Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 1998, MCB UP Limited
Information on the environment
Keywords Environment, Internet
Information on the environment
As I write the Appeal Court decision in the Blue Circle Industries plc v. Ministry of Defence case has been announced. The judgment upheld the £6m damages awarded to Blue Circle following the leak of radioactive pollution from the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons establishment in 1989. The appeal by the Ministry of Defence particularly questioned the decision to award Blue Circle damages for the loss of a sale of the site to Sun Microsystems following the contamination. The judgment in favour of Blue Circle means that landowners, who already have the right to claim damages for the cost of cleaning a contaminated site, may also be entitled to compensation if that contamination causes the failure of a sale. In the light of this judgment it seems timely to review a few of the Internet sites that provide information on the environment. Many of these sites are run by small and/or local pressure groups and the quality and veracity of information varies enormously. In this review I shall concentrate on some of the larger organisations providing national and international information that might be of use to the property professional.
The Friends of the Earth site at http://www.foe.co.uk is an interesting starting point for people interested in pollution. Unfortunately the choice of backgrounds throughout the site make some of the text rather difficult to read, but it is worth persevering. Of particular interest is "Chemical Release Inventory finding the pollution in your backyard". The interactive pollution map enables the user to either enter a postcode of their choice or to zoom in on an "emissions map" of England and Wales. After you click on the large map, the next screen you see is a map of your chosen area showing major roads and urban areas. Red dots on the map show the locations of authorised processes. Clicking on a red dot takes you to the list of industries and the authorisation numbers. Click on one of these to look at the data for annual emissions (releases). The data are organised by medium (air, land or water), year and substance. Although this is potentially a very useful first alert for possible pollution problems the data appear to be rather out of date with much of the information dating from 1994 and earlier.
The press release pages are also a useful tool with the current year available to browse and a searchable archive available back to 1994. The press releases themselves are high quality pieces of writing and contain full references. For instance, an article on Multiplex Cinemas from 6 June gives figures on the increase in cinema going, the percentage of cinema-goers travelling by car and gives full details of proposed new developments. An article on the building of new homes in city centres (as opposed to in the green belt) also gives an interesting alternative view of the situation and gives interesting figures on the possibilities of providing homes in urban areas.
On a wider horizon, The International Network for Environmental Management (INEM) home page can be found at http://www.inem.org. The INEM aims to "minimize the environmental impacts of industrial activities and to help business and industry reconcile the imperatives of development and environment". This site offers clear guidance on the environmental management standard ISO 14000 and also on EMAS: The European Union's Eco-management and Audit Scheme. There are a number of papers available online including a briefing on "EMAS and ISO 14001: Introduction, Implementation Requirements, International Developments, Application in Central and Eastern Europe".
There are also a series of online questionnaires that enable the user to carry out an interactive self-assessment to determine a company's environmental strengths and weaknesses. The assessment is at five levels of increasing complexity starting with Level 1, the main purpose of which is to help company managers to become familiar with the concepts of company environmental protection and to start thinking about the rationale behind such an approach to Level 2 aims to provide company managers with a reading schedule which can help to determine if and in what fields environmental legislation applies to their operations. Following this, existing legislative texts can be consulted in more detail and/or the relevant local authorities and administrative bodies can be contacted.
In addition, this section will allow company managers to become aware of the "dynamics" of respecting environmental legislation. Indeed, as the company operations develop, legislation and technology will also evolve, and company management must keep in mind that conditions for compliance must be continually checked. The top level, Level 5, leaves the user in a position to develop an action plan and to start implementing measures to ensure legislative compliance, reduce risks and improve their environmental performance.
The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions' Home Page can be found at http://www.detr.gov.uk. This is a well laid out and easy to navigate site and includes a search facility that covers all DETR pages and includes related pages on all UK Government Web servers. As with many Government sites promising looking links often only take you to a page where you can order the publication rather than see any hard data. However, the availability of hard information does seem to be improving and there are a number of links that give the full text of publications. For instance The Future of Regional Planning Guidance can be read in full online from the "Planning" link. The "Environmental Protection" link takes the user, via "UK Environment in Facts and Figures" to a list of topics on which text, tables of statistics and graphics can be downloaded.
The "Land Use" link (http://www.environment.detr.gov.uk/epsim/ems8000.htm) allows full access to Digest of Environmental Statistics No. 19 1997: Chapter 8 Land use and land cover which provides information on changes in land used for agriculture, forestry and urban purposes and on designated and protected areas, in the UK. As well as full online text, the user can download tables directly in a spreadsheet for instance the Table 8-04 shows the area covered by Green Belts in each region of England in 1979, 1989 and 1993, while Table 8-05 shows, by type of dereliction and standard region, the stock of derelict land in England in 1988 and 1993, the stock justifying reclamation in each of these years, and the stock of derelict land reclaimed between 1988 and 1993. The "Sustainable Development Index" link takes the user to a number of documents including "Opportunities for Change: Sustainable Construction" which includes sections on "town planning", "the construction process" and "key performance indicators".
The sites I have reviewed in this issue are just a tiny proportion of the many thousands of sites which provide information on the environment. The Friends of the Earth Site provides live links to other relevant sites and the Yahoo search engine (http://www.yahoo.co.uk) has an "environment" category. Finally, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (http://www.wbcsd.ch), while perhaps not having much information of interest to the property professional, does have an excellent directory of links categorised under topics which include "business and the environment" and "environmental law".
Scarlett PalmerThe Department of Land Management and Development, University of ReadingE-mail: email@example.com