Greens support Lib Dems in Richmond

The Green party has backed the Liberal Democrat candidate in the Richmond Park byelection against former Conservative Zac Goldsmith, who quit his seat in protest at the government’s decision to expand Heathrow airport.

The party said they hoped the decision would put pressure on the local Labour party to not stand a candidate of their own and instead swing behind the Lib Dems as the best chance of beating Goldsmith, who is standing as an independent and has been endorsed by Ukip.

Read the full Guardian report

Ellie Chowns - Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (North)

Ellie goes regional

A HEREFORDSHIRE Green Party activist has taken on a key role in helping to build on the party’s success following recent local government election victories, record general election vote and boom in membership.

DR ELLIE CHOWNS, a member of Ledbury Green Party, was elected last Saturday at a meeting in Birmingham as a West Midlands representative on the Green Party’s Regional Council.

Ellie, 40, lives in Canon Frome, near Ledbury, and works as a lecturer at the University of Birmingham. Her new role involves sharing experiences with other regions, and helping to develop the Green Party’s national strategy.

“I got involved in politics for the first time last year – my election shows that the Green Party is very open to new people and fresh ideas,” said Ellie.

“This is a really exciting time to be involved in positive, progressive politics.  The Green Party is going from strength to strength, and there are lots of important things to work on, like the upcoming European Referendum.

“I’m really looking forward to using my new role to help build a greener, fairer society.”

Herefordshire Greens welcome global peace campaigner on eve of historic UN vote to ban nuclear weapons

REBECCA Johnson, prominent global peace campaigner, was in Hereford on Tuesday last week to talk on ‘peace-building through non-violent action and treaty-making’ for the Millichap Peace Fund. Her visit came just days before the United Nations was due to vote on whether to start negotiations next year to prohibit nuclear weapons.

She said ‘I’m delighted to be back in beautiful Hereford, and to discuss peace at such a crucial time in history. I’ve come straight here from the discussions at the UN in New York. Sadly the UK, and in particular this government, is out of step with the rest of the world on this, and is pressurising other countries to vote no, but I’m optimistic’.

Read the full report from the Hereford Times.

Film on the Farm nights at Ledbury

Ledbury Greens were super-busy in the run-up to the 23 June referendum, with stalls and leafletting every weekend and some weekday evenings too – often working in cross-party partnership with other Remain campaigners.  After the bitter disappointment of the narrow victory for Leave, we’ve had a bit of a rest over the summer, but we’re back with a bang now with a new monthly ‘Film on the Farm’ night.  The plan is to combine food, entertainment, and discussion in a friendly social format.  Hope you can join us!

Student Infofest

Infofest at the Colleges in Hereford gave us an opportunity to run a stall at which we encouraged students to register to vote and to start thinking about politics and what the Green Party stands for. About a dozen were interested enough to leave their contact details and we will be following up with them to see if they can be persuaded to build a greater Young Greens presence in the county.

Greens confer in Birmingham

This year’s Autumn Conference was held in our region, at the University of Birmingham.  It was one of the biggest conferences ever, with about 1300 members attending.  There was a big buzz around the election of the new Leaders, Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley, who stood as a job-share and won a resounding 85% of the vote.  Amelia Womack was re-elected Deputy Leader, and the party said a warm ‘thank you’ to Natalie Bennett, who stood down after 4 years of service during which the Green Party has grown four-fold.

Conference has two purposes really: to make policy, and to enable activists to network, discuss issues, and get training.  There’s always lots going on!

On the policy-making side, motions (and amendments) can be proposed by any member, so it’s a very democratic process.  (Of course, motions have got a much better chance of being passed if they’ve been thoroughly researched and consulted on).  Just to give you a flavour of the debate, here are the first few motions on the agenda:

  • Opposition to the Conservatives’ Trade Union Act
  • Amending our Terrorism Policy
  • Cost and timescale for nuclear power
  • Recognising Trans identities
  • Statutory right of access to workplaces for Trade Unions
  • Updating our policy on unpaid carers
  • Animal welfare in food processing
  • House of Lords Reform

Conference also makes decisions about the internal running of the party, as well as being where elections are held for a wide range of committees.

In terms of sessions for activists, there were fringe meetings on a wide range of topics (e.g. Universal Basic Income, divestment from fossil fuels, Green Party messaging strategy); training sessions (e.g. communications, running meetings people want to come to, selecting and supporting candidates) and a couple of big panel discussions (‘Progressive Alliances – the case for cross-party working’ and ‘Brexit – what now?’).  I even ran a tour of the Zero Carbon House (zch.org.uk)!

Altogether it was a great weekend – really energising and inspiring.  If you’ve never been to a Green Party Conference, I really do encourage you to.  In fact, the Spring 2017 conference in Liverpool (30 March – 2 April 2017) is going to be quite extraordinary, as we’re combining it with a Global Greens congress (held once every 5 years), a European Green Party Congress, and a Young Greens conference. You can find out a bit more here. Put the dates in your diary now – see you there!

Ellie Chowns, North Herefordshire Green Party

Diana Merry, 1920-2016

We are sad to report the death of a great Green pioneer – Diana Merry of Ledbury – one of the ‘founding mothers’ of the Green Party in our area.

Diana, who died aged 96, was resident at a nursing home with a good view of her former home Knapp House at Tunnel Lane, Ledbury, now home to her daughter Dilys and her family. In Diana’s time the house and its lovely garden was often the venue for enjoyable fundraising events for the Ecology Party, subsequently the Green Party. Diana helped promote the Greens at every opportunity. She could always be counted upon to turn up and support local, parliamentary and European Green candidates at local walk-abouts and events, and was a regular at party conferences.

Green Party county councillor Felicity Norman of Leominster, former parliamentary and European candidate, paid tribute at Diana’s funeral at Humber Woodland of Remembrance on August 2nd “I was very fond of Diana, who was great fun to be with,” said Felicity. “She was so wonderfully supportive through many elections, turning out to help with campaigning until quite recently. She was utterly consistent in her support for the party, sharing its principles and values over many years.”

Going Greener in North Herefordshire

North Herefordshire Green Party is in the process of selecting a candidate to fight the next General Election and at the time of going to press, one nomination had come forward. The ballot will take place over the next few weeks, and there will be a chance to meet and question the prospective candidate, Ellie Chowns, at the next Leominster Branch meeting in October.

We held our AGM in September and new officers were elected: Chair/coordinator – Felicity Norman; Treasurer – Peter Ellis; Elections Officer – Jenny Bartlett; Minute Secretary – Ellie Chowns; Media – Pete Blench; Other committee members elected were Roger Pugh, Anne Adams, Charlotte Millward and Rosie Winn. We are very grateful to outgoing Chair, Peter Ellis, and other officers standing down, for all the effort they have put in over the past year.

It was agreed formally to change our name to North Herefordshire Green Party, in line with the constituency name, and we will meet quarterly, ideally in different parts of the constituency. The Leominster Branch will continue to meet during the intervening months, and is in the process of putting out the latest edition of our town newsletter. We will also continue to keep in touch with South Herefordshire Green Party, especially over County and other shared matters.

Our County and town councillors continue to push for greener ways of working, to scrutinise council business and  oppose the worst of the conservative initiatives, inappropriate road schemes, including the southern link road blighting our beautiful countryside and devastating ancient woodland, while neglecting measures that would make a difference , better public transport and enabling cycling and walking; while they fail to seriously address the excessive phosphates in our rivers, the risk of fracking, and the many risks to tourism in our county ( a major contributor to our economy), among other concerns.  We are very sorry to have lost our youngest Leominster town councillor, Andy Gibson who has moved to work in Leeds. Good luck, Andy and our thanks to you, and all our councillors.

Hereford MP Norman wants to frack

Hereford MP Jesse Norman has criticised Labour for saying it would ban fracking.

A Hereford Green spokesperson said: ‘Jesse Norman may find it interesting explaining his love of fracking to residents of South Herefordshire as they worry about falling house prices, polluted water supplies, earthquakes and damage to our tourist industry if the frackers are allowed to do their dirty work here in the beautiful Wye Valley. Why is he not putting all his effort into developing our renewables industry instead?’

Green MP Caroline Lucas welcomed Labour’s opposition to fracking but challenged them to oppose Hinkley too.

The Green Party believes that climate change is such an emergency that we have no time to use fossil fuel such as shale gas even to ‘transition’ to greener technology, and that this is a dangerous distraction.

All investment should be in renewable energy which would not only protect water supplies, the wider environment and our tourist industry, but would create local jobs too.

Read the full report from the BBC.

Don’t frack the shires

Diana Toynbee supported a send off for Rick Guest, aka Gandolph, who is emulating Tolkein’s hero and, in this case going to London to raise awareness of proposed fracking and CSG/coalbed methane operations in the Wye Valley AONB, which straddles two counties of Herefordshire & Gloucestershire. Here you can see a short film of the 4 day event which started from Barclays Bank in Hereford.

Jesse Norman MP meets Greens to discuss energy

In July, Jesse Norman was appointed to a junior ministerial post (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State) in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. His energy responsibilities are Nuclear and Oil & Gas including shale gas.  Soon after his appointment,  we contacted him to seek a meeting, intending to discuss the Hinkley Point decision, and fracking, among other issues.

We met him just after Hinkley Point was given the go ahead and shared our views on fracking, managing energy demand, the transport sector, home insulation, ratification of the Paris Agreement (COP21) and the extent to which government should directly manage the UK’s low carbon transition.  Unsurprisingly, there are still considerable differences between his position and ours, but it was a nonetheless a useful meeting.

Diana on sustrans bridge

Brexit: we still have more in common

Now the Brexit dust is settling, what does it mean for Herefordshire?

The fact is, no-one knows, and we are left feeling a little confused and uncertain.

But we can start by refusing the label ‘divided society’, and celebrate what we have in common, our caring communities, our beautiful countryside, our public services.

We can engage in the decisions that affect our lives by keeping an eye on what our politicians are up to: in Westminster, voting for nuclear weapons and against fairer voting systems; locally, voting for a pointless road, not protecting our rivers from pollution, and cutting vital bus services (sorry – ‘savings’, not cuts!).

Politics shouldn’t be something done to us from London – voting on June 23rd was a political act, so let’s keep going! If we ‘want our country back’ let’s stop selling it off to big business; let’s not allow it to be blasted by fracking!

Since June 24th we know how it feels to participate in a democratic process where every vote counts. Wouldn’t it be nice if that applied to all elections? If you agree, join the growing movement for proportional representation, so that all our voices can be heard.

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.

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