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What the papers say

News stand

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott is planning to exempt NHS hospitals from the scope of new workplace parking charges.

Prescott has also been trying to persuade Chancellor Gordon Brown to introduce VAT on new housing to encourage developers to modernise old buildings rather than build new ones. He wants a tax in next month's Budget on the construction of new homes on greenfield sites. There would also be a cut in VAT on refurbishment.

A dispute is brewing between the Welsh Development Agency and villagers across the English border over plans to double the size of the biggest industrial park in north Wales. Deeside Industrial Park in Flintshire will be extended by 200ha if the proposal is passed at a public inquiry later this year. Protesters believe that the development will gobble up 'prime agricultural land'.

A levels in engineering and construction are to be introduced, along with other vocational subjects, from this September. The new A levels will replace the advanced General National Vocational Qualifications. Education Secretary David Blunkett said the A levels would carry the same weight as academic 'gold standard' subjects and would raise the poor image of work-related studies.

Irish ministers yesterday urged Britain to close down BNFL's Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant pending assurances that safety management procedures were in place after the disclosure that safety records were being falsified. Irish Enterprise minister Joe Jacob said it was 'totally unacceptable' to have the plant operating so close to the east coast of Ireland.

Barratt Homes has been fined £4,000, with £15,000 costs, after building a new estate on land once used to store industrial solvents. The firm misled buyers into believing that proposals for a development at Greenhithe in Kent had been approved by the Environment Agency.

Britain's most vulnerable coasts are still under threat of a major oil spill four years after the Sea Empress disaster, according to a joint report by the Wildlife Trusts and the World Wide Fund for Nature. The report shows a general increase in the number of oil tanker accidents off the UK coasts. It recommends that north west coast of Scotland and the coast of Pembrokeshire should be given extra protection.

North York Moors park authority is building a series of 15m long roadside ridges to stop motorists pulling over. The 1m high soil ridges are being constructed along the 20km route from Hutton-le-Hole to Castleton. Park officials say they want visitors to use greener forms of transport.

Lyons opera house is closed for the season because the stage and machinery in the seven year old building are dangerous. This is the latest in a spate of failures on the grands projects of the Mitterrand era. Architects blame budget cuts and lax engineering. Engineers accuse architects of producing designs to stun competition judges but which prove impractical.

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