Friday, 10 December 2010

Woodland Worries at Toton Sidings

In January of this year, Nottinghamshire residents complained at the felling of 2,200 silver birch trees at Toton Sidings, a former British Rail site which is now privately owned.

The resident`s campaign attracted cross-party support, notably from Nick Palmer (Lab) , at that time the MP for the area, and Anna Soubry (Conservative), who is the current MP. Both Mr Palmer and Ms Soubry continue to be involved in  the issue. Both are also involved in the Friends of Bramwell campaign, which I mentioned not so long ago.

The Forestry Commission investigated and concluded that the trees had been felled illegally. They issued the landowners with a notice requiring them to restock the area with trees and maintain the restocked area for ten years. 

The owners had three months during which they could appeal, but finally did so only days before the deadline expired.  They argue that the land is contaminated and question whether consideration was given to the apparently poor quality of the trees that were  felled.

Popular opinion in the area has not been sympathetic to the landowners, a couple from the south who are believed to want to build on the site. Ms Soubry believes that the `contamination` referred to was  asbestos which she says was removed by contractors acting for the landowner at the time the land was cleared.

From the outset, environmental bodies and community groups have aimed to see the area restocked with trees and declared a nature reserve. Early attempts by Nick Palmer to broker a compromise were rejected by them, though to his credit he has respected their wishes and continues to support their efforts.

The appeal is opposed by representatives of all three major political parties, by the Woodland Trust and by two  locally-based groups,  Toton Environmental Protection Society and Long Eaton Natural History Society.

The deadline for public responses on the appeal is 17 December 2010. A number of articles have appeared in the local press, some of which provide guidance for those wishing to submit their comments ;

8 December 2010 - Unsigned - Deadline Looms for Resident`s Toton Trees
18 October 2010 - Bryan Henesey - Felled Toton Woods Replanting Faces Delay After Landowner`s Appeal
17 March 2010 - Bryan Henesey - Landowners Told to Replant Felled Toton Woodland
15 February 2010 - Bryan Henesy - MP Palmer Backs Toton Woodland Action Call

these can all be found at http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk/ .

My general attitude to politicians when compiling this blog is that I don`t mind giving credit where it`s due but I have the traditional British distrust for them so normally draw the line at providing links to their websites. In this particular instance, with the deadline approaching, I`ll break my own rule enough to point out that Anna Soubry MP has placed advice on her site for anyone wishing to oppose the landowner`s appeal.

The Woodland Trust are at http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/ - their thoughts on the Toton Sidings issue can be found on the Our Campaigns and Woodwatch sections of their site.

Toton Environmental Protection Society and Long Eaton Natural History Society can be contacted via a group called Friends of Toton Fields. Useful links being www.freewebs.com/friendsoftotonfields and http://friendsoftotonfields.webs.com/locallinks.htm

On a lighter note, anyone interested in the history of Toton Sidings (don`t laugh, it`s good) might like to visit http://18atoton.blogspot.com/ . Unfortunately, the site hasn`t been updated for a while, but the two men who run it explain this with a recently-added "Where Are They Now" spot ; "Billy has spent two of the last three months in Spain. Paul has been fishing, gambling and boozing" ! Also good is http://www.toton-rail.co.uk/ .

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Voices For Libraries #2




Anyone interested in my earlier article Voices For Libraries (this blog, 29 September 2010) might like to know that a number of articles on the subject have appeared on The Bookseller web site.

In addition to updates on developments in the Wirral, Dorset and Lewisham, there have been a number of articles reflecting a national perspective.

Here are a few that may be of particular interest ;

Benedicte Page - Plan for Industry-Wide Message on Libraries (7 October 2010)
Benedicte Page - Massive Cutbacks to Library Services Begin (29 November 2010)
Kate Mosse - Library Matters (9 December 2010)

These three can be found at http://www.thebookseller.com/ and www.thebookseller.com/blogs.html .

The links provided in my earlier piece should still be relevant in most cases. It`s worth re-iterating that the writer Alan Gibbons continues to perform a heroic one-man crusade on the issue at http://alangibbons.net .




Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Save Durban House, Eastwood

Durban House Museum / Conference and Exhibition Centre is located at Eastwood, Notts near the Notts/Derbyshire border and is a building associated with the life of D H Lawrence and with the history of the mining industry in the area.

It is situated between the D H Lawrence Birthplace Museum and Brinsley Headstocks (see pictures below). Nearby is Eastwood Library, home to the Lawrence Collection. Eastwood was home for many years to Lawrence and to his friend and fellow writer William Edward Hopkin, said to have been the model for Lawrence`s characters Willie Houghton (in `Touch and Go`) and Lewis Goddard (in `Mr Noon`). Novelist William Howitt was born in nearby Heanor and the Howitt collection, comprising works by both William and Mary Howitt is to be found at Heanor Library.


Brinsley Headstocks, on the site of the now defunct Brinsley Colliery. D H Lawrence`s uncle Jim met with a fatal accident whilst working as a miner here, an incident referred to repeatedly in  Lawrence`s work.











Durban House came to national attention recently when The Observer newspaper printed a letter signed by a number of public figures objecting to the proposed closure/sale of the building by current owners Broxtowe Borough Council.

In part, the letter read ; "Industrial communities like Eastwood are often overlooked. Cultural funding can all too easily be concentrated only in the centre of our cities. We call on Broxtowe council to guarantee the continued survival of this national asset."  Signatories included authors Geoff Dyer, Salman Rushdie and Martin Amis, film folk Billy Ivory, Lord David Puttnam, Ken Russell and Rosamund Pike, politicians Glenda Jackson MP and Gloria de Piero MP and a representative of the D H Lawrence Society. 

This is one of those campaigns in which the various parties seem to have trouble agreeing on the facts. Council leader David Watts claims the council paid £1, 000, 000 for the building and spends £60,000 a year to keep it open.  Campaigners  point out that other organisations helped the council out with the purchase price, that commercial concerns have rented space within the building from the council, providing a flow of income, and that it attracts visitors to the area.

Useful articles ; 

R Faulks (reader`s letter) - Durban House Rethink Needed (9 Nov 2010)

Delia Monk - Authors Salman Rushdie and Martin Amis Among High Profile Campaigners to Keep Durban House Open (18 Oct 2010)

Unsigned  - Salman Rushdie and Martin Amis Back Campaign to Save D H Lawrence Heritage Centre (17 Oct 2010)

These are all to be found at http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk/ . Details of events and activities taking place at the museum can also be found here.

Also interesting ;

http://www.lawrenceseastwood.co.uk/

http://www.heanorhistory.org.uk/programme2010-11.htm

http://www.nlha.org.uk/societies.html

http://langleymillheritage.org.uk/


No doubt the controversy will continue for a while yet !








  

Thursday, 11 November 2010

More Woodland Worries

It has emerged that the government intends to sell off more than half of our national forests to private firms. Campaign group 38 Degrees has concerns that this will mean that ancient woodlands will be ruined as companies use them for holiday villages, golf courses and logging etc, and have launched a petition accordingly.

The twin objectives of 38 Degrees` campaign  seem perfectly reasonable ; 1) they don`t want private companies to chop down our woodland, and 2)  they want to see the  trees protected for both conservation purposes and public enjoyment.

Obviously a lot of people share these aims as at present they have over 63,000 signatures.

For more details, visit www.38degrees.org.uk/save-our-forests .

Digressing slightly, the fate of a forest was the subject of an earlier posting of mine, Waingroves Woodland Worries ( this blog, 29 July 2010 ). I don`t usually do updates on earlier postings, as I always provide enough information/links/points of contact for people to check on the eventual outcome if they`re sufficiently interested. In this case, however, I will break my own rule and tell you that the Waingroves Community Association raised £20,000 from voluntary sources and bought the area in question themselves. To their credit, landowners Hansons (a building materials company) had received a rival offer of £60,000 from a bidder wanting the land for commercial purposes, but decided to accept the Association`s offer instead.

Particularly impressive is the fact that the funds were all obtained from individual donations and community fund-raising events - no grants were received by the Association at all. For further details, see Chris Jones - Villagers Join Forces to Buy Woodland ( 9 October 2010 ) at http://www.thisisderbyshire.co.uk/ .

Monday, 8 November 2010

Burning Passions in Amber Valley

We`ve already looked at the issue of waste incineration, in my articles Burning Passions ( this blog, 7 Sep 2010 ) and Burning Passions 2 ( this blog, 9 August 2010 ).

Now the issue has cropped up again, this time in the form of an application by Warwick Energy to open a `gassification plant` at Pye Bridge Industrial Estate, Somercotes, Derbyshire.

Their application is opposed by Amber Valley Against Incineration ( http://www.avain.org.uk/ ). The issues are broadly the same as those aired elsewhere in Derbyshire by Spondon and Sinfin Against Incineration, Spondon Against Cyclomax and Derby and South Derbyshire Friends of the Earth, with the difference that in this case, AVAIN are also calling into question the suitability of some individuals involved with Warwick Energy (aka Warwick Integrated Generation Ltd) to be involved with such sensitive work, in light of past business dealings with another company.

The AVAIN website is worth a visit, but those who like to hear both sides of the question may like to check out these two articles ;

Unsigned - £8m Gasification Plant Will be Safe, Says Boss (6 October 2010)
Rachel Butler - Waste Plant Emissions Would Not Be Hazard Claims Energy Firm Boss (13 October 2010)

both at http://www.thisisderbyshire.co.uk/

`Thisisderbyshire` also printed numerous articles on the issue during August and September, with more to come, no doubt.

Local MP and real ale drinker Nigel Mills (Conservative)  does not seem to have expressed any views on the issue online, but in a local newsletter he indicated that he "shared the concerns" of campaigners and felt the proposed development was too near to areas of housing for his liking. Mr Mills became an MP for the first time at the last election, and has inherited an interesting constituency.  Lodge House Mine, Heanor Memorial Hospital and Warwick Energy`s proposed plant all fall within his remit and there are concerns over the fate of former industrial sites in the area, notably Butterley Ironworks and Stevenson`s Yard. I don`t agree with everthing he says and does, but as he likes a pint, I say good luck to him !

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Friends of Bramwell

Staying in Nottinghamshire for the moment, we turn next to Friends of Bramwell.

F of B is a campaign group opposed to the proposed sale of the council-owned Bramwell Care Home in Nottinghamshire.

Supporters claim the home is unique because of the range of services provided and the challenging nature of the work it undertakes. It is currently registered to provide care in four categories ; Older People, Dementia Sufferers, Mental Disorder and Physical Disability. A number of other services operate from the site, which also includes a day centre. It is  involved in giving respite for carers and has a philosophy of helping those who want to stay in their own homes.

The Conservative-led County Council aims to sell of all 13 of the care homes it owns, against Labour opposition. However, the Friends have attracted cross-party support, with  Anna Soubry MP (Con), Cllr  Stan Heptinstall MBE (Lib Dem) and former MP Dr Nick Palmer (Labour) all taking part.

Advocates of the sale point out that any future owner would be obliged to run the centre as a care home for a minimum of three years, but the friends believe that it would be sold at the end of that period. There are also concerns that the private sector woud not be able to match the service currently provided.

The Friends of Bramwell can be found at http://www.friendsofbramwell.co.uk/ . numerous articles and reader`s letters on the subject can be found at http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk/

Monday, 4 October 2010

Hucknall Mining Memorial

Nottinghamshire newsaper the Hucknall Dispatch has launched a campaign to honour miners who lost their lives at local pits.


The campaign was suggested by reader Barrie Lewis, whose father Lawrence died at the age of 39 on Xmas Eve 1960 as the result of an accident at Hucknall. Mr Lewis is researching the issue in partnership with the Dispatch.


The paper aims to collate as much information as possible concerning those who died and they hope to arrange for a memorial plaque near to an existing statue on Station Road, Hucknall which depicts two miners in a design based around the shape of a miner`s lamp.


Deputy editor Martin Hutton is asking anyone with details of miners who died at Hucknall, Linby, Newstead or Annesley to contact him at http://www.hucknalldispatch.co.uk/ .

The campaign has been endorsed by Cllr John Wilmott (Labour) , Deputy Leader of Ashfield District Council.

Two articles have so far been printed on the subject in the Dispatch ;

Unsigned - Dispatch Campaign ; Time to Honour Miners Who Died at Pits (24 Sept 2010)
Unsigned - Dispatch Campaign ; Bid for Miner`s Memorial off to Flying Start (1 October 2010)

others will no doubt follow !




This campaign gets a `double-hedgehog` rating, which was actually a mistake on my part, but I thought I`d leave it to stand !


Sunday, 3 October 2010

Bragg Nature Centre, Baltimore, USA

Time for another of our looks at life in the USA.

The Bragg Nature Centre is to be found adjacent to Patapsco State Park, Baltimore. Originally a home for wayward youngsters run by the Episcopalian Church (the US equivalent of the Church of England, I believe), the building was donated by them to Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPS) when they no longer had a use for it ( in the US, a `public` school is a state school, like our comprehensives, not like an English public school, which is, of course, a private school. We`re so logical ! ).

Until roughly ten years ago, the centre, which has extensive grounds including a wood, meadows and a pond, was used to teach children about nature. However, as is so often the case, money became an issue and classes there came to an end. A caretaker and his family remained, pluckily chasing away vandals and fighting the ravages of time and the elements, but the buildings became increasingly neglected and the only area in productive use seems to have been a section called Plant Side, where pointsettias etc were grown for use in festive Xmas displays in schools. 

A sad story, like many you may have heard from time to time. Fortunately, this one has a happy ending. A man named Tony Geraci became Director of Food Services for BCPS and had ideas about improving the diet of the area`s schoolkids. The land, he reasoned, would be ideal for growing organic vegetables.

Turning his thoughts into deeds, a staff of young farmers, assisted by a small army of volunteers, turned the centre into a productive venture providing fresh, organic vegetables for local schoolkids. Soon they were joined by a flock of free-range chickens and a herd of goats.

This summer, a federal stimulus package saw teams of builders descend on the site to renovate the various buildings. The caretaker and his family are moving out, but the future of this very positive intiative seems assured.

I tell this story just because it`s a positive one and we can all use a few happy endings now and then. Campaigning left-wing journalist Tim Wheeler is the father of the caretaker at the centre and pretty much all the details here come from his article Saving Bragg Nature Center : Another Obama Success Story (29 September 2010). As you`ll guess from the subtitle, his article is not confined to the story of the centre itself, but also looks at the impact of stimulus packages on the US construction industry, with quotes from representatives of an American building trade organisation, the Association of General Contractors. I personally don`t have strong feelings about Obama one way or the other, to me the most admirable characters in the story are Mr Geraci and possibly the resourceful young caretaker Nick Wheeler, but it does seem to me that a project like this that is positive in it`s own right and also boosts construction in the area, must be a good thing.  Maybe our UK politicians should take note !


Saturday, 2 October 2010

Don`t Cut the Coastal Path (Claim the Coast)

The Marine and Coastal Access Act of 2009 placed a duty on the government to create an all-England coastal path which would attract walkers to the  coastline and boost the rural economy.

The Ramblers are concerned that the current economic climate could put this project in jeopardy, and are encouraging supporters to join their Claim the Coast Campaign (formerly known as `Don`t Cut the Coastal Path`).

In addition to the attractions for walkers and campaigners for countryside access, they are keen to stress the likely benefits to the areas concerned, based on studies of the effect of  The South West Coast Path, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and Hadrian`s Wall, all of which have brought measureable boosts in income to the areas concerned.

In addition to the usual lobbying by supporters, they are asking proprietors of businesses near the coast to complete a short survey, which can be found using a link from the campaigns section of the Ramblers website.

Details ;

www.ramblers.org.uk/campaigns+policy/campaigns+policy

www.ramblers.org.uk/campaigns+policy/nocoastalcuts

www.ramblers.org.uk/campaigns+policy/coast+benefits

More Ramblers updates in my article `Ramblin` on my Mind` (this blog, 11 Sept 2010)


Friday, 1 October 2010

The WAG Man Returns / Lodge House Controversy Continues

We first met Andrew Bridgen MP (Con) in my posting headed Whitwick Action Group (this blog,  8 September 2010).

To his credit, Mr Bridgen has been a strong and forthright supporter of that group, which campaigns to save green land in his constituency from inappropriate development.

Clearly our lad has a bit of a green streak, as now he returns to our attention with a Private Member`s Bill aimed at reducing the impact of open cast mining operations on local residents. 

His bill aims to introduce a 500 metre buffer zone between opencast sites and areas of settlement, which would bring England into line with Scotland and Wales, where such measures are already in place.

He has the beginnings of cross-party support, with an endorsement from Labour`s Sir Peter Soulsby MP, and has attracted other  allies  in the form of environmental campaigners Minorca Opencast Protest Group ( see article `Private Members Bill to Set Light to a Smouldering Controversy` - Steve Leary, http://www.indymedia.org.uk/ , 29 June 2010 ) and Friends of the Earth (`MPs Join Up For Open-Cast Fight` - David Owen, http://www.thisisleicestershire.co.uk/ , 22 July 2010 ). Further details can be found in an unsigned article, `MP in Crusade for Buffer Zones Around Mine Sites`  at http://www.thisisderbyshire.co.uk/ , 7 July 2010).

North West Leicestershire District Council recently refused permission for further open-cast mining in Mr Bridgen`s constituency (see `Opencast Mining Plan Near Leicestershire Village is Rejected a Second Time` - David Owen, http://www.thisisleicestershire.co.uk/ 8 Seotember 2010 ), however, he and his supporters would do well to study events in the Shipley/Smalley area of Derbyshire, where UK Coal now run the opencast Lodge House Mine.

In 2007/8, UK Coal were refused permission by the local authority for opencast mining in the Bells Lane area between Shipley Country Park and Smalley Village, but central government over-ruled this decision. The issue was deeply divisive locally, with splits between those who saw the chance of more jobs in an area with a long mining tradition, and those who objected on environmental grounds. Further divisions arose amongst the `no` lobby, between objectors who favoured conventional lobbying and advocates of direct action, some of whom occupied a derelict building on the proposed site for a time.

Eventually, the mine went ahead, and now UK Coal are applying for permission  to extend their operations in the area. There are objections from (so far)  Shipley Parish Council, Smalley Action Group, Amber Valley and Erewash Environmental Network and Greenpeace.

Further info on the Derbyshire issue ;

Chris Mallett - Battle Cry Over Plan for Huge Extension to UK Coal Operation (??/9/10)
Catherine Oakes - Open Cast Mine Protestors are Gearing up for `Round Two` (27/9/10)

both of these to be found at http://www.thisisderbyshire.co.uk/ . A number of further articles on the issue have appeaed subsequently.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Voices for Libraries



Time to turn our attention south of the River Trent once more.

A number of libraries in the Lewisham area (Sydenham, Crofton Park, New Cross, Blackheath Village and Grove Park) are threatened with closure.

In each case, campaigns to oppose this are underway and there appears to be a degree of co-operation between the different groups.

Necessarily, most of those involved are ad-hoc groups of library users and staff who have come together only recently.

The exception is the very interesting Blackheath Village Users Group ( http://www.bvrg.org.uk/ ) ,  who argue that their area represents a unique combination of urban living and village life and are intent on preserving it`s unique character. As you`ll see if you check out the link I`ve provided, they campaign on local issues, circulate information and aim to increase community spirit.

Will all the libraries involved be saved ? It seems unlikely, but the individuals and groups concerned have raised pertinent issues that are not about to go away, particularly with regard to the fate of the building(s) concerned - the New Cross group in particular do not want the building standing derelict if their library goes. Other questions concern leasing arrangements - in the case of one particular library (sorry, can`t recall which) there`s a  suggestion that the council may be obliged to pay rent on the building for a fixed period even if it is standing empty.

Naturally, this is not the place to go into immense detail, but I have found some useful articles online ;

Kelly Smale - Sydenham :  Library Users Petitioning to Fight Closure (2 September 2010) - http://www.newsshopper.co.uk/ .

Saving New Cross Library (17 September 2010) - http://transpont.blogspot.com/ .

Alan Gibbons - Latest From Lewisham Libraries Campaign (24 September 2010) http://alangibbons.net/ .

`Brockley Nick` - Crofton Park Library Campaign Secures 4,600 Supporters ( 26 September 2010 ) - http://brockleycentral.blogspot.com/

Related interest ;

Alan Gibbons, mentioned above,  is a children`s writer of many years standing who once won a Blue Peter Award (did he have to make it himself out of sticky-back plastic ?) . His blog has details of similar campaigns in other areas ;

John and Joyce Sheppard - Dear Mr Miliband  (28 September 2010) - http://alangibbons.net/  (Text of a letter sent to Ed Miliband MP and copied to Rosie Winterton MP  concerning the potential closure of three libraries in Doncaster).

Steve Barlow and others - Authors Protest Against Somerset Library Cutbacks ( 26 September 2010 )  - http://alangibbons.net/ ( Text of leter signed by writers Steve Barlow, Jeremy Strong, Sue Purkiss, Kathryn White and Eileen Browne and sent to Ken Maddock, Leader of  Somerset County Council,  concerning cuts to the library service in the area.)

Ian Clark - Libraries : The Foundation for a Democratic Society ( 22 September 2010 ) www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk/wordpress

Unsigned - Friends Form to Bring Council to Book ( 28 September 2010 )  www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk/  (Friends of Cheltenham Library) .

Reader`s Letter - We Must Do All We Can to Protect our Libraries ( 29 September 2010 ) - http://www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk/ (Friends of Cheltenham Library).



Sunday, 19 September 2010

John Muir`s Blue Sierra #3

The John Muir Trust is the UK `sister organisation` to the USA`s Sierra Club (www.sierraclub.org) .

Their core work is conserving and preserving wild land and in the course of this work they campaign on a variety of issues, usually in concert with  Ramblers Scotland  and mountaineering organisations.

They are currently leading a campaign for better protection for the UK`s last remaining areas of wild land. They are looking for a new environmental designation for wild land in Scotland and for the expansion and creation of National Parks etc in England Wales and Northern Ireland.

www.jmt.org/wild-land-campaign.asp

www.jmt.org/wildland-faq.asp

Footnote

Scottish-born American naturalist and author John Muir is held by many to be the father of modern conservation and had a particular interest in the preservation of wilderness areas, including the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.

Another Footnote

`John Muir`s Blue Sierra` And `John Muir`s Blue Sierra #2` can be found online at The Graphophone, but may be a little dated now.

Of Aylestone Meadows Appreciation Society and Others

Not so long ago we looked at the Rushcliffe Greenfields campaign, which opposes the proposed building of  a football stadium in the Nottinghamshire countryside.

Now something similar is being considered for Leicester`s Aylestone Meadows.

This popular nature reserve is located near the Aylestone Road, near the Grand Union Canal and the Great Central Way.

 Leicester City Council propose to build a floodlit Astroturf pitch, clubhouse and 150 space car park on the site.

Unsurprisingly, they are opposed by the Aylestone Meadows Appreciation Society, Leicester Civic Society and Friends of the Earth. Amazingly, Councillor Rob Wann (Labour) , a supporter of the scheme, has described campaigners as "selfish". Other Councillors werre quick to distance themselves, with Cllr Nigel Porter (Conservative) commenting "he has let himself and the council down".

Further details on Aylestone Meadows ;

http://aylestonemeadows.blogspot.com/

www.lros.org.uk/aylestone.htm

Further details on campaign groups ;

www.leicestercivicsociety.org.uk/campaign.asp?item=20

(This contains a link to Aylestone Meadows Appreciation Society)

http://www.leicesterfoe.org.uk/

http://www.foe.co.uk/

www.foe.co.uk/campaigns/local_groups_and_campaigns/emidland.htm

Media ;

http://www.thisisleicestershire.co.uk/

Monday, 13 September 2010

Local Works, Sustainable Communities

The Sustainable Communities Act became part of English law in October 2008.

Last year `an invite` (are we talking American again ?) went out from the Secretary of State to councils asking them to put forward ideas for government action to reverse community decline and promote, or protect, thriving comunities and civic involvement. Councils that chose to get involved had to engage voters in the process.

Volunteers at Local Works, a project* run by campaign group Unlock Democracy ( http://www.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/ ) , called hundreds of community groups etc asking them to contact their local councils and get involved.

By the end of July 2009, 100 councils had submitted 300 proposals, which is certainly a very positive result at such an early stage.

To view the proposals, find out how the Act works, and how you can use it in respect of local services and/or issues affecting your area, visit http://www.localworks.org/ .

* Local Works, a project of Unlock Democracy, is a coalition of over 120 organisations, including Age UK, The National Federation of Sub-Postmasters, UNISON, The Federation of Small Businesses, Friends of the Earth and The Woodland Trust. As you can see, quite a diverse array of organisations have signed up, representing a wide range of different interest groups.  A definite case of what we used to call `strength through diversity` !





Saturday, 11 September 2010

Ramblin` On My Mind

Here`s a quick summary of some of the issues facing the Ramblers in various part of the country ;

Devon / Dartmoor (The Dartmoor Way)

The Dartmoor Way is a long distance footpath created by towns and villages in the area a decade ago.
 Unfortunately, it is not sufficiently publicized and is inadequately signposted and is therefore under-used.
Devon Ramblers have unveiled plans for an extensive relaunch which includes extending the path southwards to Ivybridge, making the total route over 100 miles long. The project is still open to consultation, and interested parties can submit their views by completing an online survey at http://www.ruraldevon.org/ . The closing date for submissions is 20 September 2010.

London

The Ramblers believe that London`s historic network of footpaths - including parts of the Thames Park National Trail -  is under threat from developers. In every other city in Britain local authorities are compelled by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to draw up `definitive maps`  detailing protected local paths,  but Inner London Boroughs are not obliged to do so.
The Ramblers say they are seeing well-used footpaths being "disregarded, blocked and built across". They argue that campaigners will be unable to use the laws intended to protect paths until London councils are legally obliged to record their rights of way.
Their campaign is called Putting London on the Map and has begun with an online petition at http://www.ramblers.org.uk/ .

Bayham Abbey (Tunbridge Wells - Kent / East Sussex)

During the early `80s, the Marquis of Camden sold off the land of Bayham Abbey estate in individual lots and public access was prevented. Tunbridge Wells Ramblers have been campaigning for many years for two footpaths across the area in question to be re-opened .
A Public Inquiry is scheduled for 6 December 2010. However, much of the evidence the group collected was in the form of statements taken from witnesses in 1998 and many of those individuals are now unavailable or cannot be traced.
They are keen to hear from anyone who walked on paths across the estate before the early 1980s and is willing/able to testify and/or supply a statement. Any interested parties, please  e-mail The Ramblers at  walking.environment@ramblers.org , marking your message `For the Attention of Anastasia French` , before 1 October 2010.

Devon / Dartmoor (Vixen Tor)

Vixen Tor is a Dartmoor landmark, known for it`s distinctive sphinx-shaped rocky outcrop. For some time now, the landowner has prevented access to this site. Devon County Council, The Ramblers and other outdoor groups are committed to fighting the landowner and re-instating access. A Public Inquiry is scheduled for 23 November 2010. Further info at http://www.walkmag.co.uk/ .

Scotland (Cairngorms)

Cairngorms National Park Authority has approved a major new development by the River Spey which would double the size of nearby Aviemoor. The scheme, which includes the building of 1,500 houses, has been given the go-ahead despite a warning from the Scottish Government that it breached planning guidelines.
Ramblers Scotland intend making the matter an issue during the May 2010 Scottish Parliamentary elections. Details at www.ramblers.org.uk/scotland.

Other Articles of a Rambling Nature ;

Kinder Conservation and a Historic Mass Trespass, 1 November 2009, online at The Graphopone.
Rambling Through Adversity, 10 December 2009, online at Bookshelves and Brown Ale.
John Muir`s Blue Sierra, 12 December 2009, online at The Graphophone.
Ramblers Revisited, 13 March 2010, online at Bookshelves and Brown Ale. 
Ramblers Revisited Again, 10 May 2010, online at The Graphophone.
Rambles Roundup, 7 June 2010, online at The Graphophone.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Heanor Memorial Hospital

Back to Derbyshire now, specifically the small former mining town of Heanor on the Notts/Derbys border.

Dr Jim Noble, Chair of the Medical Staff Committee at Heanor Memorial Hospital (HMH) has raised concerns that the NHS may be planning to demolish the hospital to make way for a development for elderly people.

The HMH is a small hospital, with 24 beds, around a dozen doctors and fifty nurses. It provides treatment for people who do not require the specialist staff and equipment found at a larger hospital and also provides a variety of non-specialist services to the local community, such as blood tests.

Derbyshire Community Health Services / NHS Derbyshire County have responded that talks are in their "very early stages" and that there were no "current" plans to demolish the hopspital.

Dr Noble is concerned about the future of staff currently located at the hopsital and about the effect on local services. He has indicated that if the plans to demolish the hospital were given the go-ahead "Then we will go to the public for their support. It`s Heanor`s hospital for Heanor people."

Situated in Amber Valley on the edge of `D H Lawrence country`, Heanor is noted for the attractive surrounding countryside and for Shipley Country Park. Despite the presence of a number of small engineering and manufacturing companies in a local industrial estate, the town is generally held to be in need of regeneration. The loss of a local hospital would be likely to prove controversial.

The local MP is Nigel Mills (Conservative), who won the seat from Labour`s Judy Mallaber at the last election. Ms Mallaber, a former trade union official, was reknowned as a fighter for local industry and has probably left Mr Mills with a `tough act to follow`. However, he does have deep local roots, living on the edge of nearby Langley Mill  and acting as treasurer for a social club in the deprived Ironville area.

For the full story ;

Kate Liptrot - Doctor Pledges Fight if Hospital Faces Closure, 3 September 2010 at http://www.thisisderbyshire.co.uk/ .

Other stories on this blog concerning Derbyshire are ;

Greensqueeze : New Stanton ( 26 July 2010 )
Waingrove`s Woodland Worries ( 29 July 2010 )
Burning Passions 2 ( 7 September 2010 ).

Whitwick Action Group

Whitwick Action Group is a community-based group active in the Leicestershire area. It campaigns to defend the `Green Wedges`, which, as the name implies, are wedge-shaped areas of farmland dividing a number of Leicestershire villages.

Proposals to build on the land in question have proved emotive and unpopular. Until the recent election, the local authority was faced with targets imposed by central government as to the number of houses to be built in the area. The incoming administration rejected this `top-down` policy in favour of what it calls `Localism`.

Campaigners were therefore surprised to learn that the local authority was still considering building on the `green wedges`.    Andrew Bridgen MP (Conservative), a strong supporter of the group,  commented that he was "at a loss to understand why this deeply unpopular idea is still on the table" and that if  Conservative council leaders approved the scheme "it would be a betrayal of voters." Councillor/Planning Spokesman Matthew Blain (also Conservative) retorted that "Andrew may have promised to save the green wedges as part of his election campaign but this is a decision for the council, which made no such promises."

In the event, the council sensibly deferred making a decision feeling they needed more time to look into the implications of the Localism Bill.

Mr Blain clarified the council`s position, indicating that councillors were `concerned` at the prospect of building on the `wedges` and had asked council officers to look into other options and report back.

Sources / further information ;

http://www.thisisleicestershire.co.uk/

www.whitwickactiongroup.btik.com/home.ikml

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Burning Passions 2 : Derbyshire People Stand Firm in the Face of Possible Incineration

The waste incinerator industry continues to make fatuous attempts to re-invent itself in the face of widespread public distrust.


Warwick Integrated Generation Ltd is the latest to come up with a ridiculous euphemism, applying to Derbyshire County Council for permission to build a `power station` which works by a process of `gassification` ( an incinerator that burns rubbish ) in the Pye Bridge area of Somercotes.


However that may be, they`re not having much luck so far.


On Monday 23 August the DCC Planning Committee heard from local people who complained that they were unaware of the application until Saturday 21 August when campaigners from Spondon and Sinfin Against Incineration (SSAIN) and Derby / South Derbyshire Friends of the Earth leafleted the area.


In fairness, there had been some coverage in local papers, but this had not been extensive. There have been a number of similar applications in the area, one of which proved particularly controversial, which may have led to some confusion.


Councillors quite rightly decided to defer making a decision to allow for further public consultation.


SSAIN communicate with the world via a Facebook page, as do the similar-but-different Spondon Against Cyclamax. Useful websites are UK Without Incineration Network ( http://ukwin.org.uk ) and Friends of the Earth ( www.foe.co.uk ) .


Three articles have appeared in the local press ( see http://www.thisisderbyshire.co.uk/  ) ;


Chris Jones - Objections to Third Waste-to-Energy Power Station Plan, 28 November 2009
Unsigned - Decision is due on Power Station Plan, 17 August 2010
Rachel Butler - Power Station Decision Delay so Public can Have Their Say, 24 August 2010


Another company, Resource Recovery Solutions, are appealing against rejection of their plans for a similar development in Sinfin, Derbyshire.


Another incinerator application, concerning a site near Raynesway, has also been rejected.

For information on a similar application in Nottinghamshire, see my article Burning Passions ( this blog, 9 August 2010 ).


Monday, 6 September 2010

Court Cuts Cause Consternation : Rugby`s Response Resounds

As mentioned in my two previous postings, the government is consulting over the proposed closure of around 103 Magistrates Courts and 54 County Courts.

So far, their biggest achievement is to unite Councillors and MPS of all three major parties against these proposals !

As usual, media pundits are so immersed in the world of Westminster, they hardly seem aware of these developments.

I`ve already mentioned campaigns run by the Keighley News and the Harborough Mail as well as those run by disgruntled Magistrates,  MPs and Councillors independently.

Obviously, I`m not planning to post details of all the campaigns that have sprung up around the country. However, one more won`t hurt before we move on to other things.

In Rugby, Councillors asked Council officials to prepare a report on the likely impact of closure on their area. The officers recommended rejecting the government`s proposals, something that was agreed by all parties represented on the Council.

There are some grounds for singling out Rugby for possible closure in preference to other Courts as the accomodatioon there is held to be poor. However, Councillors point out that there are local factors that need to be considered.

One of particular importance is that Police at the local station use the Court cells for prisoners when their own are full. If the Court closed, then officers who made an arrest and expected to detain someone overnight could find themselves travelling to Nuneaton or Leamington, taking them away from their duties for a considerable time.

Similarly, Council officers making Court appearances as part of their duties can currently do so by making a five minute walk. Moving the Courts elsewhere would take up staff time considerably.

Liberal Democrat leader Jerry Roodhouse commented "It`s yet another service that`s being taken away from us."

Labour`s Ish Mistry said "The impact on the Council will be tremendous in terms of money and resources."

Jim Shera ( Labour ) called for "cross-party agreement that we oppose this vigorously."

Councillor Leigh Hunt ( Conservative ) said that the proposed closure would create "an unsustainable situation."

Local media ;

http://www.rugbyobserver.co.uk/

http://www.rugbyadvertiser.co.uk/

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Court Cuts Cause Consternation in Coalville ( and Melton and Market Harborough)

Earlier this week, we looked at the reaction of local MPs and Councillors to the possible closure of Magistrates Courts in Skipton and Keighley and also the County Court in Keighley.

If the government`s  plans go ahead, then in total 103 Magistrates Courts and 54 County Courts will close. Undoubtedly, the government will be monitoring public reaction to the cuts to test the mood of the nation in respect of cuts generally.

In Keighley and Skipton, as we`ve seen, three MPs and numerous Councillors  - all of them Conservatives - have backed the Keighley News `What Price Justice` campaign. In other areas, the reaction has been very similar, except in that opposition to the Court closures has united MPs and Councillors regardless of party affiliation.

In Melton, Councillors Matthew O`Callaghan (Labour) and Joe Orson JP (Conservative), Alan Duncan MP (Conservative) and Council leader Roger Begy (Independent) are all opposed to the closure of the Magistrates Court. Both O` Callaghan and Begy have also expressed concerns about the future of the area`s County Court. Magistrates opposed to the proposed closure in Melton plan to leaflet shoppers attending local markets in neighbouring towns to rally opposition. 

In Market Harborough, local paper the Harborough Mail ( http://www.harboroughmail.co.uk/ ) has launched what it calls  "a vigorous campaign to safeguard the principles of local justice", backed by Solicitor General Edward Garnier QC MP (Conservative) and Councillors from both the Liberal Democrat and the Conservative parties. An article by that newspaper`s Alex Blackwell ( `Save our Court` Plea Gets Backing ) quoted local Magistrates, Court staff and solicitors in support of  the campaign.  

Councillor John Legrys (Labour) is among those campaigning against the closure of Coalville Magistrates Court.

MEDIA

The Harborough Mail article cited above is very informative. Additionally, many useful articles on the subject have appeaed at http://www.thisisleicestershire.co.uk/ .

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Court Cuts Cause Consternation in Keighley ( and Skipton )

`What Price Justice` is a campaign run by Yorkshire newspaper The Keighley News, aimed at opposing the proposed closure of  both  the Magistrates Court and County Court at Keighley.

Her Majesty`s Court Service aim to make the Courts in Bradford responsible for the area, in order to save funds. 

The newspaper has a number of very well-argued points to make, but to sum up, it believes the journeys involved for Court users (and remember, we`re not just talking about defendants here, but victims, witnesses, Police Officers, Solicitors, Magistrates etc in the case of the Magistrates Court and claimants and plaintiffs in the case of the County Court) are just not practicable. It  also stresses the need for local justice to be served locally and the benefit of local knowledge among Magistrates - as they point out, it`s highly unlikely that all of the 113 lay (voluntary) Magistrates currently serving in Keighley will be prepare to travel to Bradford to undertake their duties.

The campaign is supported by local MPs Kris Hopkins and Philip Davies, both Conservative.

There have been two interesting counter-proposals from members of the public which have attracted publicity locally.

One is that empty former college buildings in North Street, Keighley could be used for a Justice Centre, housing both Magistrates and County Courts, which could serve the area from Shipley to Settle.

The other is that, with Magistrates Courts in both Skipton and Keighley threatened with closure, the two Courts could be merged to form a proposed Keighley and Craven Court.

That brings us neatly to Skipton, where the Craven Herald has launched a very similar campaign, and the arguments are very similar. They claim to have the support of Magistrates, Court staff, Police Officers and local residents, and are also supported by Julian Smith MP and Councillors David Ireton, Carl Les and Paul Whitaker (all Conservatives).

USEFUL ARTICLES -

KEIGHLEY NEWS (www.keighleynews.co.uk)

No Justification in Moving Court 26 August 2010
Keighley News Joins Battle to Keep Courts on Doorstep 19 August 2010
We Must Not Let County Courts be Moved or Closed 26 August 2010
"Court Argument Lost" (reader`s letter) 31 July 2010

Craven Herald and Pioneer (www.cravenherald.co.uk)

Deadline Looms for Comments on Plan to Close Skipton Courts 2 September 2010
MP Continues Campaign Against Skipton Court Closure 15 August 2010
Objector to Court Closure Warns of Traffic Problems 19 August 2010
Ex-J P Hits Out at Court Plans 6 August 2010

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Poisons and Pesticides Provoke Perturbation

Not so long ago, I mentioned an investigation by Derbyshire Police, the RSPB and Natural England into the apparent poisoning of buzzards in the Kirk Ireton and Idridgehay areas of Derbyshire.

It can happen that individuals in the countryside come across something similar. Often they are not clear what to do or who to turn to for advice. As a fairly seasoned wanderer in wildernesses, I have to say it`s pretty rare - it`s not something I`ve ever come across - but it can happen.

Fortunately, help is now at hand ;

The government-run Campaign Against Accidental or Illegal Poisoning has produced a leaflet ; Protecting Pets and Wildlife from Pesticide Poisoning ; A Countryside Users Guide which has useful advice. The CAIP is jointly run by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Afffairs and the Health and Safety Executive. 

There is also a hotline run by the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme  - 0800 321 600. If you are a regular visitor to the countryside (or live there) , they suggest storing the number on your phone.  

Lastly, there is quite a bit of help online ;

http://www.pesticides.gov.uk/

http://www.caip-uk.info/

www.defra.gov.uk/paw

http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/

Transports of Delight

Time now to look at a number of organisations with an interest in transportation issues.

CAMPAIGNING ORGANISATIONS

CPRE

Formerly the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, the Campaign to Protect Rural England has, as the name-change suggests, become increasingly assertive in recent times. While some of the criticisms levelled at CPRE in recent years, particularly in regard to inconsistency (it has a history of opposing wind farms, but not open cast mines) are probably justified, but may be due to the wide range of views to be encountered among the membership. In that respect it`s worth noting that local groups have considerable autonomy and can launch their own community-based campaigns independently. Only rarely and under extreme provocation does the parent body instruct a local group to stop using the CPRE name in connection with their activities. On transport issues it is a progressive-minded and articulate campaigning body with wide-ranging policies to the point where it could almost be said to have a transport manifesto.

See what you think  ; www.cpre.org.uk/campaigns/transport

CHARITIES

1) BRAKE

Started in the `80s as `Brake - The Campaign for Safer Lorries`, this charity was heavily backed by the trade union I was in at the time and I have always taken an interest. It`s remit and range of activities have widened considerably since then and it likes to be referred to as `Brake - The Road Safety Charity`.

Events and campaigns can be aimed at the public or at transport professionals, and it continues to work with victims and carers.

I once saw Brake referred to - perhaps jokingly - as "the traffic Policeman`s favourite charity" and it`s support for the Drugs (Roadside Testing) Bill 2010 - 2011 probably underlines this image. The bill is a Private Member`s Bill presented by Christopher Chope MP. Mr Chope is one of the few MPs I view with an almost personal animosity (normally I pride myself on not disliking politicians simply because I don`t share their views), but on this particular issue I wish him well.

Brake can be found at http://www.brake.org.uk/

2) ROADPEACE

Roadpeace is the national charity for road crash victims. It offers practical and emotional support and help with advocacy. At present it is campaigning for improved investigations, effective inquests, appropriate prosecution and sentencing, fair compensation and rights for victims.

Link : www.roadpeace.org

TRADE UNIONS

There are of course a number of trade unions with an interest in transport matters. Here are a couple of the more unusual ones ;

1) PUBLIC AND COMMERCIAL SERVICES  (DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT GROUP)

PCS (Dft) represents members in an astounding array of professions within the Department of Transport.

Contrary to what you might think, DfT (Central) is a relatively small body (roughly 1700 people) and comprises a number of policy people and their support staff plus the Air Accident Investigation Branch, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch and  the Rail Accident Investigation Branch.

There are 7 Department of Transport Agencies. DVLA is the largest (2,000 - 3,000 staff) and I believe it is also the largest single part of DfT. A typical Agency is staffed by DfT employees but has a Chief Executive drafted in from the private sector on a short-term contract (normally three years). Some Agencies are relatively high profile (the Highways Agency), but others will probably be unkown to you unless you`ve worked in the transport industry or the emergency services ( the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency, the Vehicle Certification Agency). Most have very specific, often rather specialised areas of expertise (the Maritime and Coastguard Agency).

PCS (DfT)  find themselves dealing with 8 different units for negotiating purposes (DfT (C) plus the seven agencies) and representing members in varying types of work, ranging from admin staff to managers to enforcement staff to specialist grades like vehicle inspectors. Probably not the easiest remit within the trade union movement, but lively I would think ! It is TUC-affiliated but I believe it is not affiliated to any political party and may actually be barred from doing so.

www.pcs.org.uk

2) INTERNATIONAL TRANSPORT WORKERS` FEDERATION

Formed in 1896, this is a federation of (as of 2009) 654 member organisations in 148 countries, with a combined membership of 4.5 million.

I wouldn`t even attempt to outline the full range of work undertaken by the ITWF, but a particularly interesting area they do work in relates to Flags of Convenience.

FOCs are a system whereby unscrupulous shipowners seek to bypass legislation by registering their vessels in countries with low levels of legislation and seek to maintain profits by hiring the cheapest possible crews and observing low training and safety standards.

 In one notorious incident, the company owning a particular ship simply stopped paying the crew while they were at sea, and on their arrival at their destination the crew found themselves stranded thousands of miles from home ! Fortunately, ITWF officials were able to provide humanitarian assistance and representation.

 Needless to say, owners like this feel little or no compunction about breaking the law - in fact it could be argued they only remain solvent by breaking the law . FOC`s have become a key issue for the ITWF, who have now launched a site aimed specifically at seafarers ( http://www.itfseafarers.org/  ).

The ITWF communicates with the world via Transport International magazine ( www.itfglobal.org/transport-international/ti38.cfm ) and by it`s website ( http://www.itfglobal.org/ ).

AND FINALLY...

There you have it, just a small selection of organisations with an interest in transport issues which I hope will be of interest to someone somewhere. If nothing else, it gave me the chance to follow a posting headed Burning Passions with one headed Transports of Delight ! I am a simple soul and find such things amusing.

As an afterthought, if transport and environment issues are your cup of tea, you might want to seek out two other articles of mine, `Blue Truck, Green Truck` (13 May 2010) and `Blue Truck, Green Truck Update` (30 August 2010), both online at The Graphophone.






   

Monday, 9 August 2010

Burning Passions

As we`ve seen with Greensqueeze in Derbyshire, the future of former industrial sites in the East Midlands remains a hot topic (no pun intended !).

The issue becomes more emotive when the inhabitants of former mining towns and villages feel they have just begun to get their communities back on their feet only to have to face the imposition of unpopular and potentially hazardous initiatives such as waste incinerators.

A case in point is the proposal for an `Energy Recovery Facilitator` ( it means `waste incinerator` - when did we start to speak in this bizarre cod-American ? ) on the site of the old Rufford Colliery at Rainworth, North Nottinghamshire.

In my view, this is a classic case of the road to hell being paced with good intentions. In order to reduce pollution, local authorities are being encouraged to reduce pressure on landfill sites, with the prospect of  financial penalties if they fail to meet European targets. One very easy way to achieve this is by entering into a contract with a company who will simply dispose of waste material by burning it.

Naturally enough, this leads to concerns over environmental and health issues (see links below).  

In the case of Rainworth, the issue is complicated by the fact that government department DEFRA pays £3m towards  Nottinghamshire County Council`s 26 year contract with incinerator operators Veolia and could potentially claw back some of that money if permission is refused.

DEFRA funding is only one of a number of complications the local authority is having to contend with in this case.

 In July of this year, the Information Commissioner ruled that Nottinghamshire County Council had broken the law by not releasing certain details to campaigners and ordered that the information in question be made available.

In October 2009, Veolia applied to the Courts to prevent the County Council releasing contract details to the locally-based People Against Incineration. Mr Justice Cranston rejected the company`s application and ordered that the contract be made available to PAIN`s Shlomo Dowen to read and/or copy.

Veolia` s appeal against the decision has been heard, but the three Judges have reserved judgement for the moment. The case has caused some concern amongst journalists, notably Roy Greenslade (`Press Freedom Threat as Company Fights to Keep Council Contract Secret`, 13 July 2010 at http://www.guardian.co.uk/

The relevant Public Inquiry has been adjourned, but is due to resume in September.

Various bodies have made submissions to the Inquiry ; 

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust  have come out against the development. A policy briefing on the topic can be found at their web site, http://www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org/ .

Natural England ( http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ ) have recommended that the Secretary of State not give permission until further assessments have been made. Their call has been seconded by the relevant Minerals and Waste Planning Authority, who are pro-incineration in principle but no longer feel they can give unqualified support to this particular project without more information.

Under pressure, Veolia have conceded that there are other sites in the area which they regard as "viable", such as a former colliery near Sutton in Ashfield, also in North Notts. The problem for them now is that a rejection at Rainworth would put them back to square one with the possibility of objections being made to any further proposals they make.

The principal campaign group in the area, PAIN, can be found at http://www.p-a-in.co.uk/ . Their campaign is supported by prominent environmentalist David Bellamy,  Friends of the Earth (http://www.foe.co.uk/) and UK Without Incineration (http://ukwin.org.uk/).

Local media ;

http://www.chad.co.uk/

http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk/

Also interesting ;

www.freewebs.com/rainworthlad/rainworthunderthreat.htm

Friday, 6 August 2010

Revive Oakland

A change of place, a change of pace. Over to the US now, to turn our attention to the Revive Oakland campaign.

Revive Oakland is an umbrella of disparate Californian community groups that have come together in light of plans to turn the derelict Oakland Army Base into a working port.

The campaigners have no problem with the plans that exist. Most come from a background of involvement with low-income communities and I have the impression that they are absolutely in favour of regeneration. Their aim is to ensure that jobs and training opportunities are made available to local people.

The groups involved are largely community-based and I would suspect not well-known outside their own area. 

The most interesting of the groups is East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (www.workingeastbay.org)- not a green group as you might imagine from the name, but one that looks to be more of a civil rights type group. I remember once reading of a comment made by (I think) Amilcar Cabral to (I think) Basil Davidson  (my memory`s not so good as you can possibly tell !)  that ordinary people don`t  fight for an ideology, they fight for a better future for their children. EBASE seem very much concerned with that kind of approach, which I think we can all relate to. I wish them luck with what seems to be a very laudable campaign.

Further reading ;

Liz Gonzales - Revive Oakland Seeks Long-Term Jobs for Oaklanders - Contra Costa Times, 17June 2010 (www.contracostatimes.com)

Nikki Fortunato Bas - Revive Oakland ! With Good Jobs From Army Base Project - Oakland Seen, 23 June 2010
(www.oaklandseen.com)

Nikki Fortunato Bas - Good Jobs Can Revive Oakland - EBASE Blog 22 June 2010 (as Nikki Bas)
(www.workingeastbay.org)


Thursday, 5 August 2010

Whittington Hospital : The Saga Continues

Whittington Hospital in North London has a troubled recent history.

Under the recent Labour administration, proposals were discussed for either closing or downgrading the hospital, with the A & E and Maternity wards considered most at risk.

 Two campaigns were launched to oppose the proposals ; www.savethewhittington.org.uk - said to be run mainly by Labour supporters - and www.savethewhittington.com , run by Liberal Democrat Councillors.

When Labour`s Andy Burnham announced that the hospital was reprieved, the difference between the two camps was noticeable - the Labour-related group were jubilant, whereas the Liberal Democrats were more cautious, noting only that the hospital was saved "for now." How right they were !

Soon Labour were out of office and  a Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition took it`s place. Health Minister Andrew Lansley gave assurances the plans for closure/downgrading were to be scrapped.

Now North Central London NHS (NCL NHS) Director Stephen Conroy has announced a "stocktake" is underway to review hospital services in the area. Asked for assurances as to the future of the hospital, he stated that he was moving on and that was a matter for his successor. As no-one knows yet who that will be, campaigners were left in limbo !

Current defenders of the hospital are the Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition ( http://dwhc.org.uk ) . They feel the existing authorities "are trying to delegate responsibility to GP commissioners who will be forced to make unpopular decisions against extremely difficult constraints." 

The Coalition is keen to stress that it`s concern is for NHS services throughout the NCL NHS area and with that in mind has built links with Enfield`s Save Chase Farm Hospital (http://savechasefarm.co.uk) . The SCFH group adopted an unusual approach during a previous campaign when two members were successful in being elected as independent councillors on a Save Chase Farm ticket.

Of Rushcliffe Greenfields and Others

South of the River Trent we find the Rushcliffe Greenfield Campaign Group, who describe their mission in life as being "to represent the residents of Rushcliffe defending the Green Belt land against all development."

Opposing "all development" might bring to mind images of King Canute, but their current campaign, opposing ill-thought out proposals to build 4,200 houses and a new football stadium in the area, will strike a chord with many, I`m sure.

They can make their case perfectly well for themselves, so find out their objections by clicking on http://www.rushcliffegreenfields.co.uk/ .

One of their members, Tony Stace, has penned three articles addressing the underlying issues - What Use is the Green Belt, Where Houses Should be Built and What to Do With All the Cars. To read these, and a number of responses (for and against), visit www.rushcliffegreenfields.co.uk/links.shtml .

The group works closely with two similar bodies in neighbouring areas ; Fields ( http://www.ladybayfields.org.uk/ ) and TABU ( http://tabu.tollerton.org/ ).

With football association FIFA due to visit the area in August to assess the viability of the stadium plan, this campaign could be very topical in the next few weeks. The FIFA officials are required to take in consideration a number of criteria, including transport and environment issues and level of public support, all areas in which the campaign groups have deeply-felt concerns.  

Monday, 2 August 2010

Greenhill Action Group

Greenhill Action Group is a long-standing community group opposed to proposals to build on the northern side of the Leeds-Liverpoool Canal, an area they describe as "the only green lung for residents in the Bingley/Crossflats area". The group, who seem very experienced, are at pains to stress that they are independent of any political party, but are supported by local MP Philip Davies (Conservative).

As a result of questions tabled by Mr Davies, the area was visited recently by the grandly-titled Minister of State at the Department of Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark MP, who met with the group and also looked at the area in question.

A proposed Planning Panel, due to take place at the end of July, has been postponed with a new date yet to be confirmed. The local authority Plannibng Service has carried out a site assessment but has asked the applicant for more detailed information and is currently waiting for a reply.

On the web ; http://www.greenhill-action-group.co.uk/

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Grantham Canal - `The Battle For Mann`s Bridge`

In a surprise move, the Secretary of State has ruled against a submission from the Grantham Canal Partnership being considered by a Public Inquiry relating to the widening of the A46 near Stragglethorpe, Nottinghamshire.

Alterations to the A46 had resulted in a new bridge being built to carry traffic over the canal near to the historic `Joshua Mann`s Bridge`. The Canal Partnership had argued that, as the Highways Agency had a responsibility to consider the navigability of the canal, they should have considered the need to raise Mann`s Bridge, which is affected by a culvert near Stragglethorpe. Their initial comments seemed to indicate that they thought the Agency`s failure to do so was purely an oversight that could be easily rectified.

The Secretary of State ruled that Mann`s Bridge lay outside the area of the roadworks and did not fall within the remit of the public inquiry.

There has been considerable media interest in the matter, including both TV and newspaper coverage.

The Canal Partnership is understandably disappointed, but because the ruling is very recent, have had little chance to take advice. It is unlikely there is any right of appeal, except through lobbying of MPs etc.

Background reading ;

`Snapshot`, 17 March 2010 at http://bookshelvesandbrownale.blogspot.com/
`Grantham Canal Hopes Thwarted by A46 Ruling`,  29 July 2010 at http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk/

Other sources ;

http://www.granthamcanal.com/

http://www.granthamjournal.co.uk/

Saturday, 31 July 2010

First Aid Awareness

Sue Killen, CEO of charity St John`s Ambulance is "challenging UK businesses to take action by providing first aid training to as many employees as possible as part of their corporate and social responsibilities or as an employee benefit."

Figures provided by the Office of National Statistics suggest that each year up to 150,000 people die in situations where first aid could have given them a chance to live.

Ms Killen and her charity point out that "many organisations have CSR (Corporate and Social Responsibility)  policies or community initiatives that tackle problems we face as a society...by training more people in first aid they can give staff the ability to make an immediate difference."

The 150,00 figure quoted by SJA is not confined only to deaths in the workplace of course. By chance, the Health and Safety Executive has recently released information on the number of workplace deaths recorded in Britain between 1 April 2009 and 31 March 2010.

They have provided a regional breakdown - that infornation is available through the Central Office of Information website, though you have to search about a bit (click on the link for `News Distribution Service` and you should find it without too much trouble) -  but that need not detain us here.

Nationally, the good news is that the total figure is a record low of 151, a significant reduction on the previous year`s figure of 178, which was itself a record low at the time. However, we would be wise to heed the words of Yorkshire and Humberside`s top Heath and Safety official, the strangely-named David Snowball ;

"Many of these deaths could have been avoided if simple and sensible precautions had been in place, and if workers were involved in devising the solutions to reduce risks."

Here are some useful links -

St John`s Ambulance - http://www.sja.org.uk/

Health and Safety Executive - http://www.hse.gov.uk/

Health and Safety Executive/First Aid - www.hse.gov.uk/firstaid

Institute of Occupational safety and Health - http://www.iosh.co.uk/

Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents - http://www.rospa.com/

Central Office of Information - http://coi.gov.uk/

Also useful is Hazards Magazine (http://www.hazards.org/) . I personally do not always care for the strident tone of Hazards, and I should stress that organisations like St John`s Ambulance probably wouldn`t want to be associated with it, but it remains essential reading for anyone interested in workplace safety.