Today, Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth launches its BHFOE Manifesto 2015.  It is designed to raise awareness of the importance of looking after the environment for our benefit, both social and economic.  Unless we do that we risk increasing long term costs in terms of bad health and in some cases death through to paying more to clean up our water supply or to try and keep the NHS afloat.  Far better, as we argue, to tackle some of the issues at source.

Make it easier and more pleasant to walk and cycle and more people will do so.  This will improve their health and happiness, leading to better productivity and lower absenteeism at work.  It will also make them less susceptible to disease and ill-health and so place lower demands on the NHS, saving it money.  A more pleasant environment as proposed by the Valley Gardens scheme would also be attractive to visitors, supporting tourism and improve the environment for local traders.

Another example is around warm housing, where investment in insulation is not only good for reducing carbon emissions but it can help keep vulnerable people warm in winter.  This will help to reduce the excess number of winter deaths and save people money in fuel costs.

Our manifesto, does not profess to cover absolutely everything, but it is intended to cover some of the big challenges facing the city and suggests ways that we might start to tackle them.  We hope that politicians from all parties will back these proposals to help create a city for people that is better for everyone.

We have responded to the consultation on the proposed modifications to the City Plan, which ended at midnight on 16 December. While we support much of what is proposed we have issues with three main areas:

Air pollution:  despite agreeing with the Council to proposed modifications on this issue earlier in the year, recent events (European Court Ruling and emerging research) mean that the proposed wording may be unsound as it does not go far enough to reduce air pollution and act to bring it down below legal limits as fast as possible.  In fact developments could still be approved that will make it worse.

Urban Fringe development:  we have pointed out errors in the Urban Fringe Assessment which undermine the figures for housing in the urban fringe.  We have therefore questioned whether it is justified to have an allocation of 1,060 homes in the urban fringe.

Watering down of energy efficiency:  we have objected to the watering down or energy requirements in new development, not least because as a city we have consistently missed our carbon reduction targets and need urgent action to bring us back on course.  Indeed the fact that we’ve missed our targets year on year, means that we have emitted more carbon than we should and so need to cut our levels even more to compensate.

To see our full comments and links to references, see our submission.

The examiner will now look through all responses to the consultation and see whether any areas warrant further investigation or debate before deciding whether to accept that the City Plan is sound and can be adopted.  The is an important moment for the Council as without a agreed Plan it is in a very weak place to prevent damaging developments.

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is pleased to see that EON is progressing with the Rampion windfarm with the announcement that it will be using 116, 3.5MW turbines, with a tip height of 140.2 metres in a smaller array than originally planned.   The wind farm will provide enough electricity for 290,000 homes and save 600,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

BHFOE is also welcoming that fact that since the start of the initial consultation, the width of the wind farm has been reduced quite significantly.  In the latest plans, the field of view has reduced from 33 to 10.6 degrees when viewed from the Heritage Coast and the distance of the closest turbine (to the Heritage Coast) has also been increased.  These changes, along with the fact that EON has selected a turbine which is only 140 metres tall, mean that the visual impact from the Heritage Coast and the South Downs National Park is very much reduced.

Chris Todd from BHFOE said:

“This is really good news as it brings us another step closer to reducing our carbon emissions here in Sussex.  We also welcome the fact that EON has altered the size and layout of the wind farm which will dramatically reduce the visual impact from the Heritage Coast and the wider South Downs.

“We look forward to the wind farm producing its first electricity in 2017 and being fully commissioned the following year.  Given the current failure to properly address climate change both in this country and abroad, this is a much needed development.”

Other wind farm facts:

[1]   The wind farm will be built in an area covering 72 square kilometres compared with the 122 square kilometres it was given permission for and the 167 square kilometres that it first proposed.  EON was also given permission to build up to 175 turbines.

[2]   Energy generated in 1 year is estimated to be 1,366 GWh.

[3]   From Devil’s Dyke the field of view has reduced from 58.3 to 28.2 degrees, although the distance to the nearest turbine is about the same as before.

´The Bee Campaign´: after a two year campaign which fired community and individual actions all over the UK and also involved focussed governmental lobbying, we now have a pollinators strategy in place for this country. It will apply from next year. It does not mean we can individually or in our groups and communities, stop helping bees – they need our everyday actions, helping provide their nurturing plants and flowers, and protecting their habitats from commercial and agricultural attack. But it means the government is backing our efforts and recognising that pollinators are a vital component in our food chain. If you want to continue to do your bit please do sign up to the Bee Cause, maybe, like us, you could create your own bee world (we have supported the creation of bee worlds in St Nicholas churchyard and in Hollingbury and Burstead woods) or even make your own bee and bee in the back garden
Other current FoE successes in protecting nature all over the world are detailed on the national FoE website (http://www.foe.co.uk/), where you can also find out about the new Robin Hood Tax petition (http://www.foe.co.uk/news/sign-robin-hood-tax-petition), which aims to capture ´financial crisis´ reparation taxes from the banks duly responsible, and use the revenue to fight against poverty and climate-change .

FoE is also raising funds to help a school go solar, as part of FoE´s ´Run on Sun´ national campaign, https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-a-school-run-on-sun

Planning Our Future

Join us tomorrow evening (Weds November 19th) at a special event to discuss what issues to focus on over the coming months and to meet the group for a social drink. From 7pm in the function room of The Cricketers Pub 15 Black Lion Street BN1 1ND. All welcome but please do email monicabhfoe@yahoo.co.uk if you want to come along or can’t make it but would like to know more!

As threat grows from A27 expansion plans

Hilary Benn MP with Robin Crane, chairman of the South Downs Campaign holding a signed copy of the Confirmation Order, 12 November, 2009

Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP with Robin Crane CBE, chairman of the South Downs Campaign, holding a signed copy of the Confirmation Order, 12 November, 2009

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is today celebrating the 5th anniversary of the signing of the South Downs National Park Confirmation Order by the Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP in Ditchling, who was the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2009.

This was the final hurdle to establishing the South Downs National Park, which came into existence on 31 March 2010.

BHFOE believes that the National Park has been an important development in safeguarding and championing the South Downs landscape.  However, on this important anniversary, it is clear from the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday that the South Downs National Park is under threat from the Government’s £15 billion new roads programme.  (Incidentally this about equals the amount taken from local government over the past few years).

Chris Todd from BHFOE said:

“Today is the 5th anniversary of an important milestone in the history of the South Downs.  5 years ago we thought the future of the South Downs had been secured when it became England’s newest National Park.  Yet already, this Government, egged on by many local authorities, seems hell bent on road building in the South Downs.

“The impact of individual schemes at Arundel, Worthing and between Lewes and Polegate is bad enough, but the cumulative impact could be devastating.  It is bound to increase pressure for further road expansion on the A27 as the congestion just moves to other places on the network.  It’s a bit like searching for the Holy Grail.  It will require more and more effort and ultimately we risk destroying an iconic landscape in a rather fruitless search for economic prosperity.”

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is calling on Brighton & Hove City Council to agree to the revised modifications to the City Plan.  These are due to be considered at Policy & Resources Committee on Thursday.  While BHFOE remains concerned about the threat to the urban fringe, a greater threat would be had by having no City Plan at all.  In addition, the Council is proposing to delete its previous amendment to the urban fringe Policy SA4 which would have allowed development on any proposed housing site listed in the Urban Fringe Assessment.

BHFOE is reassured that this is no longer the case and urban fringe sites will be scrutinised and subject to further consultation before they can be allocated for development.

Chris Todd from BHFOE said:

“While we are not entirely comfortable with the place we are in, the Council is between a rock and a hard place.  Without a City Plan it would find it increasingly difficult to resist unsuitable development right across the city, not just in the urban fringe.  Also it would be more susceptible to losing planning appeals and having costs awarded against it.

“We would much rather the focus be on brownfield development but the time for that debate is over at this stage in the process.  The inspector has specifically asked the Council to review the urban fringe and if they had not done so the Plan would have been found unsound.

“By supporting the adoption of the City Plan, we are not agreeing to sites being developed.  That is a battle which we will need to gear up for on another day to safeguard our parks and allotments from inappropriate development.

“We fully appreciate that some politicians are in an uncomfortable position and are grateful for their support last time round in getting the Council to rethink its policy.  However, we now need them to step up to the plate and agree this Plan for the greater good, just as we have done.”


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