EPUK’s Annual Conference is well established now as the key event for those engaged with the environmental challenges of air, land and noise.  This year it proudly celebrated 120 years of environmental protection with a wide ranging audience, with delegates from public and private sector, NGOs and academia,  at Aston University, Birmingham on 15th November 2018, reports EPUK member John Merefield.

Lord Whitty as EPUK President welcomed the audience with the reassuring words that we should ignore the political turmoil at Westminster and carry on with our work for now, whilst keeping a watchful eye on developments in the future.

For Plenary Session One, Professor Paul Monks from his role as Chair of AQEG then presented a thought-provoking Keynote Address on ‘Evidence and Environmental Policy’ stressing the point (with examples) that too much focus on one issue can lead to poor decisions on environmental policy.

Conference includes breakout sessions and the Land Quality group met to consider both the C4SL Phase 2 Project, Waste Code Practice, and the Former Avenue Coking Works and Chemical Plant from CL:AIRE perspectives.

Whilst this took place the Plenary Session continued focussing on Future Environmental and Clean Air Challenges by Client Earth, the University of Birmingham’s Work under Professor Pope on WM-Air Improving Air in the West Midlands and finally rounding off with Sarah Legge on the opportunities for National and Local Air Quality Management.  Just before the lunch break, in a relatively new initiative the Trade Representatives from Bruel & Kjaar, PAGeotechnical, Environmental Technology and Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership were able to take to the floor and highlight their capabilities. Feedback from these speakers and the floor suggests that this is a worthwhile session as all practitioners rely on their support one way and another.

Delegates do find the breaks important, not just for Aston’s imaginative catering, but also for networking and visiting the Exhibitors Stands.  Networking is much valued here and the Environmental Health MSc student attendees, for example, greatly appreciated the chance to attend Conference and engage with practitioners in the field.

Post lunch, in Plenary Session Two, Professor Enda Hayes focussed on UWE’s work on the ClaireCity project with a strong focus on engaging citizens, whilst Bristol City Council presented their local authority perspective.

Meanwhile, in the Noise Break-out session, and bearing in mind our second helpings of pud, Keith Vickers challenged the group to a much needed and lively challenge on the basics of noise source and receptor issues and with equations too! This session focussed on the health perspectives of noise. With respect to the revised and hot off the press WHO noise Guidelines for the European Region. Professor Anna Hansell from the University of Leicester reminded us of our deep-seated response to night noise of ‘fight or flee’, where even asleep such disturbances can lead to cardiovascular issues. Tony Clayton from the Environmental Agency then discussed, with examples, his disappointment at many of the poor acoustics submissions in support of compliance with environmental permits, and Mary Stevens rounded off with the sterling work undertaken by EPUK in previous Noise Action weeks and a ‘call to arms’ towards support for the 2019 event.

The third Plenary Session was a mixture of reflection and looking forward.  The Chairs of the parallel sessions summarised the content of each for the benefit of those who had been in one of the other sessions and then John Murlis outlined various ways in which environmental protection could develop in the future.

Finally Lord Whitty drew Conference to a close looking forward to a future in which the Society will continue to play an important part in guiding environmental policy using sound science.

From the feedback our correspondents received, the shape of the conference is about right (save that it could valuably extend to two days!), all the break-out sessions were well received and considered valuable with the main feedback being the wish that they were longer, the expert speakers were excellent value, and so delegates felt they got their money’s worth. An important aspect of this is the enthusiasm our participants engage both with the presenters and each other.  So….. looking forward to the next which is planned to take place at Aston University again in November 2019.

The full conference programme and other details can be found here.

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