Monday, May 28, 2012

99.8KCFM - 'I Love East Yorkshire Campaign' visits Howden

Whilst out on my mountain bike this afternoon I stopped off in Howden to meet up with local East Riding Radio Station 99.8KCFM as part of their ‘I Love East Yorkshire Campaign’. It was a pleasure to do interviews on subjects such as; the wonderful place that is Howdenshire, the Gilberdyke Tip and the value of local pubs to our rural communities. 

It was hot and the sun was shining – but even without it’s always a great day to visit Howdenshire. (pictured with Sam Heywood and the KCFM team)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A ‘mistake’ blamed for gross over-tipping on Gilberdyke Landfill site

Spin, glossy photographs, breath-taking arrogance, errors and shocking confessions when confronted by the media and residents.  This was the Gilberdyke Landfill exhibition (public consultation event) held by Tip operators City Plant Ltd last Thursday.  If this was the Tip owners attempt to win over public support, then it completely backfired, especially when City Plant consultant and company front man Kevin Wanlass stated that the over tipping on the site to levels twice the permitted height was simply a mistake.  This incredible revelation was recorded and duly aired on Look North (see below).

So then, it all comes down to ‘a mistake’, a mistake that has made the faceless Directors of City Plant Ltd an absolute fortune - a fortune the majority of Gilberdyke and Newport residents can only dream about.  Money made through a cynical manipulation of the system, and shocking inaction by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) and particularly the Environment Agency (EA) as the two bodies that should have protected those residents.  In the eyes of many the ERYC and the EA have been at worse complicit and at best lacking courage, both having rolled over and allowed this whole sorry saga to continue, month after month.
It is clear the ‘mistake’ was made quite soon after City Plant Ltd became interested in the site. The single glaring question that needs to be answered is, when the ‘mistake’ was realised why did they not stop and take immediate action to rectify the situation? 
People are not stupid and the authorities should not treat them as such. The question residents rightly want answered is why, even after a ‘mistake’ was made, was the tipping of thousands upon thousands of tons of waste permitted to continue and the Company Directors allowed to make obscene amounts of cash?
It is not acceptable for the Company to come forward with the feeble attempt at an apology that we saw on Look North; I simply do not believe that the City Plant ‘unintentionally’ broke the planning conditions.  Why did they uncap previously capped off areas of the tip to add more waste – was that an accident too? We all know what the height condition was in the planning approval – I’ve chaired enough tip liaison group meetings with City Plant, ERYC Planners and the EA where the height of the tip and volumes of waste entering the site was discussed at length and I had stated that a compromise had to be reached where tipping of waste had to stop as soon as possible.  Needless to say, we have seen very little compromise from City Plant Ltd as they continued to rake in the cash.
So we are now to see a retrospective planning application submitted to the ERYC to allow the finished area of the Tip to remain at its present height, whilst allowing waste to be tipped until the remaining void space is deemed full at some time between November 2012 and Feb 2013.  Some would say this is planning through the back door and ask why it has been allowed to happen.
Not only is the Tip height greater than the planning consent, the profile is very different; the approved shape was for gently sloping sides to a relatively small top, but what we see now in something akin to Ayers Rock with steep sides and a large top. It does not take a genius to work out that this change of profile is a result of over-tipping gargantuan amounts of waste. The planning consent deals specifically with the visual amenity of the site (i.e. what it looks like) therefore the ERYC legal people have some questions to answer as to why this has been allowed to happen, and why enforcement has not been forthcoming.  Was this a result of a ‘mistake’ too?  The recently coined noun ‘omnishambles’ is one that springs to mind in this particular context.
To conclude on a positive note, the exhibition did include a timescale for the completion of the tip – tipping of waste would stop between November 2012 and February 2013 and capping and restoration completed by November 2013. So no more massive waste lorries entering the site after next February, and no more tipper wagons carrying restorative materials by November 2013 – a belated and small relief to the long-suffering residents of Gilberdyke and Newport.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tip Exhibition comes far too late

City Plant Ltd, the operators of the controversial landfill site between Gilberdyke and Newport are to hold an exhibition or ‘Public Consultation Day’ where they are to display their future plans for the tip. The exhibition is to be held between 2pm and 7pm tomorrow (Thursday 24th May 2012) at the Newport Village Hall.

The exhibition is to include information on, scheduled for completion of the tip, the phased plan, capping, restoration, surface water plans, gas management and future installations.

 I certainly welcome this change of approach from City Plant Ltd. but feel it is way too late in the process, with the horse having well and truly bolted leaving in its wake stink, litter, mud, excessive HGV movements and a community feeling somewhat abused by the Company.

The overwhelming feeling within the communities of Newport and Gilberdyke is that they have suffered enough, they have been let down by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council and the Environment Agency, and in not knowing when it was going to end - had to endure something akin to a prison sentence without the chance of parole. Residents just want to see the tip completed and capped off, and a suitable gas management system installed as soon as possible, and if this exhibition serves to reassure residents that this will happen sooner rather than later, it can only be a good thing.

I therefore urge as many people as possible to attend the event, look at and listen to what City Plant have to say, but most importantly put forward their concerns and questions. As chairman of the Landfill Site Liaison Committee I plan to there for most of the time to listen to what is said.

Monday, May 21, 2012

River Foulness & Market Weighton Canal feasibility study moves ahead

The Market Weighton Canal north of Newport

I am very pleased to be involved in an exciting feasibility study to look into the better utilisation of the environment of the Market Weighton Canal and River Foulness watercourses, after which it is hoped the findings will be used for developing future proposals and bring in funding to develop, improve and increase the use of the canal and associated pathways.

The project follows on from the award winning Wallingfen Way scheme in the Howdenshire villages of Gilberdyke, Newport and North Cave, and dovetails very well with the Holme on Spalding Moor heritage project. The Market Weighton Canal is an under-appreciated watercourse running from Market Weighton south to the River Humber at Broomfleet that has remained largely dysfunctional apart from for land drainage and some limited fishing since it was closed to navigation in 1971.

An Act for the building of the Canal was passed in 1772. The original purpose was to drain the surrounding wetland of Wallingfen and provide a navigation channel and open up the area for farming. The work started in 1777 and was completed in 1780 - the surveyor for the project was James Pinkerton. During the construction of the Canal clay was found and so a thriving brick making industry began in the area. Grain, coal for the brickworks and bricks and tiles were transported along the Canal, market boats sailing regularly between the Canal Head, Market Weighton and Hull, calling at Broomfleet lock, until the late 1860’s.

I was born at Faxfleet and the Canal and the Broomfleet lock both provided a source of adventure during my childhood, and needless to say still does as I regularly travel the pathways and tracks alongside the Canal, and cross the lock on my mountain bike. The River Foulness runs from land north of Welham Bridge and joins the Canal north of Newport.
The project is being commissioned by Newport Parish Council, in consultation with a wider steering group including: East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Lower Ouse and Humber Water Management Partnership, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency will implement the study. A team of qualified consultants have been appointed, and work on the project will commence in May 2012, with a final report being produced by August. Up to £8k of funding has been provided by the East Riding and North Yorkshire (ER&NY) Waterways Partnership.

The process of the study will be to identify and consult with the community, potential partners and organisations and include a range of site surveys, detailed liaison and community consultation activities to build consensus over the waterway’s future management and purpose. This will include establishing a set of agreed objectives and priorities to balance the multiple benefits and a series of actions to develop their natural, historic and recreational potential, whilst ensuring key drainage and flood management functions are maintained.

It will also be important to establish who needs to be involved and how they would participate in future actions. Undertaking this study will add value to both watercourses by helping to improve their utilisation but not conflict with the systems statutory flood management and land drainage functions, and to attract visitors to enjoy the waterways and their environs in a way that takes into account, develops and celebrates their significant environmental and heritage qualities.

It is important to recognise the potential benefits to the local rural economy, including that of pubs, shops and restaurants through increased tourism, and improved health through the likely increase in walking, cycling, and perhaps even kayaking. The study will also include the recording and preservation of appropriate archive information to explain the historic importance of the Market Weighton Canal’s listed structures, in explaining the reason for their existence, their role in the history of the canal, their importance both regionally and nationally or their relationship with the surrounding natural environment.

There is also a desire to strengthen the linkages between the canal and the communities of Newport, Broomfleet and Holme on Spalding Moor to increase appreciation and engagement with the waterway. The objectives of the study are to identify and engage with local people, groups and organisations through a programme of consultation activities, such as meetings, workshops and surveys for those interested to discuss and gathering views and opinions, and increase awareness and understanding of the cultural, heritage and environmental importance of the waterways.

The study is to also to identify opportunities for people to become involved in helping to shape the future plans for the watercourse area and to participate in future conservation, and uses of the waterways and environment through increased recreational use/visitation of the waterways and how they can be developed into a sustainable community asset that will encourage all users to spend longer and appreciate them more. It is important to identify how a sense of community ownership of the waterways by increasing their use by a wide range of local users and ensuring their long term sustainability can be achieved.

It is also proposed to look at effective linkages to the wider local environment and projects such as the North Cave Wetlands, Trans Pennine Way, Wolds Way, Wallingfen Way and the Holme on Spalding Moor heritage project.

Look out for more information on future local consultation events.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

East Riding Council teams up with Pub in the Hub

I have previously blogged regarding the value of pubs to life in our villages and the effects of changes in lifestyle and drinking habits, alcohol pricing, the economic downturn and the ‘Tescofication’ of the high street has had on our pubs. This is why I’m particularly pleased that the East Riding of Yorkshire Council is forming a partnership with the Pub in the Hub initiative with the aim of supporting the development and sustainability of rural public houses in the East Riding.

The Pub is the Hub is a not for profit advisory organisation that was initiated by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales as president of Business in the Community, and it is affiliated to his rural action programme. The Pub is the Hub is sponsored by the brewing industry and can call upon a wide range of expertise to support its work.

The aim of the Pub is the Hub is to encourage local authorities, communities, licensees, pub owners and breweries to work together to support, retain and locate services within rural public houses. The service offered by the Pub is the Hub can include advice on existing businesses and how to diversify in order to offer other services from the public house.

Diversification examples across the country include:

* Shops or post offices operating within the public houses
* Adult education classes
* Health initiatives such as health clinics
* Crime prevention initiatives
* Libraries * Advice services
* Allotments in pub gardens

Though not part of its core activity, the Pub is the Hub is also able to advise on community buy outs of local public houses though schemes such as community share ownership.

The Council held an initial meeting with representatives from the Pub is the Hub at which it was recognised that many of the rural public houses in the East Riding are facing difficult times. The meeting agreed that promoting the Pub is the Hub would be of benefit to these rural businesses and that as a first step data should be collated to identify key licensees and communities to be invited to take part.

The Pub is the Hub has agreed to commission the collection of data from industry sources which will identify potential businesses requiring support through knowledge of sales, rents and other costs.

The Council’s Rural Policy and Partnership Team are in the process of collecting and collating data from the Data Observatory and Community Led Parish Plans which will identify community needs and possible services that could be developed added at a particular location.

As Councillors we have been asked to provide any additional information by drawing on our specialised knowledge of the area and the businesses within it. (Fortunately I do know many of the pubs in Howdenshire!)

As soon as the data has been collated a further meeting will be held with the Pub is the Hub and the information will be used to plan a Pub is the Hub launch event which will be held in late June/early July. This event will be targeted at key rural public houses and their communities. It is then planned that a series of workshops be developed for licensees and communities wishing to work together.

I welcome this partnership being developed between the Council and the Pub is the Hub initiative will provide much needed additional support to the rural public house businesses in the East Riding.

Needless to say I will be visiting a number of Howdenshire’s pubs over the coming weeks to get a feel for the issues they face – something that readily fits with my commitment to riding parish paths, trails and cycle-ways on my mountain bike! (Pictured with Eddie Payne landlord of the Hope and Anchor in Blacktoft)

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Gilberdyke unaffected by record April rains

Gilberdyke survived the one of wettest Aprils in the last 100 years without witnessing the flooding of the past.  The month saw just less than 150mm of rain, making it the wettest since the summer floods of 2007 – and wetter than the five preceding months all added together. The Parish Council funded Phase One (of three) drainage culvert performed as designed, with the surface water from a large section of the village running away into Far Drain and on to the river.  This relieved the pressure on the existing systems in the village ensuring residents didn’t see a repeat of the flooding experienced previously with no houses being affected, and no problems reported.

Phase Two of the drainage culvert running between the gardens of Scalby Lane and Greenacre Park, and under Station Road is now approaching completion. This East Riding of Yorkshire Council funded section has not been without hiccups, with a short piece of the road subject to traffic light control, wet conditions delaying progress and the water pumped from the excavation onto the road highlighting the blockages in the road gullies.  The contractors have constructed a manhole in the road to allow the remaining phase three section of culvert, running behind the properties on Westbrook Road, to be connected to the system.

The final Phase Three section is to start almost immediately, but is not as straight forward as one would imagine, although having spoken to the contractors they are confident of being able to undertake the work efficiently, with the minimum of disruption and restore the gardens back to their present condition.  Obstacles such as garden sheds, garages and fish ponds will have to be either avoided or removed and replaced after the culvert has been installed. On speaking to residents the issue of greatest concern is the lack of communication by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council.  I certainly feel an amount of inconvenience for a relatively short period of time is a small price to pay for the peace of mind of Westbrook Road and Station Road residents, and all those flooded in the village during June 2007.

The £1.5 million scheme to widen the dykes from Gilberdyke down to the river, install a new cross dyke and a pumping station at Blacktoft is still progressing through the Environment Agency’s long and somewhat complicated approval process, although the funding would appear to be in place subject to all the criteria and being met.  So far the project has passed every hurdle.  As a member of the Ouse and Humber Drainage Board I push this at every opportunity.

Monday, May 07, 2012

If only wind turbines spun as much as the Renewables Industry

The Government today hit back at critics of onshore wind power, releasing a report which showed the industry created thousands of jobs and generated millions of pounds for the economy - but hold on a minute isn’t this money into the pockets of a few landowners, developers and foreign investors which is raised from us as Green taxes?

The joint study of 18 wind farms across the country by the industry and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) claimed communities benefited from onshore wind turbines to the tune of £84 million in 2011, with 1,100 local jobs supported by the sector. One in three local jobs were in operating and maintaining the turbines, providing long term employment. But hold on another minute is this nothing more than a report produced by a pressure group, saying exactly what it wanted to say?

The dubious report also said wind farms benefited local people through schemes which pay residents for hosting turbines (which must be pretty galling to those residents having turbines imposed on them by neighbouring landowners), community ownership and investment in infrastructure. In total, the research by BiGGAR Economics found onshore wind farms supported 8,600 jobs and were worth £548 million to the UK in 2011.

Having worked with many residents in their fight against on-shore wind farm developers in the East Riding of Yorkshire I can say this is typical of the spin and unrealistic best case scenarios put forward by the Renewables Industry, if only the turbines we see constructed so close to residences spun anywhere half as much!

The jobs that could be created in the on-shore wind industry can also be created in other parts of the renewable energy sector and supply chain - it is therefore disingenuous of the industry to lead the public to believe that jobs can only be created in the wind sector.

Instead of the rush towards on-shore wind we instead need to see more balance in the renewable sector and investment in other technologies such as wave and tidal power, which can be more predictable and reliable, and equally create jobs. The potential with off-shore wind is much more sustainable as the wind is more constant.
The pay-outs to local communities for local projects is certainly welcome and can benefit the communities around a wind farm, but for many, especially those living within a few hundred meters of some of the largest 125m high turbines it is seen as a cynical attempt at bribery, and does absolutely nothing to compensate for the negative impact on their quality of life, visual amenity or thousands of pounds wiped off their property values.

Whilst the report claims the majority of the money generated during the development and operating phases of on-shore wind farms stays in the UK, more than half of construction spend goes abroad, highlighting the value of developing a home-grown supply chain. This is far from clear, and there is nothing in the report to indicate neither how much of the investment comes from foreign investors nor how much of the profits (raised from green taxes on all of us) leaves the country.

The wind farm developers need to become more open and honest, be realistic about what the technology can achieve and the jobs that can be created – and our politicians need to learn that there is more to leading on renewable energy then to be photographed standing under a wind turbine to justify their green credentials.

Last month the Prime Minister said he believed renewables were "vital" for the future of the UK and were good for business, not just the environment. Yes, I agree BUT it is more than just about on-shore wind!