Monthly Archives: May 2012

“Go Green” sham – letter to Glamorgan Gazette

Dear Glamorgan Gazette,

Until now I have been simply unimpressed by the feeble attempts at covering environmental issues in your supposed “Go Green” campaign coverage. It has largely covered nice little stories of school or neighbourhood issues or initiatives; nothing very significant; nothing very controversial.

But last weeks “Go Green” page (page 41 of the Glamorgan Gazette) is very different to this and an utter disgrace.

The main story is a pitiful misrepresentation of one of the most important public inquiries in recent times in South Wales, with far-reaching ramifications whatever its outcome. Peter Collins report is lazy pro-establishment journalism, based on popping in and out and grabbing a few sound bites. I know, because I was there for every minute of it. Most of the two day hearing consisted of Coastal Oil & Gas’ in-house supposed experts being systematically exposed as being economical with the truth, ‘confused’ with their data, and reliant on third party sound and ecology surveys, commissioned by them at short notice and roundly ridiculed by experienced people, not so easily fooled, such as Friends of the Earth.

Peter Collins also fails to report the many justifiable planning reasons for turning this application down. The many opponents to the application collectively identified dozens of clauses in Planning Policy Wales, Minerals Planning Policy Wales and the Adopted Unitary Development Plan, that point to either rejecting the application outright, or at least adopting a perfectly justifiable precautionary approach. Coastal rustled up a handful of such clauses that could be construed as supporting their application. Collins was either absent or asleep when it was highlighted that without the opportunity to properly consider the impact of what is a completely new industry, for the Vale, and build it into a revised Development Plan, then the Vale is almost duty bound, by various clauses in PPW that emphasise the central role of Development Plans in informing decisions, to reject such applications in the meantime.

I tried to help Collins out when he was floundering around for information during the lunch interval. Perhaps I should have guided more directly to the real story in this Inquiry, but you would expect an experienced journo to have a nose for this himself wouldn’t you? The real story here was not that there was ‘no justification’ for turning the application down. That is a ridiculous assertion given the completely unanimous verdict of elected members on both scrutiny and planning committees. The real story is that the Vale’s Planning Officers, completely mishandled how this rejection was represented. Rather than support the rejection with the many good grounds for it, they decided to present it as being based solely on one bit of dodgey evidence from Welsh Water plc. Once Coastal had ‘persuaded’ them to withdraw their evidence, the Vale Planning Department panicked, chucked the overwhelmingly established democratic will of the people of the Vale out the window, and decided to adopt a damage limitation exercise in terms the possible appellants costs claim. Pure cowardice. That was your story, Peter, but you blew it!

But maybe I am being harsh on Peter Collins. Maybe the biased slant of his story was an editorial decision. There is plenty of evidence on the rest of page 41 to hint at this possibility. Take the photo caption, for example: “Protesters outside the public inquiry in Barry which decided there was no reason to turn down the application …”
Hello!!! What decision is that exactly? The Inquiry isn’t even over yet!! There is a site visit on 11th June and the decision will not be announced until weeks after that. If this does not smack of editorial prejudice, I am not sure what would! And incidentally, the photo is not even of the protesters outside the public inquiry, which was at the Docks Offices, but is a picture taken outside the Holton Road offices last year. More lazy journalism.

And then there is the other piece on page 41 about “Electricity reform announced by UK Government”. Reading it, it is staggeringly similar to a press release I received from DECC a week or so ago. Yet more lazy, non-critical, pro-establishment propaganda advocating and promoting investment in nuclear energy. Can I suggest your “Go Green” reporter, Chris Cousens, tries talking to a few genuine environmentalists before going to print in future.

Finally, the small matter of the nice panel advertising your “Go Green” sponsors. Most are worthy enough organisations, but they may wish to re-evaluate their support in light of this edition. But it also looks like anyone who stumps up the money can add their name, if the inclusion of the distinctly dodgey Tata Group is anything to go by. You also seem to have left out one benefactor (or maybe just beneficiary), namely the Conservative Party.

Get your act together quickly. If you cannot do the big issues properly, I suggest you go back to covering school gardening projects, where you can do no real harm.

Andy Chyba
Chair Bridgend Green Party

A reality check on renewables?

Having had some interesting discussions about good and bad science informing public debate recently, this TED talk appears in my inbox. David MacKay is a professor of Natural Philosophy in the Physics department at the University of Cambridge and chief scientific adviser to the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change. However, I am not sure how much this last fact is a positive credential.

His theme: how much land mass would renewables need to power a nation like the UK? An entire country’s worth it appears. MacKay tours the basic mathematics that show worrying limitations on some of our sustainable energy options and, importantly, explains why we should pursue them anyway.

As impressive as his number crunching is, I have a few issues with his conclusions. For example, he avoids looking at the full range of renewable options: wind, solar, tidal, biomass, biogas, wave, hydro, geothermal, etc. He also uses obsolete numbers for each and assumes nothing will ever improve. Wind turbines have more than doubled their efficiency in recent years. Also note that in his final graphic he completely ignores the energy that could be generated from solar PV on every roof in the UK.

Nonetheless, he is an entertaining speaker and gives us plenty of valid food for thought.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=-5bVbfWuq-Q

Bridgend Green Party Meeting – 31st May

NOTE – Earlier time proved popular last month – so we will stick with it.

Bridgend Green Party Meeting
Thursday 31st May 2012 at the COITY CASTLE INN Lounge.
Bottom of Tremains Road, (by big railway bridge) Bridgend, CF31 1HA . 7.00pm

AGENDA

  1. Welcome and Introductions
  2. Apologies for Absence
  3. Minutes and matters arising
  4. Officers’ reports
  5. Campaigns update – incl. Public Inquiry report
  6. Elections – BCBC 2012 – Candidate expenses
  7. Elections – BCBC 2012 – reflections and starting to plan ahead
  8. DoNM

NOTE – Venue is 2 minutes walk from both the Bus and Train stations in Bridgend.
See map: https://bridgendgreens.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/next-meeting

Election candidates – please remember to bring your expenses paperwork with you.

Thanks,

Andy

Why we don’t need to even consider fracking or nuclear energy

THERE IS NO ENERGY CRISIS – WAKE UP EVERYBODY There is energy all around us all the time. Every alternate article I have posted on the subject of energy points tom positive solutions that are at our fingertips (interspersed with my anti-fracking stuff): https://bridgendgreens.wordpress.com/?s=energyIn fact, this is what fuels my passionate opposition to extreme energy like Fracking. There is simply no need for it at all. There is no need for nuclear either. The ‘Energy Gap’ does not exist if we fill the technology gap instead. And it is all there and ready to roll as soon as we rid ourselves of the the oil and gas industries’ grip on governments around the world, and start funneling investment in the right direction.

This is my favourite – truly inspiring: http://www.ted.com/talks/justin_hall_tipping_freeing_energy_from_the_grid.html?utm_source=newsletter_weekly_2011-10-19&utm_campaign=newsletter_weekly&utm_medium=email

Vale of Glamorgan CBC – heroes to villains in test drilling battle?

I have just completed two very long and mentally exhausting days at the Llandow Test Drilling Public Inquiry.

Given my state of mental fatigue, I may not be in the best of minds to rationalise what has just gone on, but I feel obliged to post something before endeavouring to forget about the whole issue for a while at least.

Having previously gone on record as praising the Vale Planning Committee for their courage in taking a historic decision in rejecting the application (https://bridgendgreens.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/historic-decision-by-vale-council-to-reject-shle-gas-test-drilling/) it now pains me and saddens me that they have so completely mishandled the matter that they felt the need to totally capitulate at the Public Inquiry.

This is what appears to have happened:

Through the Scrutiny Committee Meeting and loads of written representations, a comprehensive case against the test drilling application led to the unanimous verdicts of both Scrutiny and Planning Committees against the proposal. However, presumably on the guidance of their Planning Officers – who had recommended approving the application – they couched their rejection as being purely on the basis of the evidence of Welsh Water’s expressed concerns over possible groundwater contamination. This was their big mistake. There were, indeed still are, plenty of other material considerations, many of which I have consistently suggested are more telling than this groundwater issue, which could, and should have been included as additional grounds for refusal. It was immediately obvious that there would be an appeal put in. Had it been more thoroughly rejected, it is possible, given the overwhelming public opposition, that Coastal Oil & Gas may have at least thought twice about appealing.

What happened next really put the cat amongst the pigeons. Welsh Water, after some ‘dialogue’ with Coastal Oil & Gas, withdrew their opposition and declared that they would not participate in the Public Inquiry (Appeal). I again presume that the Planning Officers were instrumental in advising the Planning Committee how to respond to this development. Their line of thinking appears to have been that, given that the only cited grounds for rejection had melted away, they could be on very dodgey ground with the Planning Inspector, and possibly at risk of facing a large costs bill from the appellants. With an election for their seats imminent, the Planning Committee appear to have bottled sticking to their convictions in favour of ‘defending the budget’ and adopting a damage limitation strategy. In these times of budget cuts all over the place, I guess I can understand how this may have seemed like acting in their ‘constituents best interests’ (in other words, serving in their own best interests in terms of getting re-elected).

In essence, they moved away from a decision based on participatory democracy at its best (local heroes), to a politically expedient decision based on purely financial considerations (‘merchant bankers’!).

Their opening statement to the Public Inquiry ripped my guts out. Not only were they not going to defend their original decision, but they were now saying that, subject to conditions, they were now prepared to approve the application and come to an arrangement over costs. At that point in time it seemed like the whole thing was going to be a fait accompli and we would be done by lunchtime.

However, chinks of light in the gathering gloom soon started to appear. Inspector Emyr Jones made it clear that he was still prepared to listen to the quite extensive list of witnesses that had come prepared for the fray. I sought, and got, assurances from him that it was still within his power to uphold the original decision to reject the application, and it was game on.

I do not propose to give a blow by blow account of events, but save to say I think it would be fair to say the following:

  • Coastal Oil & Gas’ two ‘expert’ witnesses’ testimony was riddled with errors, inconsistencies, and thinly veiled deceits
  • Their motives, and thereby the value of their assurances about anything, are, at the very least, questionable
  • Their noise survey was fundamentally flawed
  • Their ecological survey was held in contempt by several witnesses including Friend of the Earth Cymru and myself
  • Their citing of a handful of convenient clauses in Development Plans and Planning Policies was overwhelming outweighed by dozens of such clauses that support the decision to reject the application – allied to the complete lack of any reference to this fundamentally new type of industry (for the Vale) in the Development Plans
  • Although the Planning Committee may have capitulated, all other sources of opposition have remained firm – meaning the overwhelming public will in the Vale of Glamorgan remains for this industry to have absolutely no role in their vision of the Vale’s future.

But will all this be enough to sway the Inspector’s verdict our way?

I simply don’t know. I feel pretty sure that he came into this Public Inquiry thinking it was a pretty straightforward case. Given the chief protagonists opening positions, it was bound to go the appellant’s way, I suspect he thought. Two day’s later, I think we have at least succeeded in giving him serious pause for thought. In actual fact, I don’t envy him his task one little bit. There are going to be far reaching ramifications whatever he decides – and I doubt he expected that when he took this case on. It is always easy to be cynical about politically appointed Inquiry chairs, especially after their verdicts. So let me say here and now that he conducted the Inquiry impeccably and I believe his verdict will be properly considered and have to be accepted which ever way it falls.

What happens next?
The Public Inquiry is not quite complete yet. There will be a site visit on MONDAY 11th JUNE at 1.30pm.
This is open to the public to attend – but not to submit additional evidence. The purpose is to allow those of us that have given evidence the opportunity to show him things we referred to in our evidence to date.
He has until the end of JULY to issue his verdict, but has declared that he does not envisage having to take anywhere near that long. It is still going to be weeks rather than days.

Of course, whatever the verdict, whether the battle is won or lost, the war goes on. We will prevail sooner or later – there is no other option. Keep the faith!

The crises of Capitalism – the role of Green Left within the Green party

In this RSA Animate 10 min film, renowned academic David Harvey (his early books were standard texts on my Geography degree course in the early 80s) asks if it is time to look beyond capitalism towards a new social order that would allow us to live within a system that really could be responsible, just, and humane?http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=qOP2V_np2c0

(The above video is part of a great collection found here: http://falseeconomy.org.uk/filmclub)

Towards the end of the wonderfully succinct summary of where the world economy is today, David Harvey states (from 9:15):

“Any sensible person right now would join an anti-capitalist organisation. You have to, because otherwise we are going to have this continuation… Of all sorts of negative aspects.”

Welcome to the Green Left: http://greenleftblog.blogspot.co.uk/ and

http://thewatermelon.wordpress.com/

 

Llandow Public Inquiry details

The details of the long awaited, penultimate (potentially) round of our fight have now been made public.

I am more confident than ever of a successful outcome.

A 2 day public inquiry will be held in:

The Board Room
Vale of Glamorgan Council Docks Office
Barry

See here: http://www.valeofglamorgan.gov.uk/living/transport/transport_contacts.aspx

Starting on Tuesday 22 May 2012 at 10:00am

We urge all of you who have opposed the application at Llandow to attend and show your continued opposition!

You can see the full details of the inquiry at

http://www.pcs.planningportal.gov.uk/pcsportal/ViewCase.asp?caseid=2167112&coid=2097472

Hope to see you all there!!

History is made by those who show up Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli

PS > Reminder – Bridgend Green Party meetings are now on LAST Thursday of the month – i.e. 31st May (last day of month happens to fall on a Thursday)