The Government is “consulting” (Closing date 15 March) on important changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to incorporate ideas in the “Living with Beauty” report (see below) and on its ideas for design codes.
These proposals follow on from the ‘Planning for the Future’ consultation which attracted criticism from around the country and a mini rebellion in the Commons.
A Civic Voice newsletter has links to all the documents. It emphasise the need for as many people as possible to take EDDC’s consultation on the Local Plan – Options and Approaches seriously and respond to it. Closing date 15 March.
National Planning Policy Framework and National Model Design Code: consultation proposals
In response to the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission report, the Government has announced:
• It will publish a draft national design code setting out clear parameters of good design and a simple process for local communities to define what buildings in their areas should look like • Create an Office for Place within the next year which will pioneer design and beauty within the planning system • Provide £4 million for the community-led housing fund, in addition to extra funding for successful areas under the heritage campaign • Propose changes to the planning framework to place greater emphasis on beauty and placemaking
A number of other changes to the text of the Framework are also set out and explained in this consultation document, but at the time of sending this update, we do not believe that government is proposing a review of the National Planning Policy Framework in its entirety at this stage. A fuller review of the Framework is likely to be required in due course, depending on the implementation of the government’s proposals for wider reform of the planning system.
In addition to the NPPF consultation, the government has published a new National Model Design Code that outlines the design standards new developments are expected to meet. This provides a checklist that will guide local councils to create their own, unique, local design code. This consultation is also seeking views on the draft National Model Design Code, which provides detailed guidance on the production of design codes, guides and policies to promote successful design.
It would be easy to imagine the English countryside is a lovely place. Everyone has been talking about discovering the wonder of nature during lockdown and there are constant reports of droves moving out of towns and cities for more pastoral locations.
In many ways, however, the opposite is true. Look around and you’ll find local actions groups protesting, petitioning and even praying to save precious stretches of countryside from destruction. If you are one of the escapees from town, I’d check your new view isn’t earmarked for development.
We have already seen an orgy of eco-vandalism as a result of the HS2 rail project: heartbreaking images of wrecked nature reserves, magnificent old trees felled and ancient hedges bulldozed. But HS2 is only one in a vast catalogue of destructive developments. In Greater Manchester, for example, Friends of Carrington Moss are fighting a massive housing project planned on green belt that is also precious peatland. Meanwhile there are countrywide protests against the government’s road building spree. The Wensum link in Norfolk; the Stonehenge tunnel; the Lower Thames Crossing; and major roads in sensitive open countryside in Lancashire, to name but a few.
Kent is particularly badly hit – not just by Brexit lorry parks. Housing developments are everywhere, Graveney marshes have been designated for industrialisation, and now another ecologically important marsh at Swanscombe is targeted for a vast theme park billed as “the UK’s answer to Disney World”.
Protest groups fighting these developments are usually made up of inexperienced, previously apolitical, locals. Out of necessity they fight separate local campaigns. But the current level of destructive development is a nationwide problem requiring a nationwide response. Taken together, these developments are changing the character of the countryside towards urban sprawl. They are inflicting irreversible damage on wildlife.
What’s enabling this destruction is the national planning system, which ought to protect local communities, but now disempowers them. Planning has been hijacked by two doctrines. One is that pouring concrete will get us out of recession, the other that there’s a general housing crisis rather than an affordability crisis. Local challenges to these views are steamrollered as merely nimbyism.
Since the coalition government introduced the national planning policy framework in 2012 the planning system has increasingly favoured developers. That legislation insisted councils set housing targets but they lacked land to meet those numbers. Local authorities were forced to redefine green-belt areas as “available for development”. It was the beginning of a land grab. The Campaign to Protect Rural England states (in 2018’s The State of the Green Belt report) that since 2013 “huge amounts of greenfield land designated as green belt has been released or included in councils’ local plans”.
Robert Jenrick’s so-called planning “reforms” now go a lot further. Even after a backbench rebellion and a rethink of the algorithm used to calculate housing targets, the housing secretary still wants to impose a controversial American system of zoning along with a presumption in favour of development. The proposals are scarily anti-democratic. Housing targets will be imposed by central government and local input sidelined. Yet the housing developments championed by Jenrick do nothing to increase the number of affordable homes. Developers don’t want to build cheap starter homes. They prefer five-bedroom, low-density housing – hence the hunger for greenfield sites, especially those near beauty spots, which are massively more profitable. Meanwhile developers shun available brownfield sites that CPRE estimates could support building 1m new homes.
The National Infrastructure Commission’s assault on local democracy is even more blatant. The NIC is truly a wrecking ball to the countryside. Alongside HS2, think Minsmere, the RSPB’s jewel in the crown, threatened by Sizewell C, or the proposal for a million houses on “the Oxford-Cambridge arc”, most of which would be on green belt. And let’s not forget Guston lorry park, dumped on the unsuspecting residents of Dover. Local opposition is virtually irrelevant in NIC hearings. I know this first-hand having attended one such inquiry where local experts were openly mocked by some of the developers present. It felt like a sham of democracy.
Boris Johnson sometimes claims to care about biodiversity and speaks of supporting nature’s recovery and protecting green belts, digressing once about families picnicking in “wild belts” amid flourishing flora and fauna. But he also loves putting on hard hats for photo ops, promoting “build, build, build” and saying he won’t let “newt counters” get in his way. If “green” Johnson was the real thing, he would insist Robert Jenrick consider planning alongside environmental ambitions. And he would push through the much delayed environment bill, which could provide a framework for joined-up thinking on the environment. Instead he presides over a tsunami of destruction.
There are glimmers of a national fightback. The nationally coordinated Transport Action Network has just challenged the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, for rejecting environmental impact assessment in his road building policy. And CPRE is coordinating other green groups to put forward a democratic, ecologically aware vision of what planning could do in a post-pandemic world. The local groups waging their lonely battles need this national cooperation if the fight against the Tories’ eco-vandalism is to succeed – we need it before it is too late.
Countries only have only a limited time in which to act if the world is to stave off the worst effects of climate change. Here are five reasons why 2021 could be a crucial year in the fight against global warming.
Covid-19 was the big issue of 2020, there is no question about that.
But I’m hoping that, by the end of 2021, the vaccines will have kicked in and we’ll be talking more about climate than the coronavirus.
2021 will certainly be a crunch year for tackling climate change.
Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General, told me he thinks it is a “make or break” moment for the issue.
So, in the spirit of New Year’s optimism, here’s why I believe 2021 could confound the doomsters and see a breakthrough in global ambition on climate.
In November 2021, world leaders will be gathering in Glasgow for the successor to the landmark Paris meeting of 2015.
Paris was important because it was the first time virtually all the nations of the world came together to agree they all needed to help tackle the issue.
The problem was the commitments countries made to cutting carbon emissions back then fell way short of the targets set by the conference.
In Paris, the world agreed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change by trying to limit global temperature increases to 2C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. The aim was to keep the rise to 1.5C if at all possible.
We are way off track. On current plans the world is expected to breach the 1.5C ceiling within 12 years or less and to hit 3C of warming by the end of the century.
Under the terms of the Paris deal, countries promised to come back every five years and raise their carbon-cutting ambitions. That was due to happen in Glasgow in November 2020.
The pandemic put paid to that and the conference was bumped forward to this year.
So, Glasgow 2021 gives us a forum at which those carbon cuts can be ratcheted up.
2. Countries are already signing up to deep carbon cuts
And there has already been progress.
The most important announcement on climate change last year came completely out of the blue.
At the UN General Assembly in September, the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, announced that China aimed to go carbon neutral by 2060.
Environmentalists were stunned. Cutting carbon has always been seen as an expensive chore yet here was the most polluting nation on earth – responsible for some 28% of world emissions – making an unconditional commitment to do just that regardless of whether other countries followed its lead.
That was a complete turnaround from past negotiations, when everyone’s fear was that they might end up incurring the cost of decarbonising their own economy, while others did nothing but still enjoyed the climate change fruits of their labour.
And China is not alone.
The UK was the first major economy in the world to make a legally binding net zero commitment in June 2019. The European Union followed suit in March 2020.
With the election of Joe Biden in the United States, the biggest economy in the world has now re-joined the carbon cutting chorus.
These countries now need to detail how they plan to achieve their lofty new aspirations – that will be a key part of the agenda for Glasgow – but the fact that they are already saying they want to get there is a very significant change.
3. Renewables are now the cheapest energy ever
There is a good reason why so many countries are now saying they plan to go net zero: the collapsing cost of renewables is completely changing the calculus of decarbonisation.
In October 2020, the International Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organisation, concluded that the best solar power schemes now offer “the cheapest source of electricity in history”.
Renewables are already often cheaper than fossil fuel power in much of the world when it comes to building new power stations.
And, if the nations of the world ramp up their investments in wind, solar and batteries in the next few years, prices are likely to fall even further to a point where they are so cheap it will begin to make commercial sense to shut down and replace existing coal and gas power stations.
That is because the cost of renewables follows the logic of all manufacturing – the more you produce, the cheaper it gets. It’s like pushing on an open door – the more you build the cheaper it gets and the cheaper it gets the more you build.
Think what this means: investors won’t need to be bullied by green activists into doing the right thing, they will just follow the money. And governments know that by scaling up renewables in their own economies, they help to accelerate the energy transition globally, by making renewables even cheaper and more competitive everywhere.
4. Covid changes everything
The coronavirus pandemic has shaken our sense of invulnerability and reminded us that it is possible for our world to be upended in ways we cannot control.
It has also delivered the most significant economic shock since the Great Depression.
In response, governments are stepping forward with stimulus packages designed to reboot their economies.
And the good news is it has rarely – if ever – been cheaper for governments to make these kind of investments. Around the world, interest rates are hovering around zero, or even negative.
This creates an unprecedented opportunity to – in the now familiar phrase – “build back better”.
The European Union and Joe Biden’s new administration in the US have promised trillions of dollars of green investments to get their economies going and kick-start the process of decarbonisation.
Both are saying they hope other countries will join them – helping drive down the cost of renewables globally. But they are also warning that alongside this carrot, they plan to wield a stick – a tax on imports of countries that emit too much carbon.
The idea is this may help induce carbon-cutting laggards – like Brazil, Russia, Australia and Saudi Arabia – to come onside too.
The bad news is that, according to the UN, developed nations are spending 50% more on sectors linked to fossil fuels than on low-carbon energy.
5. Business is going green too
The falling cost of renewable and the growing public pressure for action on climate is also transforming attitudes in business.
There are sound financial reasons for this. Why invest in new oil wells or coal power stations that will become obsolete before they can repay themselves over their 20-30-year life?
Indeed, why carry carbon risk in their portfolios at all?
The logic is already playing out in the markets. This year alone, Tesla’s rocketing share price has made it the world’s most valuable car company.
Meanwhile, the share price of Exxon – once the world’s most valuable company of any kind – fell so far that it got booted out of the Dow Jones Industrial Average of major US corporations.
At the same time there is growing momentum behind the movement to get businesses to embed climate risk into their financial decision making.
The aim is to make it mandatory for businesses and investors to show that their activities and investments are making the necessary steps to transition to a net zero world.
Seventy central banks are already working to make this happen, and building these requirements into the world’s financial architecture will be a key focus for the Glasgow conference.
It is still all to play for.
So, there is good reason for hope but it is far from a done deal.
To stand a reasonable chance of hitting the 1.5C target we need to halve total emissions by the end of 2030, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN-backed body that collates the science needed to inform policy.
What that means is making the sort of emissions reductions achieved in 2020 thanks to the massive international lockdowns every year to the end of the decade. Yet emissions are already edging back to the levels they were in 2019.
The truth is lots of countries have expressed lofty ambitions for cutting carbon but few have yet got strategies in place to meet those goals.
The challenge for Glasgow will be getting the nations of the world to sign up to policies that will start reducing emissions now. The UN says it wants to see coal phased out completely, an end to all fossil fuel subsidies and a global coalition to reach net zero by 2050.
That remains a very tall order, even if global sentiments on tackling global warming are beginning to change.
I’ve travelled all over the world for the BBC and seen evidence of environmental damage and climate change everywhere. It’s the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced. Tackling it means changing how we do virtually everything. We are right to be anxious and afraid at the prospect, but I reckon we should also see this as a thrilling story of exploration, and I’m delighted to have been given the chance of a ringside seat as chief environment correspondent.
The UK is, of course, culturally, spiritually and emotionally part of Europe.
This Agreement with the European Union is designed to honour the instruction of the British people – expressed in the referendum of 2016 and the general election last year – to take back control of our laws, borders, money, trade and fisheries. It changes the basis of our relationship with our European neighbours from EU law to free trade and friendly cooperation.
And this ambitious Agreement – carefully judged to benefit everyone – is the first the EU has ever reached allowing zero tariffs and zero quotas. We will preserve the immense benefits of free trade for millions of people in the United Kingdom and across Europe.
At the same time, our Agreement means that the UK will fully recover its national independence. At 11pm on 31 December, we will take back control of our trade policy and leave the EU customs union and single market. We will take back control of our waters, with this treaty affirming British sovereignty over our vast marine wealth. We will take back control of our money by ending vast payments to the EU. We will take back control of our borders and will introduce our new points-based immigration system at the start of next year. Most importantly, the agreement provides for the UK to take back control of our laws, affording no role for EU law and no jurisdiction for the European Court of Justice. The only laws we will have to obey are the ones made by the Parliament we elect.
While we made our fair share of compromises during the negotiations, we never wavered from the goal of restoring national sovereignty – the central purpose of leaving the EU. I have always said that Brexit was not an end but a beginning: the start of a new era of national change and renewal, the next act in the great drama of our country’s story. We will regain the ability to wield powers that have for too long been the sole preserve of Brussels. We will now take up these tools to deliver the changes that people yearn for and, in so doing, we will restore faith in our democracy.
The UK is, of course, culturally, spiritually and emotionally part of Europe. This agreement provides for close and friendly cooperation with our neighbours in all the many areas where our values and interests coincide. It is my fervent hope that this Treaty, rooted in Britain’s sense of itself as a proudly European country, will help to bring people together and heal some of the divisions created by the referendum over four years ago.
The responsibility now falls on our shoulders to take full advantage of the freedom of action our country has regained. Next year will be our opportunity to show what Global Britain can do, reasserting ourselves as a liberal free trading nation and a force for good in the world.
The Society is 60 in 2021! What a remarkable milestone this is and a great tribute to all those members who have so loyally supported the Society over the years and have worked so diligently to protect and enhance this beautiful place where we live, work and play.
NEWS FROM THE SOUTH HAMS SOCIETY
As we approach our 60th anniversary, it would be lovely to recapture some of those memories and achievements. The Society’s committee is keen to hear how Members would like to record and celebrate six decades of South Hams Society life? Or to know if there is a desire to do something that leaves a lasting legacy for future generations? Here are some ideas for starters:
Create a new woodland – or plant a ‘tiny’ woodland (as these initiatives are known) within in a new housing development
Sponsor an award for the best kept village, village amenity/wildlife area, historic village feature or for the best land, countryside or wildlife regeneration project
Work with landowners to restore our iconic limekilns, as the Society has done previously at Frogmore and Batson Creeks.
Create a Society Archive with the support of Kingsbridge’s Cookworthy Museum
Restore our distinctive rural fingerposts, (signposts) as has been done elsewhere (eg Dorset )
Do please let us have your ideas and suggestions, along with any photographs you an share of the Society’s past activities and social events. You can e mail your memories and thoughts to:
or write c/o the membership address at the end of this post.
We’ll be marking our 60th anniversary throughout the year.
This milestone also provides a great opportunity to increase public awareness of the Society and hopefully to bolster membership numbers! Watch this space for more information in due course.
URGENT: SEARCH FOR A NEW CHAIR
We are still without a chairperson to lead the Society. If any member is interested in this position, and in helping to steer our organisation, or knows of anyone outside of the Society who might be, please talk to any of the trustees or get in touch with Didi Alayli, at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The commitment required is circa 8 days a month. As with all our trustee posts, this voluntary role requires that the post holder is resident in the South Hams. The appointment is for one year and then open to annual election or re-election. There is no obligation beyond a year in office! Come on, help us to secure a leader for the Society for our 60th year. And maybe even a new president!
That’s about it for 2020, except to say that whilst researching SHS newsletters from bygone years, I noticed many interesting contributions from members. If anyone would like to submit an article or a news piece or a photograph for the next edition, or has a suggestion for future subject matter, do please get in touch. We are reverting to the Society’s traditional, quarterly newsletter format here on in, with the next edition due February 2021. If you are submitting copy, (ever hopeful), the deadline is Monday 25 January.
“The reality of modern Britain is that the local is fighting back”.
Planning secretary Robert Jenrick’s climbdown over his planning white paper is welcome. Its core proposal for houses to be built according to a Whitehall formula – the so-called “mutant algorithm” – emerged in August reputedly at the bidding of the building lobby, eager to boost their development land-banks in the south-east. It has collapsed under a barrage of protest from southern Tory constituencies that faced being concreted over and northern cities that Jenrick was going to starve of housing subsidies.
The reality of modern Britain is that the local is fighting back. It is no longer unusual for provincial counties and towns to be mentioned on the BBC. In one hour I recently heard Manchester, Leicester, Stratford, Hereford and Kent all demanding freedom to fix their own lockdown strategies. Others have sought to regulate their own schools or distribute their own furlough grants. But nothing has evoked greater fury than Jenrick’s stripping local councils of planning powers.
The Jenrick formula demanded that every community in England build a precise number of houses dictated by Whitehall, irrespective of local wishes. It was rumoured to be rooted in the medieval principle that a “local need” for housing was determined by local births, marriages, divorces and deaths, as if today’s population did not travel. This was then adjusted by price to yield a “need” figure.
The bias towards development in the south-east was massive. It decided house-building should decline by 28% in the north-east but rise by 633% in Kensington.
Horsham was told to cram its entire past century of growth into the next 10 years. I am not aware of any country in the world, except possibly China, with so arithmetically top-down a plan. It would have made Lenin blush. Such an idea would not have passed first base under most prime ministers, if only for its political ineptitude.
Policy to Boris Johnson is a matter of slogans. He appears not to have noticed that his cry of ““build, build, build”now contradicted his cry of “we must level-up the north”. Nor did he notice that he had opposed 514 homes in his own south-east constituency, including a 12-storey tower that he called “wholly out of character for the locality”. This was laughable, given his tower infatuation as London mayor.
Jenrick now has two tasks. He has promised to bring some sanity to his housing formula. He would do better to scrap it altogether. Local people can best judge whether and where they want their communities to grow, and there is no evidence they automatically oppose it. Besides, they have some collective rights to decide such matters in a democracy.
Subsidies should then be concentrated – as Jenrick now proposes – on the renewal of brownfield land especially outside the south- east. He should honour Johnson’s levelling up. He should worry less about his developers and look at the scandal of empty sites, under-occupancy and housing vacancy. The luxury towers, many foreign owned, that now line the Thames in London are reportedly half empty, but they will doubtless contribute to Jenrick’s 300,000 new “homes”. For most people a home implies a place someone lives, not a shell.
Britain’s housing policy is chaotic. The rental sector requires urgent review. Property taxes are too low, renting is too insecure, but at the same time incentives to sublet empty space are inadequate. It is absurd that repairs and conversions attract full VAT while new-build is VAT-free. If Jenrick is bereft of good advice, ask the Germans or the Dutch.
As for the future of British planning, it is still up for grabs. The reason for the most drastic reform of British planning in half a century was Jenrick’s allegation that “it takes an average of five years for a standard housing development to go through the planning system”. This developers’ gossip is simply untrue. The BBC’s Reality Check could find only five big developments that had taken that long, while Whitehall’s own figures showed that 89% of major applications were decided “within 13 weeks or the agreed time”. Delay was usually caused by developers themselves going to lengthy appeal.
As for landscape conservation, the August white paper implied that, subject to central targets, areas of rural land could still be declared “protected”. The paper nowhere defined what should qualify. Meanwhile, outside these protected areas, almost any building is to be permitted without so much as planning permission. This is like arming the police and allowing them to shoot on sight.
Most protests at the new system have pointed out that the current system is not broken, except insofar as it allows builders to build land banks against rising prices. This is already rampant. The CPRE claims land for 1.3m homes is lying idle, with permits already in place for more than half a million of them.
A planning lawyer of my acquaintance considers the dropped proposals so vague that, far from Johnson’s “build, build, build”, they would have meant the opposite, “a lawyer’s paradise”.
All is not bad. There is virtue in the white paper’s concept of zoning for different degrees of development. There is virtue too in its design code and calls for “more beauty”, though not a whisper about who should enforce it if at all. What is unarguable is that planning matters to the entire appearance of Britain. Bruised and abused over the decades, that appearance remains each generation’s lasting legacy to the next.
Bad planning is for all time. Jenrick has spent the past year playing with dynamite. The former Tory leadership contender Jeremy Hunt accused him of nothing less than undermining local democracy. Now his humiliation of local government has exploded in his face. It shows that two can play at another Johnson slogan – “Take back control”.
An updated formula will be weighted to focus on developing family homes in 20 of England’s largest cities and making the most of vacant buildings and underused land.
Bob Seely, the Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight, said that the change was “absolutely the right decision”. He said: “I am sure MPs will want to look at the re-jigged plans in detail, but this is an initial victory for those who care about their communities.”
The decision follows a consultation launched in the summer that sought views from planners, councils and the wider public.
It is understood that the views of MPs were sought by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, after many aired their concerns in the Commons. An updated formula will now be rolled out to local councils to enable the delivery of 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.
However, the Government could still face opposition on its own benches, as Tory MPs expressed concern that the White Paper would still have “serious implications” for local democracy.
Mr Jenrick said: “This Government wants to build more homes as a matter of social justice, for inter-generational fairness and to create jobs for working people. We are reforming our planning system to ensure it is simpler and more certain without compromising standards of design, quality and environmental protection.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated and magnified patterns that already existed, creating a generational opportunity for the repurposing of offices and retail as housing and for urban renewal.
“We want this to be an opportunity for a new trajectory for our major cities – one which helps to forge a new country beyond Covid – which is more beautiful, healthier, more prosperous, more neighbourly and where more people have the security and dignity of a home of their own.”
He also confirmed that a new Urban Centre Recovery Task Force has been set up to help promote the “development and regeneration of our great town and city centres”, with a focus on revitalising the high street.
The Task Force includes Peter Freeman, who is responsible for the redevelopment of King’s Cross and new Chair of Homes England.
The Government also intends to revise the so-called “80/20 rule” which guides how much funding is available to local areas to help build homes to ensure funding is not just concentrated in London and the South East.
It comes after analysis by Lichfields, a planning consultancy, revealed that the previous proposed system would lead to sharp increases in house building in areas with high Conservative support.
In Chichester, West Sussex, the annual target would have risen from 425 to 1,120; in Reigate, Surrey it would have gone up from 460 to 1,091; and in Tonbridge in Kent it would have increased from 425 to 1,440.
Several Tory MPs argued that the algorithm would have “concreted over” the south rather than “level up” the north, while complaining that it favours building in rural areas rather than cities and towns.
Bob Seely, the Tory MP for the Isle of Wight, who led backbench calls to amend the planning proposals, hailed the change as “good news”.
He said: “I am sure MPs will want to look at the re-jigged plans in detail, but this is an initial victory for those who care about their communities.
“It’s very good news that more homes are planned for northern cities, many of which have suffered population declines in the past 50 years, especially as locations such as my constituency of the Isle of Wight have increased our populations significantly and at, frankly, an unsustainable rate.
“I hope this is the beginning of a renaissance in building back better and supporting our vital levelling up agenda
East Devon AONB winter update and asks: where were you when the Long Eared Bats of East Budleigh needed you? Their predicament was well publicised.
The Grey long eared bat needs our help. With as few as 1000 bats, located in 8 main maternity roosts spread across the south of England, we need to act now to prevent their extinction in the UK.
We’ve committed to doing the best we can for this rare mammal locally, by choosing the Grey long eared bat as one of our ‘special species’ for recovery action, part of our commitment to nature.
Links with Devon
Two of the surviving maternity roosts are located in East Devon and form a vital link between the colonies in the south of England and the two colonies in south Devon. But there’s a risk of losing this link, and colonies becoming isolated, as foraging and commuting routes are fragmented by landscape changes resulting from changing agricultural practices.
For the last 3 years, Bat Conservation Trust have, as part of the Back from the Brink HLF project, helped improve foraging habitats around the known roosts in East Devon.
Now we have entered into our own partnership with Bat Conservation Trust to continue this vital work, focusing on improving connectivity to the known roosts in Dorset – enhancing foraging and commuting routes to the east of the AONB and into the neighbouring county. The risk with colonies becoming increasingly isolated is that there is no mixing of genetic materials between colonies, which is vital for the long term survival of the species.
Together, we made a bid to the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund for £69K to support our collaborative ‘Return of the true Night Rider’ projectand help us involve local communities, individuals and groups in conservation action.
We are thrilled to announce that our bid was successful and we’re hugely excited about what it will enable us to achieve through the Return of the true Night Rider project, at a time when the need for urgent action to tackle the decline in biodiversity has never been greater.
The project will seek to enhance the floral interest of 18 ha of grassland, this will support a greater diversity of insects which will support the bats, as well as other animals, and will also improve the amount of carbon stored in the soil.
We will engage with 50 landowners and farmers to tell them more about how to manage their land for the bats.
We have also set ourselves a challenging target of talking to 500 local people about the bats, the challenges that they face and the importance of floristically rich grassland.
Bellway Homes are handed the ‘largest ever fine’ for wildlife crime over demolition work at bat habitat
The developer carried out the damaging work despite the presence of the protected creatures having been noted the year before.
By Sabah Choudhry, news reporter
Friday 11 December 2020 13:26,
A major housebuilding company has been fined £600,000 for carrying out demolition work at a site known to be inhabited by bats – the largest such penalty a court has ever handed out for a wildlife crime, police say.
Bellway Homes was investigated by the Metropolitan Police for “damaging or destroying” a breeding site and resting place for bats at a construction site in Greenwich, southeast London.
The property developer admitted guilt on Tuesday at Woolwich Crown Court and was handed the hefty fine, and also ordered to pay costs of £30,000.
The case came to light after Bellway conducted demolition work at the site in Artillery Place in 2018.
The presence of soprano pipistrelle bats had been noted in 2017 – and Bellway had been informed in planning documents that if it wished to work on the site, then it would need the appropriate mitigation and license.
However, in December 2018, the local council notified police that demolition work had in fact been carried out by the developer without the required permissions.
The planning officer for the particular development confirmed the company attempted to remove that aspect of the planning requirements – but the move had been rejected.
27/11/2020; Judy Pearce on behalf of SHDC to Barbara Phillips on behalf of SHCAN; by email
Dear Mrs Phillips
Thank you for your email and the attached letter. I would be grateful if you would pass this reply on to the many signatories. You are aware that we have set up a Community Forum and I believe you are a member of it. The first meeting is now only a couple of weeks away. The aim for this is to set up a meaningful dialogue with a broad cross section of influential members from all walks of the community.
We have a target to reach net zero by 2050 as a District, but timelines are notoriously difficult calculate even when focussing only on what we can directly influence. By way of illustration, the graph below is an emissions reduction timeline for the area taken from the Tyndall Centre
Obviously, we have little direct control over achieving this, let alone taking ownership of it ourselves. So theoretically we could include a timeline, but we’d only be setting ourselves up to fail if we did.
The Devon Carbon Plan will include quantified carbon amounts for action interventions as well as budget intervals. Given the amount of resources thrown behind the Devon Carbon Plan, to which we are partners, it would make sense to defer to this plan, as the success of the Devon Carbon Plan, along with its aim for the County to become net zero by 2050, will be reliant, in great part, on partner organisations anyway.
Most importantly though, the Committee on Climate Change recently reported to Parliament in June in its ‘Reducing UK Emissions: 2020 progress report to Parliament’. On page 192, box 6.1, the committee reiterated that:
‘’The Committee previously called for local authorities to draw up low-carbon plans which include a high level ambition for emissions reduction by focusing on drivers of emissions over which they have influence (e.g. number of homes insulated, car miles travelled). At the time, we recommended that it would not be appropriate for local authorities to set (or be set) binding carbon budgets given the multiple drivers of emissions, many of which are beyond their control.’’
Within the Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget report, which is due to be published in a matter of weeks, they are intending to produce an accompanying publication on local delivery for local authorities. This is expected to include recommendations for local authorities with data and resources to aid decision-making, including early no-regrets actions for the 2020s and timelines for the 2030s. We can have regard to this advice when it is published and use this as part of a refresh of the strategy once the Interim Devon Carbon Plan is completed and adopted. The main thing though that we wish to re-iterate is that our own Climate Change and Biodiversity Strategy is a first version to set a baseline and act as a starting point for what we can do as an authority to tackle to Climate Emergency. It will continue to evolve over time.
Our climate change officer recently attend a webinar where the slide below was shown. It is expected this will form the basis of the advice for local authorities in the Sixth Carbon Budget Report.
Given what our draft Strategy and Action Plan seeks to do, we are not far off this, but perhaps some more could be done on embedding climate action in decision making and better project readiness.
You are seeking more meaningful public engagement which is what we hope to achieve through the Community Forum. We can also through the Forum explore further options for a wider network across the district independent of the Council to help promote and co-ordinate actions. We are proposing to get the principles of how the climate change reserve of £400k should be allocated agreed very shortly.
Finally, I need to reiterate that whilst we can provide leadership and provide an example, many actions to achieve carbon neutrality in our district are completely beyond the scope and control of what a local authority can do. This will rely on winning hearts and minds, along with many local projects set up and run by local groups. It is our intention to allocate part of the Climate Change Reserve to such local projects, so that they can provide an example and inspiration to others in the district.
I hope this goes some way to providing you with reassurance.
Here is the South Hams Climate Change Network’s reply:
Dear Councillor Pearce and the Members of South Hams District Council,
Thank you for your swift response to our open letter. We are heartened by your willingness to engage in an honest and open discussion about the actions that we must take in the South Hams to meet the Climate and Biodiversity Emergency. We also recognise that we cannot expect our elected representatives to solve this problem alone, and that we are all going to have to work together on this and make it a priority to implement the solutions.
As regards targets and timelines, we accept that it might be counterproductive to make targets and timelines for the reduction of carbon emissions you have no control over. It is essential, however, to provide targets and timelines for the actions that the Council and its partners can take that will lead to some reduction of carbon emissions in our area. The Council needs to be able to evaluate the success of its own Action Plan. Most important is to focus on what actions will be taken by the Council and its partners this year in order to reduce emissions, and those each year thereafter for the next decade, for example, to quantify the number of houses that will be supported to be retrofitted.
We believe that engagement will be key to achieving the aims of the Climate and Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan. Firstly, the full engagement of the Council members and officers in aligning all its plans, policies and activities. Secondly, engagement with the public. We therefore welcome your expressed aim that you “hope to achieve more meaningful public engagement through the Community Forum”. We are unclear how the Community Forum will contribute to public engagement. Will the content or recommendations of its meetings be made public? What opportunities will there be for other South Hams residents, not selected for this forum, to engage with the Council?
There is a great opportunity here to demonstrate real engagement with the public by each Councillor working with their own communities in local community forums,which are then represented in the district Community Forum. The Council has a role in alerting and educating residents to the challenges of sea level rise, biodiversity loss and food insecurity that climate change will bring. The Council could disseminate information through pop ups in various town shops/village halls/libraries and gather ideas and knowledge from the community, while providing practical information to residents, such as on grants for home retrofitting.
The signatories to our open letter demonstrate the level of concern among many people representing organisations and businesses across the South Hams for the vital work needing to happen now, and who want to see rapid, effective change. We would welcome your views on how the Council will bring in these wider voices and tap into their expertise and skills. The Community Forum does not seem to fulfill this role.
We offer the open letter and this follow-up in a spirit of constructive engagement. We hope that everyone in the South Hams will realise the danger that lies ahead for us all in the coming years and that we must all work together and with you to face and overcome the difficulties ahead. We have sent out your letter along with a copy of this response letter to those who supported our initial open letter.
Barbara Phillips (on behalf of SHCAN)
If you have any thoughts you wish to share with us as a result please reply to this email and we will take them on board. But there is no necessity to reply. Also, if you had any capacity or time before Christmas there is a full council meeting on 17th December for which you can send in questions via this link (by 14th December) https://www.southhams.gov.uk/article/3679/Public-Questions-at-Executive-Meetings
Thanks for your continued support.
— Peter Scott 07896 276577 email@example.com http://www.singdevon.com on behalf of SHCAN South Hams Climate Action Network