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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT STORIES IN SUNDAY'S NATIONAL PRESS

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EX-PRESCOTT ADVISER LEADS AIRPORT LOBBY GROUP ...
EX-PRESCOTT ADVISER LEADS AIRPORT LOBBY GROUP

A former adviser to deputy pime minister John Prescott is to head a campaign for new airport runways to be built in Britain, reported Sunday Business (p1).

Joe Irvine is to run the Freedom to Fly Campaign, a lobbying effort led by the British Air Transport Association and backed by British Airways and BAA, which owns Heathrow and Gatwick airports.

The group, according to some industry sources, is delaying its public debut until after the announcement of the go-ahead for a fifth terminal at Heathrow this autumn, is also trying to enlist the support of aircraft manufacturers.

Civil servants are preparing a white paper on the future of British aviation. The government is under intense pressure to give the green light to the construction of new runways.

A spokesman for the British Air Transport Association would not comment on the appointment. Airline executives are frustrated that the public debate over building new runways has been dominated by environmental campaigners.

The construction of a new runway at Manchester airport was dogged by high profile environmental protests.

COUNCILS' WAR ON CAR SPARKS DRIVER RAGE

Sweeping measures are to be taken throughout Britain to make motoring increasingly untenable and force people out of their cars and on to public transport, according to The Observer (p1).

In 50 towns and cities from Edinburgh to Exeter bus drivers will be issued with remote controls to change traffic lights to green to take priority over cars, and to stop in the middle of the road, preventing motorists passing. Thousands of new bus lanes will be introduced.

Nigel Humphries, of the pro-car British Drivers Association, said the increase in speed cameras, traffic calming humps, bus priority measures and the move to congestion charging in London and other cities added up to a concerted attack on the car - backed with government support through extra grants for councils tackling congestion by giving buses priority.

'There is supposed to be consultation, but local authorities just ride roughshod over that. It is utterly outrageous', he said.

Leeds, Bristol, Edinburgh and Cardiff are about to double the number of bus lanes, segregated 'busways' and measures giving buses right of way.

Aberdeen, Liverpool, Nottingaham, Swansea, Birmingham and Norwich are amomng cities lining up to introduce devices to change traffic lights in favour of buses in the next year. Glasgow, Edinburgh, Durham, Stoke-on-Trent, Reading and many other areas are looking at the scheme.

BLAIR READY TO QUELL ROW ON PRIVATISATION

Tony Blair will move to end the row over privatisation when he returns from holiday this week in an attempt to prevent a damaging Labour Party revolt this autumn, reported The Observer (p6).

The prime minister is expected to concede in a keynote speech to the TUC next month that the proposals to involve commercial firms in public services could have been better handled. He will stress that partnershipswill not mean doctors, teachers or other public sector staff being moved into the private sector. However, he will insist the principle of breaking through ideological barriers was right and that the government will press ahead.

Union leaders are to hold a series of meetings with ministers and officials across Whitehall next month to try to find common ground and avert an embarrassing defeat at the party conference in October.

Although the summer recess has taken the immediate sting out of the row, the privatisation issue threatens to dominate the TUC conference and, more crucially, the Labour conference three weeks later.

TUC general secretary John Monks has led attempts to broker an agreement behind the scenes. He has organised talks between unions - including the GMB, Unison, MSF and AEEU - with key departments, including health, education and local government and transport. The first of them will begin before the TUC Congress, which starts in Brighton on 10 September.

EUROPEAN THREAT TO BYERS OVER PLANNING

Local government and transport secretary Stephen Byers is facing a court battle with the European Commission after he was warned that Britain is in breach of EU rules to control major developments, reported The Independent on Sunday (Business, p2).

The row has broken out over allegations from the commission that Britain has failed to implement two EU directives dating from 1985 which require environmental impact assessments (EIAs) to be done for all large construction projects.

Mr Byers was sent a formal warning this month by the commission claiming that ministers over years have ignored their duties under the directive. In a letter to Mr Byers, which raises difficult questions about his plans to relax planning laws in England and Wales, the commission said it would now begin infringement proceedings against Britain. Spain is being taken to the European Court under the same directive and the Dutch and Italian governments have also received formal notices.

Despite the clear risk the commission will now pursue legal action, Mr Byers has dismissed its complaints and insisted that Britain has fulfilled its legal duties.

The EC complaints focus on a controversial£80m project to build a 20-screen multiplex and leisure development in Crystal Palace park, owned by Bromley LBC, as part of a£120m economic redevelopment plan for the area. After provoking furious opposition from residents, the project collapsed earlier this year in a dispute between the council and the developers over leasing the land. The council has not ruled out resurrecting the multiplex complex project.

But the EC said the Crystal Palace project was only one of a wider problem. Britain, the commission warned, was not applying the EIA rules under 'the procedure foreseen under the directive'.

A spokesman for the DTLR said ministers believed they had properly used the discretion allowed under the directive, which simply set indicative thresholds for judging if an EIA was required. The normal planning process already took into account the envoronmental impact of specific projects.

David Rose, director of communications for the Royal Town Planning Institute, said the case raised a series of complicated practical and legal issues which Mr Byers would have to address during his review of the planning system. Mr Byers is to unveil a green paper this autumn which is expected to ease the way to push through controversial major projects such as airport extensions, nuclear power stations and motorways. The commision's warnings could mean that EIAs may have to be given added prominence.

'250,000 MIGRANTS NEEDED TO FILL KEY PUBLIC SECTOR JOBS'

Record numbers of foreign workers are arriving in Britain to fill the increasing number of vacant positions in key public services, according to the Sunday Express (pp 20,21,22).

The feature says that so far this year 81,474 work permits have been issued to staff from overseas. They are responding, says the newspaper, to a massive government-funded global recruitment campaign to ease shortages of teachers, nurses and doctors.

The paper says the department of trade and industry predicts that by the end of the year the number of migrant workers coming to the UK will reach 160,000. Last year alone a total of 102,174 work permits were issued 'which means there will soon be around 250,00 foreign workers proping up the health service and schools'.

But, according to the feature, there has been a backlash from political leaders of developing countries who complain they are being robbed of their most talented professionals.

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