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DSC_0222Brighton and Hove Friends of the Earth volunteers Dave (that’s him in the picture), Carol, Zoe and Hazel enjoyed a sunny Sunday on 14th August at St. Anne´s Wells popular ´Rural Day´ festival in Hove.

This was the second time the group has help at stall at the popular festival. We had plenty of conversations  with visitors about national issues like helping bees and stopping fracking.  We also spoke to lots of people about local issues, such as air pollution. Plenty of membership forms were taken away and we look forward to welcoming yet more new faces to our group!

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An excellent day at The Open Market in central Brighton on May 19. There was an enthusiastic atmosphere with people, stalls and activities representing a range of cultures, faiths and backgrounds.
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Our stall attracted lots of interest with The Bee Cause resources being centre of attention as usual. Many thanks to Maire, Tom, Dave and John for helping and also thanks to Mohammed for organising the day and for his contagious good will and enthusiasm.
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If you want to get involved in helping to protect our bees why not try out our fantastic new bee count app and help us survey bee species, plant your own bee world or order a bee saver kit.

 

Save Pondtail Wood

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Photos courtesy of Chris Todd

Local people came out in force recently [16 May], along with members of Sussex Wildlife Trust and Friends of the Earth, to protest against the felling of trees in Pondtail Wood on Muddleswood Road (opposite Singing Hills Golf Club). With no licence or planning permission the felling and introduction of rubble to create acres of hard standing has decimated the ancient woodland.

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Pondtail Wood was bought earlier this year and the owner immediately started to fell the trees of this Planted Ancient Woodland Site (PAWS) within the South Downs National Park, which without a licence (from the Forestry Commission) is illegal.  He has also been burning the trees on site, removing the topsoil and bringing in tonnes of aggregates and compacting them into acres of hard standing.
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Local people have raised concerns since mid-March and Mid Sussex District Council and the South Downs National Park Authority finally served a ‘Temporary Stop Notice’ on May 10, but this appears to have been too late to have prevented the destruction and in any case only applies to the importation of aggregate and creation of the hardstanding.

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South Downs National Park woodland is under threat if it cannot be protected. Local people want to see the destruction stopped and the woodland repaired and replanted.  They also want to see the full force of the law used to fine the owner and to send a strong message out that people cannot trash ancient woodland with impunity.

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We can all help by raising our concerns with our local media, with Mid Sussex District Council and the South Downs National Park Authority (please do drop them an email or a letter!), and check out the resources below for more information and ways to get involved.
Further information:
  • Save Pondtail Wood Facebook page
  • Blog from Tony Whitbread, Chief Executive Sussex Wildlife Trust
  • News footage including drone shots revealing the extent of the damage
  • Video of felling continuing despite the owner apparently not having a felling licence

 

 

Representatives from local voluntary and wildlife groups braved the cold weather to demonstrate outside the Council’s policy and resources committee meeting as the saga of cuts to our rangers continues.

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The labour administration has recognised the value of the services provided by city rangers to our people and city by recommending that instead of cutting 6 of the 9 rangers that only 2 of the posts be cut.

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Voluntary groups working to promote and preserve our urban green spaces have welcomed this shift in thinking, and are pleased that our politicians have recognised the important role that rangers play in improving the health and wellbeing of the public, as well as maintaining our vital urban parks and green spaces.

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The campaign however continues as groups vow to fight on to save all 9 of the ranger posts, and will be working hard to influence the final decision due to be taken at a full Council meeting on February 25th. When groups first started to fight the cuts only 3 ranger posts were proposed, this has now increased to 7, but in order to properly maintain, improve and preserve our natural and open spaces we all believe that “9 is fine!”

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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