Bin the bags everybody

Prompted by the CPRE, I have written to John Hayes asking for his support to address the plastic bag blight our public spaces suffers.

John Hayes MP
South Holland and The Deepings House of Commons
London SW1A0AA

I am writing to ask for your support on the important issue of single-use carrier bags.

Last year was the second in a row to see an increase in the use of single-use bags. In 2011 a total of eight billion ‘thin-gauge’ bags were issued throughout the UK, which represents a 5.4% increase compared with 2010 (7.8 billion). I am very concerned that all of the net growth occurred in England, particularly as England remains the sole home nation not to have a single-use bag levy in place or to be actively seeking to introduce one.

Single-use plastic bags are wasteful of resources and all too often end up as litter, which takes hundreds of years to biodegrade, whether on land or at sea; strewn in our towns, countryside or beaches they are an eyesore, and often a hazard to wildlife.

In 2011, when commenting on 2010 plastic bag use, the Prime Minister said: “Progress overall went backwards last year, and that is unacceptable. Retailers need to do better. I want to see significant falls again. I know that retailers want to do better too but if they don’t I will be asking them to explain why not.”

Locally, I have tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade our local Co-op shop to stop giving out plastic bags as a matter of course, as these have proven to be one of the most significant and obvious causes of local littering. A legally enforced charge, would be a huge step to achieving my ambition for our community.

In October 2011, Wales introduced a levy of 5p per plastic bag. Since then retailers have reported a drop in plastic bag usage of between 70-96%, while Welsh public support for the levy grew to 70%. When Ireland introduced a plastic bag levy in 2002, plastic bag use fell by 90%, as did the amount of litter.

I strongly support the Break the Bag Habit campaign run by the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Keep Britain Tidy, the Marine Conservation Society and Surfers Against Sewage, which calls on the Government to reduce litter and waste by requiring retailers to introduce a levy on all new single-use bags.

Please raise my concerns with the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Caroline Spelman MP, and urge her to introduce a levy on single-use carrier bags in line with the successful actions being taken in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, so that England is not left behind.

Yours sincerely

An American abroad

Notwithstanding his role as the president of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), Bill Bryson speaks with great wisdom on the potential damage the NPPF could do to the English landscape.

If government ministers won’t listen to its own people – Francis Maude, a supposedly clever man at the heart of government, describing their concerns as ‘bollocks’ – perhaps they will listen to an American, who has personal knowledge of the damage done to his country through uncontrolled development.

Only say nice things about Greg Clark’s ideas or else!

Be careful not to respond negatively to any consultation this government launches, especially when it involves the right honourable Greg Clark MP.

The National Trust and the CPRE have had the temerity to suggest that the National Planning Policy Framework, that is designed to replace all existing planning legislation, might cause major problem for rural areas. For having the nerve to say this, Greg Clark has laid in to them, accusing them of, ”Nihilistic Selfishness’ for opposing his planning reforms. I wonder if these bodies should take him to court under the Trade Descriptions Act, for even calling it a consultation?

So next time you respond to any sort of consultation make sure you only say nice things. Read the full story here: http://www.egovmonitor.com/node/43442

Care to eat your words Mr Clark?

An excellent article in today’s Daily Telegraph from Clive Aslet, described as Editor at Large of ‘Country Life’. Editor at Large? Does that mean he works from home and drives around a lot?

None of the venom and spite we’ve seen from our illustrious leaders, Clark and Neill (Shapps seems to sensible enough to keep his head down for now). It’s a reasoned argument in favour of listening to the genuine concerns of those who care about our countryside. He also calls for the public consultation on the draft National Planning Policy Framework, to be treated as a genuine exercise and not the current sham suggested by the hysterical utterances Clark and Neill have spouted upon hearing that the National Trust and CPRE have concerns about the potential negative impact of the NPPF.
The best bit of the article for me, is a quote from a then Tory MP in opposition, Greg Clark. Upon hearing that the Labour Government wanted to see 6,000 houses built in Tunbridge Wells, Clark’s constituency, he said: “One of the delights of our area is that there is scarcely a neighbourhood that is not within a short walk of the green fields that surround us”. This is the self same minister now laying in to those who dare to challenge his new passion for covering those green fields in houses and factories.
No wonder politicians are often seen as cynical opportunists, ready to jump on the nearest passing bandwagon. I sincerely hope the members of the Tunbridge Wells Conservative Party are seeking answers from their local MP.

Time for a reality check at National Trust and CPRE

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/greenpolitics/planning/8699775/75000-homes-to-be-built-on-Englands-Green-Belt.html

Once again, instead of listening to the genuine concerns of people, government ministers are choosing to spin these concerns in to claims of left wing extremists taking over two highly respected national charities.

Unfortunately, the organisations being accused,the Council for the Protection of Rural England and the National Trust, are ringing alarm bells, but without offering any suggestions on how to resolve the housing shortage. They could of course argue that their role isn’t to fill the void left by the scrapping of all national strategic planning guidance. However, given impending chaos that is about to befall the planning system, with the implementation of the National Planning Policy Framework, they should seriously reconsider their purist approach to our land use policies. Simply saying no, no, no is unlikely to achieve anything other than the government response experienced to date.

If these organisations believe that the areas of green belt currently being targeted for development are the wrong ones, then let them come up with some genuinely sustainable alternatives. Given the very real shortage of housing in this country, continuing to say no to everything, is simply not an option and just helps to make the government’s case for them.

The planning system and the open plan office

The trouble with reading the newspapers, is that you read stories that support your view of the world, but then go on to confirm that things haven’t changed or, are in fact, getting worse.

The first story that caught my attention today, is one about Bob Neill, the supposed minister for local government, laying in to the National Trust and the CPRE, for raising concerns about the proposed NPPF, accusing them of being ‘left wingers!’. Whilst I don’t agree with the extreme view of protecting the spaces between every city, town and village forever, I do agree that this government is going far too far with their plans to streamline the planning system.

Despite all the the hoo-haa, I fear that it will make little difference to a government that is far more committed to promoting the interests of developers, than promoting good quality design, let alone protecting us from urban sprawl.

The other story that caught my attention was one about open plan offices. They never seemed liked a great idea to me and now, apparently, we’re being told that they actually cause those working in them to become distracted and to work less efficiently. Pretty close to home this one, as I have experience of open plan in two different locations and they’re right – open plan offices are rubbish! Even worse, is when, as in one case I know, having decided an open plan office is okay, the management then decide to re-organise their staff in to the smallest space possible.

Network Rail – not our job guv!

Having tried and failed to get Network Rail to actually do something with the sub-standard Stepping Stones Bridge they dumped on Spalding last year, it now seems that the one solitary light that serves the bridge is the responsibility of the Lincolnshire County Council Highways Dept, even though the lamp-post itself is inside the Network Rail fence.  Likewise, even though the bridge’s top walk way floods and freezes in the cold weather, or just simply floods in the rain, this is again the county council’s problem not Network Rails!

So, as well as all the potholes around the district, county highways will have to add Stepping Stones Bridge Spalding to their list of things that need sorting even though their budget keeps getting smaller.  Meanwhile, Network Rail can smugly continue to do things we don’t want them to do and then pass the buck when it starts to cause a problem!

Meanwhile, Bill Bryson the Anglophile American, who now resides in England and leads the Campaign To Protect Rural England (CPRE), has come up with a bright idea on how to kick organisations such as Network Rail, when they ignore their duty to keep their house in order.  Something called a Litter Abatement Order appears to be a good tool for the job according to Bill and although it’s all a bit tedious to do, the simple threat of doing it can have the desired effect.

http://www.cpre.org.uk/campaigns/stop-the-drop/litter-and-fly-tipping/litter-campaign-update

I will be taking this to the next meeting of the Spalding town Forum to see what they think about threatening to use these on some of our more uncooperative companies.