Environment law bulletin: Miscellaneous

United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Wildlife and conservation

A consultation paper is seeking views on legislative proposals to integrate the requirements of the EU Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) in respect of European protected species into the Land Use Planning Regime. The aim of the proposals is to bring the planning permission process under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the wildlife licensing regime under the Directive, together in a single process so that a single body could consider all the relative issues at one time. It will also ensure the effective implementation of the Directive, removing the need for a separate regulatory regime. Responses to the consultation paper, which sets out proposals for England only, should have reached DEFRA by 24 January 2003.
(DEFRA, October 2002)

Transport

Vehicles entering the centre of Durham were required to pay a £2 toll from October 2002. The access charging scheme is the first of its kind in the UK and was introduced to restrict the number of vehicles entering the town’s streets. The charge will apply between 10am to 4pm Monday to Saturday and will apply to road users accessing the city centre peninsular. The income from the toll is being used to finance a shuttle bus service linking the town’s main car parks, bus and railway stations with the peninsular.
(Durham County Council Information Service, 26 September 2002)

Aggregates

HM Customs & Excise has issued a business brief laying down exemptions from registration and other obligations relating to the aggregates levy. From 1 April 2003, full exemption from registration and all obligations will apply to any person who commercially exploits only: soil, vegetable matter or other organic matter; spoil, waste or other by products of any industrial combustion process, or the smelting or refining of metal; drill cuttings from licensed oil exploration; or arisings from roads when utilities work is carried out. The following activities, although exempt from registration and consequent obligations, are required to be notified to Customs include any person who exploits only: coal, lignite, slate or shale; spoil, waste or other by products resulting from the separation of coal, lignite, slate or shale after extraction; spoil, waste or other by products resulting from the separation of specified minerals after extraction; china clay and bull clay and spoiler waste resulting from its extraction; or any other clay.
(Customs & Excise, 24 December 2002)

HM Customs & Excise has announced its intention to clarify and amend the Aggregates Levy (General) Regulations 2002 (SI 2002 No 761) in Business Brief Number 29/2002. The changes are set to take effect from 1 April 2003 and include a clarification that water filtration can only be relieved from the levy if it is part of the process of providing drinking water. It will also add oil filtration to the list of relieved processes. In relation to oil exploration, the term ‘proppart’ is to be replaced with ‘propping agent’ as the latter is the correct technical term. There is also changes for agricultural reliefs. With regard to growing media it is now clarified that relief is limited to use in growing media for the agricultural sector, which includes horticulture. Relief will not be claimable where aggregate is used in growing media for non-agricultural processes such as the laying of sports pitches.
(HM Customs & Excise, 14 November 2002)

A consultation has been launched by HM Customs & Excise in order to request information and seek the views of UK quarry operators on waste material arising from the extraction of aggregates. Responses from the consultation will be used by the Government to assess whether there is a case for relief from the levy for waste materials. The consultation paper is in the form of a questionnaire which must be returned by 10 March 2003.
(HM Customs & Excise, December 2002)

Urban environment

A consultation paper describing options for reforming the legislative framework to improve the statutory powers, rights and responsibilities for achieving an improved urban environment has been published by DEFRA. Some of the issues addressed include litter, graffiti, fly tipping, fly posting, noisy fireworks, faulty burglar alarms and nuisance lighting in shared public spaces such as streets, square, commons and parks. An accompanying publication entitled ‘Living Places – Cleaner, Safer, Greener’ provides a review of the rights and responsibilities governing such public spaces. This document concluded that current powers, duties and guidance are confusing, fragmented and outdated. Local authorities and law enforcing bodies want a more consistent legislative framework with clearer definitions of responsibility. The options described in the consultation paper are aimed at assigning duties and powers to public bodies. The consultation closes on 14 February 2003.
(DEFRA, October 2002)

EA

The EA has published its Annual Environmental Report for 2001 – 2002. The report concludes that in some cases the EA has exceeded its own targets. There was a 14.5% reduction in air emissions arising from staff business travel, a 7% reduction in office waste and a 25% reduction in office paper purchased. The use of aggregates derived from secondary or recycled sources more than doubled and water consumption fell by 11.4%. In addition, it was estimated that by 2003 to 2004 over 40% of the electricity used by the EA will be sourced from renewables.
(EA, October 2002)

CSR

Hermes an independent fund manager owned by the largest pension scheme in the UK, the British Telecom pension scheme has published ‘The Hermes Principles’. It sets out 10 investment principles to address what owners should expect from UK public companies and what these companies expect from their owners. The Hermes Principles are designed to encourage companies to communicate clearly the plans they are pursuing and the likely financial and wider consequences of those plans. Principles 9 and 10 deal with the social, ethical and environmental issues. These principles call for companies to manage effectively relationships with their employees, suppliers and customers and say that they should behave ethically and have regard for the environment and society as a whole. In addition, they require that companies should support voluntary and statutory measures which minimise the externalisation of costs to the detriment of society.
(Hermes Pensions Management Limited, November 2002)

The NGO, Forum for the Future has criticised the Government’s approach to controlling the environment impacts of businesses. It says that the Government relies too much on voluntary measures in which business self interest is seen as a key driver for sustainability. However, Forum for the Future argue that companies’ environmental, social and financial priorities often conflict, in which cases shareholders short term interests generally win out. The report calls for the Government to reconsider its decision not to require large companies to issue an annual environment report and to reaffirm its commitment to environment taxes.
(Forum for the Future, November 2002)

Building Regulations

Proposals for amending Part C of the Building Regulations 2000 (SI 2000 No 2531) have been published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister as part of a consultation package. The proposed changes to Part C, which deals with site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture, would involve amending the Approved Document issued in 1992. Since then, there have been several changes in legislation and technical matters covered under Part C. The most significant changes are related to the Contaminated Land Regime under Part IIA of the EPA 1990. For the purposes of Part C, ‘contaminant’ is defined as ‘any substance which is or may become harmful to persons or buildings, including substances which are corrosive, explosive, flammable, radioactive or toxic’. It is proposed to introduce a risk based approach to the resistance to contaminants, and that it should apply to all parts of the site of the building, including the land around it which falls within the holding of the property. The aim of this amendment is to ensure that land affected by contaminants around the building is adequately dealt with to reduce the risk of contaminants migrating and jeopardising human health. The consultation paper also contains a proposal that the new Part C requirements will apply when there is a material change of use of a building, including changes to residential use or other use with sleeping accommodation. There are also several proposed measures to reduce the resistance to moisture of floors, walls and roofs of buildings. Responses to the consultation package, which includes a draft of the proposed Approved Document C, a draft regulatory impact assessment and a paper giving a more detailed explanation of the proposals, should be made by 10 March 2003.
(ODPM, December 2002)

The Building (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2002 (SI 2002 No 2871) have been laid before Parliament. They amend the Building Regulations 2000, as amended, by making changes to the provisions relating to noise and fire safety. Regulations 3 and 4 contain transitional provisions in relation to sound insulation testing and the new Part E, which will come into force on 1 July 2003. The amending Regulations are aimed at improving standards of sound privacy between homes, and of walls and floors within the home, as well as between rooms in hostels, hotels and residential homes. The Building (Improved Inspectors etc) (Amendment) Regulations 2002 (SI 2002 No 2872) have also been laid before Parliament to complement the amendment of the Building Regulations.
(SO, 16 November 2002)

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) has released Circular 03/2002. It gives guidance on several amendments to the Building Regulations and Approved Documents (see above). The new Part E, which deals with resistance to the passage of sound, will come into force on 1 July 2003 for work other than the erection of new dwelling houses and flats and on 1 January 2004 for new build dwelling houses and flats.
(ODPM, 19 December 2002)

Farming

Two initiatives to help farmers improve their environment performance have been launched by the EA. They follow a survey which found that awareness of adverse environment impacts of agricultural remains low amongst farmers. It was found that 87% of agricultural producers questioned, acknowledged carrying out at least one potentially harmful activity, such as storing chemicals, oils or fuels, or having high water consumption. The new initiatives include a website containing guidance to help farmers comply with their environment responsibilities including details of legislation affecting the industry. A booklet entitled ‘Waterwise on the Farm’ provides a guide to promoting greater water efficiency in agriculture and was developed in partnership with the NFU.
(EA News, 25 November 2002)

Biodiversity

A list of habitats and species in England that are important to diversity has been made available by DEFRA. It was prepared under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CROW) 2000 and identifies the habitats and living organisms considered to be of importance for the conservation of diversity in England, in accordance with the 1992 UN principal Convention on Biological Diversity. The biodiversity strategy for England (see below) sets out the means by which the Government will comply with its duty under the CROW Act 2000 to take or promote the taking of steps to further the conservation of the listed habitats and species. The list will be kept under review and a report on any revisions will be made as part of the first report on progress on the biodiversity strategy for England in 2006.
(DEFRA, 17 December 2002)

DEFRA has launched a biodiversity strategy for England setting out objectives and policies for a five year plan of action. Entitled ‘Working with the Grain of Nature’, it addresses five policy sectors. These include: management of farming and agricultural land to enhance biodiversity integrated with sustainable farming; a whole catchment approach to the sustainable use of water and wetlands; management of woodland to promote biodiversity; the sustainable use of marine and coastal habitats using an ecosystem based approach; and in urban areas it aims to make biodiversity part of development policy. The Government promised to publish a biodiversity strategy in its rural white paper published in November 2000 ‘Our Countryside, The Future: A Fair Deal for Rural England’. The Strategy also adds to the improvements for the conservation of SSSIs under CROW 2000 and aims to encourage businesses to act for biodiversity through the supply chain and in their management systems, annual reports and accounts.
(DEFRA, October 2002)

DEFRA

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Parliamentary Committee has issued its tenth report on the role of DEFRA. The report concluded that DEFRA must undergo significant structural and cultural change in order to meet the many challenges of its two roles, i.e. promoting sustainable development and rural areas. It also expressed doubts about the abilities of its management to bring about adaptation to its new roles and about whether it had the ability to administer complex programmes efficiently, especially in a way that it is acceptable to business.
(Parliament, November 2002)

Environment permits

The EA has published stakeholder responses to its consultation paper on a proposed compliance classification scheme for environment permits published in March 2002. The vast majority of respondents supported the scheme, although a number pointed out that the implementation of the scheme would be dependent on the certainty, or uncertainty, attached to non-compliance. It was also pointed out that some numeric permit conditions are based on operational needs, whereas others are based on risk of harm to the environment with implicit differences in the consequences of non-compliance. A total of 50 responses were received, many of which were from groups or advisory panels internal to the EA. Non-compliances with permit conditions causing actual harm to the environment are already recorded within a Common Incident Classification scheme. Whilst the majority of non compliances do not cause such incidents, they still represent a risk to the environment. The purpose of the proposed new scheme is to establish a consistent means of classifying non-compliance across all regimes regulated by the EA, and to enable it to concentrate resources on those non-compliances that pose the greatest risk to the environment.
(EA, November 2002)

Construction industry

The construction industry has been chosen as the first of around 100 business sectors to be included on the NetRegs website. The initiative is designed to help small and medium size construction businesses to comply with environment legislation. The EA, which administers NetRegs, have found in a previous survey that 74% of smaller construction businesses did not believe that they carried out activities which could be harmful to the environment. However, on further investigation, 82% did acknowledge that they carried out at least one potentially harmful activity such as storing chemicals or oil, or high energy consumption. The Chairman of the EA has challenged construction firms to improve their environment responsibilities saying that the sector has a major impact on the environment, producing more than 70 million tonnes of waste each year and was responsible for more than 700 pollution incidents in 2001, which he described as an unacceptably high rate. The EA hopes that the information provided on the new website will change the culture of small construction businesses so that they better understand their environment responsibilities.
(EA, October 2002)

Environment expenditure

A report by DEFRA entitled ‘Environmental Protection Expenditure by Industry 2000’ provides analysis of the expenditure by extraction, manufacturing and energy supply industries in the UK. It concludes that UK industry spent around £4.2 billion on environment protection during 2000, which represents 0.5% of total turnover. Chemicals and chemical products, food products, beverages and tobacco, mining and quarrying, power industries and machinery and equipment were among the highest spending industries. Most was spent on solid waste, water and air, with lesser amounts spent on land and soil, noise, nature protection and other expenditure such as consultancy. It was found that compared with 1997 there had been a marked increase in capital expenditure on integrated processes in place of end of pipe expenditure which fell from around £0.8 billion to £0.6 billion. Integrated capital expenditure has more than doubled from £0.3 billion to £0.8 billion between 1997 and 2000.
(DEFRA, October 2002)

European Union

Marine conservation

The European Commission has issued a Communication on a strategy to protect and conserve the marine environment. The new approach seeks to develop an integrated policy for the marine environment and sets out 14 objectives as well as outlining a number of concrete actions needed to achieve these objectives. The Communication follows commitments made at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 relating to marine protection and fisheries. It introduces an eco system based approach to management and is linked to the Commission’s proposals for the reform of the Common Fisheries policy.
(COM (2002) 539, 2 October 2002)

Air travel

The Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe (ACARE) has published a report on its strategic research aims. The objective of the strategy outlined in the report is to reduce the environment impacts of air travel, and includes proposals for cutting emissions by 2020, while improving quality, safety, efficiency of transport and security. ACARE which comprises representatives from the European Commission, member states and the aviation industry, has set specific goals to halve fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions per passenger per kilometre, cut nitrogen oxide emissions by 80%, reduce external noise levels by half and minimise the industry’s environmental impact during manufacture, maintenance and disposal of aircraft and equipment. However, the main strategic goal is to help the air transport system triple air traffic between 2000 and 2020.
(ACARE, October 2002)

Sixth Framework Programme

The European Commission has announced details of its four year research funding programme under the Sixth Framework Programme (6FP). The programme will run from 2002-2006 and is worth _17.5 billion, including a _2.12 billion budget for sustainable development, global change and ecosystems. The programme was launched at a conference in Brussels on 11 November 2002 where it was announced that the first call for proposals would be published shortly.
(European Commission, November 2002)

CSR

A new report has given for the first time an overview of CSR throughout Europe. It was published by the European Business Campaign on CSR and concluded that CSR is being taken increasingly seriously throughout Europe. It is part of an ongoing campaign on CSR which aims to stimulate its uptake into core business and to encourage good practice. The report illustrates CSR activity in 17 European countries using 7 indicators to produce a ‘CSR matrix’. This ‘CSR matrix’ demonstrated that the Netherlands and the UK have a strong CSR profile and also that Southern and Eastern European countries were also making good progress.
(Business Campaign on CSR, November 2002)

International

Tourism

A report published by the Tour Operators Initiative (TOI), a global network of tour operators supported by the UNEP, aims to promote environment friendly and socially responsible tourism. The report contains indicators in the form of recommendations and forms a supplement to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Guidelines. The tour operators state that their aim is to prevent the negative effects of tourism on local peoples and to encourage responsible use of natural resources, prevent pollution and reduce waste at travel destinations around the world. The TOI believes that improving their disclosure will encourage better management which will transform the industry into a more sustainable enterprise.
(GRI, November 2002)

CSR

Exxon Mobil has announced plans to invest $100 million to fund a project aimed at finding solutions to climate change and energy needs. The project, which is organised by Stanford University in the USA, will identify researchers to investigate low greenhouse gas emissions energy technologies for future use. However, Greenpeace has expressed its scepticism saying that it is an attempt to buy off its stop Esso campaign and vowed to continue its protest. The announcement by ExxonMobil comes after Deutsche bank warned in October 2002 that ExxonMobil was being labelled as ‘environmental enemy number one’ and that this posed a significant risk to its business. Greenpeace has claimed that one million motorists are now boycotting Esso petrol stations in the UK as a protest against its parent company’s stance on climate change.
(The Guardian, 11 October 2002: 21 November 2002)

For further information please contact Paul Sheridan on 020 7367 2186 or at paul.sheridan@cms-cmck.com