Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Environment Agency to bring agricultural composters under new regulations

The Environment Agency has at last brought forward plans to regulate the agricultural composting industry by bringing all operators under regulation. In my opinion this is very welcome, although the £1,590 charge for a licence and then £760 per year is causing some concerns within the industry, and particularly with the NFU.

The Environment Agency also wants to see composters attend a formal training course, which will also have a cost implication, although in fairness many other industries require operators to undergo training before being able to carry out work. This training may well cost in excess of £1,500.

The East Riding of Yorkshire is home to a significant number of composting operations, most of which cause very few problems and don’t come to the notice of residents, the Council, or the Environment Agency. I have a great deal of sympathy for those farmers, who have diversified into composting as a replacement for conventional fertilisers and operated in a responsible manner, and are now going to have to pay increased fees for regulation.

Unfortunately a small minority of composters operating under a licence exemption have not followed the rules and have caused serious odour problems for local residents and whole villages. The composting of animal by-products is a concern to me, especially if the raw materials are transported from far away, and not composted correctly or for sufficient time, resulting in the foulest smells imaginable.

It is clear that the past regime of self-policing has not worked for this small minority of composters, and it would appear that the new charges represent the industry being made to pay for the actions of the few.

Bringing all composting operations into the general permitting framework is a positive step and will be good for the industry as a whole, and certainly good for the public. It is always a question of balance between regulation and cost, and I would hope that the charges to be levied are based solely on the costs for regulation rather then yet another stealth tax.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Gilberdyke Parish Council Reduces Budget Precept Saving 30% For Local Residents

As a member of Gilberdyke Parish Council I am very much aware that Gilberdyke residents continue to feel the effects of the recession including higher levels of unemployment and having less money to spend.

Gilberdyke Parish Council has devised and agreed a budget precept for the year 2010/11 of £49,160 which equates to a real terms reduction of some 30% on the present year, without affecting the services it provides. The council has kept a very tight reign on this present years spending that has generated a slight under spend in a number of areas, which can be rolled over to next year.

The Councillors looked very carefully at each area of spending for next year, identified their priorities and looked for best value, which has resulted in the reduction in the budget. As the area pulls out of recession the precept may rise the following year to accommodate more capital spending.

The Parish Council have agreed to refurbish the bus shelter in the village as soon as possible, paid for with funds already allocated. (Picture of Gilberdyke pond taken by Paul Glizzard)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Sixpennywood Windfarm Appeal Decision - Another Kick In The Teeth For Local Democracy

The decision by the Government appointed planning inspector to overrule the East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s Planning Committee by granting permission for the Sixpennywood Windfarm application near Howden is yet another kick in the teeth for local democracy. Clearly the inspector has played lip service to the Governments agenda and completely failed to take into account the Council’s good record of having already exceeded its 2021 renewable energy target by some 26%, he has not taken into account the local feeling, and he has completely failed to recognise the devastating effect a windfarm of such size and scale will have on the landscape.

In the past, as a member of the ERYC Planning Committee I have voted for and against windfarm applications depending on their size, scale and location. But for me this particular application was never about wind energy, it was never about a windfarm on this site – it was all about sheer size and scale of the proposal and the greed of Your Energy the company behind the application, maximising it’s profits by having the greatest number of the largest turbines on the site, with the nearest being 630m from a dwelling.

The company has acted in a very questionable manner from the very beginning, playing scant regard to community engagement, riding roughshod over local concerns, measuring the background noise in very dubious circumstances, and changing the size of the turbines between the Planning Committee making its decision and the case going to appeal. Your Energy comes out of this whole sordid affair with a planning consent worth millions but with it’s credibility seriously questioned.

Needless to say the residents of Kilpin, Laxton, Balkholme and Eastrington will be overlooked by 10 of the largest wind turbines constructed in the Britain, and with each turn of the gigantic blades raking taxpayers money into the coffers of an offshore company. I am aghast at the inspector when he says in his decision notice “Subject to suitable conditions I do not find that there would be unacceptable harm to the living conditions of nearby residents” I would find it very difficult to explain this to those residents whose lives are going to be changed.

This is an appeal that we could not afford to lose, I now fear for other areas and communities of the East Riding of Yorkshire that are likely to suffer the same fate, as the speculative windfarm developers move in with applications of a similar massive size and scale, at a distance of less than 650m from people’s houses. Local democracy is worth fighting for, local voices are important and should be heard, alas this is clearly not the Governments understanding, when they trample all over local democratically elected Councillors, the sooner this centralist government with its complete lack of understanding of rural issues is thrown out the better.

To listen to an interview I gave to BBC Radio Humberside's Peter Levy on this item please click: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p005drw5/The_Peter_Levy_Show_09_12_2009/ the interview starts at 11.40 in.