In case you missed it - key stories over the Christmas break

5th January 2015

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William Delamare

The holiday period saw the publication of a slew of consultations and reports. We cover the most eye-catching announcements below.

A new report from the Wildlife Trusts found that more than 10% of the 6,590 local wildlife sites it monitored have been lost or damaged in the past five years. Forty-five of the trust's partnerships reported that they urgently need more resources to ensure the effective identification, management and protection of local wildlife sites in their area and to combat the causes of neglect, inappropriate management and development pressures that threaten them.

Plans to give local planning authorities responsibility for approving and maintaining sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS) were confirmed by government, despite more than two-thirds of consultation respondents expressing concerns about the change. The new rules will apply to major development only. The DCLG has published a consultation on whether lead local flood authorities should be statutory consultees on planning applications for developments with implications for surface water drainage. The consultation also proposes making water companies statutory consultees on applications for shale oil and gas developments.

The government has published its latest plans for reviewing local authority air quality monitoring requirements. The changes, detailed in a consultation, include removing the need for local authorities to report on obsolete pollutants, such as lead and benzene, and giving councils a responsibility for reducing PM2.5. Local authority reporting on air quality will be streamlined by replacing separate assessments with a single, annual “status” report. The details of this will be consulted on after the regulatory changes are complete, the government says.

The government announced the provisional outcome of the capacity market, which enables power generators to secure contracts worth almost £1 billion in public subsidy. Analysis by think-tank the IPPR found that, of the £956 million available capacity payments’ in 2018, £153 million will go to existing nuclear power stations, £451 million to existing gas stations, and £173 million to coal plants, including some now fuelled by biomass. Measures that use smart technology to match electricity demand with available supply received 0.5% of the total pot. The payments will add £11 per year to household bills.

More than 125 million Europeans could be exposed to levels of road traffic noise above legal guidelines, according to a report by the European Environment Agency. Traffic noise “annoys” almost 20 million Europeans and disturbs the sleep of an estimated eight million. Environmental noise is also linked to approximately 43 000 hospital admissions, 900 000 cases of hypertension and up to 10 000 premature deaths per year, the agency estimates.

Official energy statistics for the third quarter of 2014 show that electricity generated from renewables rose by 24% compared to the same period in 2013. Renewables provided 17.8% of the UK’s electricity over this period, an increase of over four percentage points on the previous year’s figures. Electricity generation from coal was down 43% over the same period. The figures also revealed a fall in electricity demand of 2.8%.


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