Saturday, 30 January 2010

The right to be out, safe and secure at night...

Received an invite to Reclaim the Night, organised by Bristol Feminst Network from a Facebook friend today. Thought I'd pass on details of this event and contribute to publicising it a bit. The text below (and image top left) is copied from a Bristol Feminist Network Facebook group, which I joined recently:

Bristol Reclaim the Night 2010 will take place on Friday 26 February. Plans are being made for a vigil to remember those affected by sexual violence, a march, a club night to raise funds for a local service and to celebrate our achievements.

RTN is about standing together and reclaiming our right to be out in our city at night free from the fear of violence and harassment. We hope that you will lend your support to this evening of events which is a part of an international movement.

Get involved!
RTN is a community effort and couldn't happen without the generosity of the people who support it. We receive help from groups and individuals from all over the city, from all back grounds, united by a common desire to make our city a safer place for everyone.

In order to get this show on the road we are going to need volunteers. There are opportunities to get involved on all sorts of levels with all sorts of tasks. We particularly need to hear from people who could help with:

Banner painting
Dancing and performance art
Bands and DJs
Sound equipment
Club night management

If you have ideas or suggestions to bring to RTN please do let us know. If you are a local group or charity this could be a great opportunity to raise your profile and add strength to the campaign so please get in touch.

Please email BFN admin on to get involved.

Thank you:)

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Politics online in Bristol...

Praise for the online work of Bristol's Greens over on Bristol 24-7 :

...what they bring to the table are some basic journalistic instincts that the other parties either lack or are withholding. These qualities might be raw but they include natural curiosity; an eye for a story; the desire to dig beneath the surface; a willingness to question authority; disdain for the ‘party line’ and that quality Paxman summedup as, “why is this lying bastard lying to me?”. All are alive and well on the Green blogs alongside an uninhibited willingness to deal in ideas...

Story written by a certain Bristol Blogger - lets hope he finds a new internet host for his blog soon.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

The Impossible Hamster

Was today sent a link to this great hamster animation (below). I've written a lot on this topic before, saying for instance: 'Growing the economy in the way we have been, particularly its transport and energy intensive nature, is reducing our capacity to live without undermining the systems that support life ...Why? It is: decreasing the overall natural assets stock; damaging ecosystem regenerative capacity and their ability to supply goods and services; emitting wastes and pollutants into the environment at levels beyond its ability to safely process them; causing high levels of social inequality [NB - report published today states the inequality in the UK is large and deep rooted]; leaving generations to come with a build up of risks and costs; consistently undervaluing both humans and non-human species; not switching resource use from finite, non-renewable to renewable types on anything like a sufficient scale or at a sufficient rate; not efficiency focussed; consuming renewable resources like forests, soil or fish…at a faster rate than they are replenished due to poor management practices.'(more here). Was obviously happy to send the email on economic growth (see below) suggested by campaign group 38 Degrees to Gordon Brown - click here if you want to send one too.

Dear Gordon Brown,
You have said that the global economy is set to double in the next 20 years.
Yet as economic growth rises, we are pushing the planet ever closer to, and beyond, some very real environmental limits. In fact, every doubling in the global economy requires the equivalent in resources of all of the previous doublings combined.

Think of it like this. We have tended to think of growth as natural for economies, forgetting that in nature things grow only until maturity and then develop in other ways. A hamster, for example, doubles its weight each week between birth and puberty. But if it grew at the same rate until its first birthday, we’d be looking at a nine billion tonne hamster, which ate more than a year’s worth of world maize production every day. There are good reasons why things don’t grow indefinitely. As things are in nature, so sooner or later, they must be in the economy.

Endless growth is pushing the planet’s biosphere beyond its safe limits. The price is compromised world food security, climatic upheaval, economic instability and threats to social welfare. We urgently need to change our economy to live within its environmental budget because there is no global, environmental central bank to bail us out if we become ecologically bankrupt

I would like you to watch this short animation and then tell me how you think economic growth can carry on for ever and ever and ever…

Yours sincerely,

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Zero Meals Per Gallon...

I've been a supporter of Action Aid, through being a child sponsor and participating in a variety of campaigns for decades now. Today sent postcards (see copy in bold italic below) to Lord Adonis at the Dept of Transport and Ed Milliband at the Dept for Energy and Climate Change, supporting Action Aid's campaigning against industrial biofuels. We need to oppose the rush to use biofuels in cars and in power stations like the one proposed for Avonmouth (many previous posts on this). There are many genuine solutions to transport problems (proper investment in efficiency, light rail, local bus services, walking, cycling, local employment and shopping...) and energy problems (free insulation for all homes, wind, tidal and solar power...).

I don't want poor people's food pumped into cars. Action Aid estimate that the UK's continued commitment to biofuels will help push 600 million more people into hunger by 2020. What's more, your own review showed industrial biofuels could be worse for climate change than fossil fuels!

I want the Department for Transport to put the brakes on the increased use of industrial biofuels in the 2010 National Renewable Energy Action Plan, and concentrate on genuine solutions to the climate crisis, as a first step towards meeting my demand for Zero Meals Per Gallon.
Please consider going to Action Aid's website to see how you can support this campaign.
[Its worth mentioning that all political parties in Bristol except the Greens advocated and fully endorsed going for using corn starch plastic bags as part of the brown bin food waste recycling system - several posts about this. They also deprive people of land to grow food of course].

Monday, 25 January 2010

Green leadership...

Always interesting to see key figures respond to questioning. Here's a couple of links to those offering leadership in (and to) the Green movement: 1.Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, recently interviewed on the BBC's Hardtalk. 2. Caroline Lucas MEP, Green Party Leader, answering readers questions in today's Independent newspaper.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Action on alcohol

Lets face it – alcohol is extremely popular with the vast majority of people but it’s a drug, albeit legal and non-prescription, which affects every organ in the human body and changes behaviour to threaten life and health. Alcohol has all the risks of addiction and illness of illegal drugs and indeed some prescription drugs. The huge and growing alcohol problem has been well illustrated by recent widespread news reports eg ‘Bristol’s got a drink problem’ front page headline and ‘Alcohol’s cheap - and now we’re all paying the price’ (Post, 18 January).

It may not be popular with some, perhaps many, but its right that we take action on alcohol to prevent abuse and promote responsibility. I agree with calls to crackdown on the sale of cheap alcohol, with better controls and a minimum price per unit of alcohol, though our Government has been criticised for being too close to the drinks industry and not listening enough to advice from Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer. We should really bring in a complete ban on the promotion of alcohol products, including sponsorship, direct or indirect advertising and product placement on remuneration or reward.

The tax levied on alcohol products should be in proportion to the amount of alcohol in the finished product. The effect of alcohol tax levels on alcohol consumption should be reviewed continually and should inform decisions on increasing taxation.

The net profits of companies producing alcohol for consumption, and the dividends paid to shareholders of these companies should attract a significantly higher rate of taxation than now.

The additional money from higher alcohol taxation should be used to fund expanded health and education programs which should be targeted at those at highest risk of harming themselves and others and at changing drinking culture. Additional funds for policing in key problem areas could also be made available. Penalties for drunk and disorderly behaviour and driving whilst under the influence of alcohol should be increased and the permitted alcohol to blood ratio of drivers should be reduced.

Serving alcohol in smaller measures should be on offer. Suppliers should be required to provide clearer and accurate information about the unit alcohol content. Both these and other measures would help to facilitate more responsible drinking of alcohol.

Glenn Vowles, Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Bristol East


Further information on alcohol and health:

Thursday, 21 January 2010


What is all this irrational nonsense about bulldozing one BCFC stadium to build another just down the road - and demolishing one Sainsbury's just up the road only to construct down the road!! Funny old world innit!! Great post on my green friend and colleague Tony Dyer's blog looks at this issue in detail:

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Bristol to Bath Railway Path damage

Copy of email sent to Cllr Jon Rogers this afternoon: You may have seen this post, with photos, on Chris Hutt's blog detailing damage to greenery on the railway path.

I'm very concerned about this - particularly the tree losses. They seem very over the top (and not the first time in council tree management history!).

Please look into this and let me know whether what's being done is absolutely necessary, is best practice and if so what kind of restoration work is planned.

Many thanks to Chris Hutt for bringing this to my attention and that of others.
Cllr Rogers posted this reply (below in bold italic*) on Chris Hutt's blog - do we buy all that the officer's say?? I dont agree with the 'low ecological value' statement for a start - they seem to have a very different view of the terms ecology and value to mine! All the techniques and processes used should be reviewed.
I have had the following officer response,
"We were aware of the sensitivity regarding the railway path and the potential negative impact on trees or vegetation. As such we have tried throughout the whole design process to limit this impact. Right at the start of this project we commissioned an Ecological survey. The survey identified that the habitats along the route were of low ecological value but that it was an important corridor of virtually continuous vegetation from the open countryside to highly urban parts of inner Bristol. It therefore enhances the ecology of a large part of Bristol by allowing species access to spaces such as gardens and parks. It is also of significant importance in providing a large number of people an opportunity to come into contact with wildlife.
"The dominant vegetation is secondary woodland dominated by ash and sycamore. We have worked in partnership with aboricultural colleagues in Parks to assess the quality of trees and the impact of the works on this and licences were granted by the Forestry Commission for felling. "There are two reasons for the felling the first being that the excavation of trenches ( into which lighting cables are to be laid) would require the cutting of tree roots. The root protection zone of a tree is generally 24 times the diameter of the tree stem. As a visual representation the roots underground generally mirror the extents of a trees canopy.
"The advice from colleagues in Parks is that trees do not survive if their roots are cut and the roots closest to the surface are the most important. The position of such trees could be remote from the line of the trench and to the general public could be seen as excessive clearance. The second reason for tree felling is to promote biodiversity within the corridor and this has taken place on the southern bank. A thick tree canopy prevents sun light to the ground flora limiting the number of species which then limits the quality of the habitat for fauna. The ecological diversity created retaining some of the cut back tree stumps and shrubs on a coppice cycle of regular cutting back can for example create more nesting sites for birds. The extra light that is let onto the ground will encourage more wild flowers, birds and butterflies and the additional insects using the space will also provide a richer feeding ground for bats.
"As mitigation we are planting new trees, which are native species unlike many of the self seeded trees. This planting was carried out in winter 2009 and more trees will be planted next week. During the informal consultation, carried out in June and July 2009 and throughout the planning process we attempted to explain that tree removal would be carried out and that new planting would take place.
"I trust this explains the approach we have taken and the reasons why."
I am deeply unhappy that the first that Gary and I hear about this is from emails and your blog. We have already asked that any Cycling City developments that affect mature and substantial trees should be discussed with us as Executive Members.This is a wonderful linear park and wildlife corridor, which we are determined to conserve and enhance as was confirmed by the motion we attempted to get through council in April 2008.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Two new web resources for biofuels & incineration...

From Jane Stevenson: The new "Action for Sustainable Energy in Bristol" campaign site has background info on the proposed biofuel plant in Bristol, and details of how to object to its planning application:

The hearing for the biofuel plant application has been moved to 24 February, so there is still some time to register your objections.
Avonmouth is under seige from a raft of planning applications - 2 biomass power stations, 1 biofuel power plant and 2 incinerators. While both incinerators are planned for Avonmouth, one falls in the Bristol authority area, and the other in South Gloucestershire. Either of them, ON THEIR OWN, would delivery more additional waste capacity in the region, than we need to process our own waste - and that's leaving aside the fact that incineration is grossly inefficient in terms of recovering the maximum amount of energy from our waste. The applications seem designed to bring imported waste into the region, from areas where they haven't got their recycling act together.

Deadlines for objections are now quite tight, and seem to be a bit of a moving target. Current advice is to get your objections registered in January.

Why vote Green? Part Two...

Elected Greens are making a vital difference – impacting well above party size. Voting in another Labour, Lib Dem or Conservative person means the status quo, politics as usual, big party domination or sometimes one party monopoly. Greens improve democracy and accountability. Current electoral law unfortunately makes no provision for Cllrs and MPs to be sacked (recalled) by their voters. Greens standing in Bristol in 2010 have thus decided to do it for themselves and give voters this power where they are elected. As reported in today’s Bristol Evening Post ('Greens will give 'power' to the people') all Bristol’s Green candidates have committed themselves to abiding by a recall system, giving their voters the ability to sack them if enough sign a petition. Green Cllr Charlie Bolton’s motion to Bristol City Council to set up a recall system locally was rejected by the big three parties.

This post is the second of a series giving positive reasons to vote Green in the run up to this years local elections and general election.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Haiti Earthquake Appeal

Please consider making a donation to the Disasters Emergency Committee Haiti Earthquake Appeal:

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) was formed in 1963. We are an umbrella organisation for 13 humanitarian aid agencies. At times of overseas emergency, the DEC brings together a unique alliance of the UK's aid, corporate, public and broadcasting sectors to rally the nation's compassion, and ensure that funds raised go to DEC agencies best placed to deliver effective and timely relief to people most in need.

The DEC's remit is to unite agency efforts in times of disaster - such as flood, earthquake or famine - wherever it happens in the world. The
way we at DEC approach our work is to maximise funds raised and ensure they are spent in an effective and fully accountable way.

Knowledge newsletter contributions: tips for saving money, living healthily and going green

Wrote a series of brief articles on tips for 'saving money, living healthily and going green' for Knowle West's 'Knowledge' newsletter for some time. Thought I'd highlight them here. The last article, on 'technology' is copied below. To see the tips on the other topics I've covered click on these links: water, waste, transport, measuring impacts, homes, holidays, gardens, food, Christmas, at work and wildlife.

Green Scene: ‘Technology’

Ideas for being green, efficient and thrifty!

* if away from your computer for a while switch it to sleep mode or turn it off, a computer monitor left on overnight wastes enough energy to print hundreds of A4 pages

* get your old computers and phones reused or recycled, various charities are available, 7 litres of crude oil are used just to make the plastic in one computer system

* look for the energy rating system when buying electrical equipment and buy more efficient models

Thursday, 14 January 2010

When will bankers like this get their comeuppance?

Many people who saw or heard about the evidence given by Stephen Hester, Royal Bank of Scotland Chief Executive (pictured), to the Treasury Select Committe recently will share my anger I'm sure. There is no reasonable justification to award a £10 million pay package to this man - huge sums of public money had to be used to prop up the banking system! Its obscene, when there is so much need around, for anyone to be paid so much, whether banker, footballer or movie star. There is no way this is truly earned. Why have our politicians allowed such an unjust, unequal situation to develop?

We certainly need to redesign our financial system. It needs to serve the ‘real' economy that deals with goods, services, resources and the satisfaction of wants and needs. The big banks need breaking up. The ‘too big to fail' idea is seriously flawed. Banks need to be people and local community focussed. We also need a huge clampdown on tax avoidance - £10 billion in revenue can be generated, providing funds for investing in a secure and stable future.

For more Green views on banking go here and here.

Just to make it even worse for a Green, banker Stephen Hester and his partner are very keen foxhunters...

Green lead in Brighton...

From The Independent: The Green Party is on course to make a historic electoral breakthrough
by winning the Labour-held seat of Brighton Pavilion at the
forthcoming general election.

A poll of voting intentions carried out by ICM Research shows that the
Greens, who had their best-ever result in the constituency in 2005,
hold an eight-point lead over their nearest rivals, the Conservatives,
with the Greens on 35 per cent, the Tories on 27, Labour on 25 and the
Liberal Democrats on 11 per cent.

If repeated at the general election, the result would see the Greens
snatch the seat from Labour with a majority of 3,500 over the
Conservatives. The Green candidate, Caroline Lucas, the party leader
who is already an MEP, would take her seat at Westminster in a key
political advance for the British environmental movement. The UK
remains the only major European country which has never had Greens in
its national legislature.

Several developments boost the chance of Britain's first Green MP. The
first is that Brighton Pavilion's incumbent Labour member, David
Lepper, is standing down. Mr Lepper is a popular local figure. A key
factor in his holding on to the seat last time around was that he had
voted against the Iraq war.

The Greens' 2005 candidate there, Keith Taylor, scooped 22 per cent of
the vote, beating the Liberal Democrats for third place and coming
within 1,000 votes of pipping the Tories to second. That was the
party's best general election performance.

Another is that dissatisfaction with the Government of Gordon Brown
does not, in radical Brighton – perhaps Britain's most "alternative"
city – translate into automatic support for the Conservatives. If Ms
Lucas is seen as a credible "keep the Tories out" candidate, she will
likely attract considerable support.

But the most significant development is the candidature of Caroline
Lucas herself, Britain's most accomplished Green politician.
Articulate, passionate, radical without seeming threatening, the
former Oxfam adviser has been MEP for South-east England for 10 years,
and is a world away from the old image of the Green party activist as
someone who lived in a tepee eating brown rice.

She presides over a party which has shifted from its purely ecological
roots to an identity which might be described as radical social
democrat; although still with the most demanding agenda for fighting
climate change, and resolutely anti-nuclear, the Greens are now
equally concerned with job creation in the recession and defending the

Besides a solid record of high-profile activism in the European
Parliament, Ms Lucas's achievement has been the modernising of her
party, by getting it to elect a single leader. For 20 years grassroots
Green activists rejected the "cult of leadership", condemning the
party to have several figures speaking for it at once, which meant
that the focus was hopelessly split and the Greens were consigned to
the political wilderness.

The Greens now have their best and highest-profile politician
standing, with no diversions of focus, for their most winnable
parliamentary seat.

The party has 126 councillors in 43 local authorities across Britain
as well as two MEPs, Caroline Lucas and Jean Lambert. It intends to
field a "half slate" of just under 300 candidates in the forthcoming
election, likely to be held in May.

But in what some may see as another sign of its political coming of
age, it is concentrating its efforts in just three target seats:
Brighton Pavilion, Lewisham Deptford and Norwich South.
In Norwich South, the party's deputy leader, Adrian Ramsay, is
standing against the former Labour cabinet minister (and leading
critic of Gordon Brown) Charles Clarke. The Greens have 13 councillors
in Norwich, making them the official opposition, and came first in the
city in last year's Euro elections.

In Lewisham Deptford they will field Darren Johnson, local councillor
and chair of the London Assembly, against Joan Ruddock, the minister
for Energy and Climate Change; they have six Green councillors in
Lewisham and in the most recent local elections polled 27 per cent.
But Brighton Pavilion represents their best chance of all, where Ms
Lucas may be part of the first all-woman slate in a British general

Her Labour opponent is Nancy Platts, a former policy adviser and
campaigner in the trade union movement and the voluntary sector; their
Tory rival is Charlotte Vere, a businesswoman who is chief executive
of an online support network for the emotionally troubled, Big White
Wall. The Liberal Democrats have yet to adopt a candidate.

The Greens' hope is that in Brighton Pavilion, they, and not the
Tories, will benefit from Labour voters' disenchantment. The ICM poll
– at present – bears this out. For not only do the Greens have the
greatest support, with 35 per cent; what excites the party campaigners
is the large number of centre-left voters, Labour and Liberal
Democrats, likely to switch their vote to Green if the party is best
placed to stop a Tory win.

Almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of Labour and Liberal Democrat voters
polled indicated they would switch, with 37 per cent saying they were
"very likely" and 26 per cent saying they were "quite likely" to
switch in that situation.

Although the headline on the website of the Labour candidate, Nancy
Platts, asserts that "Voting Green Will Mean A Tory MP For Brighton" –
by splitting the Labour vote – it is clear that some Brighton Pavilion
electors take the opposite view, and consider that voting Green may
keep the Conservatives out – with historic consequences.

By Michael McCarthy, Environmental Editor
Monday, 11 January 2010

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

No proper systems thinking in transport

This story 'Bristol rail link could be scrapped in favour of bendy buses' (Post, 13 Jan) and the ensuing online debate shows that we dont yet seem capable of building a properly integrated transport system which makes the best use of the most appropriate technologies. Rational assessment of transport needs? Comparing and contrasting rail vs bendy-bus [and other]technologies? I think not. Some faceless person, somewhere decided long ago to favour bendy buses in Bristol and the surrounding areas and proper assessment has gone out of the window.

There is fair bit of argy bargy (though not in the same sense as in a rugby union match!) between cycling and rail enthusiasts on the Post's website. There has also been argy bargy between the various councils in the West of England who have not been able to work together effectively to develop a proper integrated transport system run by an area transport authority as a proper public service. Where is the cooperation and joined up thinking ie systems thinking?? Where is the full and proper technology assessment?

I'm not a big fan of bendy buses/bus rapid transit (BRT) and its a shame that for the moment its the only game in town with serious money available. For me it is of very limited ambition. The sums involved are too small. The coordination is rubbish - and as for genuinely participative planning using social, economic and environmental information made available in a early, timely and effective way just forget it!!

I've been to many public meetings about BRT, especially about proposals in/near Knowle. I've put questions about the cost-benefit analysis they say they go through: what techniques are used for assessing non-market costs and benefits eg health, social changes? Why/how is a money value assigned? Is the net present value of each course/option assessed? What discount rate is used - and if the discount rate is fairly high does this mean a low value is assigned to the longer term? Does the 'currency' used in cost-benefit have to be money eg why not energy?? Often I'm fobbed off or only get a partial answer and I'm always given the impression that there are very large scale accuracy [more like inaccuracy!] issues which mean that you can choose to get the outcome politically chosen as opposed to objectively decided.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Highlighted by snow and ice...

The snow and sub-zero temperatures have certainly revealed the power of nature – to produce both problems, such as safely transporting goods and people over distances, and opportunities, such as for local shops and the UK skiing industry.

The cold/snowy period has revealed our energy insecurity, with gas supplies running much lower than they should be allowed to, surely even more clearly making the case for Government action to insulate all homes to a high standard, free of charge, beginning with the poorest and most inefficient. This also makes the case for much greater diversity in our energy supplies.

To our shame this period has shown that councils and govt can plan to spread grit to keep the motorways open and keep the economy going but gritting in and around elderly peoples homes and our kids schools is not a priority.

On a more positive note recent days have shown us the value of neighbours and community spirit, with stories of people checking on their older neighbours, helping out those who’ve become stuck, and clearing areas for themselves because the council cant/wont get there to do it (surely highlighting the case for giving people more power and resources to do more things for themselves locally…).

Friday, 8 January 2010

Why vote Green? Part One...

Fresh, innovative thinking and action is being initiated all over the country and further afield by hundreds of Greens elected as Members of the European Parliament, Members of the Scottish Parliament, London Assembly Members, and Councillors such as the large groups in Brighton and Norwich... Greens ask questions, propose ways of approaching problems and opportunities and put forward solutions that other parties certainly do not. Dont let Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives continue to get away with the mess they've made through the self-serving political system they've created - they want you to think that a green vote is a wasted one because they want the status quo and to stop you getting what you want ie change!!

Loads of examples of green action from these sites:

This post is the first of a series giving positive reasons to vote Green in the run up to this years local elections and general election.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

The 2010 General Election...or should that be horse race?

The media have become very excited at the prospect of a general election and the big parties are reported as having begun their campaigns already!! I doubt that the public are relishing 5 or 6 months of the usual spin and drivel we get from the big three parties!! There are questions that need to be addressed about current electoral law and processes however. Is fair and broad debate facilitated? Does media coverage and access serve the public need and interest? Is the electoral system the most democratic? Have we got the law on party funding right?

In my view the process of an election is important as well as the outcome and it should be treated as such. Yet the media persistently talk of elections as merely a kind of horse race – both the local paper and BBC Newsnight's Michael Crick basing recent general election reports around betting odds ('Place your bets now for Bristol's 10 seats in the 2010 General Election', Post, Dec 31 '09 for instance) . This does not help us have full, fair and proper debate.
Past elections I’ve contested have been particularly uninspiring and lifeless, so its no wonder that younger people, women and various ethnic groups aren’t encouraged to get involved as candidates, spokespersons, interviewers…Debates, present and future agendas and learning processes are very important – not everyone fights every general election seat to win this time around, some may not fight to win at all.

Greens will certainly be fighting to win in several parts of the country. A poll conducted mid Dec 2009 in Brighton Pavillion showed a 10 point Green lead over Labour and an 8 point lead over the Conservatives in this target constituency. Prospects in Norwich South and in Lewisham Deptford are also good. In other parts of the country Greens will seek and expect to build their support, influence debates and agendas and contribute to social learning.

The narrowness of the debate amongst the ‘big three’ parties is part of the problem. There is a large measure of agreement between them – they are all consumer capitalists and all have plans to cut vital services!! Debate at the general election is likely to centre on tax and spending differences of less than 1% of national wealth. All the big parties make claims to be radical, all claim to be committed to sustainable development – but none of them have taken action to make any fundamental changes! I’ve recently taken a look back at my general election leaflets from 1987 (see the rather tired leaflet below) and 2001 (pictured top left) and issues of reconciling our economy and society with the environment then raised by Greens like me are now very much more serious and urgent.

Agreement between parties could be taken to mean that things are pretty much ok – but look around you!! There are many fundamental problems, for future generations and in other parts of the globe in particular. Thus Greens like me contest elections to: offer voters a radical option; demonstrate that to genuinely solve problems the interconnections and interrelationships between economic, social, political and environmental factors must be addressed; raise the really big issues like the gap between rich and poor here and globally, caring for the elderly, climate change and our energy-hungry lifestyles, global justice, democracy and the EU, how we can live our lives now so that future generations can also lead decent lives with real choices.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Provision of environmental information and for public participation all too often late, inadequate, ineffective

For someone who often professes firm belief in public participation the response of Lib Dem Cllr Jon Rogers to my recent question to the Bristol City Council Cabinet is utterly dismissive eg zero response is given to my question on what actions he proposes and when, even though there is acknowledgement that full compliance with the convention/directives is not currently being achieved...

QUESTION A 6 - Questions from Glenn Vowles

Public participation and environmental information

During 1998 the UN Economic Commission for Europe prepared a Convention on Access
to Information, Public Participation in Decision Making and Access to Justice in
Environmental Matters (The Aarhus Convention). In 2003 the European Commission
developed two Directives to implement the provisions of the Aarhus Convention. Article 6.2
of the convention states, ‘The public shall be informed, either by public notice or
individually as appropriate, early in an environmental decision-making procedure, and in
an adequate, timely and effective manner, inter alia, of…the fact that the activity is subject
to…environmental impact procedure.’ (UNECE, 1998).

Q. Is the member completely satisfied that all significant developments in Bristol, such
as the South Bristol Link or the many proposals for dealing with waste or for energy
generation in Avonmouth, like the biofuel power station, or Bus Rapid Transit plans
or developments on green belt land such as the BCFC stadium…involve provision
of environmental information and for public participation that is in full accord with the
Aarhus Convention and associated EU Directives ie that it is early, adequate,
timely and effective? If not satisfied, what actions does he propose and when?

A. I am satisfied that the council is endeavouring to meet these obligations fully
when progressing its major schemes.

Waffle, banal generalities and avoidance in answer to specific questions

Received this inadequate response to specific questions about making the meaning of sustainable economic growth explicit in key council documents. The answer is waffle which repeats the error of not spelling out exactly what is meant by sustainable economic growth, instead talking in rather banal and and over-used generalities. Once again I've been pawned off with one response to several questions - they dont want to respond to specifics.

QUESTION A 5 - Questions from Glenn Vowles

Sustainability - Core Strategy

Q. The current draft version of the recently developed BDF Core Strategy contains this
statement, ‘ambitious and sustainable economic growth…maintaining the economic growth of Bristol above the regional and national level…’

1. Would the member recognise that this statement requires very heavy qualification to
make it remotely logical or possible on into the future given environmental, social
and indeed economic realities?

2. Would he agree with me that this statement should be qualified using the
concepts: efficiency; environmental limits; renewability; both local and global justice,
now and on into the future; health, wellbeing and quality of life, given that these are
the key features of development that makes it sustainable?

3. Would he agree with me that unless we make full and proper use of the term
sustainable in key documents, especially when paired with economic growth, the
way is open for ‘business as usual’ developments which will maintain or worsen
environmental and social sustainability here and around the globe?

A. The Core Strategy contains 11 Objectives to deliver the Council's spatial vision
for Bristol in 2026. The statement identified in the question is taken from Objective 3
of the Core Strategy. The first of these objectives is 'Ensuring a sustainable future
for Bristol'. The objectives, and the policies of the Core Strategy, are designed to
work together to bring the spatial vision into reality.

Sustainable development encompasses the community's social, economic and
environmental well being. The Core Strategy is right to aim for ambitious and
sustainable economic growth which will provide jobs and opportunity for our
residents. The Core Strategy is also right to promote health and well-being and to
make Bristol a leader in mitigating and adapting to climate change, implementing
low-carbon approaches to development.

The Core Strategy sets out bold aspirations for the city and will be a key driver of
sustainable development. Its policies will deliver flexible and adaptable new
buildings and a pattern of development which makes efficient use of resources. It
will also help to facilitate the growth and development of Bristol's diverse economic
sectors, including the new environmental technology sectors which will be at the
heart of tomorrow's economy.

This is not business as usual. The Core Strategy is a positive response to local and
global issues which will help bring about beneficial change.

Newquay Rd playing fields...latest

Reporting back on submitting my e-petition on Saving Newquay Rd Playing Fields to the December BCC Cabinet meeting along with the question shown below. Whilst I welcome the recognition of the value of the open space I note that future plans for developing on them are not ruled out - and I dont welcome the amalgamation of the primary schools or the continued uncertainty surrounding what may happen as a result.

QUESTION A 1 Question from Glenn Vowles

Ilminster Avenue and Connaught Primary Schools / Newquay Road green space

What is the latest information on the [formerly?] proposed merger of Ilminster Ave and
Connaught Primary schools and what is the future of the associated playing fields/green
space off Newquay Rd given regeneration planning for the area?

On the 25th September 2008, Cabinet (CAB 21.9/08) approved a number of
recommendations concerning primary school provision within Bristol. Within the Extended
School Partnership (ESP) area S2, the amalgamation of Connaught Primary School and
Illminster Avenue Primary School in Phase 2 at two forms of entry was approved as a
Phase 2 project (2010-2013). The project was to be referred to the Knowle West
regeneration group to confirm preferred location and the impact on the wider regeneration

A report has been commissioned from Cambridge Education Ltd to explore the options
available in light of the Knowle West regeneration consultation proposals. We are still
awaiting the report. Any possible merger of the Ilminster Avenue and Connaught primary
schools has been deferred pending the review by the specialist consultant. The
educational and developmental needs of local children will be paramount when it comes to
making a decision.

The Council have no plans to dispose of, or develop upon, the Newquay Rd playing fields
or adjacent children's playground. This open space is a valuable facility providing for play
and recreation for local people.

The 'Knowle West' area of South Bristol, in which these facilities are located, is expected
to benefit from substantial regeneration investment in future years as a result of the
'Knowle West Regeneration Framework' which is being put together with the help of local
people. This investment will improve local facilities and opportunities.

Update on Sustainable Communities Act proposals made

I submitted a long list of suggestions to Bristol City Council's Sustainable Communities Act process (see here and here). Two proposals, one joint (on waste reduction) and one individual (on biodiversity/eco-footprinting in planning), have got through for consideration by the Secretary of State according to the email, below, I received today:

Dear Ms White and Mr Vowles,

Just a quick update to say that the LGA Selector Panel have now met and agreed the final shortlist for submission to the Secretary of State. I'm pleased to say seven of Bristol's eight suggestions have made it through, including both of your shortlisted suggestions as highlighted below.

I do not yet know why there has been a change in decision regarding biodiversity data suggestion, but it is recorded as going through to the Secretary of State, which is excellent.

For further information, please see our updated webpage

The LGA have advised they will be in contact in the New Year to advise on the next steps, so once I know more I will let you know.

Kind regards,

Deborah Kinghorn
Policy Officer
Bristol City Council
Deputy Chief Executive's department
Room 404
Council House
College Green

Biofuel power station impacts 'not significant' say council

Very recent email sent to city council planners (*below). Apparently the biofuel power station planned for Avonmouth is considered too small at 50MW to make providing an environmental impact statement mandatory (it would need to be 300MW or more for this). A statement could still be prepared as the power station plan falls into the optional category but city planners dont think its impacts are 'significant' enough to make a statement a requirement - such is the state of environmental regulation at present!

*Many thanks for your reply and attached document received before Christmas.
I'm both surprised and rather shocked that a city with green ambitions is
saying that an Environmental Impact Statement is not required in this
instance. It appears you have concluded that there can be no significant
impacts. In my personal and professional view this cannot be right. The
city should be insisting that all power station developments add to
efficiency, renewability, health and wellbeing and stay within
environmental limits - if it is to live up to its ambitions.

Leaving aside the enormously significant fact that you dont take a whole
system view (eg not considering the total impacts of obtaining the fuels
to be burned...) surely the impact on local air quality is significant in
a crucial sense. Air quality in Avonmouth is already poor and many other
developments in Avonmouth are underway or in the pipeline, therefore if
this biofuel power station cannot meet the very strictest emission to air
standards (which current figures suggest it cannot) then its operation
would worsen air quality still further.

It may well be that the Environment Agency would not give the station a
license to operate due to its air pollution. Could you please take what
I've said fully into account and check with your contacts at Natural
England and the Environment Agency (I'd appreciate it if you could give me
the direct contact details for both these organisations so that I too can
discuss the issue with them).

I'd also appreciate an update on when/where the plans will go to the
planning committee when you have such information.