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Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is condemning the announcement by Brighton & Hove City Council (BHCC) which gives the impression that the ranger service faces a reprieve from cuts.  Previously, the Council had announced it was proposing to slash the number of City Parks rangers from nine to just three.  Now the Labour administration is suggesting that five rangers might be kept [1].  However, that still means the loss of at least 4 rangers.

BHFOE is concerned that while this is slightly better than previously proposed, the Council is hiding the true impact of its proposed budget by not including an unfilled vacancy in the cuts and moving a post from another area into the ranger service.  It still intends to make a £102,000 saving from supposedly cutting only 2.2 full time equivalent posts.  This does not add up and BHFOE is pressing the Council for the true impact of the cuts to the ranger service to be made public.

It is supporting outraged volunteers from across the city outside BHCC’s Policy and Resources Committee on Thursday at The Brighthelm Centre where there will be protests and questions about the cuts [2].

Chris Todd of BHFOE said:

“The Council is still proposing taking a hatchet to the ranger service, despite the headlines.  A 40% cut is not a reprieve and risks undermining the many hundreds of volunteers and local groups in the city.  This announcement appears to be a game of smoke and mirrors, hiding the true impact of the devastation.

“There still has been no community engagement or proper scrutiny of exactly what level of ranger service is sustainable and what is needed to manage and support the huge volunteer workforce.  Unfortunately, there still seems to be a lack of awareness of the importance of good quality green space.  It is not a luxury, it is a basic necessity.”

Notes

[1]   There are currently 9 rangers, working the equivalent of 8.2 full time workers.  There is however, a 0.8 full time equivalent (FTE) vacancy that has not been filled and this would also be lost in these cuts.  This would mean the level of cuts in reality is around 45% – 9 FTE down to 5 FTE.

In the Policy and Resource papers, which are not consistent, the cuts are presented as going from 9.2 FTE to 7 FTE, but this includes a manager who is not being cut and an arborist which comes effectively from another team and helps hide the loss of another ranger. While the rangers do a good job, they are not terribly well paid, and losing only 2.2 FTE as suggested by the Council papers does not equate to savings of £102,000 that the Council is proposing will still be made in the service.

[2]   BHCC’s Policy & Resources Committee will meet on Thursday at The Brighthelm Centre, North Road, Brighton at 4pm.  Cllrs Phelim MacCafferty and Geoffrey Theobald have tabled questions about the ranger service.

Slashing the health service

A hatchet job on the city rangers

The proposal by Brighton & Hove City Council to cut the ranger service from nine down to three is a false economy.  It appears to have been done on the back of a fag packet rather than through any assessment of what is required.  Nor were volunteers consulted prior to the announcement.  The first they knew about it was from the press, yet these are the very people the Council is hoping will step forward to fill the void.  So much for working in partnership with the local community.

The trouble is the ranger service is seen as a fringe benefit, a nice to have facility on a sunny day, but not really core to Council work.  Well, that out-dated idea needs to change.  Research has shown the importance of green space for people’s mental and physical well-being.  The reality is that green space is part of the natural health service, a hugely important but overlooked aspect of our healthcare.  And the rangers facilitate that healthcare.  Without them our green spaces would fall into decline.  They would become overgrown, potentially dangerous as broken steps, railings and other facilities were not repaired.  They would become strewn with rubbish and more off-putting so that people would slowly stop using them.

When we won the international accolade of UNESCO Biosphere designation, what helped us win was the quality of our green spaces and the volunteers helping to look after them.  But these volunteers cannot do it alone.  Without proper support, many of the groups will simply fold.  A single ranger allocated to supporting the 30 or so local groups is not enough.

Sure the ranger service needs to make savings, but those savings should be driven by what is needed to enable volunteers to do more than they do already.  Got right this proposal could increase benefits for the local community, but as it stands the hatchet job could destroy the very groups it needs to nurture.

This article first appeared in Brighton & Hove Independent on Friday 15th January, 2016.  A second article about the cuts can be found here.

This issue has also featured in The Guardian on 4th January, 2016.

Outraged volunteers are planning on holding a protest outside Brighton & Hove City Council’s Environment, Transport & Sustainability Committee at 3pm on Tuesday, 19th January, 2016, outside Portslade Town Hall, Victoria Road BN41 1YF (where the meeting is being held).

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White tailed bumblebee hovering by a flower in France

Thank you to every one who has already signed our petition calling on Simon Kirby MP (MP for Brighton Kemptown) to back the ban on bee harming pesticides. If you haven’t yet signed there’s still time (link below). We aim to meet up with Simon soon to hand over the petition, we very much welcome anyone who wants to join us (please let us know via the “contact us” page). In the meantime we have learnt that East Sussex County Council has taken a lead and banned these pesticides from use on Council-owned land!

Sign the petition here – https://www.change.org/p/simon-kirby-mp-tell-simon-kirby-mp-to-back-a-ban-on-bee-harming-pesticides

 

Changing the Climate in Paris?

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Copywrite Friends of the Earth EWNI

´Changing the Climate in Paris?´ is Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth contribution to Brighton Climate Action Network´s (BrightonCAN!) ´Time to Act Week´ of events (15th – 21st November)

Wednesday, 18th November, 7.30 – 9.30pm The Synergy Centre, West St., Brighton, BN1 2RA

National Friends of the Earth Campaigners, Guy Shrubsole (Climate and Energy) and Rachel Kennerley (Climate Security) and Professor of Climate Science and Society Dominic Kniveton (Uni Sussex) will lead a focused look at the current climate-change context and the structure, issues, tensions and likely outcomes of the upcoming Climate-talks in Paris. Local members of BHFoE and a leading climate-scientist will illustrate the ´global to local´ impacts of climate-change and their practical concern for meaningful agreements in Paris.

Followed by an extended Q&A session, drinks and networking.

Brighton Climate Action Network (BrightonCAN!)  launched in September 2015. Our aim is to bring together individuals and organisations in Brighton and the surrounds who are acting on climate change, and to create a broad community response to the irrefutable evidence of rapid global warming and the failure of our political leaders to take the necessary measures to avoid catastrophic and irreversible climate chaos.

Over the next few weeks we are concentrating our efforts on the ´Time to Act Week´ of events, Time To Cycle, the People’s March for Climate Justice and Jobs in London on 29th November and the mass mobilisation in Paris on 12 December. We want to mobilise as much support as possible for the many events taking place ahead of and during the crucial UN climate talks in Paris in early December.

Please explore the BrightonCAN! website and follow the links to find out what you can do to support, lobby or participate in ´Time to Act Week´ and COP21 Paris-talks actions and events.

During September, we responded to a consultation by Brighton & Hove City Council about reducing the hours that George Street would be closed to vehicles (and safe and pleasant for pedestrians) during the summer.  Basically, some traders were pressing for the street to be opened to cars and lorries from 4pm, instead of 6pm, which is what triggered the consultation.
In contrast, we have asked the Council to do the opposite.  We feel that it is ridiculous that the street is not pedestrianised on Sundays, when the street is so busy and full of people.  This cannot be good for the street and certainly not good for people’s health.  In addition, we have asked the Council to look at extending the hours of pedestrianisation to later into the afternoon/evening, in both winter and summer, when many people are still using the street.
If this poses a problem for local access, then by way of compensation, it would be possible to allow access for deliveries up until 11am or even midday if that was felt necessary.  However, the general principle should be that the street is a full time pedestrianised street and that the only vehicular access allowed is for deliveries, services and residents in the street at specified times (similar to the present times but slightly altered and restricted on Sundays), excepting emergency vehicles which have 24 hour access.  Having clearer and more consistent rules would benefit everyone, while making the area safer and more pleasant for residents and visitors.
In addition, the area is well served by buses and with the increased levels of cycling in the city, many more people can access the street without the use of a car, although the provision of more cycle parking would help more people to do this.  The street is also accessible by foot for many local residents.  Anyone wanting to drive to George Street would in any case be better off parking nearby, such as in the Tesco car park, than trying to park in George Street itself, which has few parking spaces free.  There can be little benefit, economic or otherwise to allowing the street to be filled with queuing cars.  In fact it is likely to have the opposite effect over time.
This issue will be discussed by the Council on 24 November and we hope that it will throw out the suggestion to reduce the hours of pedestrianisation, but instead use the opportunity to see whether improvements can be made to the way that George Street operates, including extending pedestrianisation to Sundays.

 

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Loss of National Park architect

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is paying its respects to one of the best Environment Ministers the country has had.  Earlier today it was announced that Michael Meacher MP died after a short illness.  


A Labour MP, he was a shadow Environment Minister in 1997.  He came down to see for himself the damage done to the South Downs when a local farmer near Lewes ploughed up a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) at Offham Down just weeks before the General Election.  After the election which saw Labour sweep to power, he became the Environment Minister and under his watch oversaw new legislation to open up access to the countryside and give better legal protection to nationally important wildlife sites.  He also kick-started the designation process of the South Downs National Park, using his influence to get the Countryside Agency to examine the case for a National Park.

He also secured the long term protection of both Offham Down and Offham Marshes SSSIs which had been threatened by farming.

Chris Todd, former South Downs Campaign officer and a local group member said:

“Michael Meacher will be sorely missed.  He was a huge advocate for the environment and responsible for many good acts as Environment Minister.  He was instrumental in kick-starting the designation process for the South Downs National Park.  Without him we would have got nowhere.

“His lasting legacy is clearly there for all to see and I hope the Park Authority will honour his passing to commemorate his contribution to this important and much loved landscape.”

Wildflowers for Woodingdean

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Last month as the rain stayed away and the sun shone as over 60 people helped plant a new Bee World in Woodingdean, on the edge of the South Downs.

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Under the watchful eye of City Park Ranger, Paul Gorringe, Woodingdean’s residents came together to plant close to 2000 wildflower plugs – transforming a 100m square space at the corner of Bexhill Road and Balsdean Road into much-needed habitat for bees and other pollinating insects.

Steve Bell Dee Simon and Monica Jennings from Brighton FoE-1

Children from Woodingdean Primary School joined in alongside local councillors Dee Simson and Steve Bell. Brighton and Hove council supplied the wildflowers as part of a wider scheme to plant around 200,000 wildflowers around the city. All the plants used were locally sourced from some of the best chalk grassland sites in Brighton & Hove.
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As part of the project people living close to the site were consulted in advance, resulting in overwhelming support. The site will be maintained by both the council with support from Brighton and Hove Friends of the Earth.brighton_and_hove5_425

If you’d like to create a wildflower haven in Woodingdean – or elsewhere in Brighton and Hove for that matter – get in touch with us on wildflowers4woodingdean@gmail.com

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