Friday, 3 March 2017

The Brighton and Hove Mayor’s charity bike ride

Join Brighton and Hove Mayor, Cllr Pete West on an epic 50 mile cycle ride around the boundary of Biosphere through the Sussex countryside.

The event takes place on Sunday 23rd April, starting at 9am, and will start and finish on Hove Lawns.  This is a way of celebrating the Brighton and Lewes Downs Biosphere and also of raising much needed funds for the Mayor’s 27 charities, including the Sussex Wildlife Trust.

The road ride is a 52 miles long circular ride (just short of the London to Brighton distance).  After heading east along the seafront cycle lane and Undercliff Walk, riders follow the A259 to Newhaven before heading north to Lewes and then Cooksbridge.  After a quick refreshment stop at Beechwood Hall riders head west to Ditchling, Clayton and Hurstpierpoint before cycling to Woods Mill, our Head Quarters, where we’ll be delighted to welcome cyclists for another refreshment stop. 

On the way they will pass Pondtail Wood which hit the headlines last year when the new owner bulldozed many of the trees and dumped a load of waste and hardcore on site.

After Woods Mill, riders head south through Small Dole, Upper Beeding and Bramber before crossing the A27 at Shoreham and using the old Toll Bridge to cross the River Adur.  Then they follow National Cycle Network route 2 back to Hove where the finish will be on Kings Lawns (where riders started out from).

The road ride is a medium distance ride by today's standards and most reasonably fit adults should be able to complete it.  It does contain hills but as it is largely skirting around the edges (of the Downs) avoids the worst of them.  There are no Devil's Dykes or Ditchling Beacons on the route!

To register use Eventbrite - it costs £20 in advance, £25 on the day. You can see more on the Mayor's Facebook event page

Once you have registered you will be sent an information pack which includes everything you’ll need to know before and on the day.  Please note that the minimum age for this event is 12.  Under 18s must be accompanied by an adult.

The Mayor's 27 charities are:

  • Action on Hearing Loss (formerly RNID),
  • Albion in the Community,
  • Brighton & Hove Impetus,
  • Brighton & Hove Food Partnership,
  • Brighton Housing Trust,
  • Black and Minority Ethnic Community Partnership,
  • The Carers Centre For Brighton & Hove,
  • CCHF All About Kids,
  • Cruse Bereavement Care,
  • Emmaus,
  • Family Support Work,
  • Friends, Families and Travellers,
  • Friends of Brighton & Hove Hospitals,
  • GreenCycle Sussex,
  • Headway Hurstwood Park,
  • Martlets Hospice,
  • Money Advice Plus,
  • Moulsecoomb Forest Garden,
  • Possability People,
  • Resource Centre,
  • RISE,
  • Sussex Beacon,
  • Sussex Heart Charity,
  • Sussex Wildlife Trust,
  • Sustrans,
  • The Clare Project.
  • The Clock Tower Sanctuary.

Your entry includes:
  • Experienced ride leaders
  • Route map
  • Route marshals
  • Qualified First Aiders Medical support
  • Full route signage
  • Refuel stops with water and snacks
  • Fundraising support, ideas and tips
  • Regular communications to keep you up to date
  • Huge cheers and support on the day!

Your registration fee helps to cover the costs of organising the event. The event is being organised with support and help from Cycling Support Services

Thursday, 23 February 2017

The Greener UK coalition has launched its manifesto urging UK government to use Brexit to restore and enhance the environment

I am delighted that nearly half of our Sussex MPs have signed up to the Greener UK Coalition’s Pledge for the Environment, and I hope that many others will follow suit.  In total some 194 UK MPs now support the pledge.

The Greener UK coalition, consisting  of 13 major environmental organisations, including The Wildlife Trusts, WWF, the National Trust, and the RSPB has launched its manifesto calling on the UK government to restore and enhance the environment as part of its plans for leaving the European Union.

They say, “We are depleting our soils and water supplies, generating mountains of food and plastic waste, changing our climate and making the air in our cities dangerous to breathe. Our wild places are dwindling, and we face the sadness of once familiar animals and plants fading away from our gardens and countryside.”

The Greener UK manifesto launch follows a House of Lords report last week, which identified the risk of a vacuum in the the oversight and enforcement of environment legislation, and the challenge of effectively maintaining the extensive existing environmental protections through the Repeal Bill.[4]

As well as sharing these concerns, the coalition wants to emphasize that Brexit offers the chance to make a greener UK a reality, by:
  • Securing the benefits of existing environmental laws and principles through the Repeal Bill, as the UK leaves the EU.
  • Ensuring the UK continues to co-operate with the EU on energy and climate change, and affirming ongoing investment in, and deployment of, clean energy infrastructure.
  • Introducing new policies and investment that create thriving farming and fishing industries, working with the grain of nature to return our land, seas, lakes and rivers to good health.
  • Passing an ambitious new Environment Act for England, building on the upcoming 25 year plan with measurable milestones for environmental restoration and high standards for pollution and resource efficiency. (New, separate Acts may also be required in the devolved nations.)

Miranda Krestovnikoff, TV presenter and wildlife expert on BBC 1’s The One Show, said:
“With so many of our environmental laws coming from the EU, Brexit has potentially huge impacts for nature across the UK. The government must urgently set out its plans to make sure our wonderful, wild spaces are not put at risk, and that opportunities are taken to improve protections for our natural world.”

Stephanie Hilborne, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said:
“We’ve been heartened by the government’s commitment to transfer EU environmental law into domestic law, though there remain significant unanswered questions about how the UK will replace the enforcement functions currently carried out by EU bodies. But if we are to allow for nature's recovery, we must set our sights higher. Now is the time to raise ambition, establishing bold nature goals, better management of land and seas, and innovative environmental policy that can underpin the UK’s new place in the world. Being a truly global Britain means building a thriving economy in harmony with solutions to the critical environmental challenges that will define the twenty-first century.”

Tony Juniper, leading environmental campaigner and writer, said:
"If we are to seize Brexit as an opportunity to improve conditions for people in this UK then signalling a commitment to create a better environment is one critical touchstone. Looking after wildlife and environment is a vital prerequisite in promoting our health, wealth and security. A degraded environment is bad for our economy and bad for people and as we embark on the process of leaving the EU we need urgently to put in place the kind of framework and ambition that is fit for purpose.”

Ross Murray, President of the Country Land and Business Association, said:
“At this pivotal moment in our nation’s history, we have an opportunity to reinforce our commitment to sustainable farming and land use policies.  In the long term, a resilient and profitable agricultural sector will depend on this. The CLA looks forward to working with all parties, including those in Greener UK, as we navigate through the Brexit process to ensure we develop  world-leading UK food, farming and environmental policies that benefit everyone.”

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

The future of the natural environment after the EU Referendum.

The government’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), chaired by Mary Creagh MP has just published its report following its inquiry into the future of the natural environment after leaving the EU.

This makes interesting reading, especially as the Wildlife Trusts combined to prepare a good body of evidence to feed into the inquiry.  The report can be found on the EAC web site and Steph Hilborne, Chief Executive of the Wildlife Trusts national office has written this brief response

A quick read through indicates that some of the Wildlife Trusts key points have got through to the final report.  The report recognizes that Brexit could put farming and wildlife at great risk.  A potential loss of subsidies together with possible tariffs against farm exports could damage the farming industry, making it less viable and less able to expend resources on managing the countryside in an environmentally sensitive way.  Alongside this, the potential loss of The Birds and Habitats directives means that government should provide new measures to safeguard Britain’s wildlife and special places.

The EAC proposes that government should pass a new Environmental Protection Act setting out how it will provide an equivalent or better level of protection after leaving the EU.  Alongside this new subsidy arrangements should be put in place to provide public payments to farmers for providing public benefits – like the promotion of biodiversity, preventing flooding and storing carbon.

If alternative measures are not put in place, the report warns that there could be potentially far reaching consequences for the UK’s biodiversity.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

A Greener UK

UK’s major environmental organisations unite to highlight “once in a generation opportunity” for the environment as UK exits the EU

·         13 environmental organisations, with a combined membership of 7.9 million, have united to launch Greener UK
·         Greener UK calls on the Prime Minister to restore and enhance the UK’s environment and maintain its environmental protections during Brexit negotiations
·         145 MPs have signed the Greener UK Pledge for the Environment committing to make the UK a world leader on the environment
·         Polling shows 80% of British adults think we need the same or stronger levels of environmental protection after we leave the EU

Thirteen major environmental organisations including WWF, the National Trust, RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts and Friends of the Earth have united through a new Greener UKcoalition to ensure that the UK uses the pivotal moment presented by the forthcoming Brexit negotiations to restore and enhance the UK’s environment.

In a letter to the editor of the Times, Greener UK states that leaving the EU presents significant challenges but also important opportunities for the UK’s environment. It calls on the Prime Minister to state her commitment to using the forthcoming Brexit negotiations to restore the UK’s environment and maintain its protections, many of which have been developed with the EU.

They have welcomed the government’s environmental ambitions but say that the UK’s natural environment is at risk, with over half of species declining, temperatures rising and poor air quality damaging people’s health.
Alongside the launch of the coalition, 155 MPs from across the UK’s political parties, including many Sussex MPs, have signed up to the Greener UK coalition’s Pledge for the Environment. In the pledge, the MPs state their belief that the UK government, working with the governments in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh, must build a healthy and prosperous future. The MP signatories also commit to do everything in their power to:
  • establish the UK as a world leader on the environment by matching or exceeding current environmental, wildlife and habitat protections;
  • ensure that the UK leads on climate action
  • create a countryside richer in nature by supporting farmers and landowners to deliver environmental benefits alongside a thriving farming sector.

In addition to the launch of the coalition and the Pledge for the Environment, a recent YouGov poll revealed that four in five British adults think Britain should have the same (38%) or stronger (42%) environmental protection after it leaves the EU. At the same time, around two in three Brits think that the environment will either stay the same (40%), or worsen (27%) when we leave the EU.

Dr Mike Clarke, Chief Executive of RSPB, commented:
“Now more than ever, the natural environment is at risk, both at home and overseas. The Greener UK coalition believes we have a once in a generation opportunity to ensure that we protect and enhance the UK’s natural environment and wildlife, reduce our footprint on the global environment and build a healthy and prosperous future for all.  The negotiations on our future following the EU referendum must provide the impetus we need to protect and secure our country and our planet for future generations. ”

And for a more complete view on creating a Greener UK after the EU see the blog by Stephanie Hilbourne – national CEO of The Wildlife Trusts.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Pledge for the Environment

Ninety percent of the people in the UK agree that our wellbeing and quality of life depend on nature.  The vast majority, over 80%, feel that protection of nature should be at least as strong as, preferably stronger than it is in the European Union.  Yet, in the UK as a whole, 60% of our wildlife species are in decline.

The EU referendum result must be used as a stepping stone for a brighter future for our natural environment.  Whatever your view on the referendum, this is an opportunity to push for improvements in wildlife laws, action on climate change, the way agriculture is done, protection of the marine environment and generally in investment in our natural world.

To this end we have written to all Sussex MPs to ask them to sign up to a “Pledge for the Environment”.  This is the initiative of a wide range of national and local organisations including the Wildlife Trusts, RSPB, CPRE, WWF, Friends of the Earth, New Economics Foundation, and others.

In brief, we would like them to do all in their power to:

  • Establish the UK as a world leader on the environment by committing to match or exceed current environmental, wildlife and habitat protections.

  • Ensure the UK leads on climate change by publishing robust low carbon investment plans and ratifying the Paris Agreement this year.

  • Create a countryside richer in nature by supporting farmers and landowners to deliver environmental benefits alongside a thriving farming sector.

I am now meeting some of our MPs and, I’m glad to say that several have signed up, indeed some were among the first to put their names forward.  Others will promote the principles even if they are not in the habit of signing pledges.

One thing is clear.  Brexit has not provided a mandate to allow the continued degradation of our wildlife; on the contrary most people demand the opposite.  Law makers and policy makers must now respond.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Pondtail Wood

Make a mess of something then try to get an unsuspecting soul to buy the liability off you.  That seems to be the strategy of the owner of Pondtail Wood in Mid Sussex.

Not content with illegally felling 13 acres, illegally dumping waste and then trying to play for time by “appealing” to the authorities to try and get out of his responsibilities, he is now trying to auction-off all the problems he has caused.

Pondtail Wood is shortly going to auction. 

Presumably the owner wants someone to buy the wood without asking too many questions and without realizing the liability they are getting into.  Be clear, however.  Anyone who buys this wood will also be taking on the not inconsiderable liabilities.  Clearing the land of waste will not be cheap – goodness knows what has been dumped there.  Restoring the landform, including restoring a woodland stream, will entail significant cost.  Replanting the wood appropriately, caring for it for at least 10 years and re-stoking if any trees fail will also have to be done at the owner’s expense. 

All of this, of course, will have to be made known to any potential purchaser. 

In my view, instead of running away the current owner should “man-up”, accept his responsibilities and put right what he has spent some months getting wrong.

If not, well here’s an idea.  Let us imagine that there is an incredibly generous person out there who is willing to take on the liability and restore the wood for the greater good for people and the environment.  Taking into account the cost of restoration against the original value of the wood, it would be generous to offer 1p for the site.  Any takers?

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

How will the EU referendum affect our response to climate change?

Here in the UK, March 2016 broke climate change records – those records had been set in February 2016!  2015 was the warmest year on record; most of the 10 warmest years have been in the last decade. On the other side of the globe, 11,000 miles away in Tasmania is an observatory which records greenhouse and ozone-depleting gases in an uncontaminated, ‘clean air’ location. The journal Science published on May 20th includes a news briefing titled ‘Atmospheric CO2 reaches a milestone’ and reports “Last week, carbon dioxide .. levels at Cape Grim, an observatory on Tasmania in Australia rose above 400 parts per million (ppm)  …”. Elaborating on the significance of this fact, the short article explains that because of the nature of seasonal variations in CO2 levels in the northern hemisphere, the record of 400 ppm CO2 at Cape Grim, is a more accurate reflection of global atmospheric CO2 levels.

Climate change is well underway; records are tumbling quicker than predicted under most climate models. This is partly due to natural variation but scientists agree that the over-riding cause is human activity. The significance of the 400 ppm CO2 figure is that it shows we’re closing on the point at which a global average 2oC temperature rise is inevitable (that threshold is estimated at 450 ppm CO2), with major consequences for our climate, the world’s weather systems and the way we live.

There has been lots of talk since the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was launched 25 years ago this week on June 4th, 1992 at the Earth Summit. There’s been some activity, but we are leaving it very late to make the level of change needed to avoid that 2oC temperature rise and damaging climate change. Individual action is important, but this is not something that can be solved by any country working in isolation. International co-operation is vital.

So, there is a question to both sides of the EU debate:  How will remaining in, or leaving the EU help drive the international action necessary?

Some members of the “leave” campaign have, unfortunately, become associated with climate change denial. Pretence that it is not happening does not fill one with confidence that there will be strong leadership, even co-operation, from Britain if we isolate ourselves. Whilst it might be possible for the UK alone to lead the rest of the world in this area, indications so far are that the “leave” campaign wish to slow down progress on climate change, not accelerate it. If willing, we could go further and be in advance of the EU. But this is not the message we are getting from the “leave” campaign.

The “remain” campaign, however, is little better. Whilst there are strong voices pushing for climate change progress, the campaign as a whole is bedevilled by demands for deregulation. A huge emphasis on economic growth (at any cost, and whatever it means) and the removal of any perceived barriers shifts the whole frame of any discussion away from the need to safeguard the environment and the ecosystem functions on which we depend. This could undermine attempts to address significant areas of market failure – and climate change is about the biggest market failure we’re likely face! 

On one hand we could become separate from the EU and show unilateral leadership in the response to climate change (but all indications are that we would do the opposite). On the other, we could stay in the EU and be part of a powerful group influencing international agreements to combat climate change (against the background of a UK trying to weaken international progress). That is the choice.