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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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!”
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 . 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 .
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.”
 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.
 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.
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 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).
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?´ 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.