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More time for flood-hit residents to apply for grant

People affected by flooding the region last winter have been given more time to apply for a Government grant to protect their properties.

Flood water in Surrey last February Credit: PA

The deadline for applying for up to £5000 from the Repair and Renew Grant fund has been extended until March 20th 2015.

The fund was set up by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to help cover the cost of flood-proofing buildings that were damaged during winter 2013 to 2014.

The deadline was extended following a request to DEFRA from local authorities.

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Flood alleviation scheme gets the green light

Flood clearance: TfB's super sucker helps clear a resident's garden of flood water Credit: Buckinghamshire County Council
Sandbag station: help for residents to keep floodwater at bay in the Pound Lane, Marlow, area Credit: Buckinghamshire County Council

Work begins in June on Marlow's flood alleviation scheme, to protect homes in the Pound Lane and Firview areas of the town, following confirmation that the £8.5 million cost has been covered.

Since the severe weather of Winter 2013/14, which left parts of Marlow under several feet of flood water, a consortium of councils and the Environment Agency has been working together to find funding for the project.

So far Buckinghamshire County Council has given £1.25m, while the Government is contributing £3.25m and Marlow Town Council £60,000. Wycombe District Council will provide officer time and expertise.

Today the consortium announced confirmation that the remaining £4m would come from the Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee Local Levy, a £10.5m fund supported by councils in the Thames Valley.

The project, to be led by the Environment Agency (EA), involves building protective earth embankments, excavating flood attenuation ponds, and installing heavy-duty pumps to control surface water levels, between homes in Pound Lane and Fairview and the River Thames.

Work on the ground will start in June and take around five years. Meanwhile EA is overseeing preparation, such as archaeological recording, site access and temporary road closure notices needed at times during the work.

Environmental Audit Committee say shale fracking is 'incompatible with climate change targets'

Shale fracking should be put on hold in the UK because it is incompatible with our climate change targets and could pose significant localised environmental risks to public health. That is the conclusion of MPs on the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee who will attempt to amend the Government’s Infrastructure Bill in Parliament today.

Ultimately fracking cannot be compatible with our long-term commitments to cut climate changing emissions unless full-scale carbon capture and storage technology is rolled out rapidly, which currently looks unlikely. There are also huge uncertainties around the impact that fracking could have on water supplies, air quality and public health. We cannot allow Britain’s national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty to be developed into oil and gas fields. Even if a national moratorium on shale drilling in the UK is not accepted there should be an outright ban on fracking in such special sites.

The Government is trying to rush through changes to the trespass laws that would allow companies to frack under people’s homes without permission. This is profoundly undemocratic and Parliament should protect the rights of citizens by throwing these changes out when they are debated later today.

– Committee Chair Joan Walley MP

The Committee is also calling for other changes to the Infrastructure Bill. Proposed changes to trespass law that would grant companies automatic right of access to land at depth should be removed from the Bill because they seriously undermine citizens’ rights and are not supported by the public. Fracking should also be prohibited outright in nationally important areas such as National Parks, the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, SSIs, ancient woodland.

The Committee is also insisting that:

• Licences and permits must not be issued if commercial operators cannot demonstrate sufficient resources and insurances to cover full liability in event of pollution incidents.

• Venting of methane emissions is unacceptable. Full containment of methane must be mandated in all fracking permits and permissions.

• To protect groundwater a minimum separation distance - between the shales being fracked and underground aquifers - should be defined and mandated.

Current plans to allow fracking companies to handle the safety monitoring for fracking wells are also unacceptable, the report concludes. Independent monitoring must be conducted to ensure the public can have confidence in the results. Regulators must also conduct regular unannounced spot checks and audits of all fracking sites, and facilitate clear and accessible public disclosure of all monitoring data. Companies must be made to disclose - in an accessible way - all of the chemicals used in shale gas exploration and production, and the potential risks they pose. It is unacceptable that there are currently no monitoring requirements for decommissioned or abandoned wells.

Public rally against building in rural Oxfordshire

A coalition of community groups and campaigners is holding its first major rally in David Cameron's constituency of Witney, to protest against the construction of housing developments in rural areas.

Campaigners have gathered in Witney this morning

The Rural Oxfordshire Action Rally are protesting against a planning system which they say has been "defectively changed" over the past two-and-a-half years, to "allow a rash of rampant cynical developer driven building projects which would have been refused permission under the traditional planning criteria."

It comes after a planning application was submitted to West Oxfordshire District Council last year for 200 homes between Witney and Hailey.

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Company must remove waste by April

The Averies Recycling must remove waste from the Marshgate site by the 15 April this year following a fire this summer Credit: ITV News West Country

A waste recycling company in Swindon has gone into administration following a fire that burned for eight weeks in the summer. The Averies Recycling must remove waste from the Marshgate site by the 15 April this year. A public enquiry into the fire is due to begin this month into what caused the fire.

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