Defra five year plan focuses on energy efficiency and cleaner neighbourhoods

The government launched its five year plan for the environment this week with a strong focus on energy efficiency and cleaning up neighbourhoods.

The clean neighbourhoods and environment bill will give local authorities new powers to tackle litter, fly-tipping, abandoned cars and graffiti, and will play a key role in the government's plan to create safer, greener communities.

Launching the five year strategy, Delivering the Essentials of Life, Prime Minister Tony Blair said it would show a new focus on environmental leadership:

"The environment starts on our doorsteps. The plan helps individuals make their own green decisions. It shows that we are committed to domestic action to match our international effort on climate change. It also builds on what I genuinely believe is an excellent record in protecting rural public services, by unveiling a major new approach on rural affordable housing; and it cuts red tape."

Key measures in the clean neighbourhoods bill include: powers to remove abandoned cars from the streets immediately, before they can become eyesores which attract criminal behaviour; new powers to gate nuisance alleyways that attract anti-social behaviour; new measures to help local authorities deal with noise from burglar alarms and pubs; and greater use of fixed penalty fines, which for the first time will be made available to parish councils.

Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for the Environment said: "People rightly place a high value on clean, safe and green public spaces. They want to live in communities that aren't blighted by litter, graffiti and fly posters. And we should not have to tolerate the anti-social behaviour that leads to abandoned, burnt out cars."

"A high quality local environment not only reduces the fear of crime it contributes to our sense of well being. Again and again, people tell us that local problems affecting the quality of their everyday lives is a top priority."

These initiatives were backed up by a campaign by David Blunkett for local eyesores to be cleaned up by offenders. He said it would help ensure that "communities themselves can determine what programmes, renewal schemes and environmental changes they want with the support, help and hands of those who are on community sentences."

On energy efficiency the strategy builds on the foundations laid out in the Energy Efficiency Action Plan in April 2004. Defra will undertake a review to determine the most effective energy efficient measures for households and businesses, as well as receiving a £20 million fund from the Treasury to accelerate energy-efficient technology managed by the Carbon Trust.

In addition, the department will add £10 million to the £50 million community energy programme which delivers heat networks to reduce energy bills, tackle fuel poverty, reduce carbon emissions and support CHP. Defra will also launch Environment Direct, an internet based service to provide clear facts about the effects of consumption choices and energy efficiency.

"Energy efficiency is a win-win: tackling climate change while keeping fuel bills down. This strategy spells out how we intend to make a step change in energy efficiency and successfully deliver the transition to a low carbon economy," Mrs Beckett said.

The strategy also outlines plans for new partnerships between supermarkets and local authorities to increase household recycling by hundreds of thousands of tons over the next five years. New incentive schemes for recycling and waste reduction will also be piloted by local authorities.

Other measures in the five year plan include enabling local authorities to recover the costs of dealing with abandoned shopping trolleys from their owners; extending the list of statutory nuisances to include light pollution; and improving the contaminated land appeals process.

By David Hopkins



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