“The UK’s big flooding problem is only going to get worse”

“… In February, the Environment Agency warned that if global temperatures continue to rise in line with current trends, the UK will need to spend £1 billion a year to adequately protect homes from flooding. Currently the UK government spends just under two-thirds of that amount – £600 million. Meanwhile, the risk of flooding appears to be heading in only one direction: upwards.

… While the risk of heavy flooding is becoming more frequent – the Met office logged 17 record-breaking rainfall months since 1910, with nine of them since 2000 – the UK remains reliant on flood defense systems to limit its impact. A June 2019 analysis by Flood Re, a scheme set up by insurers and the government to cut the cost of property cover for people in flood-prone areas, showed that inland flooding would cost the entire country almost three times more on an annual basis without defences – £1.8bn rather than £700m.

This is based on the UK’s past experience with flooding. For instance, the Environment Agency said the floods caused by Storm Desmond in 2015 cost the economy about £1.6bn in England alone, a figure which could have exceeded £2.8bn if Cumbria had not upgraded its flood defences, following previous flooding in 2009 and 2005. The agency’s latest economic assessment estimates that for every £1 spent on defences, around £9 in property damages and wider impacts would be avoided.

On launching the Environment Agency’s new strategy, chair Emma Howard Boyd said: “The coastline has never stayed in the same place and there have always been floods.” Building high walls and barriers may not be enough to deal with flooding as climate change is increasing and accelerating the threat, she says, adding that “We need to develop consistent standards for flood and coastal resilience in England that help communities better understand their risk and give them more control about how to adapt and respond.” These standards could include sustainable drainage systems and the design of existing and new properties, in addition to traditional barriers and natural flood control techniques such as tree planting and no-till farming.”

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/flooding-in-uk-weather-defence

“Government axes ‘pro-fracking’ paragraph from NPPF following court defeat”

“The government has removed a paragraph from the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) intended to support the extraction of “unconventional hydrocarbons” following a High Court ruling earlier this year which found that a public consultation on the policy was flawed.

Paragraph 209 (a) of the NPPF had stressed the benefits of onshore oil and gas development, including “unconventional hydrocarbons”.

It stated that such developments benefit the security of national energy supplies and support the transition to a low-carbon economy. It went on to give a commitment that policies will be put in place to facilitate on-shore exploration and extraction of hydrocarbons, including fracking for shale gas.

The paragraph was added to the NPPF as part of revisions to the document published last year.

But in March, environmental campaign group Talk Fracking successfully challenged the new paragraph at the High Court.

Judge Mr Justice Dove ruled that the public consultation on the new policy was unfair and unlawful and the government had failed to take into account up-to-date scientific evidence on the climate change impacts of such development.

He ruled that the secretary of state “did not consciously consider the fruits of the consultation exercise in circumstances where he had no interest in examining observations or evidence pertaining to the merits of the policy”.

“This had the effect of excluding from the material presented to the minister any detail of the observations or evidence which bore upon the merits of the policy,” he added.

Yesterday, the housing ministry announced that it had removed the paragraph from the NPPF.

This followed a written ministerial statement in May which stressed that, despite paragraph 209 (a) being removed, the remainder of the NPPF policies “and, in particular, Chapter 17 on ‘Facilitating the Sustainable Use of Minerals’ remain unchanged and extant”.

“For the purposes of the National Planning Policy Framework, hydrocarbon development (including unconventional oil and gas) are considered to be a mineral resource,” it added.

In addition, the statement added that the written ministerial statements of 16 September 2015 on ‘Shale Gas and Oil Policy’ and 17 May 2018 on ‘Planning and Energy Policy’ “also remain unchanged and extant”.

It added: “The written ministerial statements sit alongside the National Planning Policy Framework.

“Planning Practice Guidance is also unaffected by the ruling. This suite of policies and guidance remain material considerations in plan making and decision taking for hydrocarbon development and they should be afforded appropriate weighting as determined by the decision maker.”

Government axes ‘pro-fracking’ paragraph from NPPF following court defeat

Schools need protection from air pollution

… Reviews of air pollution in schools, similar to Ofsted inspections, will be launched for the first time amid mounting concerns over the effect of toxic fumes on pupils’ health and education.

Air quality audits will be carried out in classrooms and playgrounds, with a range of measures being introduced to clean up the worst affected schools.

This includes the possibility of cars being banned from streets bordering some schools and moving bus stops further away from schools. …”

Source:Times, paywall

“Councils ‘must restrict traffic to protect children from pollution’ ” (Sidford Business Park?)

“Local authorities are being urged to restrict traffic around schools after a study in London found “relatively high levels” of air pollution inside classrooms, posing a risk to children’s health.

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) study, Healthy Air, Healthier Children, reported data from the monitoring of indoor and outdoor air pollutants at seven primary schools in Lambeth in March, April and May this year.

Results shows the presence of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) both inside classrooms and outside all the schools. NO2 is a pollutant that comes predominantly from traffic, the study said, and can lead to asthma as well as make health problems of asthmatic people worse.

As there were no indoor sources of NO2, worryingly, the pollutants inside classrooms could only have come from outdoor air pollution, the report highlighted.

While NO2 was also detected outdoors (it was measured at school entrances for one month) at all the schools, at two schools levels came close to the annual EU legal limit and World Health Organization guideline of 40µg/m3, with averages of 35µg/m3 and 36µg/m3. Although, the study noted, these levels are averages and are likely to have been higher during school hours.

In addition, the research found high concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) inside classrooms well above the recommended level of 1,000 parts per million (ppm).

This indicates that there is a need for more ventilation, the report said.

“Poor ventilation inside schools may cause asthma, dizziness, inability to concentrate, headaches and irritated throat – amongst other symptoms.”

It added: “Children at school should not be exposed to these levels of air pollution as they are especially vulnerable to its negative health effects since their bodies are still developing.

HEAL has called on local authorities to widen out an initiative called School Streets, already implemented in 40 schools across the UK, where streets immediately surrounding a school are closed off to cars during the school run.

The government also needs to help local authorities fund and deliver a network of walking and cycling routes to school, it added.

Anne Stauffer, director for strategy and campaigns at HEAL, said: “In cities, emissions from cars, buses and lorries are a major contributor to poor air quality, so investments should be made into not only reducing traffic around schools, for example with a ban on engine idling or restricted school streets, but also to finance those measures that will lead to a decrease in car use overall.”

https://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2019/06/councils-must-restrict-traffic-protect-children-pollution

“Air pollution: Houses on polluted street face demolition”

“Residents on one of the UK’s most polluted roads are set to be given 150% of the value of their homes to knock them down.

Recorded levels of nitrogen dioxide on the A472 at Hafodyrynys were higher than anywhere else apart from central London 2015 and 2016.

These far exceed World Health Organisation guidelines.

Next week, Caerphilly council’s cabinet will be asked to approve plans to purchase the 23 worst-affected homes.

The A472, between Newbridge and Pontypool, suffers pollution from an estimated 21,000 vehicle movements a day.

Life on Wales’ most polluted road – Hafodyrynys, Caerphilly

There have been many proposals for improving air quality, including buying and demolishing the houses and businesses, which would cost about £4.5m.
This was the Welsh Government’s preferred option. …”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-48694087

“Ministers reject plans for 1p per garment levy to tackle fast fashion”

Climate crisis – what climate crisis?

“Ministers have rejected recommendations from MPs to clean up the huge environmental impact of fast fashion, which sees 300,000 tonnes of clothing burned or buried in the UK every year.

MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) said a charge of 1p for each garment was urgently needed to raise £35m a year for better clothing collection and sorting, a move supported by many in the industry. But the government’s response, published on Tuesday, failed to commit to this, stating only that it could be considered by 2025.

The MPs report, Fixing Fashion, was published in February and revealed that UK shoppers buy more new clothes than any other European country, and roughly twice as many as in Germany and Italy. It also said textile production contributes more emissions to the climate crisis than international aviation and shipping combined, consumes lake-sized volumes of fresh water and creates chemical and microplastic pollution.

The cross-party EAC said there should be a ban on incinerating or landfilling unsold clothes that can be reused or recycled. But the government said: “We believe that positive approaches are required to find outlets for waste textiles rather than simply imposing a landfill ban.”

The MPs also recommended mandatory environmental targets for fashion retailers with a turnover above £36m. However, the government said it would only “encourage the wider industry to take part in [the voluntary] Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (Scap)”. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2019/jun/18/ministers-reject-charge-of-1p-an-item-to-clean-up-fast-fashion?

“Painted bike lanes are waste of money, say cycling commissioners”

“The government has wasted hundreds of millions of pounds painting pointless white lines on busy roads and calling them cycle lanes, according to Britain’s cycling and walking commissioners.

In a letter to the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, the commissioners – including the Olympic champions Chris Boardman (Greater Manchester), Dame Sarah Storey (Sheffield City region) and Will Norman (London) – say painted cycle lanes are a “gesture” and do nothing to make people feel safer on a bike. Recent studies have shown they can actually make people less safe, they argue.

“As there are currently no national minimum safety standards for walking and cycling infrastructure, these practices can and will continue wasting public money and failing to persuade people to change their travel habits,” the letter says. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jun/17/painted-bike-lanes-waste-money-cycling-commissioners?