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 ( ) ,  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) - .

Saving New Cross Library (17 September 2010) - .

Alan Gibbons - Latest From Lewisham Libraries Campaign (24 September 2010) .

`Brockley Nick` - Crofton Park Library Campaign Secures 4,600 Supporters ( 26 September 2010 ) -

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) -  (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 )  - ( 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 )

Unsigned - Friends Form to Bring Council to Book ( 28 September 2010 )  (Friends of Cheltenham Library) .

Reader`s Letter - We Must Do All We Can to Protect our Libraries ( 29 September 2010 ) - (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 ( .

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.


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 ;

Further details on campaign groups ;

(This contains a link to Aylestone Meadows Appreciation Society)

Media ;

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 ( ) , 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 .

* 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 . The closing date for submissions is 20 September 2010.


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 .

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 , 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 .

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

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 .

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 ;

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 ( ) and Friends of the Earth ( ) .

Three articles have appeared in the local press ( see  ) ;

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 ;

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 ( ) 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.


The Harborough Mail article cited above is very informative. Additionally, many useful articles on the subject have appeaed at .

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).



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 (

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 ;

Transports of Delight

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



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  ;



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


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 :


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


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.


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 (  ).

The ITWF communicates with the world via Transport International magazine ( ) and by it`s website ( ).


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.