Thursday, 31 March 2011

Coastguards Update

Further to my earlier article (Coastguard Kerfuffle, this blog,  22 Feb 2011), there have been new developments as regards the proposed cuts to the coastguard service.

The MCA have announced a 6 week extension to their public consultation, which will now end 5 May 2011. Most observers have taken this as a sign that the government is having second thoughts. Additionally, the Transport Select Committee have announced an inquiry into the proposals.

Coastguards representatives are taking the line that reform and modernisation of the service is to be welcomed, but that these particular proposals would be damaging. Their campaign, and those of a number of local newspapers, have attracted cross-party support.

In a fairly changeable situation, it`s almost impossible to provide an up-to-date guide to media coverage as new articles appear frequently. Here`s a quick overview ; 

The Western Telegraph has printed a number of spirited articles in support of the campaign to save Milford Haven Coastguard Station. These can be viewed at .

Coverage of the campaigns to save both Milford Haven and Holyhead Coastguard Stations can be found at , an umbrella site for two newspapers which together cover the Bangor, Holyhead and Anglesey areas.

The Milford Mercury is running a Save our Coastguard Station campaign in respect of Milford Haven and their site provides a number of useful links - .

The Hexham Express has been running a similar campaign in respect of Brixham, with details appearing at

My earlier article provided links to the coastguards` websites, Facebook pages and petitions and also contact details for the Transport Select Committee and a link to the MCA site for anyone wishing to read/respond to the consultation document. These are still current.

It seems unlikely now that the cuts will go ahead in their original form, but at the same time it`s not a good time to get complacent. This is a second opportunity for interested parties to inform themselves and make their voices heard. Make the most of it.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Mr Bridgen`s Proposal

Not so long ago we looked at the attempt by Andrew Bridgen MP and others to introduce a legal requirement for a 500m buffer zone between opencast mines and nearby dwelling places.

As I`ve previously indicated, Mr Bridgen`s proposal has cross-party support and also the support of environmentalists and groups representing coalfield communities.

Among his supporters we find real ale afficionado and Notts County fan Nigel Mills MP. Mr Mills is the member for Amber Valley and has this to say on the subject ;

"We are trying to protect people who have had the unfortunate accident of living next to these sites from some of the worst aspects of the blight that arises if they are unlucky enough to have an opencast mine proposed near them."

Mr Mills knows the issues that can arise. His Midlands constituency is home to UK Coal`s controversial Lodge House mine and another company, LEM, is proposing a second mine in the area.

The issue has given rise to strong feelings in the area for a variety of reasons, not least because central government (the previous administration) over-ruled the local authority in allowing the Lodge House development to go ahead. There are clearly issues in terms of  impact on the environment and on the quality of life of local people, and that`s before we touch on the merits or otherwise of reliance on fossil fuels.  Anna Soubry MP, who faces similar proposals in her Nottinghamshire constituency, has cited Lodge House as a situation where UK Coal promised to generate local jobs but is now having trouble justifying those claims.

Coverage in the local press has been extensive. Competing for your attention with literary epics on other burning issues of the day such as `Half Term Potato Fun` (Ilkeston Advertiser), `Thieves Pick up a Penguin` (Ripley and Heanor News) and `Strange UFOs Spotted on A38...`  (Ripley and Heanor News again), a number of very good articles on issues around opencast mining have appeared. Here are a few of the more recent ones ;

Derby Telegraph Group (

Catherine Oakes - Anti-Open Cast Group Appeals for Secret Vote... - 22 Feb 2011
Unsigned  - Villagers Fight Second Mining Bid - 22 Feb 2011
Chris Mallet - Open Cast Mining Plans `Intolerable` Says MP...- 10 Feb 2011

Ilkeston Advertiser (

Unsigned - `Free For All` On Mine Bids - 2 Mar 2011
Unsigned - Mining `Could Last Decade` - 2 Mar 2011
Unsigned - Government Does Not Back Buffer Bid - 23 Feb 2011

Ripley and Heanor News (

Unsigned - Mining Plan Goes to Vote - 28 Feb 2011
Stephen Sinfield - `Under Siege` by Opencasting - 19 Jan 2011

With new developments on a fairly regular basis, it`s also worth a bit of background reading. Sarah Bould ot the Ripley and Heanor News (see link above) wrote an informative but also readable and concise article `Where the Smalley Opencast Debate Began` (16 March 2007) which is still online.

If you`re misguided enough to want to read more of my own efforts you might try one of these;

The WAG Man Returns...(this blog, 1 Oct 2010)
Congratulations and Commiserations...(this blog, 20 Feb 2011)

It`s interesting to see how `real politics` like this often transcends the narrow, Westminster-based party politics our leaders like to play at.

In my personal view (I have no party political allegiance), at leadership level both the major parties have behaved badly over this issue - Labour by over-ruling the local authority and allowing Lodge House to proceed, and the Conservatives by not backing Mr Bridgen (though many Conservative MPs, particularly those from the Midlands, did give their support). By contrast, Mr Bridgen  has fought a good fight and certainly won the respect of many who may not always agree with him on many other issues. As I`ve been at pains to stress, his Bill is supported by a number of political parties and I hope that will continue to be the case.

As for Mr  Mills, since he`s fond of football, I`d hope that we`s all agree that on this issue the boy from Brinsley done good !