“Nearly 40 million people live in UK areas with illegal air pollution”

Owl says: you don’t hear (current) DCC councillor and its roads supremo Stuart Hughes (Conservative, ex- Monster Raving Loony Party) mentioning this in his election speeches … though you DO hear contender Councillor Marianne Rixson (Independent East Devon Alliance)doing so and drawing attention to its implications for the health of local communities.

“…The extent of the air pollution crisis nationally is exposed in the data which shows 59% of the population are living in towns and cities where nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution breaches the lawful level of 40 microgrammes per cubic metre of air. …”


Claire Wright asks for “army of helpers” for bid to challenge sitting MP

An army of helpers are required if I am to run as a parliamentary candidate again!

I am seriously considering putting my hat in the ring as an Independent candidate in the 8 June General Election.

I have been for many years, deeply concerned at this government’s attitude towards public services, especially the NHS, social care and education, all of which are underfunded and hugely struggling, especially in Devon.

Devon County Council has seen over half its budgets disappear due to austerity measures. Many services have been cut back, or lost as a result.

I am also concerned about the effect of Brexit on the vast amount of land and species currently highly protected under EU legislation. This is at risk of not being properly protected as we leave the EU.

In Devon alone, there are 122 sites across 115,000 hectares, including at Woodbury and Aylesbeare Commons.

The transfer of this EU legislation to UK law needs carefully monitoring.

Since Tuesday morning I have received hundreds of messages of support and offers of help if I decide to run again, which has been touching and inspiring. This has forced me to consider my options carefully.

To run a successful campaign at such short notice, however, I need an army of leafleters and helpers.

If enough people come forward to offer practical help, I will be able to run.

If you are able to help, please contact me at


stating relevant skills you have and how you can help.

Thank you.

“UK to ‘scale down’ climate change and illegal wildlife measures to bring in post-Brexit trade, secret documents revea”

Bad news for East Devon.

The UK Government plans to water down regulations surrounding climate change and illegal wildlife trading in an effort to help secure post-Brexit trade, civil service documents have reportedly revealed.

In an upcoming speech by Tim Hitchens, the director-general of economic and consular affairs at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), he said the UK must to change its focus to carry out Prime Minister Theresa May’s vision of the UK as a “great, global trading nation”.

“You have a crucial role to play in posts in implementing our new approach to prosperity against the huge changes stemming from last year’s Brexit vote,” the notes seen by The Sunday Times read.

“Trade and growth are now priorities for all posts — you will all need to prioritise developing capability in this area. Some economic security-related work like climate change and illegal wildlife trade will be scaled down.”

A changing focus would reportedly make it easier for the UK to sign deals with Africa and Latin America.

The speech will take place on 26 April at a conference called Prosperity UK, sponsored by think tanks Legatum Institute and Open Europe.

The documents were contained in the folder of a senior civil servant at the Department for International Trade and were photographed by a passenger on a train.

They also exposed tensions between that department and the FCO, which are in the same building.

Some senior civil servants have expressed frustration that Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, is more focused on signing tariff-free trade deals around the world than rolling back regulatory burdens.”


“Greater Exeter Strategic Plan”: are we already shafted?

Time is running out to comment on the “Greater Exeter Strategic Plan” initial consultation on “Issues”. Comments must be in by

10 April 2017

and the document is here:


and the full (12 page) document is here:


Owl thinks that there is precious little in the document that points either to a strategy or a plan! There are, however, many issues not covered such as:

– inequality ( how are the “just managing”, the “barely managing” and the “not managing at all going to access Greater Exeter’s resources (housing, transport, infrastructure, environment, health care, education) none of which is geared to them – only to the “managing very nicely thank you and ready to trade up to a bigger property or luxury retirement village” group

– the effect of Brexit, labour and skills shortages on the much-vaunted “economic growth”

– landbanking and housing supply – how they undermine all strategic planning projects

Owl also thinks this “plan” is shutting the door well after several horses have bolted, as already in the pipeline are massive developments planned to circle the city:

– west of Exeter: the 5,000-plus houses planned for “Culm Village” (Mid Devon)
– north/east of Exeter: the more than doubling in size of Cranbrook (East Devon) and the connected developments at Tithebarn Green, Pinn Brook Pinhoe and Monkerton (East Devon and Exeter City)
– south of Exeter: the massive development of Alphington and similar plans for doubling the size of Newton Abbott
– not to mention city developments such as St James’s Park and the thousands of student units in the city centre
– Local Enterprise Partnership plans to build extra houses just about everywhere else

Can anyone tell Owl which bits of “Greater Exeter” are left to consult on?

How you explain snout in trough when you are a Tory MP

A Conservative MP advocated in favour of subsidies for the biomass industry after accepting more than £50,000 in political donations and hospitality from companies in the sector.

Nigel Adams, who has accepted tens of thousands of pounds in hospitality and political donations from biomass firms both in and outside his constituency, has called parliamentary debates, tabled questions, written opinion pieces, and written to the prime minister in support of subsidies for the industry.

But records compiled by Energydesk, the journalistic arm of Greenpeace, and shared with BuzzFeed News, show that on a number of occasions he did not mention the donations when he advocated for biomass – a sustainable form of energy generation based on burning wood pellets or other materials instead of coal and gas – over other forms of renewable energy such as onshore wind.

Parliamentary rules allow MPs to accept donations and hospitalities from businesses and others provided they are declared on official registers, as Adams’ contributions were. The rules also require MPs to “open and frank in drawing attention to any relevant interest in any proceeding of the House or its Committees”.

Adams told BuzzFeed News he referred to his hospitality and donations from biomass companies in parliamentary proceedings when his interventions were “substantively” about the industry.

Hospitality he accepted includes an £8,578 three-night trip to the Ritz-Carlton hotel in New Orleans to speak at a biomass conference. Adams accepted a further four trips to the same conference in following years, held at the five-star Fontainebleau on Miami Beach, a holiday spot beloved of America’s elite.

Adams’ trips to the resort from 2013 to 2016, worth £5,460, £7,177, £4,210, and £4,950 respectively, were funded by Eggborough Power Limited and Draw Power Limited, both of which operate biomass plants in Adams’ Selby and Ainsty constituency.

Adams also accepted auction prizes worth a total of £17,800 from another biomass producer from outside his constituency, Simec, as well as a trip to Dubai worth £2,850 to attend a pro-Brexit event in the city for UK expats.

In 2015, Adams held a debate on scrapping subsidies for onshore wind, during which he described it as being “about as much use as a chocolate fireguard”, claiming it was inferior to biomass in handling spikes in demand – naming Drax and Eggborough in his speech – and stating that cutting wind subsidies would “allow other, more efficient technologies to benefit from government support”. He made no mention of his contributions from the sector in that debate.

Similarly, in March 2016 Adams urged Andrea Leadsom, then an energy minister, to increase deployment of biomass, without making any mention of his contributions from Drax, Simec, or Eggborough.

Adams heads parliament’s all-party group on biomass, which is funded by the industry, and in 2012 urged then prime minister David Cameron to prioritise biomass subsidies over onshore wind. He also held a further debate on biomass, in which he declared he had received contributions from the sector.

Adams has declared all of these donations on the official registers of MPs’ interests as required and said he believes he has not breached any parliamentary rules because he has declared his interests in parliamentary proceedings. However, his failure to declare these interests on some occasions has drawn criticism.

Tamasin Cave of the lobbying transparency group Spinwatch told BuzzFeed News Adams risked the appearance of conflicts of interest – likening his situation to that of recently appointed Evening Standard editor George Osborne.

“Who does Mr Adams think he is working for?” she said. “A few transatlantic trips and fine dining could leave someone a bit muddled.

“And as George Osborne has just demonstrated, it’s clear that some in parliament don’t take their public role that seriously. With all eyes on Brexit, we also arguably have less scrutiny of what our MPs are up to.”

Greenpeace told BuzzFeed News that Adams raised concerns about conflicts of interest.

“As an MP, he has some serious questions to answer about whose interests he’s been looking after – the common good or the biomass industry funding his trips to Miami Beach,” said Greenpeace campaigner Hannah Martin.

Martin added that Greenpeace had concerns about biomass because in its view it has question marks over sustainability not shared by other energy sources.

“Ministers have spent millions of taxpayers’ money on controversial biomass when they could have invested it in far cleaner and more mature technologies like onshore and offshore wind. As a staunch advocate of biomass and a fierce critic of onshore wind, Nigel Adams bears at least some responsibility for a policy whose environmental and economic benefits remain in doubt.”


Unfortunately, it’s an EU report, so our government will probably give it short shrift!

“Access to nature reduces depression and obesity, finds European study
Trees and green spaces are unrecognised healers offering benefits from increases in mental wellbeing to allergy reductions, says report. …”


Core strategy partly rescinded due to effect on forest – watch out Greater Exeter!

LOTS of forests, national parks and SSSI’s around Greater Exeter!

“A judge has resolved a dispute between two district councils and the South Downs National Park Authority by quashing parts of a joint core strategy.
Jay J, in the High Court, quashed parts of the joint core strategy of Lewes District Council and the park authority because of their effect on neighbouring Wealden District Council.

His judgment explained that Wealden had brought the case because of the status of the Ashdown Forest Special Area of Conservation (SAC), a 2,729 hectares area within Wealden of lowland heath vulnerable to nitrogen dioxide pollution from motor vehicles.

The judge said: “The principal point raised by this application…is whether [Lewes] and [the park authority] acted unlawfully in concluding, on advice, that the joint core strategy would not likely have a significant effect on the SAC in combination with the Wealden Core Strategy.”

He added: “The essential contention made is that if relevant data and findings are properly amalgamated, as they should be, the effects of increased traffic flows near the SAC would not have been ignored at the first screening or scoping stage of the process.”

The judge ruled that Wealden was out-of-time to challenge Lewes’s adoption of the joint core strategy, but not the park authority’s adoption of it. He said development plan documents were flawed because of a Habitats Regulations Assessment that relied on “advice from Natural England that was plainly incorrect”.

Jay J ordered that the secretary of state for communities and local government – whose inspector had found the disputed core strategy sound – and the park authority should each pay 50% of Wealden’s costs, while Wealden should pay Lewes’ costs. All applications for permission to appeal were refused.

Wealden has since the judgment revised its planned housing numbers such that after taking into account of the latest nitrogen deposition monitoring in Ashdown Forest the total number of home to be built by the end of 2028 will be 11,456 instead of the 14,101 originally proposed.

Ann Newton, cabinet member for planning and development, said: “The majority of housing will be distributed away from Ashdown Forest to the south of the district. “

New housing in the north of Wealden would be sited away from main roads that skirt the SAC. Wealden said three years of monitoring showed the amount of nitrogen deposition from motor vehicles in the forest already exceeded levels that can cause ecological damage to the heathland.”