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FoE members from Brighton & Hove FoE, South East FoE and Mid Sussex FoE.

West Sussex County Council (WSCC) refuse Celtique shale drilling application at Wisborough Green, Sussex

Members of Brighton & Hove FoE joined others at the WSCC County Hall, Horsham on the morning of 22nd July. WSCC refused the appliction from Celtique for exploratory test drilling for shale gas and/or oil at Wisborough Green, Sussex. There had been recommendations to refuse from the Council’s Planning and Highways Officers.  
 
There has been a successful campaign against Celtique’s application by the local Keep Kirkford and Wisborough Green residents group over the last year.  Friends of the Earth locally and nationally have been working with them.
 
Brenda Pollack, campaigner for Friends of the Earth in the South East  said: “This was absolutely the right decision. Nobody wants to see Sussex ruined by industrial drilling for dirty fossil fuels. If Celtique had been allowed to test for oil or gas, then there’s every chance that fracking would have followed”.

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Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth joined the gathering at New Road in Brighton on the 12th of July, to demonstrate, with the World Development Movement, and many of their partners, our concerns regarding the threat posed by the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the E.U. and the U.S.

Imagine international firms, consortiums, huge financial groups wanting to grab some land and do serious business there, come what may, never mind what local people think! Using their money and resources they can pressurise any democratic power into doing what they want. In the name of good trade and promised benefits, they can determine what they want, because the partnerships would be potentially more powerful than individual countries.
 
As a result we could lose many of our natural resources, and democratic accountability would be replaced with preserving profit and maximising benefits for shareholders. Many indigenous people around the globe are already losing the rights to their lands because of corporate land grabs, and Governments could find themselves sued for trying to protect their own people and resources because their actions may conflict with corporate interests. That’s why Friends of the Earth is concerned.
 
In Brighton, a broad coalition of concerned groups and individuals watched the pretend boxing match between big business and democracy – and elsewhere across the UK Friends of the Earth local groups joined with other partners to highlight this issue.
 
For a great guide about TTIP and why it should worry us please do have a look at this WDM video – vimeo.com/97013293
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News Release, Monday, 21 July, 2014

Bus users left out in the rain

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is calling on RBS and Brighton & Hove City Council to come up with some innovative designs to give bus passengers proper shelter in North Street, Brighton as part of the RBS financed improvement scheme [1].  The proposed shelters in North Street are far too small for the numbers of people waiting as can be seen by observing the current situation [2].

Despite a few new shelters being proposed as part of this scheme, BHFOE believes they will be overwhelmed by the number of users and consequently many people will continue to block shop doorways as they seek shelter in the rain.  This is one of the issues the scheme is meant to be addressing.

BHFOE is also concerned that moving the eastbound bus stops towards Pavilion Gardens could cause pedestrian congestion as the pavement is quite narrow here where people also congregate for the pedestrian crossing.

Chris Todd from BHFOE said:

“Unfortunately what is a good scheme in many respects, fails abysmally when it comes to providing bus users with shelter.  Given that a large number of shoppers arrive by bus, in an area that RBS wants to see trade boosted, ignoring this issue is a serious mistake.

“Installing bog-standard bus shelters which cater for only a fraction of the people at the bus stops is poor design.  While, ignoring the problem, hoping it will miraculously disappear, is wishful thinking.

“If RBS are unable or unwilling to pay for proper bus or pavement shelters, then it should pay the Council the money to come up with something better.

“Our solution would be to create an attractive pavement shelter which could protect both bus passengers and shoppers when it is raining.  This would stop bus passengers needing to stand in shop doorways for shelter while encouraging shoppers to linger in the area rather than hurry through it.  Unless changes are made to the designs, this will represent a wasted opportunity to put North St on the map, while leaving bus users out in the rain.”

[1]   The initial proposals went to the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee on 1 July 2014 after a short consultation a couple of weeks before then.

[2]   There are currently 3 bus shelters in North St for eastbound users.  These are constantly oversubscribed with passengers spreading out all around these shelters which are far too small for the numbers of people using the buses.  RBS are just proposing replacing them like for like. However, in the plans RBS’s consultants have produced, only 2 of these shelters are shown as existing today.  This could create a false impression that RBS is making more improvements than it really is.

Westbound there are currently no bus shelters, although many people waiting at one of the bus stops shelter under the canopy extending out from the buildings there.  RBS is proposing 3 new shelters so there would be a slight gain here but given the numbers of people using the stops they would appear more tokenistic than practical.

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) has welcomed the City Council’s rejection of a Conservative motion to join the A27 Action Campaign, when both Labour and Greens voted against it.  BHFOE is concerned that dualling the A27 would harm the city’s interests, undermine public transport and increase congestion and pollution as more people would be tempted to drive along the south coast rather than use the train or bus.  See our previous blog for more detail.

A key thrust of the Conservative argument in support of dualling the A27 was that it would allow the space for more sustainable transport to be improved.  However, BHFOE is not convinced by this argument as many of the coastal towns have smaller populations and traffic levels compared to Brighton & Hove and many improvements could be done now.  The reality is that West Sussex County Council has done very little to promote walking, cycling and public transport, other than a few notable exceptions, as it has clung on to the hope that one day an upgrade to the A27 would solve all of its transport problems.  In reality, it is likely to lead to more traffic and pollution and the quality of life in West Sussex will probably fall, while the impact on the South Downs would be severe.

News Release issued on Thursday, 17 July, 2014

Rampion decision welcomed

But disappointment at National Park compensation

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is welcoming the decision to approve the Rampion windfarm announced yesterday by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change [1].  They believe that it will be a major boost for reducing carbon emissions and increasing the amount of clean renewable energy.  It will also be good for local jobs and particularly for the port of Newhaven which will help service the development.

The only concern was that the Examination Panel found that the mitigation package to compensate for harm to the South Downs National Park was minimal and there was no contingency if the restoration plans for Tottington Mount failed [2].

Chris Todd from BHFOE said:

“This is a major boost for renewable energy in Sussex.  It will help us move towards a future less dependent on dirty fossil fuels.  It is also a powerful symbol for the change we need to make if we are to offer our children a more secure future by combatting climate change.

“We also welcome the efforts EON made during the planning process to reduce the impact of the array on the Heritage Coast and the National Park.  However, it’s disappointing that the levels of compensation for the remaining harm to this very sensitive landscape are so low.  The Examination Panel, although recommending overall approval, highlighted their concerns about this.  In particular, that if the restoration plans for ancient chalk grassland at Tottington Mount fail, there is no contingency funding to remedy this.

“We believe that EON could have been more generous on this point.  The levels of funding we are talking about are a tiny fraction of one percent of the overall budget and would not have affected its viability.”

[1]   The Secretary of State’s decision letter can be access on the Planning Inspectorate’s website.

[2]   Paragraph 17, Secretary of State’s decision letter and paragraph 4.60, page 41 of the Examination Panel’s Report.

 

News Release, Wednesday, 16 July, 2014

A27 dualling could cost the city

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is calling on Brighton & Hove City Council to reject the Conservative Notice of Motion to support the A27 Action Campaign [1] at the Full Council meeting tomorrow [2].  Apart from the fact that dualling the A27, particularly around Worthing, would be extremely costly, BHFOE does not believe it is in the interests of the city.  Also, it is sceptical that there is any evidence that it would boost economic growth.

New roads generate more traffic and that will increase congestion and pollution within the city as more people are tempted to drive along the south coast.  This would also undermine public transport and put the city’s road network under further stress while reducing the transport options for tourists visiting the city.  Much of the traffic on the A27 is local traffic and requires local transport solutions, not big new roads.

Chris Todd from BHFOE said:

“Many councillors spent years supporting the creation of the South Downs National Park.  Now they risk throwing much of that away if they support the A27 Action Campaign.  This group’s aim to see the A27 dualled along its whole length would be extremely costly economically and environmentally.  If successful, it could then lead to more roadbuilding around Brighton & Hove, and cause huge damage to the South Downs.

“Rather than going backwards we need to be moving forward with ideas and solutions fit for the 21st century.  Many of the concerns businesses have could be addressed by small online improvements, such as a new junction at Crossbush, and by measures to reduce traffic.  If as they claim traffic and congestion is so bad yet so critical to the economy it begs the questions:  Why are we doing relatively well along the south coast?  And secondly, why have local authorities, aside from Brighton & Hove, done so little to promote walking, cycling and public transport and traffic reduction measures?”

“Given the cost of doing anything around Worthing – a tunnel is like to be of the order of £2 billion – it is unlikely the A27 will be dualled any time soon.  This campaign is only raising false hope while failing to tackle the real problem of there being too much traffic.  Car journeys don’t start and end on the A27, they start and end in the towns and cities adjacent to it.  These are the places where the congestion will transfer to.  The city’s energy and efforts would be far better focussed on tackling the real issues of our day:  climate change [3], air pollution, obesity, diabetes, mental health are putting the NHS under severe strain and costing it billions.  Isn’t it about time we had some joined up thinking and started promoting healthier transport choices?”

[1]   The Conservative Notice of Motion states:  “In order further to promote business investment and economic growth in the Greater Brighton area this Council resolves to pledge its support to the newly-formed A27 Action campaign.”

[2]   BHCC’s Full Council meeting is taking place on Thursday, 17 July, 4.30pm Council Chamber, Brighton Town Hall.

[3]   The UK’s Committee for Climate Change yesterday published a report saying that we are unlikely to meet our carbon reduction targets without greater action.  Building new roads increase carbon emissions and will make this task even harder and more costly.

 

 

IMAG0241On a rainy Friday July 11, local organisations from across the Brighton and Hove area came together to urge the City Council to reconsider it’s proposals for development in the urban fringe.

Councillors were due to discuss the proposals and agree to launch a public consultation on the amendments to the City Plan which lays out the amount of housing required up to 2030. But the talks have been pushed back until the autumn to allow more time for discussions.

Chris Todd, of Brighton and Hove Friends of the Earth said: “I think it’s a great result and will give everybody time for further reflection and to look again at what is being proposed. We have got to find more housing and we are not opposed to housing outright but it can’t be housing at any cost. We need to get this right and we need to have the community with this, we can’t railroad this through.”

Campaign groups represented at the demo included Friends of the Earth, CPRE, Friends of Hollingbury and Burstead Woods, Save Our Deans and Ovingdean Residents Association

 

 

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