Southern Link Road to Nowhere

Dubbed the Road to Nowhere, Hereford’s Southern Link Road is appropriately making slow progress. The planning application – with around 500 written objections – was to be decided at a meeting of Council planning committee on 23 November.  Now it’s delayed to sometime in 2016, as planning officers fathom out what to do about the objections raised by Historic England which centre on the harm the road would do to the historic environment surrounding Haywood Lodge.

Late in November, It’s Our County submitted a request to Westminster to have the planning application decided by the Sec. of State on the grounds that Herefordshire Council has a conflict of interest in considering whether to grant itself planning permission – specifically it is likely to benefit financially from land sales were the road to be built.

And planning permission is not the only obstacle – the £27m funding needed to build the road has then to be approved by the Department for Transport. Roads Minister Andrew Jones has confirmed that the Council has to submit a business case once they have got planning permission and have lined up contracts with builders, and it is for him (Andrew Jones) to make the final decision based on value for money. Several of the objectors are already putting aside diary time to unpick and criticise the business case when it is released.

The national and local organisations listed below have objected or commented critically on the SLR plans – this is definitely not just a NIMBY campaign. Objectors see the SLR as a huge waste of public money, which will do nothing to reduce car usage and dependency, and will damage nature and landscapes for ever.

Herefordshire Wildlife Trust (effects on wildlife and vegetation )
Historic England (ancient monuments – effect on the setting of Haywood Lodge)
Hereford Civic Society
Hereford City Council
Here for Hereford
Hereford Transport Forum
Herefordshire Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE)
Campaign for Better Transport
Hereford and Worcester Gardens Trust
Clehonger Parish Council
The Tree Council
Woodland Trust
Natural England (critical comments only)
SUSTRANS
Hereford Green Party
Callow & Haywood Parish Council

Fracking licenses approved for parts of Herefordshire

AREAS in south Herefordshire are now licensed for fracking following a government vote, reports the Hereford Times.

The Wye Valley and Forest of Dean were part of the 159 Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences awarded for fracking across England voted through in the House of Commons on December 16.

But before a licensee can start operations it must apply for planning and other permissions.

The Forest of Dean and Symonds Yat are within the proposed areas.

Read the full Hereford Times report here.

Fracking in Herefordshire must be prevented

Areas in the south of Herefordshire are now licensed for fracking.
 
On 17 December, government announced that 159 Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDLs) had been awarded for fracking across England under the 14th landward licensing round.

Areas to the south of our county, including inside the Forest of Dean and in the vicinity of Symonds Yat (known as SO 50, 51 60 and 61) are now licensed for the extraction of Coal Bed Methane by South Western Energy Ltd.

Before the licensee can start operations it must apply for planning and other permissions [1].

The Green Party believes that fracking for shale gas or to extract coal bed methane is totally incompatible with efforts (and UK commitments) to minimise climate change. The fuel extracted by fracking is a fossil fuel, and when burnt adds carbon to the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.

The drilling processes are disruptive, dirty and noisy and pose a threat to human health and to the natural environment including water quality.

Despite the government’s assertion that shale gas is a key part of our energy future, many industry commentators believe that it is not commercially viable in the UK.

Hereford Green Party will vigorously oppose any applications the licensee makes for the required permissions.

Rob Palgrave, chair of the party said,” How shameful for Britain – days after signing the global agreement on climate change in Paris, our government announces the go ahead for more exploration and extraction of fossil fuels. I hope our local politicians will be as resolute as their counterparts in Lancashire in resisting the development of fracking here.”

NOTES:
1. The award of a Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDLs) does not automatically give permission for operations to begin. The necessary planning and regulatory consents will be required before development can take place. All proposals will subsequently be scrutinised by the Environment Agency, and by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Consent from the OGA is also required before exploration or production drilling or production activities can commence.
2. Map of fracking blocks
3. List of operators awarded licences under the 14th round

Council sell off of small farms a tragedy

A Cabinet meeting of HCC decided on December 3rd 2015 to sell off all 45 of the Council owned small farms, totalling 4800 acres. This decision was made by the 7 Councillors who comprise the Cabinet despite an earlier recommendation of the Council’s General Overview and Scrutiny Committee (GOSC) to retain the estate and secure its viability through a structured partial sale so as to provide viable starter and progression farms.

The Cabinet’s decision has outraged members of the opposition parties including our two Green Party Councillors, as was reported in the Hereford Times on December 10th. Whilst this decision was legitimate it does raise serious questions about the democratic nature of the Council’s decision-making process.

The politically representative GOSC had reached its recommendation following extensive background research. The farm tenancies predating the 1995 Farm Business Tenancies Act had not been sufficiently fulfilling the stated intention of providing an initial entry into farming owing to the long term nature of the tenancies. However, these original tenancies have an expected average of only 7 or 8 years to run and the new tenancies under the more recent legislation are of more limited duration: in due course therefore the original purpose of providing a start and progression onwards in farming would increasingly have been fulfilled. In making a recommendation for partial sale the Committee had taken account of a need to raise funds to address a backlog of essential maintenance and thereby put the management of the smallholding estate on a sounder financial footing in the current cash-strapped circumstances. This was a balanced decision.

The Cabinet’s decision to sell the whole estate in a county with a proud farming tradition is a tragedy. This can best be seen as the outcome of short term thinking and a perceived necessity for an underfunded County Council to sell off irreplaceable assets in the face a misguided national austerity programme.