwelling in a particular location. It didn’t seem to matter that the location in question was classified as the open countryside in policy terms and that many similar applications by people who wanted to built themselves a nice retirement property out in the countryside had been refused.

Apparently this particular person had some sort of extra merit that didn’t fit into the planning system and therefore deserved some sort of special treatment, ignoring the local planning policy and the recent planing inspector’s decision, completely.

Such potential inequity of treatment, between what are otherwise identical applicants, is a very worrying practice and one that makes me, personally, both uncomfortable and more than a little angry.

I can think of plenty of situations where an application from somebody whose face does not fit, isn’t a good old boy, doesn’t get a letter of support from the local MP, or actually sees their application receive a number of local objections, has been dismissed out of hand.

Allowing non-material planning considerations – to use the jargon, to influence decisions and over ride policy, is a slippery slope and one that causes major problems in other council areas. Thankfully, it is not a common problem here in South Holland. However, having experienced a recent perverse, ‘good old boy’ decision, I fear we are soon to suffer another. This, just when I thought the planning committee was starting to get the hang of it.

Government offers free advice on neighbourhood planning

This one will probably bring a sinking feeling to some council planning policy departments, because it does require the commitment of resources.  Therefore, the more neighbourhood plans you have in a given local plan area, the more challenging it can be for the LPA.

Housing minister Dominic Raab has announced that communities across England will be able to get free access to expert advice and guidance to help make their neighbourhood vision a reality.

The free help will include financial support and the latest planning expertise from trained professionals, to guide them through the process of preparing a neighbourhood plan.

Some 2,300 communities across England have started the process of neighbourhood planning, with 530 plans approved in local referendums.

These plans will give local people a say in the development of their area, including where homes, schools and businesses should be built, and the infrastructure needed to support them.

Raab said: “Neighbourhood plans are a powerful tool to help communities shape their local area, making sure the right homes are built in the right places. It’s vital that communities have the right support and advice available to help deliver a plan that meets their own ambitious aspirations.”

Previous government support has helped around seven out of 10 of these communities progress their plans, with 365 neighbourhood plans finalised using support provided by the government.

The maximum grant available has been increased by £2,000 to £17,000, helping communities to access more resources to develop a plan for their area.

Community groups can find out more information about how to apply for funding on the neighbourhood planning website.

20 March 2018
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner

Waste Enforcement Regulations to put pressure on occupiers and landowners

Copied from online website

Osborne Clarke

United Kingdom March 23 2018

Over the past five months, the government has shown an increasing commitment to cleaning up waste and dealing with waste offenders, most notably through its publication of the Clean Growth Strategy (12 October 2017), the Industrial Strategy (27 November 2017) and the 25 Year Environment Plan (11 January 2018). Whilst these initiatives have been criticised by some for not going far enough or failing to establish concrete obligations or enforcement policies in respect of waste, on 8 March 2018 the Waste Enforcement (England and Wales) Regulations 2018 became law. The Regulations aim to strengthen the powers of environmental regulators to address waste crime in England and Wales.

The Regulations form part of the government’s wider policy intention to tackle waste crime. This is an issue that is also referred to in Chapter 4 of the 25 Year Environment Plan, which highlights the cost of waste crime to taxpayers and the long-term impact of waste on the natural environment. In particular, fly-tipping and poorly managed waste sites lead to problems with fumes, dust, vermin, insect infestations and waste fires, with the latter often causing significant disruption to roads, railways and schools. According to the Environment Plan, the cost to local authorities of fly-tipped waste was £57.7m in 2016/2017, which does not include the additional costs borne by landowners forced to deal with illegal waste disposal.

What do the Regulations do?

As set out in the Industrial Strategy, the government is seeking clean growth as one of its four “Grand Challenges” to boost UK productivity. The government aims to minimise waste by establishing a more circular economy, whereby materials are recycled up the waste hierarchy and are used more efficiently.

To achieve this and reduce pollution, the Regulations provide environmental regulators (the Environment Agency in England and the Natural Resources Body in Wales) with the following new powers:

1. Waste removal

Regulation 2 empowers the regulators to serve notice on an occupier of a property which requires them to:

• remove waste from the property which is being illegally stored, kept or disposed of, within in a specified period of time (of not less than 21 days), including waste that was initially lawfully deposited; and

• take steps (within the above specified period) to eliminate or reduce the consequences of the unlawful keeping or disposal of the waste.

Failure to comply with a waste removal notice (without reasonable excuse) is a criminal offence and is punishable by way of a fine. Additionally, should the offender fail to comply with the waste removal notice, the regulator may remove the waste and recover from the occupier the expenses reasonably incurred in doing so.

2. Restricted access to waste sites

Regulation 3 empowers the regulator to prohibit access to and the importation of waste into a site for up to (i) 72 hours by serving a restriction notice; or (ii) 6 months where the court issues a restriction order, in the following circumstances:

• there is a risk of serious pollution to the environment or serious harm to human health which is a result of the treatment, keeping, deposit or disposal of waste in or on the premises; and

• the notice is necessary to prevent the risk from continuing.

The regulators’ power to restrict access is a significant one and could have a notable impact on the movement of goods and services into and out of waste sites, which could have serious knock-on effects for business.

Failure to comply with a restriction notice is a criminal offence and is punishable by way of a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 51 weeks, or both. Failure to comply with a waste removal restriction order is punishable by either: (i) on summary conviction, to a fine or imprisonment for up to 12 months (or to both); or (ii) on conviction on indictment, to a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years (or to both).

Impact of the Regulations: cost to landlords

In certain circumstances, as set out below, landlords could find themselves responsible for the cost of removing illegally kept or disposed of waste. Leaseholder and freeholder landlords of sites which house regulated or exempt facilities should be aware that they could be held responsible for unlawful waste on their properties.

The Regulations permit the regulator to serve notice on landowners requiring them to remove unlawful waste if:

• there is no occupier;

• the occupier cannot be found without the regulator incurring unreasonable expense; or

◦ the occupier has failed to comply with a waste removal notice within the specified period.

It will therefore become increasingly important for landlords to ensure that waste obligations are clearly set out in tenancy agreements and that regular property inspections are held. Enhanced scrutiny of a tenant’s financial status should also be considered before tenancies are agreed. This is particularly the case as the powers granted to the regulator by the Regulations are capable of interfering with business practice.

Ahead of the government’s Resource and Waste Strategy, the Regulations come into force on 29 March 2018, with the exception of regulation 2 and certain related transition provisions, which come into force on 8 May 2018.

Osborne ClarkeKiera TaylorMatthew Germain and Caroline Bush

Thanks for next to nothing Sajid

Copied from the MJ on line




Lifting the council tax cap is just passing the buck
By Heather Jameson | 18 December 2017
Heather Jameson
The Scottish Budget does not bode well for local government – on both sides of the border.

Finance secretary Derek MacKay’s decision to use his tax raising powers to pay for public services may herald a welcome shift towards ending austerity. However, the Scottish local government finance settlement also included the presumption that councils would do the same.

Without a double whammy of income tax rises, and council tax increases, taxpayers north of the border are set to feel the pinch.

And so we wait for the English settlement – delayed, we have been assured, due to communities secretary fighting for a good deal for the sector.

It seems unlikely there will be anything extra for adult social care as we wait for the green paper – although there may be measures to ease the rising pressures on children’s services. We can also expect an extension of transition grants. In the absence of a plan for fair funding and full business rate retention, a fiscal fudge may be the only option.

But the coffers are empty – there is no cash handout on the horizon. Last time round the gap was plugged with the adult social care precept. This time round, we could see the government lift the cap on council tax rises.

Is it a win for local government? Freeing councils from central government interference has got to be a good thing. Democratically elected councillors have every right to choose their own levels of taxation.

However, failing to fund local government and letting councils take the flack for raising taxes is passing the political buck. This is not giving councils the choice to raise taxes – it is forcing their hand.

Finance settlement offers no lifeline to the struggling sector
By Heather Jameson | 19 December 2017
Heather Jameson
Watching the local government finance settlement after last month’s budget, it is fair to say the Government can be commended for its consistency. It has consistently failed to address the financial crisis facing local government.

There are some positives. Easing the council tax referendum threshold gives local government a modicum more control over its own destiny. A three percent increase puts council tax broadly in line with inflation – assuming you ignore the social care precept, which taxpayers will not.

And the extension of business rate pilots will be welcomed in the lucky areas bestowed with the gift. A pledge to shift to 75% business rate retention is also a good move – and as far as Sajid Javid could go without legislation.

Promises to review the funding system and maintain New Homes Bonus are also likely to play well with the sector.

There is an extra £13m for struggling Northamptonshire, Mr Javid told Parliament – mentioned with the aside that he would listen to any reorganisation proposals put forward. Does this mean if you truly fail, government will come in and pick up the pieces?

However, council tax measures will raise around £250m – at different levels across the country – compared with the £2bn needed. Adult social care is in crisis, with a green paper planned for the summer – and a solution even further away.

Children’s services are increasingly becoming a concern and the settlement failed to find a solution there. Councils remain on a precipice, and the draft settlement provides very little in terms of a safety net.

Two years ago, MP’s threatened to vote against the settlement – could we see the same thing happen again? With some of the main protagonists handed business rate deals, Sajid Javid may have done enough to keep the sector quiet – but not enough to send a lifeline to the sector.

Call for action as fly-tipping hits eight-year high

No doubt this story in the Times will generate the standard response of criticism of councils.

This is normally along the lines of, we don’t collect the stuff often enough, we don’t collect the right stuff – or we charge for taking stuff away and of course, the tip isn’t open often enough.

As with every Council service, all this costs money to do and has to be paid for by every taxpayer, even if they don’t use that service.

People never seem to go straight to criticising the criminals, who actually do the tipping and blighting of the countryside, or streets.

Councils are calling for a more effective legal system to streamline prosecutions for fly-tipping, which latest figures show has reached an eight-year high.

There were more than a million fly-tipping cases over the past financial year but the number of prosecutions has halved since 2012. Cllr Martin Tett, the LGA’s Environment spokesman, said: “When they take offenders to court, councils need a faster and more effective legal system which means fly-tippers are given hard-hitting fines for more serious offences.

Clearing up fly-tipping is costing councils more than £57 million a year, money that could be spent on services like caring for the elderly, protecting children or tackling homelessness.

The Government has allowed us to apply fixed-penalty notices for small-scale fly-tipping and this is a big step in the right direction.” Cllr Tett also called for manufacturers to take more responsibility for taking back old products when they sell new ones.