The government’s Environment Bill takes the emergency out of climate emergency and is full of holes

As the Brexit skirmishes continue, it is easy to lose track of other important pieces of legislation struggling to get parliamentary time. One of those is the Environment Bill. The second reading of the bill on 23 October was abruptly cancelled to make way for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. That’s ironic as a large part of the Environment Bill is concerned with reinstating the environmental protection the UK will lose if it ceases to a member of the EU. The bill aims for a lot more, including a deposit return scheme for drinks containers, measures to improve air quality, and rules to ensure biodiversity net gain from housing and some other developments.

It’s a great forward looking bill. At least, that’s what ministers say. In practice the bill is colander bill. It is full of holes. It fails to incorporate the principle of non-regression into law. It sets 2037 as the earliest date for any environmental targets and those targets are at the behest of ministers. It allows environmental policies to be watered down by ministers at a whim, including the target for biodiversity gain. It is a bill that takes the emergency out of the climate emergency. Continue reading “The government’s Environment Bill takes the emergency out of climate emergency and is full of holes”

Shropshire Council proposes a vanity motorway having just declared a sham climate emergency

Update 19 September 2019

Despite having declared a climate emergency, Conservation councillors voted to extend the M54 from Telford to Shrewsbury. They argued that was the only way that we would attact bigger companies to the county. I argued for investment in sustainable transport including trains. The motion was passed by the Conservative majority.

Original article

Climate emergency. Bah humbug!

What is wrong with Shropshire Council? Instead of concentrating on the special qualities of our county, its greenness and quality of life, they want it to be just like Leeds or Birmingham. The latest idea from the environmentally dysfunctional council leadership is to extend the M54 to Shrewsbury. They know this will do nothing to improve traffic flow. It’s a smooth flowing road and everything ends up in a queue at Preston Boats anyway. But the reason the petrol heads at Shropshire Council want to extend the motorway is to attract foreign investors. They want to open North Shropshire and parts of Mid Wales for massive, sprawling development.

The motion before Shropshire Council tomorrow is nothing more than a vanity project from council leaders that wish stamp their outdated legacy on the county. That legacy will be concrete and pollution. The legacy will be a failure to address the climate emergency that Shropshire Council declared only in May. I have no doubt that the Conservative majority on Shropshire Council will be whipped into supporting the proposal for a motorway at the council meeting tomorrow. And it won’t stop there. Soon, the motorway will push to Oswestry and Wrexham.

This just shows that council leaders’ acquiescence to declaring a climate emergency last May was nothing more than a sham.

Continue reading “Shropshire Council proposes a vanity motorway having just declared a sham climate emergency”

We should plant 350,000 trees in Shropshire by 2050, one for every person in the county (updated)

Update 19 September 2019

The motion was passed by Shropshire Council with only one councillor voting against.

Original article

Shropshire is a green county but it has lost a lot of hedgerows and a lot of trees in recent decades. There has been some replanting but Ludlow conservation areas alone have lost close to 200 trees in the last five years. We are due to lose around 100 trees on Foldgate Lane alone. Trees will be replanted in compensation but it will be decades before they mature and replace existing tree cover. At a time when a majority of public authorities have declared a climate emergency, including Shropshire Council and Ludlow Town Council, we must accelerate our efforts to plant trees and protect biodiversity.

Tomorrow, Thursday, Shropshire Council will discuss a motion written by myself and signed by Lib Dem councillors to plant 345,000 trees across the unitary council area by 2050. That will be one tree for every resident. I am also proposing a tree bank scheme to will encourage landowners and householders to pay for two new trees to be planted elsewhere for every tree felled.  

Continue reading “We should plant 350,000 trees in Shropshire by 2050, one for every person in the county (updated)”

Hedgehog highways and swift bricks must be installed in new developments, ministers say as they rush out announcements

New national planning guidance published on Sunday by communities secretary James Brokenshire orders developers to do more to protect wildlife. Ludlow Swift Group will welcome his insistence that developers install swift bricks in new homes. Pricklebums Hedgehog Rescue and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society will welcome the obligation for developers to install hedgehog highways. There is more to this guidance which strengthens requirements for developers and councils to seek a net gain in biodiversity when developments are built.

This is a welcome announcement but there is wriggle room in the guidance and a lot will depend on local interpretation. Wildlife groups and communities will need to lobby Shropshire Council to ensure that its forthcoming local plan has the strongest measures possible to protect and enhance biodiversity. Those measures might include a “greening factor”.

Continue reading “Hedgehog highways and swift bricks must be installed in new developments, ministers say as they rush out announcements”

Climate emergency set to dominate Shropshire Council agenda next Thursday with three motions and one petition

The climate emergency features on Shropshire Council’s agenda on Thursday, 16 May. Not once, not twice or even three times. There is one public petition and three motions from political parties and independent councillors. This is unprecedented and I am not sure how the debate will be managed. It would be a good idea to move the motions from the end to the beginning of the meeting to be debated along with the petition. But it is sea change from the February council meeting, when the council speaker cruelly extinguished a public question on climate change over a technicality.

I am sure the council will get the hint that we need to declare a climate emergency. But this must be more than a token gesture to capture the current public mood. The council must bring forward its plans to become carbon neutral from a target of 2050 to 2030, if not sooner. And it needs to seriously rethink its plans for cuts to bus cuts and building an environmentally destructive North West Relief Road around Shrewsbury.

Continue reading “Climate emergency set to dominate Shropshire Council agenda next Thursday with three motions and one petition”