Archive for the ‘Biodiversity’ Category

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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Group criticises draft planning document

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) has submitted a critical response to Brighton & Hove City Council’s consultation on its draft Parking Supplementary Planning Document (SPD), which ended on 27 March.

BHFOE is concerned that if the SPD is adopted as it is currently drafted it could lead to the long term increase of cars in the city, creating more congestion and pollution, delaying bus services and harming the local economy.  It believes that the SPD may not be lawful if it leads to an increase in air pollution and delays the time that areas already above the legal limits take to become compliant [1].  It is also concerned at the unintended consequences of the standards which could see the loss of front and back gardens for parking when properties are redeveloped and the loss of historic streetscapes.

Chris Todd, planning and transport campaigner for BHFOE said:

“While we fully support the need for local parking standards what is currently proposed could be highly damaging.  It could lead to the loss of green space within the city as front and back gardens are tarmacked over to provide parking.  This would be detrimental for residents and would also harm the city’s historic streetscapes.

“Overall it will increase the number of cars in the city which will only mean more congestion and pollution.  This is at a time when more and more evidence is emerging about the harm that air pollution is causing.  The UK has an obligation to reduce air pollution to below legal limits as soon as possible.

“All new development within the city centre needs to be ‘car-free’ so that it improves the current situation, not makes it worse.  Allowing development which will bring more cars into our strategic bus corridors in the heart of the city is madness.  In the long term it could bring the city to a grinding halt and seriously damage the local economy.”

[1]        Large parts of the city centre are within an Air Quality Management Area and have nitrogen dioxide levels above legal limits.  The worst areas are around North St, Western Road and the Clock Tower.  The UK has already missed the deadline that it was mean to have met to reduce air pollution to safe levels by and recently lost a European Court Case due to its lack of action to tackle this serious issue which leads to at least 29,000 premature deaths every year in the UK.  It is estimated that 115 people a year die prematurely in Brighton & Hove due to particulate pollution, although the number who die prematurely due to all air pollution will be higher.

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Press release issued Thursday, 27 February, 2014

No building in National Park

Clear message to developers at Ovingdean

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is calling on developers, Lightwood Property, to clarify whether their housing plans for Ovingdean and Woodingdean include building in the National Park.  Documents submitted to the Brighton & Hove City Plan process shows a number of options for developing between Ovingdean and Woodingdean, three of which include building in the National Park [1].

While the developer has yet to hold the public consultation on its proposals [2], if these include all the options it has previously put forward, BHFOE would be strongly opposed to its plans.  Only option 1, outside of the National Park should be considered as a possible site for development, recognising that there is a real need for more homes in the city.  BHFOE would be opposed to option 2, which involves building on the school’s sports pitches and relocating these within the National Park.  Options 3, 4 and 5 all involve building in the National Park on land which also has local wildlife designations.

Chris Todd from BHFOE said:

“The developers have previously produced a number of options for developing in this area.  Now it seems that they are serious about these plans they need to come clean, sooner rather than later, as to what they are proposing.

“This is an extremely narrow part of the National Park and sensitive to any form of development.  It is entirely unsuitable to large new housing proposals.  Any development here could throttle the National Park and sever The Mount Pleasant area from the wider South Downs.

“Only option 1, which lies outside of the National Park is worthy of any consideration.  Option 2 which involves building on the playing fields and relocating them further away from the school in the National Park is also unacceptable.”

[1]   See Lightwood Property website – http://www.brightoncityplan.co.uk/ this link takes you direct to document produced for City Plan.  The various options are outlined on pages 40 – 49 of this document.

[2]   A public exhibition will be held on 11 and 12 March at Longhill School about the plans.

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bee_hero_panelAll the hard work campaigning around the country has paid off and it’s great news for bees and for us, as the Bee Action Plan has been approved! Here’s the announcement from national FoE:

We’ve done it! Bees Minister Lord de Mauley announced a Bee Action Plan (he called it a National Pollinator Strategy). On behalf of everyone at Friends of the Earth – and every bee in the country – thank you. You’ve done something incredible.
Your emails, phone calls, and petition signatures have made their mark. Over the past week you’ve ramped up the pressure on MPs and our Bees Minister with over 20,000 petition signatures and hundreds of you picking up the phone.  Lord de Mauley acknowledged this, describing the “strength of feeling there is for bees and pollinators. A strength of feeling echoed in thousands of emails, letters and petition signatures over the past months.”
Bees need us almost as much as we need them. And you’ve come to their rescue in their hour of need, persuading the Government to step up.
Announcing a National Pollinator Strategy is an important step in the right direction. Now the hard work starts. It will still take some time for the Government’s bee-saving measures to be finalised. So we will need to keep up the campaign pressure. The detail is everything. Today is a day to celebrate, but we can’t ease off just yet.
The more we can do now, the more we can make sure the National Pollinator Strategy stays on track.

Read more on the Bee Action Plan here.


The bee campaign has elicited great support from bee-lovers around Brighton and Hove and we thank you for your involvement. Brighton-based musician Tom Sanderson was inspired whilst watching a Bumble bee flying from flower to  flower in his garden, and wanted to try to do something to help the bees. He has written a song  called “Bombus” (Latin from Bumble Bee) and all the profits from the track go to the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust. You can visit his website www.bombusmusic.co.uk  and listen/download the track on itunes.

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Friends of the Earth (FoE) has awarded the status of Bee world to SNGSA, the St. Nicholas Garden Spaces Association This is part of FoE’s campaign to seek protection for bees, and increase bees habitats.  BHFoE volunteers joined in with St. Nicholas volunteers, and volunteers from the general public who wanted to be active on Big Dig Day, to plant wild flowers and grasses seeds donated by FoE.
It  had snowed not long before, and it was a miserable March day, with cold rain and wind blowing so strongly that the gazebo and  our publicity leaflets had to be abandoned. But diggers and sowers soldiered on, with the help of local park ranger Mark. For months afterwards, we saw nothing, but now the sun has come out,  and we have a beautiful new flowery meadow corner in the churchyard, along Church street wall.  Bees are living not far, and they will get plenty more pollen to collect, over the months to come as many of the species planted will reappear each year.


The Big Dig in March!



After...Bees World early June

After…Bees World early June

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The ‘Join the Buzz’ bee event is taking place in Hassocks Saturday 4 May – a day of fun and learning to celebrate and save bees! There will be talks, workshops, a Plant Doctor with advice on bee-friendly garden planting, children’s activities and more. Members of Friends of the Earth Brighton & Hove will be there, raising awareness about The Bee Cause.

Come along for a fun family day out to celebrate our beloved bees. Venue: South Downs Nurseries and Garden Centre, Hassocks, 9am-5pm.

For more information see the flyer or visit www.hkdtransition.org.uk

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BHFOE at bee bankThe creation of a new haven for bees began in January with a lot of hard work by volunteers from Brighton and Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) and Friends of Hollingbury and Burstead Woods (FHBW).  Members from both groups lopped, sawed, dug and raked their way through the overgrown south facing bank in Hollingbury Woods to expose bare soil which some solitary bees love.

The site is one of 60 Jubilee ‘Bee Worlds’ springing up around the country as part of Friends of the Earth’s Bee Cause campaign.  The group are calling on the government to take bolder action to protect threatened bees in the UK.  More about the campaign can be found on Friends of the Earth’s website.

Monica Jennings, a member of BHFOE, said:

“We had great fun making this area a place that bees can call home. It may look like just a bare patch of soil but we will be doing more to attract solitary bees which are in decline. If anyone wants to help us please get in touch.”

90% of all bees are solitary and unlike honeybees and bumblebees, don’t live in colonies.  Like these other bees they are also important crop pollinators.  The UK has some 250 species of solitary bee, whereas we have only 24 species of bumblebees and one species of honeybee. Amongst the most common solitary bees in the UK are red mason bees, leafcutter bees and mining bees.

Friends of Hollingbury and Burstead Woods is a group of volunteers who run work sessions once a month to look after these woods close to Fiveways / Ditchling Road.  See their website or Facebook page for more info.

For other info on BHFOE see our Facebook page.

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