|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 …”
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.