CLG: Cutting red tape or a plan to override local objections? - Ruth Kelly has unveiled major reforms of the country's planning system in a White Paper (consultation ends 17 August 2007), to ‘make it fit to tackle new challenges in the 21st century - speeding up the system alongside improved community consultation’.

The White Paper sets out our detailed proposals for reform of the planning system, ‘building on Kate Barker's recommendations for improving the speed, responsiveness & efficiency in land use planning and taking forward Kate Barker's and Rod Eddington's proposals for reform of major infrastructure planning’.

It has four key pillars:

  • A quicker system to decide major infrastructure projects
  • Making it easier for householders to make home improvements like extensions and conservatories
  • Planning playing a bigger role in tackling climate change
  • Ensuring the planning system continues to support vibrant town centres

The government also pledged a new commitment to protect the green belt.
CLG press release
~ CRC press release ~ 'Planning for a Sustainable Future' White PaperConsultation document ~ Barker Review of housing supply ~ Eddington Transport study ~ Planning Delivery Grant ~ Code for sustainable homes ~ Planning Aid website ~ Planning Aid for London ~ Planning Aid Concordat ~ Planning Inspectorate's film (Requires Adobe Flash player) ~ The Planning Inspectorate ~ Planning Portal - Appeals ~ National Standard Planning Application form ~ DCLG – Reform of the planning system ~

DTI: Another attempt to go nuclear - Greater energy efficiency and a secure, low carbon energy mix for the long-term are claimed to be at the centre of the new Energy White Paper published by Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling. The Energy White Paper takes forward the conclusions set out in the Energy Review report 'The Energy Challenge' published in July 2006.

Announcements in the White Paper include:
  • A requirement for new meters to come with a real-time display from 2008
  • A consultation to double energy suppliers' current obligation to deliver energy efficiency measures to customers through a new 'Carbon Emission Reduction Target'
  • A cap and trade ‘Carbon Reduction Commitment’ for large commercial organisations
  • A 'Distributed Generation' Report is published
  • Legislation to band the Renewables Obligation to benefit offshore wind, wave, tidal, etc. technologies.
  • Publication of a Biomass Strategy as well as a response to 'Creating Value from Renewable Materials'
  • Detail on the competition to build the world's first end-to-end Carbon Capture and Storage plant
  • Legislation to allow the storage of natural gas under the seabed & unloading of LNG at sea
  • A three month deadline within which DTI will make consent decisions on large scale energy projects, pending more radical reforms set out in the Planning White Paper
  • A new energy market information & analysis service from this autumn
  • A Low Carbon Transport Innovation Strategy is published
In addition, published alongside the White Paper, are:
  • A new consultation on the Government's preliminary view that it is in the public interest to give private sector energy companies the option of investing in new nuclear power stations. A 20 week public consultation running ends 10 October 2007.
  • A related consultation setting out the proposed 'Justification' and 'Strategic Siting Assessment' processes for new nuclear power.

Press release ~ Energy White Paper: Meeting the Challenge~ The Future of Nuclear Power: Consultation Document(1.8Mb)~ Energy White Paper Supporting Documents ~ Energy Review report 'The Energy Challenge' (2006) ~ Online Nuclear consultation ~ Renewable Energy: Reform of the Renewables Obligation consultation (closes 6 September 2007) ~ Guidance on the Gas Act 1965, under which licensed Gas Transporters proposing to store gas in natural porous strata onshore seek consent from the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry: A consultation (closes 15 August 2007).

DfT: Cutting congestion or just raising revenue? - A draft Bill to help improve public transport across the country and cut congestion in our towns & cities has been published for consultation (closes 7 September 2007) by the Government. It sets out proposals to restructure how local transport is delivered within communities. If approved by Parliament the draft Bill would:

  • Give local authorities powers to improve the quality of local bus services
  • Empower local authorities in our major urban areas to review & propose their own arrangements for local transport governance to support coherent and effective transport planning and delivery
  • Update existing powers so that where local areas wish to develop proposals for local road pricing schemes, they have the freedom & flexibility to do so in a way that best meets local needs.

It is expected that any scheme would be part of a wider package of measures to address local congestion problems and the draft Bill would require that the proceeds from any local schemes are spent on local transport.

The government claims that the draft Bill would not provide the legal powers that would be needed for a national system of road pricing.

Press release ~ Draft Local Transport Bill and the related consultation documents ~ Eddington Transport Study ~ 'Putti ng Passengers First' ~ DfT - Local transport plan - process and initiatives ~ DfT – Road pricing

Defra: Let’s not waste what landfill we have left - Environment Secretary David Miliband has published a new strategy for cutting waste and the Government is also launching a parallel public consultation (closes 16 August 2007) on removing the ban on local authorities introducing financial incentives for recycling.

The main points of the waste strategy include:

  • more effective incentives for individuals and businesses to recycle waste, leading to at least 40% of household waste recycled or composted by 2010, rising to 50% by 2020.
  • a greater responsibility on businesses for the environmental impact of their products & operations
  • a strong emphasis on waste prevention
  • a service so that people will be able to opt-out of receiving unaddressed, as well as addressed direct mail
  • working with retailers for the end of free single use bags
  • banning biodegradable and recyclable waste from being put into landfill sites.
  • an increase in the landfill tax escalator by £8 per year from 2008 until at least 2010/
  • Increasing the amount of energy produced by a variety of energy from waste schemes, using waste that can't be reused or recycled.

The waste strategy also sets out the Government's view that there are strong environmental arguments for encouraging more separate collection of food waste to boost composting and anaerobic digestion.

It also outlines action the Government proposes for its own estate - a 25% reduction in waste by 2020 and 75% of waste recycled by 2020.

WRAP has also published a report, Managing Biowastes from Households in the UK: Applying Life-cycle Thinking in the Framework of Cost-benefit Analysis, which suggests that where food waste is collected separately, the frequency of collection should be higher than for residual waste.
Press release ~ The waste strategy and consultation paper on incentives for recycling by households and accompanying partial regulatory impact assessment ~ WRAP: Managing Biowastes from Households in the UK: Applying Life-cycle Thinking in the Framework of Cost-benefit Analysis
~ Land Regeneration network ~ SEPA waste website ~ Guidance for the Incineration of Waste and Fuel Manufactured from or including Waste ~ Waste implementation programme (WIP) ~Innovation Forum report into the benefits of joint working on waste ~ Waste Infrastructure Development Programme (WIDP) ~ LA support website ~ H&S in waste management & recycling ~ Community Recycling network ~ Industry Council for Electronic equipment recycling (ICER) ~ Landfill Tax Credit Scheme ~ Pollution from landfill ~ Sust ainable Procurement Action Plan ~ BBC NEWS - Irish bag tax hailed success ~ Reducin g the reliance on landfill in England

DH: Are you Ok? - Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has announced new sites that will use hi-tech home healthcare to help older people, and those with long term conditions, to lead more independent lives - helping to prevent emergency or unexpected admissions to hospital.

Telehealth monitoring devices help people with long-term conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes, to monitor and manage their condition. People test their blood glucose levels or blood pressure on a small machine at home and the results are monitored by healthcare professionals who can alert patients with any concerns. The local GP surgery can also monitor the patient remotely.

Telecare devices consist of sensors in the home and carry out simple tasks like switching lights on or raising an alarm if an old person does not return to bed in the middle of the night. These systems are closely monitored and ensure assistance is sent to an old person as soon as they need it.

Teams in Kent, Newham and Cornwall have been awarded £12m to look at how best these services can be implemented and the aims of the programme are to:

  • Help people to maintain their independence
  • Reduce the number of prescriptions dispensed
  • Reduce the numbers admitted to residential care and nursing homes
  • Reduce emergency hospital bed days and admissions, and reduce A&E attendances

The Department is commissioning a major independent evaluation through its Policy Research Programme, which is intended to capture the lessons from the demonstrators and determine the best options for wider implementation of whole systems programmes to meet the needs of people with long term conditions.
Press release ~ Telecare 2007 ~ DH - Building telecare in England ~ Telecare Alliance ~ Kent CC - Telecare ~ CSIP - Telecare ~ Purchasing & Supply Agency - Telecare ~ Telecare – JIT (Joint Improvement Team) ~ DH - Telecare Collaborative ~ DH - Self care ~ Independent Living Telecare and Telehealth ~ National Framework Agreement ~ Related reports and case studies ~ Audit Commission - Implementing telecare ~ SSIA - Telecare
~ 'Be tter outcomes, lower costs' ~ 'The costs and benefits of independent living' ~ Independent Living Review ~ Supporting People Programme

DH: The wider aspects of drug treatment - The government claims that a new drug Harm Reduction Action Plan, published this week, will result in more effective treatment being provided to drug misusers and will provide more support for rehabilitation & abstinence.

The numbers of drug related deaths and cases of blood-borne virus infections amongst drug misusers had been falling, but recent data suggests that this downward trend has stopped. In 2005, 1,506 drug users died in England from drug abuse and 44% current injecting drug users have contracted hepatitis C.

The Action Plan will hopefully help through a wide range of actions, such as:

  • improving the quality of data on drug overdose-related deaths and blood-borne virus infections, which will help local commissioners prioritise harm reduction activity
  • exploring mechanisms for routine collection of needle exchange data
  • action plans to improve harm reduction in the poorest 10% of areas
  • new training & guidance to service users & carers on how to minimise harm associated with drug use
  • a health promotion campaign, including hepatitis B vaccination, targeted at those most at risk
  • regional road shows that focus on local implementation and highlight key messages to local stakeholders

Press release ~ Drug Harm Reduction: An Action Plan ~ National Treatment Agency ~ Treatment outcomes monitoring ~ Home Office - Treatment ~ Home Office - Drug Interventions Programme ~ Home Office - Drugs ~ Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) ~ Understanding Drugs Pack

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