Blackpool Borough Council applies for self-supply water and sewerage licences

Blackpool Borough Council has applied to Ofwat for self-supply water and sewerage retail licenses to enable it to provide retail services to itself and persons associated with it.

The application says the Council is committed to taking the lead for water and sewerage sustainability across the borough through improved water efficiency, reduction of waste and increased utilisation of recycled water systems.

The Council believes that having a self-supply licence will give it the opportunity to take more control over its own water use, building on its current approach to good water stewardship and cost control. It will also ensure that the close working relationship built up with United Utilities can “continue without hindrance” and also enable it to provide a direct customer voice in discussions at the Market Operator

Blackpool Council has entered a partnership agreement with Waterscan to take on the role and responsibility for its retail functions including meter reading, transactions on MOSL’s Central Market Operating System, wholesaler management and finding further water efficiency savings.

The Council says it is at the hub of the sustainability challenge to deliver, demonstrate and encourage sustainable practices not only across the borough, but across the Flyde Coast and Lancashire.

Deadline to make representations or objections about the application to Ofwat is 23 February 2018.

Intelligent cat’s eyes to improve road safety

Intelligent cat’s eyes, which light up in response to changing traffic lights, are to be used for the first time at a motorway junction to improve safety for drivers.

Highways England is installing around 170 of the innovative LED road studs at one of England’s busiest motorway junctions – used by over 90,000 vehicles every day.

The intelligent cat’s eyes are being introduced as part of a £3 million project to improve journeys and safety at Switch Island in Merseyside, where the M57, M58 and 3 A roads all join together.

The LED road studs light up when traffic lights turn green so drivers can clearly see which lane they should follow. Cables under the road surface connect them to traffic lights through a nearby automatic controller unit.

The studs can be visible up to 1,000 metres away – far greater than traditional reflective cat’s eyes – and have been proven to help stop drivers drifting between lanes, reducing the risk of collisions.

Highways England has already installed the LED studs at Hindhead Tunnel in Surrey to guide drivers through the tunnel but the Switch Island scheme will be the first time they have been linked to traffic lights at a motorway junction.

Phil Tyrrell, Project Manager at Highways England, said:

“We’re always looking for new ways to further improve journeys and safety for drivers, and I hope the new intelligent cat’s eyes will help better guide drivers around Switch Island.

“The innovative light-up road studs along with the other improvements we’re introducing will make it much easier to navigate the junction, benefitting the tens of thousands of drivers who travel through it every day.”

Construction work on the Switch Island scheme, which is being funded by the government’s £220 million congestion relief programme, is due to start on Monday 5 February and is expected to take around a year to complete.

The scheme is designed to improve the flow of traffic and enhance safety, following 49 collisions at the junction in the past two years – an average of one every fortnight. New traffic lights will be installed at a height of over 5 metres – higher than HGVs and double-decker buses – so that drivers approaching the junction can clearly see when the lights are changing.

Other improvements will include changes to the road layout and lane markings, new barriers between carriageways, coloured high friction surfaces and better signs. And a new 400 metre shared cycle path will be created through the junction, which will link up with the existing cycle path alongside the A5036 Dunnings Bridge Road.

Jerry McConkey, Sefton Council’s Transportation and Highway Infrastructure Service Manager, said:

“We have worked closely with Highways England and Merseyside Police to look at the issues at Switch Island and develop improvement proposals.

“As a result, we are delighted that these important safety measures are about to be introduced with Highways England implementing the latest technology solutions. This will further improve safety and give drivers a much higher level of confidence when negotiating this busy junction.”

The new intelligent cat’s eyes which are being installed at Switch Island were designed by Oxfordshire-based company Clearview Intelligence. Managing Director Nick Lanigan said:

“The introduction of intelligent road studs, reacting to traffic light changes on a busy roundabout is a continuation of the traditional cat’s eye legacy but takes advantage of new technology available. The new studs have been proven to reduce lane transgression by over 50% in certain conditions so it’s a great way to help improve the safety for all road users.”

Cat’s eyes were invented by Percy Shaw in 1933 after he was driving down a steep winding road in West Yorkshire and noticed his headlights reflect in the eyes of a cat. He realised the potential of improving road safety if he could create a reflecting device that could be fitted to road surfaces and came up with his cat’s eye invention.

Environment Agency: construction work starts on £100m Boston Barrier flood defence scheme

Highway Care | Teaming up with Aftercare Response to offer industry-leading back-up

£34m Warrington flood defence scheme officially complete

More than 2,000 Warrington homes and businesses will benefit from the town’s multi-million pound flood defence scheme, officially opened today by Environment Agency Chief Executive, Sir James Bevan and the town’s Mayor, Cllr. Les Morgan

The scheme is one of the largest value flood defence projects constructed in the region and will significantly reduce flood risk in 9 residential and public areas of Warrington,

Due to the scale and complexity of works, the scheme was delivered in 3 phases – parts of which have been effectively operating for some time. Phase one (the Knutsford Road section) was put to the test during the 2013 December high tides, preventing some 200 properties from being flooded. The predicted value of damage to properties that would have otherwise occurred, covered the actual cost of this section of the scheme.

Sir James Bevan, Environment Agency Chief Executive, said: “The scheme not only brings flood risk benefits but the work in the area is also good news for walkers, birdwatchers and wildlife. It’s been great to see the Environment Agency working together in partnership to better protect Warrington – a fine example of what can be achieved by working with others. These new flood defences will not only benefit hundreds of homes and businesses in the area but will also safeguard critical infrastructure, vital in keeping the town moving.”

Comprising 5km of flood walls and 2.2km of embankment, the 7.2km scheme has improved amenity and recreational opportunities, as well as habitat conditions along the river corridor.

Floods Minister Thérèse Coffey said that by 2021, £47 million will have been invested in flood defences to better protect 4,280 homes in Cheshire.

Funding for the scheme came from a number of sources. The majority – £29m – came from Government Grant-in-Aid, the remaining came from the partners the Environment Agency worked with to deliver the scheme.

The Environment Agency worked closely with Warrington Borough Council, who contributed £4 million towards the scheme, of which £1 million was ‘works in kind’. Scottish Power, who owns and operates a high voltage substation in the Howley area that serves almost half of the town, also contributed £2 million to the scheme to better protect this key element of Warrington’s critical infrastructure.

Connecting the South East

Transport for the South East (TfSE) is to launch its economic connectivity review at a one-day conference at Farnborough in May. Councillor Keith Glazier, Chair of TfSE and Leader of East Sussex County Council believes this new approach to the South East’s strategic transport needs is an amazing opportunity to set the future economy in the right direction and underpins the South East’s ambitions for inward investment, jobs, new housing and the environment.

It’s possible that you haven’t yet heard of Transport for the South East (TfSE). It is the youngest of the four emerging organisations vying to become Sub-national Transport Bodies (STBs) under the Government’s plan to give regions new powers to transform transport in their areas. We see TfSE as a partnership to improve the transport network for all and grow the economy of the whole South East area. Established in June 2017, it covers an area stretching from the English Channel to the border of London, and from the Kent coast to Berkshire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Not only does this area include major airports, ports, roads and rail routes, it is also a powerful economic motor for the whole of the UK – adding £200 billion a year to the national economy, which is more than Scotland and Wales combined.Quite simply TfSE is a single voice for strategic transport needs in the South East. It has already provided its initial view on priorities for the next road investment strategy (RIS 2), which recognises the significance of the area as an international gateway with more passenger and freight movements than any other region in England.

The performance of the transport network in the South East has a direct impact on the economic success of the whole country; the South East connects us to the rest of the world and provides crucial access for business and trade. In fact London’s success is due in part to the infrastructure around it which allows the movement by road, rail, air and sea for the skills, services and products it needs. The South East can support other major cities across the country to thrive using its access to global markets and opportunities to support them. Without the right investment against our clear priorities, the country will fail to achieve its full economic potential.

This is why work on our economic connectivity review is so important to both the region and the country. This work will shape our forthcoming transport strategy, providing the clarity between infrastructure investment and economic growth. We are striking out at a time when the very way in which we travel is on the cusp of a revolution. With no new conventional diesel or petrol vehicles by 2040 and current atmospheric concentrations of CO2 above 400ppm, our transport strategy will look to support and prioritise cleaner transport and alternative forms of travel.

Our economic connectivity review is the springboard for our transport strategy. We know the South East is a powerful driver for the UK economy and the nation’s major international gateway for people and businesses. Our transport strategy will build upon the economic connectivity review with the blueprint for a quality, integrated transport system that makes us more productive and competitive, improves the quality of life for all and protects the environment.

We will be launching the economic connectivity review at the Connecting the South East event at the new Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre on 8 May. The event includes a supporting exhibition and it has already secured strong industry support in the form of headline sponsorship from Jacobs, Balfour Beatty, Costain and Elgin.

This will be an excellent opportunity for partners and stakeholders across the public and private sector to not only understand the ambition and opportunity but also engage with TfSE to test and challenge our conclusions.

We have already achieved much. Representatives of our Local Enterprise Partnerships sit on our board, reflecting the vital link LEPs have with the businesses we are looking to support through our infrastructure planning. We also recognise the importance of the natural capital within the South East, not least our varied protected landscapes, and have ensured a place on the board for a representative who speaks for this vital interest.

We have an amazing opportunity to set our future economy in the right direction. Harnessing new technological advances, building on best practice and showing how transport connectivity can provide a prosperous future is what we’re about. The priorities we set will be the catalysts for inward investment, for new housing, for jobs. Our partnership will play its role in preparing the country for a new economic era.

Councillor Keith Glazier is Leader of East Sussex County Council and Chair of Transport for the South East

Connecting the South East takes place in Farnborough on 8 May, in association with Essential Infrastructure Events, the organiser of Highways UK. The event is free to attend and by invitation. Please email [email protected] to register your interest in attending. 

New national drinking water scheme to cut plastic bottle use by millions

People will be able to refill water bottles for free in tens of thousands of places in England in future following the announcement of a new national scheme by the water industry today.

It is estimated that the new scheme will cut plastic bottle use by tens of millions each year as well as substantially increasing the availability of high quality drinking water.

In an ambitious drive to help fight plastic waste, water companies will join forces with the Refill campaign to create a national network of high street retailers, coffee shops, businesses and local authorities offering new refill stations for the public to top-up their water bottles for free in every major city and town in England by 2021.

People will be able to use an app on their phone to find out where the nearest refill point is, or look out for special signs in shop windows. Some water companies are looking at installing new public drinking fountains and restoring some historical ones which have fallen into disuse.

The first business to join the national drinking water scheme is Whitbread plc, which has pledged today to offer free drinking water for customers and passers-by in each of its 3000 Costa Coffee and Premier Inn locations from March 2018.

Launching the new scheme, Water UK Chief Executive Michael Roberts said:

“As an industry with a strong focus on the environment we are passionate about tackling the problems caused by plastic bottles, which clog up rivers and drains, and pollute our seas. By refilling water bottles, we can all help turn this harmful tide of plastic waste. This country has some of the best drinking water in the world and we want everyone to benefit from it. This scheme will do that by making it easier for people to refill their bottles wherever they work, rest, shop or play.”

Four water companies already participating in Refill scheme

The water industry was inspired to create the new initiative by the successful schemes run by the Refill campaign, which now has over 1600 refill stations across the UK. Some water companies are currently taking part in four local Refill schemes in England to provide free drinking water; Anglian Water in Norwich; Northumbrian Water in Durham; South West Water in Cornwall; and Bristol Water in Bristol. The new partnership between the water industry and Refill will see all water companies in England support the massive expansion of the scheme over the next two years.

The Refill Bristol scheme which launched in September 2015 now has more than 200 refill points across Bristol’s city centre. Refill Bristol has estimated that if every Bristolian refilled a bottle once a week instead of buying a single-use plastic bottle, the city would reduce its plastic bottle consumption by 22.3 million a year. If replicated around the country, it could lead to a reduction in plastic bottle use in the hundreds of millions.

The current Refill scheme, now happening in 13 towns and cities in England, encourages participating cafes, bars, restaurants, banks, galleries, museums and other businesses to sign up to a free app and put a sticker in their window alerting passers-by to the fact they’re welcome to fill up their bottle for free.

Natalie Fee, founder of City to Sea, the organisation which the driving force behind the Refill scheme, said that  there was a huge appetite for the Refill campaign across England  and that the Refill app “puts the power to stop plastic pollution in people’s hands.”

James Pitcher, Director of Sustainability, Whitbread plc commented:

“At Whitbread we are committed to reducing our impact on the environment and playing our part to tackle the issue of plastic waste. We are very much looking forward to participating in this innovative scheme, with over 3,000 Costa stores, Premier Inn hotels and restaurants the length and breadth of the country we can make it easier for people to refill for free, helping to reduce the number of plastic bottles being littered or thrown away.”

A half-litre bottle of still water typically costs around 30p in shops, compared to a twelfth of a penny for the equivalent volume of tap water. The cost to customers who get it from one of the new refill points will be zero.

The first stage in delivering the nationwide scheme is for water companies to work with Refill to develop local action plans by September 2018, setting out steps they will take – working with local partners – to drive up access to drinking water locally.

The next stage will be to put in place a network of community refill points and a national app to enable the public to find their nearest refill station. This will build on the Refill model of community organisers and the Refill app to ensure country-wide coverage by 2021.

It is estimated that only around half of the 38.5 million plastic bottles used in the UK every day are recycled, with around 16 million ending up in landfill, being burnt, or entering the environment and waterways.

Cyclists celebrate new £1.1 million junction improvements in Ellesmere Port

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Thames Water rolls out smart metering programme across Epping Forest