Local Campaigns

Gatwick expansion: write to your Councillors and MP

At our drop-in event in Groombridge on 12 October, local people kicked off the campaign to stop Gatwick's massive expansion plans by writing letters to their local Councillors and MPs. (See the News page for more on the event.)

Is writing worth it? A resounding yes. The more people who write, the more pressure your Council will be under to take your opposition seriously. Did you know that East Sussex County Council has in the past been in favour of Gatwick expanding? It's vital we tell them that we don't agree. Even if your MP opposes Gatwick expansion, they want your letters as letters from constituents are a powerful weapon for them when they push back at Gatwick. In other words, your letters make a difference - write now!

Below is a summary of the key facts you could include in a letter. Don't use them all - pick one or two that matter to you. Let us know what replies you get!

Find your East Sussex County Councillor herehttps://bit.ly/2VcIVoS

 

Member of Parliament for Wealden: 

Nus Ghani, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA

nusrat.ghani.mp@parliament.uk

KEY FACTS TO USE IN LETTERS AND EMAILS

 

WHAT IS GATWICK’S MASTER PLAN? Gatwick’s Master Plan, issued in July 2019, says they want a massive 40% increase in aircraft movements, from 55 to 75 per hour. By 2032, they want 390,000 annual aircraft movements – up from 285,000 today.

 

They plan to do this by using the existing main runway more, and by moving the back-up runway to create a second runway – though the Government’s commission found that Gatwick should not develop a second runway.

 

CLIMATE EMERGENCY – More planes mean more damage to the planet.  Flights at Gatwick already emit 2.7 million tonnes of CO2 every year. Gatwick’s expansion would add another 1 million tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere a year. 

 

The UK Government and local councils have declared a Climate Emergency – but Gatwick’s expansion plans make a mockery of plans to reach zero greenhouse emissions. 

 

Gatwick likes to claim it is a climate-friendly airport but its own Carbon calculation doesn’t include flights, car, bus or taxi travel to and from the airport!

 

Gatwick claims that elevated NOX on Ashdown Forest is due to shipping – not the airplanes that fly over Sussex - but they cannot show research that backs this. Ashdown Forest is too precious to risk in the name of Gatwick’s profits.

 

Most people in the UK back limits on flying to tackle climate change – new research from Cardiff University found 66.9% of people think there should be restrictions on air travel. Just 1% of English residents take 20% of all flights abroad – we do not need airport expansion.

 

There is no technology yet that enables us to keep growing air travel while reducing greenhouse emissions.

 

BUSINESS - Is Gatwick good for local business? No – it’s good for Gatwick, not for the businesses in the counties around it. Only 15% of flights at Gatwick are business flights – most are domestic and bring little to the regional economy.

 

Gatwick carries very little freight in comparison to other UK airports: most is carried through Heathrow and East Midlands because these airports have good access to the rest of the UK. 

 

There is full employment in the area around Gatwick so its huge demand for staff sucks employees away from local businesses and inflates wages for local businesses. 

 

Gatwick’s PR machine works hard to persuade local authorities that Gatwick expansion is good for business, but there is no evidence of this. 

 

Gatwick likes to quote a tiny group of local businesses who favour its expansion – but they do not represent the majority of businesses in Sussex, who predict no benefit. 

 

More to the point, local businesses and residents will have to pay for the infrastructure improvements that Gatwick expansion would force on councils. 

 

LOCAL TRAVEL– Road and rail can’t cope with existing passengers at Gatwick, let alone 24 million more passengers a year. Gatwick does not plan to fund any improvements to road or rail – so who will pay? Local councils and tax payers, no doubt.

 

Using two runways will mean 70 million passengers a year, compared to 46.1m today, a 52% increase. They’ll come by: 

 

Road In 2017 54% of passengers arrived at Gatwick by roads.  Add an extra 8.1 million passengers by just 2022/23, in perhaps 4 million private vehicles, this represents 11,000 additional vehicles a day, plus freight, plus peripheral businesses.  

 

Rail Network Rail is struggling with the natural growth in rail passengers, even with recent investment in stations. The line cannot be expanded due to physical restrictions, so no additional trains can be added, yet Gatwick’s proposed expansion would add 3.25 million passengers a year to the Brighton line by 2022/23.  

 

AMENITIES – Overwhelmed! Again, Gatwick wants a huge increase in staff, but where will they live, go to school, get healthcare? Gatwick pushes all the cost onto local authorities. 

 

There is already a shortage of affordable housing, health care and school places, yet Gatwick states an additional 20,000 staff will be needed. Not only will this increase pressure on our public services, but it will also threaten the survival of our remaining green spaces, as they disappear to make way for Gatwick’s unsustainable growth.  

 

HEALTH – What about our air quality?  Little attention is being paid to air quality in our area, irrespective of whether air pollution is caused by aircraft or road traffic. 

More flights will increase traffic and congestion, and therefore pollution from exhaust, including in our areas, as cars and suppliers' vans head to and from Gatwick.

Aircraft engines deposit both CO2, NOx (nitrogen oxides) and other emissions round the airport and at altitude; the latter has twice the global warming effect of CO2 alone.

 

NOISE – More planes mean more frequent noise, day and night. It’s not just annoying - researchers found that risks of hospital admission and death from stroke, heart and cardiovascular diseases are between 10 and 25 % higher in areas with high levels of aircraft noise.

 

Why we need to declare a climate and ecological emergency and aim for zero greenhouse emissions by 2030

On 24 July, Wealden District Council declared a Climate Emergency. They were prompted into action by Green Councillor Patricia Patterson-Vanegas, who submitted a motion to declare a Climate and Ecological Emergency, with a target of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. 

The Council's Conservative-led Cabinet responded with their own proposal, which superseded Patricia's. As you can see on our News page, the Council approved this proposal and agreed a target of 2050.

Patricia's original motion sets out clearly why the declaration is essential, and why we need to aim for 2030, and we've reproduced it in full below.

“If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and 

the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon” 
Sir David Attenborough (December, 2018)

 

Motion by Councillor Patterson-Vanegas to declare a Climate and Ecological Emergency


Background:

1)    What does Wealden mean to you? A beautiful, thriving, rural district? Somewhere you return to from your commute? A place of ancient woodlands, streams, meadows, sunken lanes and bluebells, or simply the place you call home?

2)    Whatever Wealden means to you, our local area is at risk from the effects of climate and ecological degradation. Changes in world ecosystems are not only affecting the Amazon rainforest and the coral reefs, they are also changing the unique area in which we live. For example, 47 plant species have been lost from the Ashdown Forest in the last hundred years and once common species such as water voles have declined by over 90% in Sussex, whilst nightingales and turtle doves once found all over the county are now highly endangered, with over 90% decline in their populations since the 1960s[i]

3)    If we want to preserve our home so that our children and future generations can enjoy all that we hold dear locally, then we have to act at a local level now.

4)    Wealden contains Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty that are home to a number of rare and protected species as well as providing an amenity to our community. Once familiar local species such as hedgehogs may become extinct by 2025 or sooner[ii]. Woodlands are also experiencing increases in pests and diseases and are becoming more vulnerable to drought as the climate warms[iii]

5)    Globally temperatures have increased by 1 degree Celsius compared with pre-industrial levels. Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are above 400 parts per million, which is 50 parts per million higher than levels deemed safe for humanity.

6)    If we take action now we have a chance to stop the worst effects of global heating. We could prevent the complete melting of the polar ice caps, which would allow the ice to continue to reflect sunlight back into the atmosphere, rather than the oceans absorbing the sunlight and becoming increasingly hotter. Also, we can reduce the release of methane (a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide) from melting permafrost.

7)    It may appear that the climate crisis is something that is happening elsewhere, and that we are safe in our leafy, wooded district – yet this is not the case; the climate crisis is already impacting Wealden. 

8)    The Met Office[iv]warns of risks to infrastructure, forest mortality and changes to seasonality, as well as increased localised flooding from the climate crisis. It predicts that heavier rainfall due to global heating will cause rivers to burst their banks, that soil will become oversaturated, with water no longer being able to sink away. Flooding is then likely to cause greater damage to infrastructure. It also warns that forest fires, a specific problem within the Ashdown Forest, will increase in frequency and severity due to a combination of drier land and warmer temperatures. 

9)    Increasing numbers of local people (as well as in the UK and worldwide) are expressing deep concern about the environment and expect us to do everything in our power to reduce our impact on the climate and support our local ecosystem.

10) Wealden District Council has already shown foresight and leadership when it comes to addressing the issues of climate breakdown and has succeeded in proposing and implementing policies to focus development on sustainable centres; installing renewable energy sources within Council housing; increasing energy efficiency standards within Council and private housing; refurbishing the Council offices to BREEAM ‘excellent’ standards and granting planning consents for 8 solar farms and 1 wind farm in the District. Other measures include promoting waste and litter reduction initiatives and supporting householders at risk of flooding. However, this is not enough if we are to protect the area in which we live.

11) Councils around the world are taking action and our residents will expect us to follow suit and protect them from increased risks of flooding and ensure that the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and our local ancient woodlands and meadows are protected.

12) It is a human right to be protected from a climate catastrophe[v].

13) Our failure to act would be an intergenerational injustice that will impact on our children and their children[vi].  

Full Council should be aware that:

14) The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world[vii].

15) The release of greenhouse gases into the environment over the last 200 years, especially in the last 30, has triggered increased heating in the world. Global temperatures have already increased by 1 degree Celsius from pre-industrial levels. Atmospheric CO2levels are above 400 parts per million (ppm). This far exceeds the 350 ppm deemed to be a safe level for humanity;

16) The loss of habitats and biodiversity threaten human wellbeing and security, particularly the food chain. Insect species (essential to our food production) are being lost at an alarming rate[viii]with a 75% decline in flying insects in the last 30 years[ix]

17) It is therefore imperative that greenhouse gas emissions are reduced from their current 6.5 tonnes (CO2eq - carbon dioxide equivalent) per person per year to less than 2 tonnes as soon as possible[x].

18) Individuals alone cannot achieve these reductions. Governments, councils and communities all need to take action.

19) The District Council makes important decisions that affect the future for everyone in Wealden, from deciding planning applications to waste collection, recycling and environmental health. It is critical that these decisions are made taking into consideration climate and ecological degradation.

20) Greenhouse gases arise from a variety of sources that include production and consumption in society. 

21) Wealden District Council has already shown foresight and leadership in addressing the issue of Climate Breakdown;

22) Unfortunately, our current plans and actions are not enough. The world is on track to overshoot the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit before 2050[xi]and we are losing species at a rate of 273 per day[xii]

23) The IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming published in 2018 predicts the enormous scale of harm that a 2°C rise is likely to cause, as compared to a 1.5°C rise, and made clear that limiting Global Warming to 1.5°C may still be possible with ambitious action from national and sub-national authorities, civil society, the private sector, indigenous peoples and local communities[xiii];

24) The landmark May 2019 report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)states that Nature is declining at rates unprecedented in human history with 1 million animal and plant species threatened with extinction, many within decades. It also calls for ‘transformative changes’ to restore and protect nature and states that opposition from vested interests needs to be overcome for the public good.[xiv]

25) To date, the UK Parliament and more than 99 UK councils as well as cities and councils around the worldhave declared a climate emergency and are committing resources to address this emergency.[xv]

 

Full Council are asked to agree that:

26)All governments (national, regional and local) have a duty to limit the negative impacts of Climate Breakdown and ecological degradation, and local governments that recognise this should not wait for their national governments to change their policies. It is important for the residents of Wealden District Council and the UK that we all achieve greenhouse gas neutrality and ecological sustainabilityas quickly as possible.

27)The consequences of global temperature rising above 1.5°C are so severe that preventing this from happening must be humanity’s number one priority; and,

28)Bold climate actions can deliver economic benefits in terms of new jobs, economic savings and market opportunities (as well as improved wellbeing for people locally and worldwide).   

29)For economic benefits to be achieved within a framework of economic stability, bold climate action needs re-direction of resources as well as evolved economic thinking. 

30)Preserving biodiversity is a key priority as 70% decline in flying insects and loss of pollinators puts our food systems at risk.



[i]https://sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/. Also, Rich, T., Donovan, P et. al. (1996). Flora of Ashdown Forest. [Sussex]: Sussex Botanical Recording Society.

A pdf of the book is here: http://www.sussexflora.org.uk/resources/publications/

[ii]The likelihood of hedgehog extinction by 2025 is based on the rapid decline over the last 10 years, highlighted in: 
https://www.bto.org/our-science/monitoring/hedgehogs. Although it doesn't specifically say the date, references to 2025 are based on a calculation given in a hedgehog protection website (Amazing Grace) as cited in a number of newspaper articles, including:

https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/hedgehogs-official-protection-queen-brian-may-campaign-extinction-a8339311.html

[iii]Kent County Council, Kent Preparing for Climate Change[https://shareweb.kent.gov.uk/Documents/environment-and-planning/environment-and-climate-change/kent-preparing-climate-change.pdf]

[iv][https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/learn-about/climate-change/impacts/infographic-breakdown/impacts-of-climate-change-in-the-uk]

[v]Robinson, M. (2018) Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience, and the Fight for a Sustainable Future. Bloomsbury, London 

[vi]ibid.

[viii]FAO. 2019. The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture, J. Bélanger & D. Pilling (eds.). FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture Assessments. Rome. 572 pp.  (http://www.fao.org/3/CA3129EN/CA3129EN.pdf) Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.

[ix]Hallmann CA, Sorg M et al. (2017) More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas.PLOS ONE 12(10): e0185809. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0185809

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0185809

[x]Fossil CO2& GHG emissions of all world countries, 2017: http://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/overview.php?v=CO2andGHG1970-2016&dst=GHGpc

[xiii]The IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/

[xiv]https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report/

 

The Fracking Commissioner is Full of Hot Air

 Frack Off map of fracking threat to Sussex

The UK's fracking commissioner, Natascha Engel, resigned last week, claiming that government rules created a 'de facto ban' on the industry.  But in an interview on Radio 4's Broadcasting House on Sunday, she made it clear she just didn't understand either the consequences of a fracking industry or the concerns of its opponents – such as the many campaign groups fiercely opposing fracking here in Sussex. 

Fracking is a threat in Sussex 

The government has sold exploration licences across Sussex to oil and gas companies. Cuadrilla has licences covering over 270 square miles in the eastern half of Sussex. Celtique Energie/Magellan Petroleum owns licence blocks right across West Sussex. 

These companies are determined to drill. And it will affect us all if they go ahead. Extraction is only profitable for the oil and gas companies if they drill large numbers of wells close together over a large area.  

In West Sussex, Celtique Energy is promising its shareholders vast profits – the volume of oil and gas they promise would require over 6000 shale gas wells and 800 shale oil wells. 

(Find out more at Frack Off's website. The map above is from Frack Off.)  

Engel was always a terrible choice as Commissioner 

The Commissioner for Shale Gas’s role is to act as a contact point for local residents. You might hope, at the very least, that she would be impartial. You might also hope that she would be well informed. 

Natascha Engel failed on both fronts, spectacularly. Before her appointment she had been hired by fossil fuel company Ineos to write an information booklet promoting the benefits of shale gas exploration – so it was clear which side of the fence she sat on when the government appointed her. 

No surprises there: this government has pushed shale exploration on the UK relentlessly, despite huge public opposition, and at the same time has created a hostile environment for renewables. 

Engel’s grasp of facts seems to have been a little shaky too. She seemed to think that fracking would enable the UK to reduce its imports of gas. The UK already exports more gas than it imports – but she didn’t mention this. Her obsession was with the UK’s imports of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).  

In the interview, Engel claimed that the UK could reduce its carbon footprint by reducing the amount of LNG it imported, because LNG requires considerable amounts of energy to liquefy and transport. 

However, the UK’s imports of LNG have been falling in recent years: LNG imports fell by a third between 2016 and 2017. 

In addition, the UK exports more natural gas than it imports LNG. The ONS figures for 2018 show that the UK imported less than 100TWh of LNG but exported more than 120TWh of natural gas. So the UK can end its need for energy-hungry LNG by using its own natural gas. 

Fracking isn’t the answer to the UK’s energy needs 

The product of fracking is a fossil fuel: creating and using it will generate more CO2, and add considerably to global warming. 

The Conservative government and the oil lobbies are desperate to frack. They still do not see that we need to turn to alterative, renewable technologies. 

Nor do they care about the views of local people whose lives and environments will be shattered by fracking. 

The Green Party is the only party that has a carbon neutral vision for the future 

The Green Party has opposed fracking from the start, often on the front line, standing with people in villages and towns across the UK as the exploration rigs arrive. 

Locally and nationally, Greens know that fracking isn't the future.  It maintains our dependence on dirty fossil fuels and takes investment away from the renewable energy sources that can provide us with energy security for centuries to come.   

Patricia Patterson-Vanegas, Green Party candidate for Wealden District Councillor for Forest Row, says "I welcome the resignation of the Fracking Tsar.  Across the country, Greens have been making the case for increased use of renewables and an end to dependence on fossil fuels.  We've consistently supported efforts to keep Sussex frack-free." 

And Tony Lewin, Green Party member and Forest Row parish councillor, says "Here in Forest Row we have a thriving Energy Co-op, which is successfully moving people away from fossil fuel consumption, and is ensuring that dirty industries such as fracking have no future in the UK." 

 

BBC Report: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-48081314

ONS Figures are from the Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES), published 26th July, 2018.

Derbyshire Times artice: https://www.derbyshiretimes.co.uk/news/decision-by-former-mp-to-link-up-with-fracking-firm-criticised-1-8895362

Appointment of Engel as Commissioner: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/natascha-engel-appointed-as-commissioner-for-shale-gas

 

 

 

 

Wealden Greens: homes are for people, not for profit 

Local Plan cover D minus

Conservative-dominated Wealden District Council is making a mess of housing and letting down young people, people on low incomes and small households across the whole of Wealden. 
 
Wealden Green Party says that our District Council needs to wake up and make sure that we have the housing we need, at a price people really can afford. 

Green Councillors can achieve truly affordable housing

 

In Brighton & Hove, Greens on the City Council pushed for social rents to be pegged to local incomes – not to local housing market rates. And they won, so households with an income of £20,000 can now afford social housing in the city. That’s the difference Green Councillors can make. 

What housing do we need in Wealden?

 

We need more 1- to 3-bedroom houses and flats to be built, because that’s the size of most modern households. We need more social housing. And people on low and average incomes need to be able to afford to live in Wealden.  

What has our District Council done? It has given permission for masses of 4- and 5-bedroom houses that most people can’t afford. Even worse, it has overseen the building of way too few of the 2- and 3-bedroom homes that people are asking for. 

Wealden District Council is also happy to let properties at the government’s laughable definition of ‘affordable’: 80% of a ridiculously high market rate is still ridiculously high and out of reach for most people. 

Why is this? Why do our Councillors so singularly fail to make sure people in Wealden have somewhere to live? Could it be that the biggest profits lie in building large houses, and our Council is a pushover for greedy developers? 

Could it be that Wealden’s housing policy is a mess of contradictions and figures that just don’t add up? 

It doesn’t have to be like this. 

Wealden District Council gives in to housing developers’ greed

 

Wealden District Council believes that the market will deliver the homes we need, despite all the evidence showing that the market responds to a few developers’ profit margins, not to what people need. 

Why do we have so many large houses and so few smaller homes? Easy: large homes turn a pretty profit for developers; small homes make them less money. 

In the early planning stages, the developers show Wealden’s planners a good proportion of smaller homes. They get permission to go ahead and build. But the developers don’t actually want to build those smaller, less profitable homes.  

What do they do? It’s simple. They tell Wealden District Council that they can no longer make a profit with the mix of housing on the plans. They can only build homes if they cut the smaller ones – and Wealden District Council has housing targets to meet, so it agrees, time after time, so that at least some houses get built. They’re massive houses that few people can afford, but hey, the target was met. It’s bye-bye affordable homes yet again. 

Wealden’s haphazard housing strategy

 

Only the brave read Wealden District Council’s draft Local Plan last year. But if you waded through it, you realised that it was a tangle of confusion and conflicting figures: the Council doesn’t know what it’s doing when it comes to housing. 

How much new affordable and social housing does Wealden District Council think it needs? 

The government’s target for new housing in Wealden is 14228 homes over 15 years, so Wealden needs to build 950 homes a year to meet this. 

How many of these new homes need to be affordable? Wealden doesn’t seem to know. Its own Affordable Housing Delivery Plan(2016) stated that Wealden needed 812 affordable homes per year. 

(‘Affordable’ here means social rented housing, lower-cost home ownership schemes, and the government’s extremely unrealistic definition of affordable as 80% of market rent.) 

Those 812 ‘affordable’ homes would be a high proportion of Wealden’s target of 950 new homes a year. Handy, then, that three months later, consultants appointed by the Council published a Strategic Housing Market Assessment. It assessed that Wealden needed just 331 affordable dwellings a year. 

That’s a pretty huge discrepancy, but unsurprisingly Wealden decided to go with the lower figure in the draft Local Plan, not even mentioning the higher figure. 

With this, Wealden District Council has abandoned many – if not the majority - of people it has assessed as being in housing need. They will be unable to afford market rents or to buy in Wealden, because of the Council’s preference for giving profits to private housing developers over working with housing associations – or building homes itself. 

Wealden’s unaffordable ‘affordable’ rents 

In 2012 the coalition government introduced "self financing", mandating that local authorities became wholly responsible for their social housing costs.  This responsibility came at a high cost for Wealden: the Department for Communities and Local Government determined that the District 'owed' the government just under £48 million.  Wealden District Council therefore borrowed that amount, and promptly paid it into the government's coffers. 

A positive outcome of the law change was a renewed local impetus to build more social housing.  Wealden District Council developed plans to build more than 60 new council houses on three sites across the district.  Unfortunately, despite the new financial freedom, Wealden decided that it needed a £1.4 million government grant in order to progress their plans.  Wealden's social housing tenants are paying the price of that grant because it came with a very thick string attached: any social housing constructed using the grant must be let at an 'affordable' rent. 

Affordable rents are a lot less affordable than they might seem.  'Affordable' rents were introduced by the coalition government and are set at 80% of market rent.  Here in the South East that's still very expensive, and considerably more than social rents at about 50% of market rent.  Increasingly, the Council is undermining its position as a social housing provider by letting to new tenants at the higher ‘affordable’ level, rather than at the older social rent level. 

Wealden’s new social housing: squeeze it in 

Following completion of the 64 new council-built houses in 2014, progress has stalled.  Less than half that number have been constructed in the five years since.  And far too many of them are being squeezed into areas that already have a disproportionately large concentration of housing and not enough infrastructure.   

Jarvis Brook is one of the most severe examples.  In 2014, 22 new dwellings were built at the end of a congested cul-de-sac, and another 40 are now being built on a former refuse depot site.  Between them, these new builds bring the total number of dwellings served by a single access road to 500.  But Wealden have repeatedly refused to take any notice of calls to ensure that transport provision on the estate is improved to cope with the increased traffic. 

Greens believe homes are for people, not for profit 

Wealden Green Party challenges Wealden District Council to do better. We want our Council to:

  • Ensure that 1- to 3-bedroom homes are prioritised in planning developments.
  • Fully enforce planning policy so that developers cannot slide out of commitments to build 1- to 3- bedroom and affordable homes on their developments.
  • Explain – if it can – how its assessment of housing need plummeted from 812 to 331 homes per year in just three months.
  • Build the social housing that people need – either itself, or with housing association partners.
  • Charge social rents, not ‘affordable’ rents to low income households.
  • Plan properly for public transport and other infrastructure, so that new developments do not crush local resources.
  • Investigate the effect of the Habitats Regulation on any housing expansion: how will Wealden District Council reduce the pollution effects of housing growth on the Ashdown Forest? This is a legally binding regulation that Wealden doesn’t seem to be addressing in its housing plans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The truth about Wealden’s waste – is that landfill claim accurate?

 

Busy last day at Forest Row's recycling centre

A certain party is busy trumpeting the fact that almost no waste from Wealden goes to landfill. 

There is no landfill site in Sussex. So of course we don’t send our waste to landfill.

Instead, we burn our waste. Wealden DC drives it across the district to Newhaven’s incinerator. The incinerator generates some power, but it’s absolutely not the best way to solve our waste problem. It’s polluting, creates greenhouse gases, and burns waste that could be recycled.

Wealden’s recycling record is unimpressive

In 2018, Wealden was 71st out of 345 councils for composting, reusing and recycling our waste. Not bad, at first sight, but at 51.3% Wealden is way behind the best-performing councils who achieve 64%. And since those figures came out, East Sussex County Council – led by the Conservatives who are so keen to pretend they are Green - has shut the local, busy, recycling centres at Forest Row and Wadhurst. The picture above is of the busy centre at Forest Row on its last day. Following these short-sighted closures, there is no way we are still recycling and reusing at the same rate.

Waste collection – poor contract, poor management

Wealden has a shaky record of collecting our waste in the first place, thanks to poorly negotiated and managed contracts with Keir, from which they have just extracted themselves. We all know how many missed collections there have been over the last couple of years. And we’ve all seen our carefully separated recycling thrown into the general waste collection when a lorry finally arrived a week or more late. Where is it going? Off to the incinerator.

Incinerators are a growth industry driven by profit

Maybe poor waste collections worked in Wealden District Council’s favour? A recent piece in the Daily Mail highlighted the uncontrolled growth in incinerators in Britain. Councils have locked themselves into long contracts with the incinerators that force them to send waste to the incinerator that could be recycled. 

The piece quotes Professor Peter Edwards of Oxford University’s Chemistry Department as saying that incinerating waste, “can be harmful, and incineration, of course, also produces high levels of greenhouse gases.” 

Incinerator owners’ profit comes before recycling – just as Keir’s profits came before providing a good waste collection service.

Green solutions

The Green Party believes in finding the best ways to reduce the amount of waste we all produce, and recycling as much waste locally as possible. In Wealden, we are working with others to find ways to run local recycling centres sustainably. We want to reopen Forest Row's recycling centre. We are also working with local businesses to look for ways to reduce excessive packaging and throw-away plastics.

 

Gatwick airport's expansion plans - oppose them by 10 January!

Gatwick Master Plan doc

Gatwick Airport never gives up - it has just revealed its plans to expand - more planes, more pollution, more congestion, more noise - and of course, more profits for them at local people's cost.

Gatwick Airport lost its bid to add a new runway in the government's review. But it has continued to increase flights, noise and pollution - local communities suffer more and more while Gatwick's owners rake in the cash. Now Gatwick has issued its Master Plan, revealing that it still intends to expand massively, despite solid evidence that Gatwick is in the wrong place for a mass transit hub. The local economy has full employment so does not need more jobs, few local businesses benefit from more flights - most suffer because of increased congestion and higher employment costs, and local communities are subjected to appalling noise and air pollution, quite apart from the wider impact on the environment.

Here is a quick way to tell Gatwick what you think

Local campaign group GON (Gatwick Obviously Not) has written a really clear guide to answering the consultation. We've pasted it in below so you can use it.

Here is the link to the plan overview: plan overview

Here's where to respond to the consultation online: consultation response

Or email your response to the consultation to: gatwickdraftmasterplan@ipsos-mori-com

GON's clear and easy guide to responding to Gatwick's Master Plan

GATWICK OBVIOUSLY NOT
Response to Gatwick Airport’s master plan consultation

QUESTION 1: To what extent, if at all, do you support or oppose the principle of growing Gatwick by making best use of the existing runways in line with Government policy?

Strongly oppose.


QUESTION 2:
 Please explain why you hold this view.

The growth proposals in the master plan would further enrich the airport's shareholders whilst inflicting more flights, more noise, more emissions and more public transport congestion and over-crowding on local people and those under flight paths.

Any growth at Gatwick should be matched by a directly proportionate reduction in noise, emissions and other local impacts. Gatwick's draft master plan contains no new proposals for reducing these impacts on local people or on communities under flight paths. In our view, therefore, Gatwick's proposals are not consistent with the basic principles of fairness and balance that underpin government policy or with the specific policy requirement that environmental issues and mitigations should be taken into account in airport growth proposals.

The nature and scale of required reductions in noise, emissions and other local impacts should be agreed in parallel with any formal growth proposals and growth should be conditional on achieving those reductions. In each case the metrics to be used should be agreed with local community representatives and their achievement should be measured and certified independently. Required noise reductions should take account of the fact that the airport's noise footprint has increased in four of the past five years, in contravention of government policy. Required emissions reductions should address the fact that the government already expects aviation's greenhouse gas emissions to increase from 7% of total UK emissions now to 25% by 2050. Expansion at Gatwick and elsewhere will make the position worse but the draft master plan contains no credible plans to address this situation.

The question, and the context in which it is asked, are designed to be misleading. It is intended to give the impression that growth at Gatwick on the basis proposed in the master plan would in fact be consistent with government policy. For the reasons set out above we do not believe that is the case. This cynical approach to consultation is inappropriate and inconsistent with good practice. It suggests that Gatwick's master plan consultation is designed to be a PR exercise rather than a serious attempt to gather and assess local views.


QUESTION 3:
 Given the draft master plan looks out beyond 2030, to what extent, if at all, do you agree or disagree that land that has been safeguarded since 2006 should continue to be safeguarded for the future construction of an additional main runway?

Strongly disagree


QUESTION 4:
 Please explain why you hold this view

We strongly oppose the use of this land for an additional runway. Following the government's decision to support a third runway at Heathrow there are many reasons why no further runways should be constructed in the UK and specifically why Gatwick would not be an appropriate location for an additional runway. Given Government policy does not currently support an additional runway at Gatwick, currently safeguarded land should be made available for other more economically and environmentally advantageous purposes.

Continued safeguarding of the land to build an additional main runway leaves a threat of future expansion hanging over the heads of local residents and blights a large area.

It also precludes consideration of how that land could be best used for the benefit of local people.


QUESTION 5:
 What more, if anything, do you believe should be done to maximise the employment and economic benefits resulting from Gatwick's continued growth?

The local area does not need yet further Gatwick expansion in order to thrive. Even more dependence on the airport reduces resilience in the event of an economic downturn. There is a range of other sectors that could generate similar economic benefits to the regional economy. Local Government, working with local communities, must be more imaginative in the creation of a more diverse economy that supports the Government's Clean Growth Strategy. This includes considering how safeguarded land could be better utilised to meet the needs of local communities.


QUESTION 6:
 What more, if anything, do you think should be done to minimise the noise impacts of Gatwick's continued growth?

Any further growth of Gatwick must be conditional on directly proportionate reductions in noise, measured on a basis to be agreed with local community representatives. A regulatory regime should be established to ensure this principle is adhered to at all times and that any "excess" growth is promptly reversed until proportionate noise reductions are agreed. Measures of noise impact must take full account of the frequency of aircraft noise as well as average noise levels.

The measures to be taken to achieve proportionate noise reductions should be for Gatwick airport to propose in consultation with local community representatives. They must include an ongoing commitment to dispersal of arriving and departing aircraft on a fair and equitable basis to be agreed with local community representatives and accelerated fleet replacement.


QUESTION 7:
 What more, if anything, do you think should be done to minimise the other environmental impacts of Gatwick's continued growth?

Any further growth of Gatwick should only be conditional on drastic measures to reduce the environmental damage that its activities cause. We believe these should include:

  1. An audited and enforceable plan to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions from flights to and from Gatwick
  2. Reductions in the number of ATMs, possibly through the use of larger aircraft
  3. Reductions in the carbon emissions, noise and pollution impacts of surface access arrangements to the airport
  4. Implementation of a permanent environmental and health impact awareness campaign for all passengers flying to and from Gatwick


QUESTION 8:
 Do you believe our approach to community engagement, as described in the draft master plan, should be improved, and if so, how?

Gatwick's approach to community engagement is based on two principles:

  1. first that the airport's commercial interests should always take precedence over the interests of local communities whom its activities impact
  2. and secondly that engagement is a substitute for meaningful action.

The airport's approach to engagement should instead focus on enforceable, directly proportionate noise and other impact reductions as pre-conditions of any growth. It should also agree to full compensation for all people whom its activities adversely impact, including for diminution in value of properties.


QUESTION 9:
 If you make use of Gatwick, what areas of the passenger experience would you like to see improved?

No comment.


QUESTION 10:
 Are there any aspects of our Surface Access Strategy that you believe should be improved and, if so, what are they?

Gatwick's surface access is wholly incompatible with expansion of the airport. The airport is the wrong side of London and is handicapped by an overburdened rail connection north/south and a totally inadequate rail connection east/west. It is only accessible by one motorway that reaches neither the Capital nor the coast. As a result the airport's operations already cause severe road and rail congestion and overcrowding for local people. Any further growth of the airport should be conditional on (a) reductions in the number of people accessing the airport by road and (b) reductions in public transport congestion. The airport should fund all improvements required to meet these conditions.


QUESTION 11:
 Do you have any other comments to make about the Gatwick Airport draft master plan?

Gatwick's draft master plan is a manifesto for corporate greed, environmental irresponsibility and local destruction.

The master plan makes no attempt to balance the interests of the airport with those of local communities impacted by its operations. The growth proposals in the master plan would further enrich the airport's shareholders whilst inflicting more flights, more noise, more emissions and more public transport congestion and over-crowding on local people and those under flight paths.

We reject the one-sided, industry-takes-all, approach set out in the master plan. We propose instead that the airport and local councils and community groups should agree arrangements under which growth is permitted only where it is matched by directly proportionate reductions in noise and other environmental impacts and where full compensation is paid to any person who suffers additional noise as a result of any permitted growth.

 

 

Tell Nus Ghani to save Whitmore Wood!

Screen grab of Woodland Trust campaign page

Our MP, Nus Ghani, is Minister for HS2, the high speed rail link to the north of England. Its route runs through Whitmore Wood in Staffordshire and will destroy over 6 hectares of ancient woodland. 

The Woodland Trust is campaigning for a tunnel to avoid this desecration, but although a tunnel would cost a fraction of the overall cost of HS2, the Select Committee has rejected it. They're prioritisng commercial interests over the environment yet again.

As Nus Ghani's constituents, we're in a great position to petition her to stop this appalling vandalism.

Please sign the Woodland Trust's petition here AND write to Nus Ghani.

Background to HS2 woodland campaign

Despite HS2 coming nowhere near the Wealden constituency our MP, Nus Ghani, is the HS2 minister!  As the MP for an area that benefits from so much important natural habitat, we might hope that she will be a champion of environmental protection in her ministerial role.  Now is her chance...

The Green Party has consistently highlighted the folly of spending more than £50B on one railway line, when there are so many other infrastructure projects that would provide greater benefit to more of the UK.  Also, an enormous amount of environmental damage will be caused during HS2's construction, in particular to the numerous Ancient Woodlands along the route.

The Woodland Trust is currently calling on Nus to use her influence as HS2 minister to ensure a tunnel is constructed in Staffordshire to protect 6 hectares of woodland at Whitmore Wood and Barhill Wood.  The cost of the tunnel is just 0.2% of the cost of the whole HS2 project, but the HS2 select parliamentary committee rejected the request to tell HS2 Ltd. that the tunnel must be built.

In total, 98 ancient woods are threatened by the scheme.

 

 

 

Save Forest Row's household waste site!

Books for sale at the Forest Row Recycling CentreOn January 16 the Parish Council was shocked to learn from County Councillor Francis Whetstone that East Sussex County Council plans to close Forest Row’s recycling facility.

 

Tony Lewin, Green Party Parish Councillor leapt into action with other members of the community. Together we’ve started a campaign to show the County Council the importance of the site to people in Forest Row.

 

In a week more than 4000 people signed petitions – many of them visitors to the busy waste site on 20 January, where Tony and others met and spoke to them. Every user opposed the closure.

 

We’re appalled at the Council’s short-sighted decisionIt doesn’t even make sense!

  • Our recycling centre is very heavily used.
  • It makes money from recyclable waste.
  • It earns money and saves waste by selling used furniture and goods.
  • Closing it will lead to more fly-tipping, and car journeys to other tips.
  • We fear the effect on the Ashdown Forest from fly-tipping and traffic pollution.

Tony Lewin has asked Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas MP to help. She is writing to the Treasury about the effect of Government cuts on local communities - and we hope she'll include the planned closure of our site in her letter. Tony Lewin and other Wealden Green Party members plan to go with her to deliver the letter on 28 February.

 

We'll be fighting this closure every step of the way. Recycling is extremely important to all of us, so watch this space!

 

 

Event: Stop Gatwick expansion, 12 October 2019

Find out more on our Events page.