“TOOTHLESS ENVIRONMENT AGENCY LETS FARMERS POLLUTE RIVERS”

“The Environment Agency is “falling alarmingly short” in its efforts to protect rivers from agricultural pollution, the Worldwide Fund for Nature has said, after freedom of information requests revealed that new laws are barely being enforced.

The FOI data shows that the agency has no specific budget to enforce legislation introduced in April last year to protect waterways from fertiliser and manure pollution, which is one of the main reasons that more than 80 per cent of England’s rivers fail to meet the European Union’s minimum ecological standards.

The legislation enshrined into law official codes of practice that had existed for nearly 30 years.

However, the agency is yet to issue any farm with an enforcement notice, the step taken before any sanction is imposed. This is despite it being aware of at least 16 breaches of the new laws, five of which were reported by members of the public. It has written seven less serious warning letters to farmers in the past 17 months.

Justin Neal, of Fish Legal, a non-profit group that fights river pollution, said: “The farming lobby is clearly influential. I don’t know any other sector where regulations are brought in but not enforced for a full year or more.”

Guy Linley-Adams, who filed the FOI request for the WWF, said that the agency’s officers had confided that they lack sufficient resources. “They are absolutely threadbare,” he said.

Only 14 per cent of rivers in England met the minimum “good status” standards set by the EU last year, down from almost 25 per cent in 2009. Phosphorus pollution from fertilisers and manure, which causes algal blooms that choke river ecosystems, is one of the main reasons.

The Times revealed two weeks ago that no river in the country is now certified as safe for swimmers.

Under the new legislation, farmers must take measures to prevent manure, fertiliser and soil getting into watercourses, known as diffuse pollution. The Environment Agency says that it planned from the outset not to enforce the law during the first year and to instead issue advice to farmers.
Arlin Rickard, chief executive of the Rivers Trust, said: “Without robust sanctions in place, it will be difficult to motivate those less engaged farmers to reduce their diffuse pollution.”

The WWF has said that the approach “falls short of providing any credible threat of enforcement”.

The FOI data also shows that the agency only has the equivalent of eight full-time staff to inspect England’s 212,000 farms. That means that each staff member would have to visit ten farms a day if all were to be visited within five years.

The Environment Agency said: “Clear, specific regulations were introduced to tackle the issue of water pollution caused by farms, strengthening already robust legislation . . . We work with farmers to make sure they are doing just this but will not hesitate to take enforcement action, including prosecution, where necessary.”

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/toothless-green-watchdog-lets-farmers-pollute-rivers-b9xzpbkms

“UK must accept US food standards in trade deal, says farm chief”

Hello, Mr Parish, HELLO …

“The UK must accept US food standards as part of any future trade deal with Washington, the head of America’s farming lobby has said.
Zippy Duvall, head of the American Farm Bureau, said US farmers were keen to trade with their British “friends”.

But he said fears over practices such as washing chicken in chlorine and using genetically modified (GM) crops were not “science-based”.

The US has said the UK will be “first in line” for a trade deal after Brexit.

But some fear the UK will have to compromise on standards currently enshrined in EU law in order to secure a deal with Washington.

Mr Duvall, himself a poultry farmer in Georgia, said he wanted to have “a conversation” about US food standards given the concerns in the UK.

One of the most controversial practices is washing chicken with chlorine to kill germs, which is banned in the EU. This is not because the wash itself is harmful but over fears that treating meat with chlorine at the end allows poorer hygiene elsewhere in the production process.

“You know, here in America we treat our water with chlorine,” Mr Duvall told the BBC’s Today programme.

“So there is no scientific basis that says that washing poultry with a chlorine wash just to be safe of whatever pathogens might be on that chicken as it was prepared for the market, should be taken away.

“If there was something wrong with it our federal inspection systems would not be allowing us to use that,” he added.

Harmful competition?

In London this week, Donald Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton suggested that the US could strike trade deals with the UK after Brexit on a “sector-by -sector basis” to speed up the process.

But asked whether he could envisage a trade deal with the UK that did not include agriculture, Mr Duvall said it would be seen as a betrayal by US farmers.

“To have a trade treaty and not discuss agriculture would be turning your back on rural America and that’s where a big part of our population lives. …”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49353220

Hinkley C: Beware the consequences of large infrastructure projects

Hinkley Point C brings London-level traffic to small Somerset town.

Air and noise pollution, traffic chaos and rising rents are blighting the Somerset town that has found itself the gateway for the marathon construction of the new Hinkley Point C (HPC) nuclear power station, locals say.

Limits for air pollution have been exceeded on main roads on multiple occasions this year, while Highways England data shows truck numbers have increased by more than 20% since building work started in 2016.

On some roads, two heavy goods vehicles pass through every minute. Not all are delivering to Hinkley but, with no bypass built for the nuclear site, locals say it has made the town unnavigable at times.

Buses transporting 4,000 construction workers to the site add to the traffic – and the influx of workers is pushing up rents. Rat runs are in gridlock and a town that is home to just under 40,000 people is experiencing London-level traffic on some roads.

Friends of the Earth, which looked at the air quality data for 2018 and 2019 provided by the local Sedgemoor district council, said it was concerned about the high incidences of particle matter on some roads.

Data shows that particle matter measuring 10 micrometers (PM10) has exceeded safe limits on Quantock Road 16 times already this year, while on nearby Bristol Road those limits were exceeded 15 times.

The latest data for traffic shows the number of HGVs has increased from 470 a day in 2014 to 900 in 2018 on Quantock Road, the principal artery out of the town to Hinkley.

For nearby Horsey Level, the number of trucks a day is registered at almost 1,500, while on Taunton Road, the main road coming from the M5’s junction 24, residents have to endure 1,050 a day, making it difficult to cross the road and forcing many cyclists on to the paths for their own safety.

HPC says the number of HGVs travelling every day to and from the site is capped at 750.

… Hinkley agreed a fund to fit double-glazed windows on some of the busiest roads in Bridgwater. It says this is a goodwill gesture and not an admission of responsibility for the noise of HGVs.

“EDF have paid to replace all my windows, and it’s made no difference. On a summer’s night, I’m not able to sleep with the windows open at all,” said Balcombe. “I am woken up every morning at 5am from the noise of lorries. And when these lorries are empty the clatter they make is unbelievable with the metal bouncing round.”

HPC points out that the HGV movements will ease in the autumn when it switches supplies to the sea. The jetty is now complete and the permission it got for an extra 250 HGVs a day will expire.

For Bridgwater locals a bypass would have been the answer and helped relieve the town of its perennial traffic problem.

The former Labour councillor Mick Lerry, who was involved in the fight for a bypass, said the attempt was stymied because it was never part of the development consent order submitted by EDF. “As it was not part of the application, it could not be considered,” he said.

The government said it had considered the impact of HGVs on Bridgwater and was satisfied. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/aug/14/hinkley-point-c-london-traffic-bridgwater-somerset?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

70% of UK rail companies and 50% of fishing quotas foreign-owned

In some cases owned by the NATIONAL rail companies of the foreign company! Madness!

https://www.rmt.org.uk/news/70-of-uk-rail-routes-now-owned-by-foreign-states/

“Richard Branson has said he is ‘devastated’ that Virgin Trains’ reign over the West Coast Main Line train route is coming to an end after 22 years.

The Department for Transport has awarded Aberdeen-based First Group and Trenitalia UK, an arm of Italy’s main train operator, the contract to run the London-to-Glasgow rail line from 8 December.

After the contract starts, more than 60 per cent of train journeys made on British railway lines will be made using services partly owned by foreign companies, analysis by the Press Association has revealed. …”

https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-7355993/Branson-devastated-Government-hands-Virgin-Trains-West-Coast-rail-contract-Trenitalia.html?ito=rss-flipboard

AND

50% of UK fishing quotas are owned by foreign companies:

Revealed: the millionaires hoarding UK fishing rights

Lib Dems at Mid-Devon challenge developers on zero-carbon development, Tories whinge

“A motion was passed at Mid Devon District Council’s full council meeting on Wednesday, July 24, following on from the declaration of a climate emergency in June.

Developers will face a zero-carbon requirement on all future development taking place in Mid Devon.

A motion was passed at Mid Devon District Council’s full council meeting on Wednesday, July 24, following on from the declaration of a climate emergency in June.

Councillor John Downes (Boniface, Liberal Democrats) who put forward the following motion: “That this council instructs the Head of Planning, Economy and Regeneration to take the earliest available opportunity in planning policy terms to embed a zero-carbon requirement on all future development taking place in Mid Devon to respond to the climate emergency.”

Cllr Downes said he had wanted to word the motion so that planning which wasn’t zero-carbon would be refused as policy, and that it would be down to the planning inspector to agree to development or refuse. He added that the Chief Executive, Stephen Walford, had offered advice to defer to the head of planning to allow policy to change.

He said: “This is to make the point that we declared a zero-carbon target and any development we allow that is not zero-carbon is effectively carbon debt which is making the problem more difficult for us in the future.

“One developer, with the profit they made this year, could have made all their houses zero-carbon with the profit that they returned. The point is, if we do make the point and champion zero-carbon, technologies will need to change because that’s the way people are going to start making money and doing developments.

“It’s just about keeping it alive and making it current. I understand that policy will take time, but I think having declared a crisis, we need to show that we’re trying to do something, and planning and licensing are areas in which we can.”

However, Councillor Andrew Moore (Clare & Shuttern, Conservative) questioned whether the motion could be acted upon.

“Do we have any idea as to whether this can be done?” he said.

“An eco-home can operate carbon neutrally, and I’m advised that the likely uplifting cost to build is about 30 per cent, which of course is going to have a significant impact. That will come down in time naturally, but this is not necessarily a cheap thing to be imposing in policy.

“The thing that worries me though is what of the build cost in carbon terms? A study identified that on average, the carbon cost of simply constructing a home – forget the operational cost – is about 65 tonnes of CO2 on average. An average family car uses five tonnes per year, so that’s 13 year’s worth of car travel to build a house.

“Normally, one would amortise that over the life of the house, which is typically taken as 100 years, and how do you do that? Well a UK native tree would consume about one tonne in its whole life of 100 years, so build a house, plant 65 trees, and you know what, it equals out over time. But to be carbon neutral by 2030, that debt payoff model doesn’t work anymore because we’re saying it’s got to be neutralised at the point of the build.

“I have no idea, through my research, as to how on earth that is going to be accomplished. How at point of build, you’re going to get rid of 65 tonnes of CO2. I think it’s a great challenge and I am going to look forward to what actions and policies this motion will ultimately deliver.”

Councillor Richard Chesterton (Lower Culm, Conservative) applauded Cllr Downes for bringing the motion forward but warned that planning policy was a slow process.

He said the Council would also have to manage public expectations.

“I was at a parish council meeting recently in Uffculme where there was an assumption by members of the public that because we had made the decision we had made, that automatically a contentious planning application on the edge of the village wouldn’t happen because it wasn’t in keeping with that decision,” he said.

“I had to explain how the planning process works with policies set out at both national level and local level and that even the adopted local plan, while having some very good policies in them which will encourage the use of green technology and things like that, wouldn’t necessarily get to where you’re looking to get to, and wouldn’t necessarily be able to rely on that in their reason for why it should be turned down.

“The public expects that it will be different from the speed that we will meet, so we mustn’t get our hopes up too fast. It will also be complicated because any local plan and any planning policy that we bring forward has to be in line with national planning policies which don’t, at this moment in time, set out the same deadline and timescale that this Council has set out.

“That’s going be a stumbling block along the way. We need to be aware of that, and we need to know how the executive will push forward a planning policy that might be at odds with Government policy. It might not be of course by the time we get there.”

Cllr Chesterton quizzed the cabinet member for planning and economic generation, Councillor Graeme Barnell, (Newbrooke, Liberal Democrats) about a timescale, and whether or not the Council would have to introduce a revised Local Plan at the earliest opportunity.

He added: “Would it be through a revised local plan at the earliest available opportunity, or would it be just through maybe a revised development management policies? And what timescale do you see it being able to come forward?”

Cllr Barnell replied: “We haven’t been idle as a cabinet in responding to the green agenda. We have been very active in thinking through our policies, but as you quite rightly point out, there are a number of constraints including Government policies that are pre-existing and the plans we’ve inherited from the previous administration.

“We’re looking at a greener Devon policy which the biggest single thing we can do in making practical steps towards zero-carbon. We are looking to get people out of their cars, get people working locally, sustain the rural economy, plant trees and hedgerows. These are long term, not short term fixes. They are long term answers to a chronic problem.

“We have to take every practical step within our planning policies to be able to implement this, not just indulge in wishful thinking. We’re going ahead with careful thought about this and how it will impact on the Cullompton Garden Village, the Tiverton Eastern Urban Extension and making sure we have a mixed development with local jobs that aren’t reliant on commuting, that is reliant on high-quality local jobs that people don’t have to get in their cars to go to.

“Reducing car journeys, so people don’t have to take their children to school are really important issues, and they may sound small, but they’re an important contribution to implementing the climate change agenda, and they will be filtering through as soon as possible into local planning policy.

“The last thing we want to do is tinker with the Local Plan. The Local Plan has been subjected to repeated delays; we want to see it across the line. We will be bringing forward changes to local planning policies in line with our greener Devon agenda and moving towards sustainable local Devon communities and more details soon, you will be being asked to consider those.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/zero-carbon-requirement-imposed-future-3167887

Countryfile presenter works out what we’ve all known for years about modern rural life!

“Countryfile host John Craven has hit out over the loss of rural services, saying the problem has left residents “socially isolated”.

He laments the disappearance of many rural shops, schools, post offices, pubs and bus routes.

He said: “In particular this has hit the rising number of pensioners who live long distances from surgeries and hospitals and maybe don’t have anyone to keep an eye on them.”

The TV veteran feels the main visual change to the countryside in the past 30 years is the swathe of “new homes on the outskirts of villages.”

But he voiced his concern that there have not been “enough affordable ones to stop young country folk migrating to towns”.

The long-running series’ presenter also told BBC Countryfile Magazine: “No matter what happens over Brexit, I worry for the future of UK food production.”

With just 60% of Britain’s food currently home-grown, he warned: “It’s vital that we step up our level of self-sufficiency and improve our exports.

“Most farmers are middle-aged to elderly and over the years so many sons and daughters have told me they have no interest in taking over from their parents.

“So we’ll need more young recruits from non-farming backgrounds if future food demands are to be met.

“Politicians must face up to this or the UK will be forced to rely increasingly on imports.”

The ex-Newsround host, 78, also said “one joy of being at BBC Countryfile Live every August is to be regarded as a friend by folk I’ve never met before”.

https://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/tvs-countryfile-host-john-craven-18808486