Wednesday, September 24, 2008

MPs and jokes

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MP Kerry McCarthy has a quiz on her blog that I've been looking at. All questions are about identifying main party frontbench MPs - Q14 "As sharp as a blade and currently underrated" is one I've puzzled over (after having a good laugh at the Bristol Bloggers joke answer of Dan Norris!). There aren't many I regard as sharp!

Is Dan Norris MP as sharp and underrated as Roger Bailey of BBC comedy My Family fame? Well there are certain similarities.

Treasure nature, then vote to build on it - Labour Councillor Colin Smith

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I was saddened and angered at the report that local conservationists failed to save a nature site in Bedminster. The local paper reports that the site is ' a conservation area and a Site of Nature Conservation Interest' (see what these land designations are supposed to mean here and here). Such sites enhance the quality and wellbeing of our lives.

Malago Valley Conservation Group spoke of badger disturbance, bird-nesting habitat loss... Badgers are a species protected by law, including their own Act of Parliament.

These two comments in the local paper from Bedminster Labour Councillor Colin Smith got to me most of all. After visiting the site he said,

'It is a green lung for South Bristol to be treasured and it is almost secret.'

Despite, apparently, treasuring the nature site ie valuing as precious, Cllr Smith said,

'I'm going to have to support the employment issue' to attempt to justify the fact that he had just voted in favour of building over the green space as someone who sits on the relevant planning committee. Sheer hypocrisy!!

And what is the evidence that allowing the nature site to be cleared, hard-surfaced, fenced and lit will produce more jobs? All we have is the word of James Hennessy speaking on behalf of demolition group Wring, who indicated: that the company had employed many people locally over a long time [including a significant period co-existing with the wildlife!]; current jobs would be secured and the prospect of new jobs would be created. Not exactly detailed hard and fast evidence is it and no indication of the scale/size of any job creation.

How far and for how long can we and should we go down this 'treasuring of nature but then building over it' road? What are the limits? What do the terms conservation area, site of nature conservation interest and protected species actually mean in practice?

Conditions attached to the planning permission are better than nothing but far from solving any fundamental problems they may well mean people continue to permit developments that they should not. In this case conditions include ecological management and wildlife protection measures and landscaping. However, the area occupied by nature will be vastly cut and so there will be a very high net loss of habitat and food supply, resulting in loss of wildlife.

The local paper reports that 'If any badger setts are found on the site [they did not look beforehand then!] Wring will have to make arrangements for the animals to be accomodated nearby' . Moving badgers would no doubt distress them and no doubt they will be both stressed and have their survival threatened once 'accomodated nearby'. It may well be that the area of habitat and the food supply will be smaller.

Planning Bill: ungreen; undemocratic

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Very happy to support Friends of the Earth's campaign on the new Planning Bill. That the Bill currently makes no mention of climate change and would thus allow major road, airport or power station developments to proceed without considering this major environmental impact speaks volumes about the Govt approach to tackling - or rather not tackling - this issue. Their thinking is just not joined up. I've just sent the message below, produced by Friends of the Earth, to my MP Kerry McCarthy, who I've been very critical of in several debates on her blog eg here. I will blog about any reply I receive.

I believe it is vital for our Government to protect the right to be involved in decisions that affect our community, and ensure we consider climate change when deciding major infrastructure projects such as roads, airports and power stations.

In a recent opinion poll, 95% of people surveyed believed that climate change should be considered in decisions on major projects.

The Planning Bill creates a new Infrastructure Planning Commission that is undemocratic and unaccountable. It also creates a system of national policy statements which outline separate rather than integrated policy on major infrastructure.

I believe that the elected Government should take the big decisions on major infrastructure and should consider climate change.

Please speak in support of an amendment to the Planning Bill which states the need to consider climate change on the face of the Bill.

BBC report on previous opposition to the Planning Bill here.