HM Government


Press release: Environment Agency receives applications for Palmers Wood oilfield

Environment Agency to decide whether to issue 2 environmental permits for the Palmers Wood oil and gas site in Surrey.

The Environment Agency has received 2 applications for environmental permits at the Palmers Wood oil and gas site.

These applications have been submitted by the site operator to bring the site into line with the current regulations for conventional oil and gas sites. This is part of the Environment Agency’s review of all oil and gas permits granted prior to October 2013.

In deciding whether or not to issue the permits, the Environment Agency will take into account all relevant considerations and legal requirements.

You can find further information on the application and details of how to comment online.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said:

An environmental permit sets out stringent conditions that a site must adhere to. We will not issue an environmental permit for a site if we consider that activities taking place will cause significant pollution to the environment or harm to human health.

We are in the process of determining the applications to re-permit this site and we want to hear from the public and understand people’s views. Everybody has the chance to see what the permit may look like and to raise any additional concerns before we make any final decision.

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News story: Civil news: change of Specialist Quality Mark administrator

New Specialist Quality Mark administration contract starts in tandem with small changes to audit process.

A new administrator will be responsible for delivering work for the Specialist Quality Mark (SQM) from 1 April 2017. The work will in future be carried out by Recognising Excellence and there will be a small number of changes to the audit process.

The current contract with SQM Delivery Partnership ends on 31 March 2017.

What does this mean for providers?

  1. Starting 1 April 2017 audits should be booked by emailing:
  2. Audit award process will have fewer stages.
  3. Increase in requirements at the pre-quality mark stage.

More details are available on our ‘quality standards’ page on GOV.UK – see link below.

Requirement for contract-holders

It is a requirement for legal aid contract holders to hold either the SQM or the equivalent Lexcel accreditation. This will continue for anyone wanting to deliver services under the new civil contracts in 2018.

We confirmed this requirement would remain when we announced on 20 January 2017 that a procurement process for these contracts would start in April 2017.

Accreditation valid after 31 March 2017

All organisations with SQMs valid after 31 March 2017 should check they have a copy of their certificate.

If you are unable to find your current SQM certificate, you may request a copy from the outgoing audit provider, SQM Delivery Partnership. Such requests must be made before 31 March 2017.

Further information

Legal Aid Agency quality standards – to find out more about the standards and new administration arrangements

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Press release: South West Water fined for sewage pollution near shellfish beds

South West Water has been ordered to pay £205,000 in fines and costs for discharging sewage into the Fal estuary in Cornwall. The case was brought by the Environment Agency.

On 26 August 2013 untreated sewage overflowed from the water company’s Newham sewage treatment works near Truro into the Fal, an internationally important shellfishery, Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

The illegal spill occurred after a piece of redundant grating fell and partially blocked an inlet at the works, causing sewage to back up and overflow into the estuary via a storm storage outfall. The spill continued for about 9.5 hours, during which time enough sewage escaped to fill 4,563 bath tubs (730,000 litres).

The discharge occurred close to mussel and oyster beds at Malpas and Grimes Bar. As a precaution, these shellfisheries were temporarily closed by Cornwall Port Health Authority because of the possible risk of contamination by harmful viruses and bacteria such as Norovirus and e.coli.

The decision to close the shellfish beds was taken just before the start of the commercial harvesting season (1 October). Although most harvesting is done during the commercial season, there is a risk small quantities of shellfish may be hand-picked by individuals outside of this time and there would have been a potential risk to those consumers.

Sewage at the Newham treatment works normally undergoes a high level of treatment (tertiary) including ultra violet (UV) that kills bacteria and disinfects effluent. An UV disinfection system is required at this site because of the Fal estuary’s designation as a shellfishery.

The sewage discharged over a bank holiday on 26 August was settled and screened, but otherwise untreated and occurred outside of a storm event. This would have resulted in a significant increase in levels of bacteria in parts of the Fal estuary and meant the treatment works was in breach of its Environment Agency permit.

Mark Pilcher, team leader for the Environment Agency in west Cornwall, said:

It is essential large sewage works bordering estuaries with conservation designations and also containing shellfish beds are operated and inspected to a high standard to prevent unpermitted sewage spills posing risks to public health and the environment.

In this case an inspection programme or removal of a redundant grating structure would have removed the risk of this grating falling into the sewage works and blocking it leading to the spill of sewage.

South West Water Limited was fined £185,000 plus £20,000 costs after pleading guilty to 2 offences under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010 including, on 26 August 2013, causing pollution of the Fal estuary through the illegal discharge of sewage and failing to maintain a saline tank valve at its Newham sewage treatment works. The water company was fined £175,000 for the first offence and £10,000 for the second. The case was heard at Truro Crown Court on 15 February 2017.

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News story: Justine Greening’s vision for the teaching profession

In a speech at the Chartered College of Teaching’s inaugural conference, Education Secretary Justine Greening set out her ambition for a high-status teaching profession, backed up by high-quality continued professional development and pledged her support for teachers as the body of experts who are key to driving social mobility.

Addressing an audience of over 450 teachers, Justine Greening described the launch of new the College of Teaching as a historic moment for the teaching profession. Commenting on the launch she said:

Teaching deserves all the hallmarks of the other great professions – with a high bar to entry, high-quality initial training and a culture of ongoing self-improvement.

So it’s crucial that, like other experts, teachers now have a professional body with a shared commitment to ever-improving standards, disseminating evidence on what works, and driving progress for the profession as a whole.

And I especially want to see a new generation of teachers becoming part of the Chartered College of Teaching – to help safeguard and shape the profession’s future.

The Education Secretary also outlined plans to strengthen the teaching profession so that every child has access to an excellent teacher, including:

  • making absolutely clear that QTS will not be scrapped – instead, the government will work with the sector to develop and introduce a newly strengthened QTS from September 2019, so that all school leaders will want all their teaching staff to achieve it
  • announcing the first round of bidding for the £75 million Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund – to enable new, high-quality continued professional development (CPD) provision to be delivered where it can make the most difference, including in the 12 opportunity areas
  • new, fully revised gold-standard national professional qualifications (NPQs), developed in partnership with the teaching profession, to be implemented from September this year. £10 million from the Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund will be made available to incentivise take-up of the new NPQs for high-potential professionals working in the most challenging schools

Underlining the importance she placed on ensuring teachers have the right support and skills so they are able to help all young people fulfil their potential, the Secretary of State said:

Teachers are the great drivers of social mobility in our country. We know that the single biggest in-school influence on a child’s life chances is the quality of teaching they receive.

It is important that all teachers are supported with the right framework that will allow them to become the best professionals they possibly can be.

I want to work with the profession to make sure this happens, with a golden thread through every teacher’s career from initial training and QTS through continued professional development, especially in those early post-QTS years, through to specialism or leadership.

Great teaching transformed my life, and I want to make sure that happens for today’s generation of children in our schools. I will do all I can to ensure teachers have the right support that will enable them to spread opportunity for children and young people – particularly those who need it most.

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