Monday, April 12, 2021

Why 20 is Plenty for Steyning (and Bramber)

By now, anyone living in the parish of Steyning, or those parts of Bramber potentially affected, will have received a paper survey asking for feedback on 'the idea of making the whole of Steyning and neighbouring parts of Bramber a 20 mph zone'.  There's also a link to an online survey which poses additional questions about 'possible further road calming and sustainable transport measures'.  The paper survey leaflet makes a good case for a 20 mph zone (but I would say that, having sat on the Steyning PC Community Committee that promoted the idea) but, as explored in the online survey, the philosophy behind the proposal really addresses the question of what environment do we want to live in, and why.

Undoubtedly, motorised transport (of all kinds) has brought societal benefits, but also societal costs, from pollution (gaseous and visual) via obstruction of the public highway by parked vehicles, personal isolation (difficult to interact with the world from inside a tin box with tinted windows) and lack of physical exercise (1 in 4 in UK are obese) to physical injury and death (just under 28,000 killed or seriously injured).  Much like the apocryphal (?) frogs in hot water, this blight has insidiously crept up on us over the last century, helped by a rejection of mass public transport in certain quarters (eg Marples / Beeching and their emasculation of branch lines to promote road transport).  Is now the time to reverse the trend?  (Regrettably most of the old rail links are now beyond redemption.) 

So why a zone, and not individual roads?  In simple terms, cost (both legal and physical) and effectiveness - Steyning, Bramber and Upper Beeding present as a  connected community, and that should include speed limits on residential streets and in town and village centres over the whole community, to avoid the issue of doubt.  Much is made of the lack of effectiveness, but in reality that is a community decision: if enough motorists keep to the speed limit then it becomes self enforcing.  (This will be reinforced from 2022 by all new motor vehicles having an in-built speed limiter.)

So, the choice is yours - Steyning and Bramber Parish Councils have recognised the benefits - do you?  (If you need convincing, try standing on one of the many narrow local footways and assess the passing motor traffic - would you rather be there, or in one of the moving boxes?)

If you need more convincing, then watch Greening Steyning's launch of their promotional campaign for a range of viewpoints, or head over to the national 20sPlenty website.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Green Homes Grant - R.I.P.

After a short, and ineffective life, the Green Homes Grant has joined many other  half-baked, central government, consultant run, initiatives in the great policy graveyard in the sky. At a stroke it also reduces government support to carbon reduction in dwellings from £2.5bn to £1.3bn, with the only bright side being that the latter (up from £1bn previously) will be administered by local authorities focussing on low income households.

One little irony here is that some of the 25 to 30 million dwellings that need improvement would not have needed it if the same central government had not scrapped the Code for Sustainable Homes in 2015.  That would have required new builds from 2016 to be close to zero carbon ('Code 0'), but some of the big housebuilders (eg Persimmon) claimed it was too difficult/expensive...  How much more expensive (to build)?  About 8% more should get you a Passivhaus, which would be close to Code 0.

Jolly glad that I'm not in Alok Sharma's shoes (President of the UN COP26), or is this a strategic move to ditch a widely criticised mess, in order that the PM can introduce another world beating path to the sunny uplands closer to the COP26 date?  (Me, cynical?!?)

Friday, March 26, 2021

Housing - It's a numbers game - Take 3

Previous blogs on housing have outlined the reasons why HDC 'has' to plan for up to 1200 dwellings pa (920 minimum plus 'duty to cooperate') over the next 16 years in its forthcoming revised Local Plan.  This should be set against the latest Office for National Statistics predictionmade pre-Covid, of just under 700 dwellings pa over that period in Horsham District!   

It's likely that a decision on the exact plan to be put forward (with a definitive list of strategic, ie large, sites) - Regulation 19 - will be taken by June.  In the meantime, we can expect to receive a flood of communications on why site A, B or C is clearly unacceptable.  This is clearly going to give Bob & myself a few problems!  

Firstly, without secretarial support, it's just too time consuming to reply to all the e-mails we are receiving - nearly 200 this week, I've just counted them...  Nevertheless, we are both reading them all, although probably not to the end if they are obviously a form letter.  So, 'sorry' if you were expecting a crafted reply.

Secondly, for some of the reasons explained above and in earlier blogs, I agree that the number required by central government is absurd.  It was always absurd, although with the postulated 'mutant algorithm' requiring 1715pa it was risible, but that doesn't make the current requirement any more acceptable.  

So what's it to be?  

a) vote against a plan than contains absurd numbers with inherent poor consequences for the wellbeing of the district, accepting the risk of opening the floodgates for developer applications as the current Horsham District Planning Framework 2015 will be well past its review date?


b) attempt to reduce the plan numbers to something that can rationally be justified on current predictions, with the intention of reviewing downwards further once the full impact of the current pandemic can be assessed and sense prevails in central government?


c) vote for the plan with its absurd numbers, thus upsetting a good number of residents and treating some excellent countryside to a concrete and tarmac overcoat, with the hope of an early downward review once the absurdity of the numbers in the current economic environment is reflected in government actions?

We'd love to hear your views.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Tackling Climate Change in Horsham District

The cogs are starting to turn, probably not fast enough though - of course the pandemic has not helped with the cash flow!  Nevertheless there should be the potential to find a green dividend with the correct investment.  

Related to the environmental actions is food waste minimisation - this (w/c 1 Mar 21) being Food Waste Action Week: perhaps a good lockdown project before the kids go back to school?  According to the UN, if food waste were a country it would be the third highest emitter of greenhouse gasses after the US and China!

I look forward to reviewing these Horsham initiatives over the coming year.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

The Economics of Biodiversity

This Treasury review (yes, that Treasury) came as a bit of a shock, although much of it has been said before, just not with a Treasury label on it - almost makes one have some sympathy for Philip Hammond, who commissioned it!  For those with a bit of time on your hands, the full review runs to 600 pages, but for mere mortals, the 10 page headline message will give you the flavour, as will the following sentence from the headline  'However, GDP does not account for the depreciation of assets, including the natural environment. As our primary measure of economic success, it therefore encourages us to pursue unsustainable economic growth and development.'

I'll finish this post by repeating David Attenborough's foreword in full, but in case you're in a big hurry, my summary is 'we're in deep shit and need to do something about it pronto: here are some worked examples'...

We are facing a global crisis. We are totally dependent upon the natural world. It supplies us with every oxygen-laden breath we take and every mouthful of food we eat. But we are currently damaging it so profoundly that many of its natural systems are now on the verge of breakdown. Every other animal living on this planet, of course, is similarly dependent. But in one crucial way, we are different. We can change not just the numbers, but the very anatomy of the animals and plants that live around us. We acquired that ability, doubtless almost unconsciously, some ten thousand years ago, when we had ceased wandering and built settlements for ourselves. It was then that we started to modify other animals and plants.

At first, doubtless, we did so unintentionally. We collected the kinds of seeds that we wanted to eat and took them back to our houses. Some doubtless fell to the ground and sprouted the following season. So over generations, we became farmers. We domesticated animals in a similar way. We brought back the young of those we had hunted, reared them in our settlements and ultimately bred them there. Over many generations, this changed both the bodies and ultimately the characters of the animals on which we depend.

We are now so mechanically ingenious that we are able to destroy a rainforest, the most species-rich ecosystem that has ever existed, and replace it with plantations of a single species in order to feed burgeoning human populations on the other side of the world. No single species in the whole history of life has ever been so successful or so dominant.

Now we are plundering every corner of the world, apparently neither knowing or caring what the consequences might be. Each nation is doing so within its own territories. Those with lands bordering the sea fish not only in their offshore waters but in parts of the ocean so far from land that no single nation can claim them. So now we are stripping every part of both the land and the sea in order to feed our ever-increasing numbers.

How has the natural world managed to survive this unrelenting ever-increasing onslaught by a single species? The answer of course, is that many animals have not been able to do so. When Europeans first arrived in southern Africa they found immense herds of antelope and zebra.

These are now gone and vast cities stand in their stead. In North America, the passenger pigeon once flourished in such vast flocks that when they migrated, they darkened the skies from horizon to horizon and took days to pass. So they were hunted without restraint. Today, that species is extinct. Many others that lived in less dramatic and visible ways simply disappeared without the knowledge of most people worldwide and were mourned only by a few naturalists.

Nonetheless, in spite of these assaults, the biodiversity of the world is still immense. And therein lies the strength that has enabled much of its wildlife to survive until now. Economists understand the wisdom of spreading their investments across a wide range of activities. It enables them to withstand disasters that may strike any one particular asset. The same is true in the natural world. If conditions change, either climatically or as a consequence of a new development in the never-ending competition between species, the ecosystem as a whole is able to maintain its vigour.

But consider the following facts. Today, we ourselves, together with the livestock we rear for food, constitute 96% of the mass of all mammals on the planet. Only 4% is everything else – from elephants to badgers, from moose to monkeys. And 70% of all birds alive at this moment are poultry – mostly chickens for us to eat. We are destroying biodiversity, the very characteristic that until recently enabled the natural world to flourish so abundantly. If we continue this damage, whole ecosystems will collapse. That is now a real risk.

Putting things right will take collaborative action by every nation on earth. It will require international agreements to change our ways. Each ecosystem has its own vulnerabilities and requires its own solutions. There has to be a universally shared understanding of how these systems work, and how those that have been damaged can be brought back to health.

This comprehensive, detailed and immensely important report is grounded in that understanding. It explains how we have come to create these problems and the actions we must take to solve them. It then provides a map for navigating a path towards the restoration of our planet’s biodiversity.

Economics is a discipline that shapes decisions of the utmost consequence, and so matters to us all. The Dasgupta Review at last puts biodiversity at its core and provides the compass that we urgently need. In doing so, it shows us how, by bringing economics and ecology together, we can help save the natural world at what may be the last minute – and in doing so, save ourselves.

David Attenborough


Not another one!

'Fraid so, but this time it will be for West Sussex County Council and Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, due to take place on 6 May, together with the referenda on the Bramber and, much delayed, Upper Beeding neighbourhood plans.  

Now that the date has been confirmed, I suspect that many in the older age group, regardless of whether they have received their Co-19 vaccinations, might prefer to use a postal vote.  If that is the case then you can apply now, the linked page explaining what will happen once you have applied.  Do note that if you change your mind and vote on polling day, you can deliver your postal vote by hand to your local polling station.

Given all that the UK & NI has been through recently, might it be a good idea to get a few Greens onto West Sussex CC to give some balance? 

Watch this space!

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

20mph Speed Limit in Steyning

 For far too long transport policy has given priority to the motor car and now is the time to change and put people, young and old, car-users or not, and the environment first.  Hopefully, Steyning is about to take the first steps in doing so.

Steyning Parish Council are considering the possibility of introducing a 20mph speed limit throughout the whole of Steyning.  It would also include Castle Lane and Maudlin Lane which are in Bramber Parish.  The Council set up a working party to look into it and Mike and I are taking part.  Other members include Geoff Barnard of Greening Steyning, Steyning Parish Councillors, and representatives of Steyning Chamber of Trade, Steyning & District Community Partnership and our local West Sussex Councillor, David Barling. We have consulted WSCC on how to go about it and got a lot of helpful advice.  

The first step in the process is to provided evidence that there is support for the plan in the community and we have therefore developed a questionnaire to get local residents views.  This will be a printed leaflet which will be delivered to all houses in the affected areas.  Residents will also be able to respond on-line and the on-line version (only) will give them a chance to share their views on other matters relating to local travel and transport.  

Topics covered in this additional section will include further traffic calming measures, lowering the speed limit on the Steyning By-pass, encouraging walking and cycling, greater use of public transport and electric car charging facilities.  There are no plans to take any of these measures forward at the moment, but this will give us an idea of what people think and would like to see happen in the future so we decide on future priorities.  

Geoff Barnard and Ian Anderson have done a great job designing the questionaires and this will now go to Steyning and Bramber Parish Councils for approval.   If it gets the go-ahead it should be out in early March, so look out for it then and be sure to fill it in!

Why 20 is Plenty for Steyning (and Bramber)

By now, anyone living in the parish of Steyning, or those parts of Bramber potentially affected, will have received a paper survey asking fo...