Campaigners accused of 'planting' newts to block developments

Reports that campaigners have been accused of 'planting' colonies of the rare Great Crested Newt at proposed development sites 'in a bid to scupper building plans' feature in today's newspaper round-up.

A Conservative peer has claimed that protesters "have introduced the species, which is protected under both UK and European law, at sites earmarked by developers in an attempt to get the work halted on environmental grounds", according to the Telegraph. The paper says that the "extraordinary claim" was made by Lord Borwick during a debate in the House of Lords on the shortage of affordable homes in Britain.

People in British cities "have a worse quality of life than their rural neighbours despite being much wealthier", the Financial Times (subscription) reports. The paper says that, according to a report by the Legatum Institute think-tank, "urban centres lag behind in health, education, wellbeing and sense of opportunity".

The number of build-to-rent developments "has soared over the past year as pension funds, insurance companies and institutional investors pour billions of pounds into the burgeoning sector of the housing market", the Times (subscription) reports. The paper says that "the number of professional rented units that were completed, under construction or with planning permission rose 200 per cent over the past year to October, reaching 67,000 units, according to the British Property Federation".

The number of empty shops in Britain increased slightly last month, "reinforcing vacancy levels that are more than twice as high as they were before the recession", the Times reports. The paper says that, "in fresh figures that revealed a north-south divide in stores lying idle for long periods, The Local Data Company reported that Britain’s shop vacancy rate had increased to 12.4 per cent in September from 12.3 per cent in August".

Two coal power plants "will be paid a combined £77m to be on standby this winter as part of National Grid’s plan to minimise the risk of electricity blackouts", the Guardian reports.

"Radical plans to use hydrogen to heat UK homes and businesses have moved a step closer after the government’s official climate advisers said the plan was ‘technically feasible’ and called for major trials to be undertaken", the Telegraph reports. The paper says that a report, issued by the Committee on Climate Change, identified the potential of using hydrogen in place of natural gas in the UK’s existing gas grid.

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