“Painted bike lanes are waste of money, say cycling commissioners”

“The government has wasted hundreds of millions of pounds painting pointless white lines on busy roads and calling them cycle lanes, according to Britain’s cycling and walking commissioners.

In a letter to the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, the commissioners – including the Olympic champions Chris Boardman (Greater Manchester), Dame Sarah Storey (Sheffield City region) and Will Norman (London) – say painted cycle lanes are a “gesture” and do nothing to make people feel safer on a bike. Recent studies have shown they can actually make people less safe, they argue.

“As there are currently no national minimum safety standards for walking and cycling infrastructure, these practices can and will continue wasting public money and failing to persuade people to change their travel habits,” the letter says. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jun/17/painted-bike-lanes-waste-money-cycling-commissioners?

“Failure to cut air pollution could land politicians in court, warns UN health “

Unlike other nearby councils and Devon County Council, EDDC had yet to declare a climate emergency for the district, and CEO Mark Williams has already declared himself pessimistic about how and when EDDC can meet clean-up targets:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2019/05/08/eddc-ceo-puts-new-majority-in-their-place-about-climate-crisis-wants-very-slow-change/

And will the inspector who hears the Sidford Business Park appeal pretend that an increase in heavy goods traffic through the village will not affect those living there, particularly the children and the elderly?

“Politicians could end up in court for failing to protect their citizens from air pollution, according to the UN’s top public health official.

Maria Neira compared the crisis over air pollution to the asbestos scandal, in which governments were accused of failing to act quickly enough to save lives despite knowing the risks.

In an interview with The Times, the director of the World Health Organisation’s Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, said that delaying action on the sources of air pollution, such as road traffic and wood burning in urban areas, would cost thousands of lives.

She praised this newspaper’s Clean Air for All Campaign and supported our call for sales of new petrol and diesel cars to be banned by 2030.

Dr Neira said that she was particularly concerned by the damage air pollution does to children’s lungs and brains.

“We know that, 15 years from now, those who have been exposed to high levels of air pollution will suffer major consequences in their immune, digestive and nervous systems and their respiratory systems will be deficient. If this is the society we are preparing for our children we are all very irresponsible.”

She said that toxic air cut short the lives of 40,000 people a year in the UK and 400,000 across Europe and governments and local authorities needed to act quickly to tackle it “even if the measures are not very popular”.

“If you postpone [action] by one day it might be hundreds of lives,” she said.

“If you postpone it by one year it might be thousands of lives plus the cost of the health system and the cost in terms of quality of life from living with asthma.”

She urged politicians to think about the consequences to people’s health of delaying making tough decisions, such as reducing traffic in cities and investing in measures to encourage cycling.

“This is something every politician should ask himself or herself every morning if they say, ‘Instead of 2030 I will do it in 2040’. They should ask the WHO what does that mean in terms of affecting the health of the people and how many new cases of lung cancer. We can calculate that.

“The question here is how many of those lives, or reduction in quality of life, are you ready to absorb. They should inform the public of those consequences and face the risk of losing votes.”

She predicted that politicians who failed to act could be forced to defend their decisions in court.

“Look at the case of asbestos. At one point some politicians were taken to court — the ministry of health in France — because they were accused of [knowing] about the risk of asbestos and [they] didn’t do enough.

“I have the feeling in a few years from now this will be the case [for air pollution] and no politician will be able to say I didn’t know because we all knew and this information has been well-established.”

She added: “There are legal groups already working on this. They have patients and people who lost family members. I can perfectly see the scenario of politicians being accused by our citizens saying, ‘You knew it, you didn’t do anything, therefore you are responsible for the number of deaths that have occurred.’”

She referred to the High Court ruling last month that a new inquest should be held into the death of a nine-year-old girl who suffered a fatal asthma attack believed to have been linked to illegal levels of air pollution near her home in London.

“Look at the case of Ella Kissi-Debrah, this might be a beginning. If you talk to legal groups, the number of cases now going to court is increasing. It might be that in the next few years it increases exponentially.”

The government has already been defeated three times in court by Client Earth, the campaign group which successfully argued that air quality plans were inadequate. The group is now considering bringing new cases against the government and local authorities over illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution on hundreds of roads.

Dr Neira said politicians who believed that taking tough action on air pollution was too expensive should consider the costs of not acting. In 2016 the Royal College of Physicians estimated the costs to individuals, the health service and economy to be more than £20 billion a year in the UK.

“The health system is paying an incredible price at the moment to treat patients because we are talking about chronic diseases and those are very, very costly,” she said. “If you include that cost in your equation then the investment will be recovered immediately by the savings in your health system.”

She urged the car industry to plan a much faster switch to electric cars and suggested they were trying to prolong sales of petrol and diesel cars.

“They are not switching fast enough. They don’t sell fuels they sell the car so they should make the switch as soon as possible. Otherwise they will be responsible for this air pollution crisis.

“If they want to still sell mobility they need to stop selling fossil fuel. They will then be perceived as heroes rather than the guilty ones.”

She urged the public to “keep putting pressure on politicians” to act on air pollution. “That’s the first thing you need to do to protect yourself,” she added.”

Source: Times (pay wall)

Surfers Against Sewage warn bathers to avoid Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton after recent heavy rain

“Pollution Alert: Storm sewage has been discharged from a sewer overflow in this location [Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton] within the past 48 hours.

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/urgent-warning-not-go-sea-2969102

Bellway homes: “Barking fire: residents claim safety fears about flats were downplayed”

” …Peter Mason, chair of the Barking Reach residents’ association, told the Guardian that in early May he contacted the builder Bellway Homes to ask for the fire risk to be investigated after BBC Watchdog broadcast claims of fire safety problems at two other developments by the same builder.

In an email seen by the Guardian from the firm’s fire safety helpline last month, Bellway told him not to worry. In a section headed Your Home it said the construction method used on the development in Scotland examined by Watchdog was different and so the Barking homes were not affected in the same way.

It concluded: “We understand that these news articles are highly alarming for all residents of new homes and I hope that the above statement has allayed any fears you may have over the safety and construction of your Bellway home.”

Mason said he felt “gut-wrenched” by the fire, adding that people had lost their homes and possessions and were in severe distress. The fire appeared to rip through the wooden cladding around the balconies of the building and may have been caused by a barbecue being lit on one of the balconies, Mason said.

Twenty flats were destroyed by the flames and a further 10 were damaged by heat and smoke. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/jun/09/fire-flats-barking-east-london-de-pass-gardens?

“Slums Croydon: ” Political pygmies” and their rabbit hutch flats

This is legal:

Offices to homes permitted development has led to some of the tiniest micro-flats being built in Croydon.

“PDR, as it is known, has managed to strip local authorities of their planning powers, but left them to deal with the costs and consequences arising from such developments. The government is considering extending PDR, allowing shops to be converted into flats or for extensions to be built without requiring any planning permission.

In Croydon, where the local authority used legislation to block any further office-to-resi conversions in the town centre after 2014, senior councillor Sean Fitzsimons has called such flats, “the slums of the future”.

But that was not before planning permission had already been given for the lucrative conversion of offices to at least 2,700 flats in the borough, and where some of the “micro-flats” are being marketed to Chinese investors, with one-bed apartments fetching £280,000.”

‘Political pygmies’ to blame for Croydon’s ‘slums of the future’

“An influential figure in British architecture has hit out at office-to-flat conversions – of which there have been thousands in Croydon – describing them as “ghastly little f**k-hutches”, and all thanks to policy which is being ruined by “political pygmies”.

“Copley has also discovered that 1,837 London PDR flats are smaller than the legal minimum standards, and that 240 were less than half this lowest threshold.

In a statement issued from Copley’s City Hall office they said, “Some of the worst examples are seen in Croydon where 80 per cent of properties identified failed to meet minimum space standards, including one development where the smallest flat was just 10 square metres.”

That flat is in Urban House on Cavendish Road in West Croydon.”

Slums of the Future: Croydon has capital’s smallest micro-flat

“Kensington Council Made £129m From Selling Property That Could Have Prevented Cost-Cutting At Grenfell”

“Kensington and Chelsea council made £129m from selling property in the years leading up to the Grenfell fire tragedy – money which we can show for the first time could have prevented cost-cutting on the tower’s renovation works.

An investigation by HuffPost UK, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the BBC Local Democracy Reporting Service can reveal the property deals overseen by senior officers and the council’s cabinet in the run up to the Grenfell disaster.

Evidence shows one of these deals was directly linked to the financing of the Grenfell Tower renovation and our investigation reveals that the council had far greater power over its funding of the works than it has previously admitted.

The council has previously claimed legal restrictions meant it could only use rental income from local authority housing to pay for renovation works. But this was not the case.

In fact, the council’s own documents show £6m of the Grenfell works was paid for with proceeds from the sale of council property – basement units in Elm Park Gardens in Chelsea.

The government has confirmed to us that councils are free to use money from the sale of property to fund improvements in housing stock.

This new information means the council had a far larger pot of money available to invest in its council housing than it has previously acknowledged – including on Grenfell Tower.

Our investigation also found the council had £37m in the bank, specifically from the sale of property, at the time when funding decisions over Grenfell were being taken.

But in 2014, cuts were made to the budget for building work by the tenant management organisation that was managing the project, including saving £300,000 by using cheaper, more combustible cladding.

The cladding was a key contributor to the speed with which the fire tore through the building on June 14, 2017, killing 72 people and leaving hundreds of families homeless.

The revelations have prompted fury over why spending on the Grenfell works was tight when the council had a significant income stream that could have been used to increase the budget. …”

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/kensington-chelsea-council-property-sales-grenfell_uk_5ced6003e4b0bbe6e3342f04?utm_hp_ref=uk-homepage&guccounter=1