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Monday 15 January: Waste crime, bird flu, Countryside Stewardship and air quality

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Waste crime crack down

An image of household waste dumped in a green area.
Fly tipping

A wide ranging consultation has today been launched to tackle crime and poor performance in the waste sector, and the fly-tipping of household waste.

Proposals include raising the bar required to hold EA waste permits, and putting a stop to criminals hiding their illegal activities by requiring them to register low-risk waste operations, which are currently exempt from the need to hold a permit.

The consultation also proposes providing local authorities with the option of fining those whose waste ends up fly-tipped or illegally dumped rather than having to pursue them through the courts, and improving awareness amongst householders so people can check on the EA website to see if the recipient of their waste is licensed to take their waste.

The government is clear however that new fixed penalty notices should not be abused simply as a means of raising money. Guidance on how the fines should be applied will therefore be issued to councils.

New power to tackle the serious problem of waste will also be granted to the Environment Agency to lock the gates or block access to problem waste sites to prevent thousands of tonnes of waste illegally building up. The powers will enable the EA to force operators to clear all the waste at a problem waste site, not just the illegal waste.

The story has run widely in today’s media, including Good Morning Britain, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Sun, and Daily Mail.

Environment Minister Therese Coffey said:

Waste crime and fly-tipping blight our communities and spoil our countryside, and we need determined action to tackle it.

These new powers for the Environment Agency will curb the rise of waste sites that continue to operate outside the law.

But we must all take responsibility for our waste to make sure it does not end up in the hands of criminals who will wilfully dump it. Our new consultation looks more widely at the waste sector and we are keen to hear from industry and the public how we can improve performance, tackle illegality and protect our precious environment.

Bird flu in Dorset

A picture of wild birds in a green area next to a pond.
Wild birds

There was widespread coverage over the weekend that bird flu has been found in wild 17 birds in Dorset following surveillance by Defra- the first findings this winter. Following the finding Defra have put in place an avian influenza prevention zone in the area.

All of the coverage included the important point that the exact strain of the H5N6 virus found is very similar to the one that has been circulating in Europe and the risk to public health is very low.

The UK Chief Veterinary Officer has also urged bird keepers to maintain high biosecurity standards to protect their birds.

Outlets covering the news included Daily Mail, Dorset Echo, Farming UK and ITV News.

Information on what to do if you are living in the prevention zone, biosecurity advice for all bird keepers and rolling updates on bird flu can be found here.

New and improved Countryside Stewardship Offers open for applications

A green field with flowers.

From today, farmers and land managers can read more about the new CS Offers that are launching in this application round for 2019 agreements, and request an application pack.

There are four new Offers, which are simpler and quicker to apply for, being introduced this year to complement the existing Higher Tier and Mid Tier offers and open up the scheme to more participants.

Unlike existing offers, which are competitive, all landowners who make a valid application for any of the four new packages will be guaranteed funding through the scheme.

The press release, sent out at 9:30am this morning, has also been picked up by Farming UK and Farmers Guardian, with positive reactions online as farmers respond to the news.

The news today follows on from the Secretary of State’s announcement of the streamlined plans in November last year, with detail following as Farming Minister George Eustice visited a farm near York to explain how the new schemes will be simpler and easier for farmers to apply for and implement.

Farming Minister George Eustice said:

We’ve seen farmland birds recover in numbers and biodiversity boosted on farms signed up to Countryside Stewardship agreements, however we have listened to those who said the schemes had become too complicated. The new Countryside Stewardship offers available this year are much simpler to apply for and cover a full range of different farm types, so farmers can deliver environmental benefits wherever and whatever they farm.

My message to farmers who’ve been put off Countryside Stewardship in the last few rounds is to take another look and see what’s on offer this year. We’ve listened to farmers and we’ve simplified the offering to create a universal scheme to appeal to farmers new to stewardship and those coming out of ELS so they can continue the good work on their farms.

London air quality

London mayor Sadiq Khan has today released a press notice highlighting compliance with air quality limits in the city.

This was covered by BBC Online, and says that, for the first time since records began, London is entering the third week of January without broaching air pollution limits.

This is thanks in part to government funding for air quality and cleaner transport, including a comprehensive funding settlement from the government in the 2015 Spending Review, worth more than £5 billion, which includes measures to deliver compliance with air quality limits.

A Defra Spokesperson said:

This Government has invested more than £86 million into taking strong action to cut air pollution in London - with more low-carbon and hydrogen buses, more ultra-low emission taxis and more electric charge points.

While we have come a long way since 2010, we recognise there is more to do which is why we have put in place a £3.5 billion plan to improve air quality and reduce harmful emissions and will also end the sale of conventional new diesel and petrol cars and vans by 2040.

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