Fracking fears in the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean after licence issued to energy company

The Ross Gazette reports that Frack Off Our Forest, a local pressure group, is urging Herefordshire residents to write to their local MP, Jesse Norman, if they believe that fracking should not be allowed in the Wye Valley or the Forest of Dean.

It was revealed last year that areas of the Wye Valley and the Forest of Dean are currently under consideration for fracking and gas and oil exploration.

On Thursday, July 21st, it was announced that South Western Energy had formally been issued a Government licence to explore for gas and oil. This licence had been offered to the company in December last year, and Frack Off Our Forest had been attempting to persuade the Government to withdraw this offer.

This licence area covers the whole of the Forest of Dean and a part of the Wye Valley. The licence gives South Western Energy exclusive rights to explore for gas or oil by drilling into rock and coal seams in the area.

Read the full Gazette article here.

Save our council farms

Herefordshire Green Party councillors have criticised the way in which Herefordshire Council is handling the sell-off of the County estate, which was agreed in December, and have called for notices to quit to a group of tenants to be withdrawn. The Greens say a clear plan of action should have been drawn up, and a timetable agreed and discussed with the tenants and their representatives.

Councillor Jenny Bartlett said: “We believe that an opportunity was missed to look at more creative ways of running the County estate, which had been badly neglected for many years. The decision was made with no real consideration of the options put forward by the General Overview and Scrutiny Committee (GOSC) working group, of which I was a member.

“Given GOSC’s recommendation to retain a reduced estate via partial sales, why wasn’t this option costed so that we could make a proper evaluation of this option? It is quite clear that Cabinet never had any intention of even acknowledging GOSC’s recommendation and that the decision to sell had already been made”.

Councillor Felicity Norman said: “When the decision was made by the Cabinet, assurances were given that the process would be handled carefully, with full support and advice being given to the tenants, who would also be given the opportunity to purchase their farms. This does not appear to be the case.

“We are calling for all notices to quit to be withdrawn until a clear plan of action has been drawn up, a timetable produced and full discussions held with tenants and their representatives.”

Serious flaws in Herefordshire Council’s Local Transport Plan consultation

Herefordshire Council is currently consulting residents on its ‘Local Transport Plan 4’ which will have effect from 2016 to 2031. Local authorities are required by the Local Transport Act of 2008 to have a local transport plan.

Hereford Green Party believes that this consultation has been made so complicated and difficult to use that very few people in Herefordshire will be bothered to respond, or will be able to make meaningful comments.

When the Council Overview & Scrutiny Committee discussed an interim report from officers about the consultation on 19 January, they heard that only 154 people had responded since early December.

The Council consultation webpage lists a total of 16 long documents as ‘policy’, ‘evidence’ or ‘related pages’. In total several hundred pages. Poor broadband connections will make it virtually impossible for many people to read these background documents.

The consultation survey asks only 15 questions about the new Policy and six about the Environmental Assessment. The questions in the survey are too narrow, and don’t invite comments or constructive criticism. The big assumptions in the proposed plan – notably the Southern Link Road and the Hereford Relief Road – are not open for discussion.

Completing the survey on-line is unsatisfactory. There is no way to go back to earlier pages, or to save partial input in order to research other materials. There are no links in the survey form to any of the evidence, making it difficult for the respondent to research anything on which questions are being asked.

There should be a clear statement listing what is being changed in LTP4 compared with the previous plan, LTP3. Ordinary members of the public are not going to spend their time comparing two 40 page documents.

It is also very concerning that the on-line survey itself is insecure – it is a simple matter to submit multiple responses. Furthermore, respondents are not required to give their names or where they live.
In contrast, comments on planning applications are not accepted without a name and address. People submitting petitions to the Council have to prove their supporters are real (or at least show they have collected names, signatures and postcodes).

Hereford Greens Spokesperson Rob Palgrave said,” The Council expects to use the results of this consultation exercise to show it has support for its new Transport Plan. The flaws in the on-line system and the poor response levels suggest that any mandate they get will be of very dubious value.”

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.

New Green Group in Bromyard

The Bromyward Green group launched in 2015, and now have a core of five pro-active  people, who usually attend meetings, which happen on the first Wednesday of the month at The Falcon Hotel, at 7.30.

We firstly decided to tackle traffic calming in the High Street and Broad Street, as the speed of some traffic was raised by traders as travelling too fast through a pedestrian area. It was decided  that what is needed is a 20 m.p.h. speed limit, raised platforms and a weight limit. The regional committee  have offered to help with the printing of a questionnaire and  assist in  delivering them to all houses in the town to gauge the feelings of the local community to these ideas. We now have a regular column in Off The Record, a monthly community publication, on sale in many retail outlets in the town.

Bromyard does not have a neighbourhood plan, so we intend to draught one of our own and recommend it to the town council.

We have suggested the idea of a ‘lend shop’, which exist in London and Frome. The idea is to encourage people to donate, or loan household and garden utensils like hedge trimmers, or step ladders, particularly things which are not used very often. The shop would be voluntarily run and function much like a library, lending items to residents for a small fee.

We welcome all residents of Bromyard and round about to meetings but hope all four and a half thousand don’t turn up on the same night. To get in touch, email bromyard@greenherefordshire.org.uk

Hereford Southern Link Road

HEREFORDSHIRE Council plans a road linking the A49 from the Rotherwas link roundabout to the A465 for which it has now applied for planning permission. We believe the council’s entire transport strategy is very damaging to our economy, environment and health. They have ignored the requirement to attempt sustainable transport alternatives first – which we think would actually reduce congestion much more effectively anyway.
slr-map
For example, the map below shows the effect of term time school traffic. If this were addressed we could solve our congestion problems, protect our countryside, have fitter, happier and healthier children – and at a fraction of the cost to taxpayers. Perhaps then we could keep our libraries and rural schools open too.

hereford-term-time-traffic-2010

The map below shows the effect on other roads of building the SLR. You may notice it actually makes things more congested for lots of people.

slr_traffic_flows_mapped_v2

 

 

PPC Report on 2015

At a very positive and productive AGM on September 8th a large group of us reviewed the year, discussed priorities and elected a new committee.

We are successfully maintaining our profile locally, and building on our excellent general election result.  As well as preparing for local, national and European elections we are actively challenging the anti-nature, anti-public service, pro-cuts agenda of Herefordshire Council and the government, and supporting Herefordshire’s Green councillors.

As part of our campaigning and support for local groups, we are founder members of the Herefordshire Transport Alliance, campaigning for sustainable transport in Herefordshire, and most urgently opposing the Southern Link Road.

We are delighted to be welcoming Natalie Bennett to Hereford on Friday October 2nd, to coincide with h.energy.  Before taking her to visit some events we are hosting a lunch at the Courtyard Theatre at 12 noon (lunch costs approx £9).  Everyone is welcome (you don’t have to be a Green Party member), but hurry – places are limited!

Greens dismayed by cuts to Citizens Advice

THE HEREFORD TIMES has recently been filled with reports about valuable services and projects that help the vulnerable: Citizens Advice Bureau, the Marches Access Point, and the Barnabas Deaf and Community Support Service. All reports had one common and dispiriting theme – because of funding cuts, the organisations are struggling to stay open or are to close.

Herefordshire Council itself has cut hundreds of jobs since 2010, reduced library and customer service opening hours and has had to trim its budget again this year to cope with another ‘tough’ central government settlement. Bus services and tourism support which are vital for our rural economy are losing financial support.

The prospect of Hereford CAB closing ought to be a wake-up call to local and Westminster politicians that cuts have gone too far. Instead the response has been a defensive letter from Councillor Johnson praising the council’s financial management and claiming that it “sticks to its priorities of protecting the vulnerable” (28 May 2015). The Herefordshire Green Party calls upon HCC to honour that pledge by committing to future funding for the CAB.

Mr Johnson also claims his earlier comments after the election, in “Council says Enough is Enough with Austerity” of 21 May, have been misinterpreted and weren’t a call for Jesse Norman and Bill Wiggin to moderate austerity. We think the CAB problems mean he should re-double his efforts rather then retracting his request for help.

Current policies are evidently damaging the vulnerable in society. I hope that our newly elected MPs will heed Tony Johnson’s original plea and not just direct a bit more money to Herefordshire but will try to get their government to reverse the austerity programme and truly ‘protect’ our services.

In the general election campaign, all the major parties claimed they would be best at managing the economy. In reality voters were being asked to choose one of three variants of austerity. My message was different – greater investment in public services, not more cuts and service restrictions. The Green Party is committed to building a society which supports everyone’s needs and to reversing the growing inequality of wealth. And that includes support for vital services like the CAB.

More about the CAB:

  • HCC grant to CAB last year was £117,000. In 2013/14 CAB helped over 5,000 individuals – 62% with a household income of less that £1,000 per month. The most common issues were around benefits (36%) and debt (29%). The main purpose of providing advice is to make a positive difference to people’s lives. But where outcomes can be quantified in monetary terms the CAB managed to deliver £4.4m to clients (enabling them to claim benefits they are entitled to & managing debts) – the vast majority of this would have been spent in the local economy.
  • Services have been withdrawn from Ross-on-Wye, Ledbury, Bromyard & Leominster. Without long term funding the service in Hereford will also have to close.
  • CAB helps Herefordshire’s most vulnerable people, many of whom will not have access to online services or even have money to make a phone call.

Fair Votes Now

The 2015 election has shown once again that our voting system is broken beyond repair. It denies voters real choice, produces unfair results and delivers unrepresentative governments. The current government has a majority with only 37% of the vote, and only 24% of the population when non-voters are included. Many of them don’t vote because they feel the system doesn’t allow their choices to be respected.

Take a look at the fair votes information here from Unlock Democracy, and then please sign their petition for a fairer and more inclusive system.

Diana on sustrans bridge

Best Green vote ever in 2015

GREENS in Herefordshire made significant progress in the May 2015 General Election, not only saving their deposits for the first time, but with South Herefordshire boasting the highest percentage Green vote in the West Midlands region.

The full results were as follows:-

Herefordshire North result: Daisy Blench (Green) 3,341. Jeanie Falconer (Lib Dem)5,768. Jonathan Oakton (UKIP) 6,720. Sally Prentice (Labour) 5,478. Bill Wiggin (Conservative) 26,716. 

Hereford and south Herefordshire results. Jesse Norman (Conservative) 24,844; Nigel Ely (UKIP) 7,954; Anna Coda (Labour) 6,042; Lucy Hurds (Lib Dem) 5,002; Diana Toynbee (Green) 3,415

Celebrating success in Leominster

DESPITE substantial ward boundary changes that looked set to benefit the Conservatives, Herefordshire’s 2 Green Party county councillors were re-elected with comfortable majorities.

Jenny Bartlett and Felicity Norman of Leominster were celebrating success today after a hard-fought local election campaign involving many hours of canvassing.

The results declared at the local election count at Hereford Leisure Centre were: Leominster West – Felicity Norman (Green Party) 682, Con 486, Lib Dem 174. Leominster East – Jenny Bartlett (Green Party) 748, Con 587, UKIP 264.

Ross May Fayre

We had a busy and successful time at the Ross May Fayre.  As expected many visitors were yet to decide how to vote, so our mini-manifestos were popular, helping voters from outside our constituency as well.

A trainee nurse grilled us about our plans for the NHS, a man seeking doughnuts was given directions, and a tall man who had earlier been blowing his own trumpet, tried to open negotiations about coalition.

The owners of a recently opened local café came and declared their support, and offered us the use of their premises as a meeting room.

All very positive!

A fair economy, not austerity

The Conservatives say we must race to ‘balance the books’, and cut even more, but the Green party believes a better way of rebalancing the economy is to invest in public services and in protecting the environment, also the mark of a caring, civilised society.

I don’t want ‘the job finished’ if that means more of the precious assets we own in common will pass into private hands, leaving us mourning our libraries, care homes, public forests and post offices. Or that public-sector workers become ever more stressed and demoralised.

Herefordshire Council has cut hundreds of jobs since 2010, reduced library and customer service opening hours and has had to trim its budget again this year to cope with another ‘tough’ central government settlement. Bus services and tourism support which are vital for our rural economy are losing financial support.

Britain’s wealth is now concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. This is unhealthy, and I don’t accept that we must grow the economy before we can share it out more fairly. Over 5 million people currently earn less than the living wage – the Green Party would raise the statutory minimum wage to a living wage and increase it to £10 per hour by 2020, alongside practical measures to support small businesses.

We will change the tax system so that the really wealthy pay more, and will make it far more difficult for individuals and corporations to avoid paying what they owe.

In thinking about the economy, we can’t sidestep another crucial question – our one planet cannot support continual material and economic growth. Sound economic planning must take this into account, and facilitate a transition to a society that lives within its means

Voting Green will say you want a secure, resilient economy that works for the common good.

Vote for what you believe in

Do you want to be represented in Parliament by someone forced to put party politics above our needs, including voting for brutal cuts to Herefordshire council?  This year you do have a choice – vote Green, for real change.

Austerity has created anxiety and insecurity, but we don’t have to accept this. Government shouldn’t use financial crises to undermine services and sell off our assets; the next parliament must re-balance the system to put nature and ordinary people before profit. Spending on people and wellbeing leads to happier healthier societies and is economically responsible.

Most politicians ignore the link between climate change and social issues. Only the Green Party is saying act now to protect the environment and create an economy that works for people, not just for big business.

Caroline Lucas, MP of the year in 2014, campaigned to tax casino banking, for reinstating the NHS, and to ban fracking. I share her values, and want to join her in Westminster to represent you and hold the next Government to account.

A vote for the Green Party next month says you care about your future, your children’s future, and the world we live in. We all share our one earth, and we have never been more interconnected.  Movement of people around the world greatly benefits Britain; we must understand the causes of immigration, and manage it in a responsible, compassionate way.

We’ve had limited choice at the ballot box in recent years, many people voting for the least bad option – and look where it got us last time! This year, vote Green – for reinvestment in health, housing and education, a reformed EU, and a more equal, peaceful world. Voting for what you believe in isn’t a waste. Add your voice to ours, and demand government that works for the common good.

Bill Wiggin doesn’t think fracking needs environmental permit

As far as we can tell, Leominster MP Bill Wiggin isn’t very bothered about the environmental impact of fracking in his constituency, according to this record of a vote on 26 Jan 2015.

As far as we can tell, Hereford MP Jesse Norman didn’t even express a view, although we would welcome clarification from him on this.

See the full details here from publicwhip.co.uk

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