Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Latest Spaldington wind farm company is prepared to listen

Last Friday a first informal meeting was held between the latest Spaldington wind farm applicant RWE nPower Renewables, Spaldington Parish Councillors and Howdenshire ERYC Councillors Paul Robinson and Nick Evans, regarding the plans to build an 8 x 126m wind turbine farm north east of Spaldington village in an area called River Valley. A similar meeting had been held for HOSM and Foggathorpe Parish Councillors the previous evening.

(map above shows proposed wind farm in black along with the other consented wind farms in the area - shaded areas show 2km radius of each)

I had been in contact with the company’s Project Developer Nicola Bell from almost as soon as I heard about their plans, and I had been critical of their operation and the way that they were being viewed as cynically picking over the carcass of the failed Spaldington Common wind farm application thrown out by the planning inspector at appeal. I urged them to talk to the communities at the earliest opportunity and certainly before their plans were anywhere advanced, something almost all wind farm developers fail to do.

At the meeting it was refreshing to meet with a great deal of openness from Nicola and her team, some contrition for putting in the anemometer mast just before Christmas, and a willingness to listen and take on the views of the residents. They confirmed that after considering the appeal decisions to approve the Spaldington Airfield site but refuse the Common site they considered that their site was viable.

The proximity of the proposed turbines had obviously been considered by the applicant and they were able to confirm that they had no plans to site turbines closer than 750m to any residential property, and that their initial layout was not fixed and was expected to evolve after feedback from the Council, residents and other consultees. It was accepted that the proximity of turbines to residences was the most contentious issue with the previous two Spaldington applications.

The issue of access for construction traffic and turbine parts was also discussed, and RWE confirmed that whilst the main site access would be from the A614 at Welham Bridge, lorries carrying the materials needed to build the southern buttress for a new bridge over the River Foulness and stone for the track leading to the Spaldington side of the bridge would come through Spaldington village. It was pointed out that if there were no turbines on the Spaldington side of the river then RWE would not need to build a bridge and the considerable disruption to residents on Spaldington Main Street from the construction lorries could be avoided

The company seemed willing to listen to criticism and showed a willingness to change, and importantly understood why Spaldington people are so cynical due to how they have been treated by previous wind farm companies.

The message from the Spaldington Parish Councillors was quite clear in that RWE nPower Renewables need to understand that this is a rural area and residents value their peace and quiet and landscape. RWE acknowledged that they did not expect support from the community, but their best hope was to engage residents, have an open door policy, take points on board, listen to objections and communicate with people.

It is hoped further meetings will be held before a public exhibition in June with the planning application being submitted later in the year.

The Parish Councillors pointed out to RWE that their introductory letter stating that “Spaldington is almost 2km away” was inaccurate and misleading as in reality all houses on Spaldington Main Street and village centre are closer than 2km and some properties in the parish are only 800m – 1km from the closest turbine. RWE agreed to send out another letter clarifying the distances involved.

I concluded by stating that if other wind farm developers had been as proactive as we saw at this meeting, then we would have seen much less grief for the community over the past few years.

I feel RWE were a little taken aback at the research Parish Councillors had done. It remains to be seen whether RWEs offer to “work with the community” and “design a wind farm that is suitable for the area” amounts to more than just words - I sincerley hope it does!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Refurbished Holme on Spalding Moor pavilion is opened

It was a pleasure yesterday to attend the official opening of Holme Village Hall/Holme Rovers Football club refurbished pavilion.

The project has been planned and executed over the last two years and with the backing of the Football Foundation who provided 55% of the over £31000 total cost, and additional funding from Awards for All, Commuted sums, the Joseph and Annie Cattle trust, and local fundraising efforts by the Hall and Football club, work finally began in December 2011.

Many thanks, and a great deal of credit must go to my fellow Howdenshire ERYC Councillor Nick Evans who organised the event, and welcomed the guests of honour Howdenshire and Haltemprice MP David Davis, John Hawley (former Arsenal, Hull City, Scunthorpe, and Leeds player.

My involvement had been to act as a referee for many of the funding applications - which was an honour to be able to do.

In addition Adrian Morris from the Football Foundation, and Graham Turner from the East Riding FA attended and without their help and advice, and that of Peter Latham Warde of the Humber Playing Fields Association, the project would just not have happened. Members of the Holme Rovers management and coaching staff and members of the Village Hall committee also attended.

On a bright but breezy day Nick welcomed everyone, including first team players and supporters and explained how the project has inspired the 100% local Holme team who were nearly relegated last year but who are now giving a good account of themselves. They are now halfway up the league table, playing against teams from Hull, Goole and Beverley who have a much larger catchment area to draw from. In fact after the opening ceremony they went on to beat Eastrington 4-2 in their first home win of the season!

John Hawley complimented everyone involved with the project, and said how pleased he was to see that under 8 and 9 teams were planned for next year and also that the possibility of a women’s team was a great achievement for the football club. “The importance and success of grass roots sport cannot be emphasised enough” John said. For his comedy slot he pointed out that our MP, David Davis had “ always played on the right wing, almost made the premiership a couple of times, and when he did come off the bench onto the field always gave a good account of himself” .

David Davis then spoke and also praised the efforts of the organisations for their fund raising capability, and the fantastic facility that we now had on offer, thanking the Football Foundation for supporting the project. He commented on how this has raised the morale of the team. and wished everyone success for the future. David with John Hawley’s assistance cut the ribbon to officially open the Pavilion.

We were given an impressive tour of the building that sports Solar Powered Hot water, double glazing throughout, cavity wall insulation and low energy lighting.

Other donors included Rowlawn who had generously supplied turf for the front of the building, and Dulux supplied numerous tins of quality paint for the interior. Volunteers had even worked during the Christmas break to move the project to its completion.

A real “Team Effort” - well done to Nick and all those involved.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Why renewable energy is about more than just wind turbines

The East Riding of Yorkshire is a great part of the UK for harnessing renewable energy, and the skilled workforce to manufacture the means to do so. The area is somewhat windy and as a largely agricultural part of the country is capable of producing biomass. But of equal significance, the southern border is formed by the tidal rivers of the Ouse and Humber with the North Sea to the east - the sea and rivers are used to ship parts for wind turbines, but as very predictable sources of renewable energy themselves, they continue to remain untapped.

On-shore wind turbines in the East Riding of Yorkshire have a devastating effect on rural communities and moreover, have proven to be inefficient and unreliable, so it is very frustrating that there is such emphasis on them whilst so much potential remains unexploited in our rivers and the North Sea.

To put things into perspective, one only needs to consider the 4,000 megawatt Drax power station providing the backdrop to the twelve turbine Rusholme wind farm on the banks of the River Ouse. Depending on the criteria used, it would take anything up to 4,000 of these wind turbines to replace the power supplied by Drax – and that's provided the wind was blowing.

Over recent years, the Council has seen an increasing number of wind farm applications with the wind farm companies having taken what appears to be a cynical approach as they collectively built up a portfolio of approved planning applications for turbines, yet without beginning construction of any significant number. That is up until now. What we are now beginning to see is an invasion of turbines by stealth. People will soon realise that they are to be living in a wind turbine landscape as many of the permitted turbines are constructed, and there is absolutely nothing they can do about it.

In the late 1990s we saw the then Prime Minister posing, posturing and being photographed in front of wind turbines in order to demonstrate his ‘Green’ credentials. They 'ticked the box', and whether the machines worked or not was of little importance - it was all about image. Needless to say, subsequent Prime Ministers have continued in the same vain. Unfortunately, wave and tidal power technologies are installed in, or under the water where they are not easy to see, and the link between growing crops for biomass is difficult to capture in a photograph – these alternative methods of energy creation are somewhat less camera-friendly than wind turbines when trying to convey that all important green image.

It takes a great deal of courage to say we’ve got this wrong, especially when so much stock has been put into creating an illusion of 'greenness'. But does it make sense to hobble along with heavily subsidised wind technology that clearly neither offers solutions to energy security, nor protecting the environment and producing cheaper electricity?

What is required is an injection of realism and fairness. Renewables? Yes, but only when it is a balanced and a level playing field created on which there are those same financial incentives for the development of wave, tidal and biomass.

I fully support the stance taken by 100 Tory MPs who recently sent a letter to the Prime Minister asking for a reduction in the subsidies given to wind energy.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

From fat at 49 to fit at 50

Way back last July I set myself a couple of things that I’d like to do by the time I was 50 (this weekend). I'm sure you’ll be pleased to know I missed both of ‘em..

I set out to lose 60 lbs in weight - I missed it - I lost 61 lbs during the past 32 weeks!

I set out to do 50 km on my mountain bike on road, track and trail in one hit – I missed it by 2 km and did 52!

Many have asked me how I managed to do this and what was my secret - for me it was:

1. Find the reason why
2. De-clutter your mind
3. Eat less and eat well
4. Cut out beer
5. Drink 2 glasses of red wine daily as a reward
6. Find an inspirational coach/trainer and a good gym, and buy a good bike
7. Create a playlist of motivational music and work out to it - in my case it included this, this, this and this
8. Don’t listen to those who say you can’t do it, or you’ve lost enough already, or you look ill.
9. Break down your goals into 'bite sized' pieces then be determined and single minded about achieving them
10. Enjoy the journey

Many thanks to the staff at the ERYC Goole Leisure Centre gym and in particular my coach Alysia Mason (pictured) for making me believe I could do it!

Monday, February 13, 2012

City Plant Ltd agrees to reduce the height of the Gilberdyke / Newport Tip

As the clock was ticking down on the Gilberdyke/Newport Landfill Site Tip operators City Plant Ltd agreed to move around 70,000 cubic metres of waste from overtipped areas of the site to bring the height down to the levels stipulated in the Environment Agency permit. The proposal has been accepted and approved by the Agency following an Enforcement Notice served last month because the tip operator was not complying with the permit’s condition regarding height. City Plant Ltd has now agreed to reduce the waste to levels set out in the permit by using available capacity in other areas of the site.

The company has also demonstrated that there will be remaining capacity on the site even after the waste has been moved. This has been independently verified by Environment Agency contractors who spent a day at the landfill to make sure this was a workable solution.

It has been confirmed that the Environment Agency has withdrawn the original notice and served City Plant Ltd with a revised Enforcement Notice which allows the company to resume taking in waste - but stipulates that it must act on its commitment to reduce the height of the landfill in certain areas. The operator has two months to appeal against the revised notice.

Environment Agency Regulatory Officer Leigh Sayers said: “We are pleased that City Plant Ltd has responded promptly to our enforcement action and come up with a viable solution. The notice has served its purpose and as a result the company will no longer be prevented from taking in waste. “It is important that we control the amount of waste at the site and we will be making sure that City Plant Ltd puts its plan in place and complies with its permit. Our action has delivered a positive result which could see the site filled earlier than anticipated.”

The visual height of the landfill is the responsibility of East Riding of Yorkshire Council as the local planning authority.

I am a pleasantly surprised that City Plant Ltd has undertaken to reduce the height of the Tip to the levels stipulated in the permit, and this should not be taken lightly. Clearly the threat of a stop notice served to focus the minds of the company. There is no doubt that the Environment Agency had to lift the stop notice when the Company committed to reducing the height to the required level. What is not clear is the course of action the East Riding of Yorkshire Council will take as far as enforcement, because the levels in the EA permit are somewhat higher than those levels conditioned in the recent planning consent issued to City Plant Ltd.

Clock Ticks Down For Gilberdyke / Newport Tip Operators

As Chairman of the Gilberdyke/Newport Landfill Site Liaison Committee it is my understanding that unless a very late agreement is reached, as from mid-night tonight the Tip will be subject to an Environment Agency (EA) stop notice, meaning that no more waste will be permitted to enter the site until an acceptable plan to reduce the height of the waste mountain is put forward by site operators City Plant Ltd. which importantly must meet with the approval of the Environment Agency.

It should be noted that if agreement is not reached waste WILL NOT be allowed to enter the site, but some restoration (or engineering materials) such as soil, rubble and shredded tyres will be permitted, therefore we may see HGV movements from time to time.

On talking to the Council’s officers this morning I am reassured that the Tip is one of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) priorities, and officers are watching developments over the next couple of days with interest before considering what action the Council will take, I know that any enforcement action requires a methodical approach, which invariably takes time, but the first steps have been taken including measuring the precise height of the Tip last autumn, and recently sending the first stage of enforcement letter.

It is important to recognise that although the ERYC and the EA are both regulatory bodies they have been able and continue to work together to find solutions to the problems with the Tip , with a good example being the Council measuring the tip height and obviously sharing this with the Agency to prevent duplication. Unfortunately the ownership of the site changed in mid-December of last year which has made things difficult as the two regulatory bodies have had to deal with different people.

To reduce the height of the Tip will mean that waste will have to be uncapped and pushed into the remaining void space at the west of the site; this would create an almighty stink but it would be temporary, before it is recapped. What is not known is if there is sufficient capacity in the void to allow this to happen – or conversely if any space would remain to allow further tipping.

One thing is for certain; Whatever happens, I would not like to see any lorry loads of waste being removed from the site, as this would be intolerable for residents.

Ultimately I would like to see the tip filled, capped off and completed as soon as possible – and for HGV movements through our villages, to and from the site to stop.

I would also like to see something done with the gas that the capped off tip will produce consistently for the next 25 years, because I certainly don’t want the site to stink for another half a generation.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Help us to achieve super-fast Broadband in the East Riding

The Government has announced that it wants the UK to have the best broadband network in Europe by 2015, which means the East Riding of Yorkshire could see super-fast Broadband rolled out to many places where the existing service is slow and unreliable.... But to achieve this we need your help.

The East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) has the opportunity to bid for Government funding to secure a better service but needs evidence to show how current broadband is working for both businesses and individuals. A project has been established led by the Council to develop a Local Broadband Plan, detailing how investment in the broadband infrastructure will benefit the area and where that investment should be prioritised. The plan is expected to seek approval from the Councils Cabinet late in the summer.

To assist the development of the Local Broadband Plan, the Council has developed a dedicated web site to enable residents and the business sector to register their interest in getting a better broadband service. As well as seeking opinion how an improved service will benefit them the site allows current users to carry out a broadband speed test on their own connection and this will identify to the Council where internet 'slow spots' exist across East Riding to focus any investment as accurately as possible.
The site will be available between February and October 2012 and can be found at http://broadband.eastriding.gov.uk/

I would ask all East Riding readers to offer support for this project which has the potential to have a significant impact on the growth of our local economy and ensure all residents have the best possible access to internet services. To register your interest will ensure the Local Broadband Plan reflects the broadband provision across the East Riding area as accurately as possible.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Company not off to a very good start with yet another Spaldington wind farm application

So now we know, RWE npower renewables are planning to build an eight turbine wind farm on land north east of the Howdenshire village of Spaldington, on a site to be known as ‘River Valley Wind Farm’.

Many will be aware that residents of the village have, for the past two and a half years, been fighting off not one but two wind farm companies each wanting to construct overly large wind turbines close to the village. Last autumn one application for the five x 125m high turbine Spaldington Airfield site was granted consent at appeal, but the other for the Spaldington Common site was dismissed by the Government’s Planning Inspector.... Now yet another wind farm company is moving in on the community !

Interestingly the River Valley Wind Farm proposes to have one of the turbines located less than 790m from the site of the recently dismissed Spaldington Common Wind Farm. I understand this proposal is to be put out to consultation and residents will have their opportunity to comment - Where have we seen this before I wonder??

What is particularly frustrating is that detail regarding the number of turbines and their location within the site has come to light less than a week after the East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s Planning Committee voted to approve an anemometer mast on the site.

Some would ask what difference it does make.

I would say it's a question of trust and openness and how the applicant is viewed by the community - sadly there is a perception that RWE npower renewables have not got off to a good start in this respect, particularly when one takes into account the application for the mast was submitted just before Christmas. This meant that the community of Spaldington, who had gone through so much the previous 18 months, instead of having a break, taking time to reflect, and recouping their financial losses, had to spend the festive season worrying about the threat yet another wind farm being imposed on them.

I spoke at the Planning Committee meeting, where I asked for the application for the mast to be deferred and suggested the applicant could provide some of the information pertaining to turbine size and numbers, and more importantly their location within the red lined area designated by the applicant for the wind farm.

I didn’t think this was an unreasonable request, certainly when compared to the unreasonable actions of RWE npower renewables so far in their quest to impose a wind farm on local residents. Unfortunately the advice given by the Council Officers did not support what I was requesting and although five members of the Committee voted to refuse the application, six voted to approve.

At the meeting I did acknowledge that the proposed site may be a good location for a wind farm and importantly I did support the Goole Fields application by the same company. Although I questioned if it would not have been better for them to have demonstrated a more open approach from the beginning.

The company has acknowledged its awareness of the recent appeal decisions on the Spaldington Airfield and Spaldington Common Schemes and has studied those applications, and has given careful thought to how their proposals would fit with the consented wind farm. They also state that they have taken into account the reasons for refusal for the Spaldington Common wind farm to ensure they can work with the community and key stake holders to design a wind farm that is suitable for the area. They then purport to recognise the importance and sensitivity of the recent decisions.

One resident summed it up his feelings by saying, “Is this some sort of sick joke – for me they appear to be acting like vultures picking over the carcass of a failed wind farm application”?

We have seen this drip, drip, drip strategy employed by wind farm companies time after time, the application for the mast to let residents know a wind farm is on its way, forget about any consultation at this stage. Then we see some sort of public exhibition where a number of wind turbines are proposed, the residents start a campaign, letters in the press and public outcry, then the company says they have listened and remove a couple of the turbines from the plan – leaving the number that they wanted all along - they then talk about how the community will benefit from a pot of money they can offer, or even more direct as we heard at one application.

If one looks back to a previous application, a few miles from this site, the anemometer mast was refused by the Planning Committee – what happened? Did the company appeal? No…. They just went on to submit a planning application for a wind farm that included the anemometer mast. So it can be done.

What I would have liked to have seen with this application was some decency and good old fashioned up front honesty in the process for once, by having the applicant come forward with their full plans right at the beginning. Needless to say this opportunity was lost.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Gilberdyke & Blacktoft snow clearance measures go exactly to plan

Last evening we saw some 100mm of snow falling across the Blacktoft and Gilberdyke area, the snow began to fall in the late afternoon and continued into the early hours. Gilberdyke and Blacktoft Parish Councils had put together a joint plan after the serious snow of last winter, and based on the weather forecast and information from the East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) put the appointed contractor on standby, a local farmer (Martinsons from Blacktoft) with a 4x4 tractor fitted with a snow plough. Last night these measures put in place went exactly to plan.

The important lesson learnt from last winter was that it was essential to clear the snow from the roads as soon as possible after it fell, and before it became compacted by moving vehicles. Both Parish Councils accepted that the ERYC gritting and snow plough teams had responsibility for the primary highways and would be unlikely to plough the Parish roads, therefore they put together their own plan.

After a quick ring around, the Parish Council’s triggered the plan at about 10pm last night when it was evident that there was enough snow to plough away. The contractor, Andrew Martinson, then worked through until approximately 4.30am clearing the snow as it fell onto the roads in and out of the Parishes. After a few hours break Paul Martinson then took over for the morning shift, starting just after 8am.

This went exactly to plan and the roads in and out of the villages are now wet and more or less clear of all snow, whilst roads around other villages are still covered with compacted snow, although this is now thawing.

The cost for this is shared between the two Parish Councils, and will hopefully be reclaimed from a winter maintenance grant.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Goole area MEDiBUS now available in Howdenshire to take people to hospital

At the recent meeting of the Goole and Howdenshire Community Partnership, Parish Councillors from Eastrington and Gilberdyke raised the issue of the changes to the East Yorkshire Motor Services (EYMS) number 155 bus running between Elloughton and Goole.

Residents have also approached me directly, and I share their concerns about getting to appointments at Goole hospital and/or their GP surgery following changes to this bus service.

Susan Oliver from the Humber and Wolds Rural Community Council (H&WRCC), who is the voluntary sector representative on the Partnership, has looked into this and the options available and provided the following information.

I am pleased to say that the Goole area MEDiBUS is available to take people in our area to hospital and medical appointments. Medibus provides you with transport from your front door to morning clinic or early afternoon appointments and transport home after your appointment.

It operates Monday to Friday and passengers are picked up at home. Pre booking is essential, and must be done no later than the day before a person needs to travel. However, most people book the service as soon as they know when their appointment is.

Fares are charged for the service but concessionary passholders travel free.

Although MEDiBUS has been operating in parts of the East Riding, for a number of years, the Goole area service is relatively new, and not everyone will be aware of it. We have asked for leaflets about the service to be delivered to shops, garages, etc. in the villages concerned, and this information should be out there within the next few days.

The telephone number to book (and for further information) is 08456 44 59 59

or visit: http://www2.eastriding.gov.uk/environment/public-transport-travel/medibus/#medibus

Thursday, February 02, 2012

What happens if the Gilberdyke Tip operators walk away from the site?

In view of the Environment Agency issuing the enforcement notice against the Gilberdyke Tip owners City Plant Ltd. it raises the question as to what happens if the Directors decide in view of the action, to fold the company or walk away from the site?

This has concerned me for a while and is something I have raised on a number of occasions after the scenario was first mentioned by residents. After some investigation, answers from City Plant Ltd. and input from the Environment Agency (EA), it would seem that if the City Plant Ltd. Directors were to walk away from the site or folded the company for whatever reason, there is financial provision of up to £1.2 million for the tip to be capped off, restored and maintained as required - but is it adequate, and if not is there an asset value to the tip?

The basis of the provision is found in the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2007 [SI 2007 3538] with reference to Waste Management licensing and pollution prevention and control regimes from 6th April 2008.

The owner or applicant for an Environmental Permit (EP) must be able to provide adequate financial provision to meet the obligations of the permit. Some of these sites can include landfill with aftercare costs for a period of up to sixty years after closure.

Part of the solution can include a security bond, which provides an indemnity for the amount specified by the EA as 'financial provision'. The bond is not required if the client has sufficient 'upfront' funds. In the case of the Gilberdyke Landfill site approximately £650,000 is invested in a FillSecure bond, which has the potential to generate income to cover costs of approximately £1.2million. The FillSecure solution has been approved by the Environment Agency for ‘general application, and consists of a funding arrangement suitable for the cost effective management of financial provisions as required under EP permits to satisfy the long-term aftercare requirement, as well as operational and restoration costs’.

It is my understanding that unless this ‘financial provision’ had been put in place December’s transfer of the Environmental Permit from the previous owner to City Plant Ltd would not have taken place or been ratified by the Environment Agency. It has been confirmed that the Agency took the opportunity to revise the ‘financial provision’ to regularise the costs and to ensure that due to the changes in the site infrastructure and environmental requirements/guidance, any after care costs would be covered.

I am confident that in the event something does happen with City Plant Ltd, monies are available to the Environment Agency from this fund for the tip to be capped off, restored and maintained BUT is this amount of ‘financial provision’ based on the conditions of the EA permit, and since the height of the tip is way over, and in breach of the approved height limits as detailed in the permit, therefore is this provision now adequate?

The tip itself may not have a physical asset value but the methane gas caught within and being constantly produced for a significant number of years to come certainly does have a value, especially if it can be used to power electric generators to produce clean renewable energy like we see at other landfill sites. It is therefore reassuring that not only is there a significant bond in place, there appears to be a very saleable asset which should ensure the tips long term future care and maintenance.