Developments in AONBs must have environmental impact assessments taken into account and documented

… Lord Carnwath said special duties arose under the EIA Regulations where an application (as in this case) involved a development which was “likely to have significant effects on the environment by virtue of factors such as its nature, size or location” (an “EIA development”).

Regulation 3(4) provides that decision-makers shall not grant planning permission, where the application involves an EIA development, without first taking the environmental information into consideration, and that they must state in their decision that they have done so.

The judge also noted that article 6.9 of the Aarhus Convention (Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters), to which the United Kingdom is a party, also required each party to make accessible to the public the text of certain decisions involving an EIA, along with reasons and the considerations on which it is based.

Lord Carnwath said that “where there is a legal requirement to give reasons, what is needed is an adequate explanation of the ultimate decision”.
He added: “The content of that duty should not in principle turn on differences in the procedures by which the decision is arrived at. Local planning authorities are under an unqualified statutory duty to give reasons for refusing permission. There is no reason in principle why the duty to give reasons for grant of permission should become any more onerous.”
The essence of the duty, and the central issue for the court, was whether the information so provided by the authority leaves room for genuine doubt as to what it has decided and why.

The Supreme Court rejected Dover’s argument that a breach of the EIA duty alone should be remedied by a mere declaration of the breach.

Dover had sought to rely on R (Richardson) v North Yorkshire County Council [2004] 1 WLR 1920 in which the Court of Appeal remedied a failure to provide a statement of reasons without quashing the decision, by ordering only that the statement be provided.

However, Lord Carnwath said in that case it was possible to take the planning committee as adopting the reasoning in the officer’s report which had recommended granting permission.

The Supreme Court judge said that in view of the specific duty to give reasons under the EIA regulations, it was strictly unnecessary to decide what common law duty there may be on a local planning authority to give reasons for grant of a planning permission. “However, since it has been a matter of some controversy in planning circles, and since we have heard full argument, it is right that we should consider it.”

Lord Carnwath said the particular circumstances of the Dover case would, if necessary, have justified the imposition of a common law duty to provide reasons for the grant of permission.”

Privatisation – the gift that keeps on giving to failed academy schools

Police have confirmed they are looking at the conduct of a multi-academy trust accused of asset stripping its schools before collapsing.

Wakefield City Academies Trust announced days into the new term in September that it would divest itself of its 21 schools because WCAT could not undertake the “rapid improvement” they needed. The Department for Education is in the process of arranging for new trusts to take over management of the schools.

In October, it was revealed that the trust had transferred millions of pounds of its schools’ reserves to centralised accounts before admitting that new sponsors would need to be found for them. …

Before its collapse, WCAT had been dogged by scandal. In October 2016, it emerged that the trust had paid almost £440,000 to IT and clerking companies owned by its then chief executive, Mike Ramsay, and his daughter. The trust insisted the contracts had represented the best value.

A draft of a DfE report on the trust’s finances, seen by TES, also raised concerns that Ramsay had been paid more than £82,000 for 15 weeks’ work, despite the fact that the trust faced a large budget deficit. …

Older women suffer most from inequality

Older women are more likely to be poor, socially isolated, badly housed, unhealthy and die sooner because of a lifetime of lower pay and unequal working conditions than older men, according to a new report.

A study by the Centre for Ageing Better found “shameful” and stark contrasts in people’s experiences of later life, with severe inequalities among older people largely a product of poverty and disadvantage throughout life.

Women aged 65-69 suffered the worst discrimination of all. Only 36% of this age group received the full state pension in 2014, the review found.

“A good later life is something we should expect for everyone. It should not be conditional on where we live or how much money we have, nor on our gender, race, disability or sexuality,” said Claire Turner, director of evidence at the Centre for Ageing Better.

“But cumulative poverty and disadvantage throughout life mean that many people will suffer poor health, financial insecurity, weak social connections and ultimately a shorter life. These inequalities – with richer older people living around eight years longer than those with less advantage – are shocking and have sustained over time, despite policy and practice designed to reduce them.

Pension poverty looms as women fail to save enough for retirement
“Helping current older people and protecting future generations from this shameful level of inequality in health and wealth should be at the heart of policy making across health, housing, work and pensions.” …

“British elections at risk from perfect storm of threats, says watchdog”

“The head of the elections watchdog has demanded urgent reform of the UK’s electoral laws and warned that the country faces a “perfect storm” of threats that could put the integrity of the system at risk.

Sir John Holmes, the chair of the Electoral Commission, also confirmed to the Guardian that the body has launched an inquiry into possible Russian interference in the EU referendum and is waiting for evidence from Facebook, Google and Twitter.

The regulator said that in order to police the electoral system properly, and hold politicians and campaigns to account, wholesale changes were necessary.

“We must avoid complacency to stop a perfect storm from forming which would put out democratic processes in peril,” he said.

In an interview with the Guardian, Holmes outlined a set of reform proposals which include:

New rules to require political campaigners to identify themselves on online advertising to combat Russian or other external interference in elections.

Increases in fines for political parties that find ways around election spending laws or fail to declare the source of their funding.

A new system requiring all voters to show photographic ID in polling stations.

A move away from only conducting votes on Thursdays and in schools or community halls. …

… “Electoral legislation is old, complicated and needs changing. There are proposals to do that. The government needs to give it legislative time,” Holmes said. …

… Following investigations into how the Conservative party moved campaigners and staff from its national headquarters to boost local party efforts in 2014 and 2015 – without properly declaring their hotel bills and expenses – the party was fined £70,000.

However, Holmes said the level of fines has to be increased to stop parties from taking such risks.

“Our ability to fine £20,000 for any single offence is not enough as an effective deterrent,” he said.

“Looking at the fines other regulators can apply, £20,000 looks fairly minimal. We think it should be bigger.”

Holmes also said the government should consider extending the use of photo identification at polling stations.

This suggestion follows allegations of widespread voting fraud, particularly around Asian communities in Birmingham, Bradford and east London.

The commission recommended in 2014 that voters should be required to prove their identities before casting a ballot, in the wake of widespread voter fraud in Tower Hamlets.

Critics of the plan say it potentially disenfranchises large numbers of people on low incomes who do not have photo ID.

Voting laws should also be reformed to allow new ways of voting, Holmes added.

“We should look at changes for a new generation of millennials who are the digital generation.

“We are not saying that we should move now to online voting because of the risks of hacking but that doesn’t mean that nothing ought to change.

“We need to ask ourselves whether voting on a Thursday in an old school building is the only way we can do this.”

The commission will release a report on Wednesday into the performance of returning officers at this year’s general election, with Holmes set to outline his proposalsin a speech to the Institute for Government later in the day.”