Earlier today the Secretaries of State for Local Government and Transport approved the planning application for an airport at Lydd.
The Secretaries of the State have found that there is development plan support for the proposals from LP policy TR15 and that, in an area where the prospects of significant regeneration remain precarious, the proposals would have a positive effect. In line with NPPF paragraph 19, they attach significant weight to the need to support economic growth through the planning system. After careful consideration, they are satisfied that there would be no likely significant effects on any designated conversation sites and also that the proposals would not have a significant effect on nuclear safety, landscape or tranquillity. The Secretaries of State conclude that the airport would be safe from flooding to 2115 and that the proposals would not have any significant effect on highway safety. Whilst they have identified limited harm to the wider population in respect of noise, there would not be significant harm at Greatstone School. Overall, the Secretaries of State conclude that there are no material considerations of sufficient weight which count against the proposal to determine the application other than in accordance with the development plan.
It’s the economy stupid!
CPRE described this as ‘crazy paving over the Garden of England’.
That James Delingpole – he’s a bit of a card isn’t he? His latest rant, which resembles quite a few of his previous rants, is about the RSPB supporting carefully-sited wind turbines.
It’s well worth a read to see how thin the arguments are.
The RSPB is making ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds a year’ apparently through its link-up with Ecotricity. Well, that’s not very much is it? I’d expect the deal to be worth a bit more than that.
Corn buntings are one of the species particularly at risk from wind turbines according to Mr Delingpole. Really?
And the RSPB has been ‘invaded’ by ‘greens’ too. Well that’s shocking isn’t it? A green organisation has some greens in it.
I’m coming up to the end of my contract with an energy supplier so I am looking around for a new deal. At least James Delingpole has reminded me that all energy suppliers aren’t the same, and the fact that the RSPB supports Ecotricity might influence my choice. The difficulty I will face is that faced to some extent by governments too. If I choose the cheapest option for me it will not be the greenest option for the planet. If I choose what I think is the greenest option then I will be paying an economic cost.
This is an example where the market doesn’t work very well to deliver the best environmental outputs. It’s why we need governments to make the right decisions on energy production.
David Cameron is hopping around Europe in the vain hope of persuading other European countries to support his wish that more of the EU rules should be made voluntary rather than mandatory. He is expected to get short shrift in Madrid, Paris and Berlin but then maybe he should be heading to Nicosia and Valetta instead.
The Prime Minister might find support for opt-outs of EU directives in Cyprus and Malta, and he might be taken to see some illegal shooting of migratory birds too. A quick tour around the lime-sticks would allow him to sympathise with this traditional country pursuit (and sigh over the banning of fox-hunting back home) and give his support to the need for the removal of EU environmental red tape. As a nightingale is removed from a mist-net and its head squeezed between finger and thumb our Prime Minister could launch the Anglo-Cypriot accord for the removal of EU environmental regulations.
I heard another DC on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme yesterday; David Conlin is heading for Cyprus, as part of the Committee Against Bird Slaughter campaign against, well, against, bird slaughter.
I know who would get my vote.
One of the stories that played through the last week or so was the temporary closure of Leeds General Infirmary for heart surgery. Without going into the details, there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing on the radio about whether the data on death rates were good data or provisional data, whether they should have been used to make a decision or not. There were MPs and health professionals spouting away on the issue and, as a listener with an interest in data and how data are used to make decisions, I wasn’t particularly impressed by much of what I heard.
Figures were bandied about suggesting that death rates from child heart operations were twice as high at Leeds General than the average. Twice as high sounds quite high, but then these were also described as preliminary data. How many operations were involved? Over how long a period of time? Were the data corrected for relevant factors – perhaps the age or gender of the child, or their ethnic origin, or their economic status, influences the success of the operation (how would I know?). Perhaps the death rates at Leeds, if they were high, were particularly high early in the period under consideration and had improved over time? Maybe there were just doubts about the accuracy of the data that were available?
So I can sympathise with those who had to make decisions here. The evidence is unlikely to be cut and dried. Is there an increased death rate and if so how much higher than expected is it? How sure can we be about it? What are the consequences of temporary or permanent cessation of such operations at Leeds and how do they compare with carrying on?
I guess, those faced with neonicotinoids and their impacts on pollinators may feel in a similar position. There is evidence on either side of the argument – it is always thus! It’s rarely the case that impacts on the natural world look clear and compelling right from the start.
I don’t know much more about the details of this issue than I do about the Leeds heart cases so I won’t comment much. However, it is worth having a look at this video by the Defra Chief Scientist which goes into some refreshing detail on the subject.
The Environmental Audit Committee criticised Defra in their report last week and that committee’s report is a thoughtful and well-informed contribution to the debate.
Tricky isn’t it? It’s not that there is no evidence – there is quite a lot. There is evidence that neonics are harmful to pollinators but how harmful are they under field conditions, and would an outright ban necessitate the use of other harmful pesticides instead? Don’t tell me it’s simple, because it isn’t. These are real decisions of great environmental importance but also of great economic importance.
- quite some time ago I mentioned a joint statement by the GWCT and the RSPB on the results of the study of raptors gobbling up red grouse which took place at Langholm. I’m grateful to GWCT for putting this report on their website where anyone can now refresh their memories of the results of that important study.
- there was a brimstone in my garden yesterday – unfortunately I missed it. And the male blackcap is still around – does it ever mean to go back to Germany?
- a split log? A letter appeared in the Daily Telegraph last week calling for FC not to be merged with NE (or EA). I see the signatories are mainly forestry organisations but also include the Woodland Trust. That’s a shame.
- there is a pair of released cranes building a nest at Slimbridge – how odd.
- there is a new type of avian ‘flu – time to stop snogging ducks and gulls!
- the Chagos Marine Reserve, the largest marine no-take reserve in the world, has recently had its third birthday. This represents a significant environmental success of the last Labour government and we still wait for anything of similar ambition to emerge from the current government’s dead environmental hand.
- Derek Moore sends this photograph of long-tailed tits feeding on fat smeared onto the bark of a larch tree. And apparently, long-tailed tits are quite closely related to swallows – you live and learn…
A couple of weekends ago I was driving down to Surrey. There was snow in the fields and snow and ice on the branches of the trees. The wind had been consistently from the east for days. It was a grey and chill day.
As I drove south down the M1 I passed through several wooded cuttings between Northampton and Milton Keynes.
The trees on the right hand side of the road had smatterings of snow on them, but nothing very noticeable. On the left, though, close to the motorway, the lower branches were weighed down with inches of snow and ice. The landscape, grey and black and white, showed the impact of the winds which had been blowing from left to right across the motorway for days. On the right-hand, western, side the wind had cleared most of the snow. On the left-hand, eastern, side of the road the lower branches were sheltered and had kept their white coverage.
It was a case of only being able to explain the present through knowing about the past. Life’s often like that.
Something for the weekend Vice Chancellor?
I’m quite sure that the Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, will have been thinking about his boathouse conundrum. Here are some contributions for his weekend cogitation.
It’s not going to go away – you are stick with a contentious issue. Sometimes it’s tempting to think that keeping your head down is all that is needed – not now that the cat is out of the bag, in my opinion. And could it get worse? What if the Boat Club had been advised of the wildlife importance of the site by the Wildlife Trust, Natural England, the Environment Agency or others? That would put the focus even more on the University’s appreciation of wildlife in practice.
No, the way out for the University, and indeed for the Environment Agency who will have to answer questions on their role in all this, is to sell the land back to EA and ask for their legal expenses to be reimbursed. That way the University has to start again on its search for a boathouse but they avoid the opprobrium that will attach to this site. The Environment Agency ought to be very keen on this option as their role is not finding boathouse sites for universities with public land and they will avoid difficult questions on what wildlife advice they sought and why they thought that this option was OK. And the otters, bitterns etc should be happy too.
It’s not a solution that makes everyone ecstatic – but the Boat Club and the EA got themselves into this mess and this is the ‘stop digging’ option.
PS English Heritage don’t seem at all keen on this development on grounds that have nothing to do with wildlife.
I go through the list in systematic order ticking off the usual mute swan, greylag and Canada geese, followed by a bunch of ducks. Then there might be a pheasant and even sometimes a red-legged partridge. Cormorants, herons and then the grebes . Yes, this order is a bit different from what I grew up with, when I was used to the divers and grebes being the stupid birds at the front of the list but the changes aren’t that dramatic and don’t discomfort me much.
However! However, as we get into the passerines I am likely to put a tick against Cetti’s warbler as it is a common species here at Stanwick and a bird that announces itself with its loud song which starts with a sneeze and then chatters on a bit. I have only seen Cetti’s warbler at Stanwick once or twice but have heard it on scores and scores of occasions. And very pleased I am each time I do hear it.
So having got to the warblers I am either ready to skip them all (sometimes with the exception of chiffchaff and very rarely blackcap) if it is winter or to tick off several more whitethroats, garden warblers, sedge warblers etc if it is high summer. But no – immediately after Cetti’s warbler, and before the rest of the warblers, is a species that doesn’t look like a warbler, sound like a warbler, feed like a warbler (well, a bit), fly like a warbler or bring warbler to mind in any way at all; the long-tailed tit.
I love long-tailed tits – there is nothing wrong with long-tailed tits, and I am always pleased when I can tick them off too. But it always brings me up short that this stubby-beaked little cutie is nestling in amongst the warblers – or at least between the warblers and the Cetti’s warbler.
I’m not arguing about it, because I am sure there are drawers full of data which prove this to be right but it always disconcerts me. And that’s good. Non-scientists, sometimes relatives in my experience, when confronted with a scientific finding are quite quick either to say ‘Well I could have told you that’ or ‘Well I don’t believe that’. I’ll live with it and assume that science, involving DNA sequencing, I guess, is better at telling the evolutionary relationships between species than the Avery eye. Check out the full list here.
But this did make me look at the genus Aegithalos which is that of the long-tailed tit; it’s a 7-species genus, the rest of whose members live in Asia. I’m glad the long-tailed tit sneaked west to be a familiar part of my birding scene, it’s a lovely little bird. Although take a look at the black-throated bushtit – I’d love to see that down at Stanwick Lakes now and again.
I was recently sent this link by a friend of my daughter – it tells an inspiring story about a man who planted a forest.
Have you planted your forest yet? Have you started?
People quite often ask me whether I miss the RSPB and my usual answer is along the lines of : No. Although I miss some of the people, but I spent a long time at the RSPB, and as Conservation Director, and although it was great it was time for me to move on.
The next question is quite often along the lines of either ‘But don’t you miss the power now that you are just an ordinary person?’ or ‘Do you love the freedom now that you can speak your mind?’. The answer to these questions is basically the same – we can all do our bit and I’m finding different ways to do my bit these days.
It really irritates me when people say ‘Someone should do something about it’ and do nothing themselves. We are not victims – we are all players. We are consumers of the world’s resources and electors of our governments. Let’s make a difference.
This blog is clearly one of the ways that I try to make a difference these days. Through it I hope to influence the fate of nature in the UK – just a little. With a monthly readership of about 8000 unique visitors the blog’s reach doesn’t look bad but I know that within those 8000 readers there are nature conservationists, journalists, civil servants and politicians, so I know that the words on my blog are delighting just the audience that I would hope to delight.
In the last week, the impact on wildlife of the Cambridge Boat Club’s plans have been discussed on TV, radio and the print media and this blog played a part in making that happen. Use of social media, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, make it easier to spread the word. I sent links to my first Boat Race blog to various journalists and got immediate responses from several of them.
The point of this story is just to point out that you don’t have to be an organisation to make a difference. We can all make a difference through spreading the word, writing to decision makers, supporting the right conservation organisations, making the right lifestyle choices etc.
This is the third blog on the subject of the Cambridge University Boat Club’s misguided plans to erect their new boathouse on a county wildlife site on the edge of Ely.
Today the Duke of Edinburgh visits Cambridge to be at the launch of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative. Prince Philip was the Chancellor of Cambridge University until a couple of years ago when Lord Sainsbury took over.
Prince Philip will be attending the launch of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative. Sir David Attenborough will also be attending. No doubt there will be a lot of talk about Cambridge being a great centre for conservation knowledge – and n0-one can argue strongly against that. But as with other organisations it is important to make sure that theory and practice are completely aligned and that’s where the plans of the Cambridge University Boat Club for a new boathouse (though it is much more than just a boathouse) might pop into people’s minds now and again.
Opposition to the University’s plans is strong and growing. Not only are many Ely locals shocked by the impact that this large new development will have on their views and wildlife but there is widespread concern within the University too although you won’t find much of that concern reaching the public’s eyes or ears because the grip of the University is pretty strong.
Although there are voices raised against the boathouse plans within the University it is easier for independent voices to point out the damage that will be done by pushing ahead in an arrogant manner. I’m grateful to the following people for putting their names to this letter (which the Sunday Telegraph did not publish).