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

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, .

Natural England ( ) 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 . Their campaign is supported by prominent environmentalist David Bellamy,  Friends of the Earth ( and UK Without Incineration (

Local media ;

Also interesting ;

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 ( 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 (

Nikki Fortunato Bas - Revive Oakland ! With Good Jobs From Army Base Project - Oakland Seen, 23 June 2010

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

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 ; - said to be run mainly by Labour supporters - and , 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 ( ) . 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 ( . 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 .

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 .

The group works closely with two similar bodies in neighbouring areas ; Fields ( ) and TABU ( ).

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 ;

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
`Grantham Canal Hopes Thwarted by A46 Ruling`,  29 July 2010 at

Other sources ;