Sunday, 30 October 2011

Press Release - People urged to install solar panels while they can

Andrew Cooper with the solar panels installed on Civic Centre 3
Greens urge people to install solar panels while they can.

Green Party Councillor Andrew Cooper has urged Huddersfield householders to install solar panels as soon as they can.  Following newspaper reports and mistakenly leaked documents it has become clear that the Government has plans to halve the Feed In Tariffs for solar photovoltaic panels.

Currently people can claim 43 pence for every kilowatt of electricity they generate off their roof but the government now plans to cut this to around 21p from the beginning of December.

Councillor Cooper who has solar panels himself said,

 “If people install solar panels now before the cut is due to take place in December then they will get the 43p rate for the next 25 years if they were to install them after that they would get less than half that.”

I recommend that people get three quotes from local companies. You can save significant amounts of money by comparing the prices of installers.  A list of installers in our area can be obtained from the Yorkshire and Humber Microgeneration Partnership website

You should make sure your contractors and the components they install are registered under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme. All companies on the website should be.

It is also worth checking the warranty period on the solar panels and the inverter which converts the DC electricity from the panels into the AC electricity that we use in our homes. You can get warranties of over 20 years for solar panels but it can vary more with inverters.

If you can’t afford the capital cost of solar panels then there are companies that will install them on your house for free. They  claim the feed in tariff and you get the benefit of the electricity generated of the roof saving you around £150 - £250 per year depending on the number of panels you have and the current cost of electricity. One such company is A Shade Greener who are based in Tankersley  another is Home Sun

Commenting on these cuts Councillor Cooper said,

“These cuts by the government are nonsensical. Over 25,000 people are employed in the solar industry and these cuts are a threat to them. The cost of the Feed In Tarrif is very small less than 50p/year on the average fuel bill and a fraction of the cost of government subsidies of nuclear power stations. As always it is those on the lowest incomes who will suffer the most. This cut will jeopardise free solar schemes for people unable to afford the upfront costs of solar panels and planned schemes for council tenants properties which are self funding under current Feed In Tariff arrangements but may not be following the proposed cut. The government’s claim to be the Greenest Government ever is looking increasingly hollow and lacking in substance.”

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Growing Newsome Grows and Grows -Autumn Gathering on Saturday

Kim Warren of Stirley Farm.Pumpkin maker extraordinaire
Hardy winter veg and seedlings on offer for donations
Cut price fleece and netting for your allotment. We got 5 metres of good stuff for our patch
Cllr Julie Stewart-Turner dished out Pumpkin and Parsnip soup and bread to the masses
Stacks of people turned up throughout the morning
Cherry and Diane hard at work soup making in the kitchen

Friday, 21 October 2011

Stop Press - So did Labour and Tories agree to reduce their allowances in Brighton?

Add caption
Of course they didn't! Following on from my last blogpost here's a post script. Just to recap, Cllr Khan had wrongly accusing the Green Party in Brighton of not keeping their commitment to reduce members allowances. However it now transpires that when Green proposals to reduce them were put forward yesterday Labour and Tory Councillors voted together to preserve them. So much irony here I don't know really where to start. For the full story here's Councillor Ben Duncan's Blog Brighton Green Cllrs blog on the meeting.

80's Plenty? - Last Kirklees Full Council Report

80's Plenty?
The misinformation quotient was pretty high at last Wednesday's Kirklees Full Council meeting. We had Lib Dem Councillor James Blanchard with what I presume was a planted a question to Councillor Khan on the Green Party’s record as the administration on Brighton City Council. Basically the question was implying that the Greens there had broken a manifesto commitment to lower Councillors allowances and top executives pay. On the basis of past planted questions to Cllr Khan on the subject I was pretty sure this was a load of.... rubbish (that was the word I was searching for). I sent a quick email to Brighton Green Party Councillor and Cabinet Member for finance Jason KitKat for his view. The other point to make is that the question goes against the Councils Constitution in that it has nothing to do with the area of responsibility of the Leader of the Council nor was it anything to do with the Kirklees area. Of course if I’d made that point before the question was made or the dubious answer given then I’d have been accused of trying to hide what the Greens were doing in Brighton. So I let them have their fun then made a point of order pointing out the question was out of order and read Jason Kitkat’s email to me which conveniently arrived a couple of minutes before the question was put and said,
“Not true. Our Chief Exec reduced his salary by 5% and tomorrow we are voting on report to reduce the total cost of councillors allowances and expenses packages.” (see it on Kirklees Webcast here 2.22 in)
There’s a pattern of Green bashing  and misinformation going on here from Mehboob (see Wrath of Khan) and its strange that Cllr Blanchard somehow or other gives credence to him. All good knockabout stuff of course but you do wonder what the point is.

The other source of misinformation in the Council meeting was Lib Dem Councillor Kath Pinnock. A debate was held on Kirklees proposals to outsource Adult Homecare provision as the result of 5000 signature petition. Independent Councillor Edgar Holroyd-Doveton spoke in support of the petitioners and also later proposed a motion to promote a public sector ethos for care homes and services. Councillor Pinnock decided that this meant the Holme Valley Independents wanted to bring all Homecare services inhouse (they don't) and tweeted,

“Holme Valley Independent Cllr now proposing action to raise council tax 12.5% costing every tax payer about £100 extra a year”

All pretty shameless stuff from Councillor Pinnock, but consistent with her usual approach and her dubious relationship with the truth.

The Lib Dems put forward a motion on restricting speed limits to 20 in residential areas on the basis that it will help road safety. All good stuff and not anything new in that we’ve all been pushing for this for a long time but Highways officers always block it on the basis that if there are no physical measures in place e.g. humps, ramps, chicanes then the speed restrictions would be ignored and unenforceable. I’ve disagreed with this approach for a long time and agree that we should send a message, even if it is just with signange, that residential areas are low speed zones. Unfortunately the motion was not put, due to time restrictions, but I would have pointed out that Lib Dem/Con Government proposals to raise the motorway speed limit to 80 will probably lead to more deaths and certainly more carbon emissions. I wanted to know if the Lib Dems had done the maths to work out if they would save more lives with the ‘20s Plenty’ policy than they lost on the ‘80s plenty’ policy.

There was another motion on the changes to constituency boundaries which is going to see around 50 Parliamentary seats going across the country. There are some fairly crazy new boundaries being proposed with Dewsbury being split between 3 MPs. Ultimately though you have got to ask why the Lib Dems agreed to this with the Conservatives in their coalition agreement without getting an agreement on some form of Proportional Representation. Instead they just got a referendum on an inferior form of PR, the Alternative Vote. They seem to have been taken to the cleaners in their negotiations on the coalition agreement. What a wasted opportunity.

As usual we didn’t get through the agenda and Edgar’s motion was curtailed at the 9.00pm deadline and despite me seconding the motion and reserving the right to speak the larger parties voted against our proposal to extend the Council meeting so we could debate the motion properly.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Jobs, Homes and Cows

Jobs and homes and that's it!
I've long had an issue with the way  Kirklees Council has approached the Local Development Framework. I remember sitting in a Kirklees Party Leaders meeting and seeing the proofs of the consultation document entitled 'Jobs and Homes'. Immediately I said that planning was about much more than simply 'jobs and homes'. It was about transport , agriculture, amenity, quality of life. Somehow it reminded me of one of those Labour Conference slogans in the 80s. Did they ever have one called 'Jobs, Homes and Peace'. I  probably just imagined it. What is really striking (and frankly depressing) is how similar Council Leader Mehboob Khan's approach is to the Coalition Goverment is on planning policy. When Labour Cllr Khan and Conservative Communities Minister Eric Pickles see a field they see people building on it and pound signs. They both see a field ripe for development that once it has a house built on it has a monetary value, a quick bung for allowing development, some short term jobs in construction and a revenue stream to replace some of the central government cuts. It is a narrow, unimaginative and rubbish concept of land that devalues our local environment.

In planning policy at the national level  I've had a very small victory recently in the Local Government Association's response to the consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework. It is a much reviled document and the Coalition Government has attacked some of the 'anti growth/anti capitalist' orgainsations that have had the temerity to oppose them. These include the National Trust, English Heritage and the Campaign to Protect Rural England. The LGA has to balance its responses to consultations against the competing views of different political parties and the ruling Conservative Group. I am the Independent Cllrs group rep on the LGA Environment and Housing Board (the Greens are included with Independents). Of course the LGA response is much more restrained than the Green Party's but I have got the following wording included:

"It should also be recognised that undeveloped land can have a sustained lasting economic value in terms of agriculture, tourism and amenity and can be strongly related to the quality of life of the people in the area."

Jobs , Homes and Cows
There can be real value in land which is not simply related to sticking some huge 'shopping shed 'on it erected by some monopolistic company which will take most of the economic value of their work out of the area (and probably out of the country as well via tax avoidance). These sort of developments are exactly the sort of rubbish approach that gives politics a bad name, creating cynicsm and alienating communities, but it doesn't have to be like this. We have a prime (beef?) example on our doorstep with Stirley Farm in Newsome. This council land was disused agricultural fields with derelict buildings. It is now managed by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust who are developing a community farm and local food projects on the farmland around Newsome and below Castle Hill. It enjoys huge local support, links well with the Growing Newsome group and is rapidly being embraced as part of the tapestry that makes up the Newsome community. It is 'development'. Jobs are being created in paid employment, training and voluntary work. Local food is being grown and through outreach work local people are being shown how to grow their own fruit and vegetables and thereby helping lower their household costs. This 'development' is preserving and improving the local area in harmony with the community in a way that simply 'bunging up' another Barratt estate or yet another sodding Tesco's never would or could. Stirley Farm has real value, is valued locally and today has cows. The first 3 beef shorthorns arrived today with another dozen on the way to help build the herd. This is a small part what a real 'Local Development Framework' that people could support and one that would enhance rather than threaten their quality of life.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Longley Tennis Club goes solar

Longley Tennis Club has now got a solar PV system just under the magic 4kWp level. Yet another PV system in the Newsome Ward! The club has had a lot of investment in recent years with a new club house (where the solar panels are) and refurbished tennis courts. This is down in large part to the efforts of Mr Geoff Durrans who has dedicated a lot of time and effort into reviving the club and sourcing funding from a number of pots. With a lot of uncertainty at the moment regarding the Feed In Tariff and threats of unsympathetic government policy reviews it is important that we get as many systems on roofs as possible.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Growing Aspley

Aspley is a small community on the edge of the Newsome Ward and the housing is a mix of Council and Chevin tenancies. Now they have six new raised beds for growing herbs and vegetables and the tenants I have spoken to are really pleased to have them and they are looking forward to getting stuck into growing stuff there. I must admit I was a bit sceptical about a similar raised bed scheme that started last year at the other end of the ward at Berry Brow flats but I'm happy to be proved wrong and the raised beds are now fully subscribed there by tenants and there's a waiting list. Growing projects in Newsome are going from strength to strength and the Stirley Farm project is linking well with Growing Newsome and wider community enthusiasm for food growing.

For my own part 100 winter onions will be going into our allotment shortly (only £2 for 50 onion sets from Wilkinsons)

Brookes Mill Heritage Exhibition opens

Last night I went to the opening of a new permanent heritage exhibition at Brookes Mill, Armitage Bridge. There is certainly a lot of heritage to talk about with the original Brookes Mill business beginning in 1541 in the reign of Henry 8th, though not on the current site. As such Mark Brooke can  justifiably claim to have the oldest family run business in Britain. The Spinning Mill on the Armitage Bridge site was established in 1828 and by 1846 they were were making woollen cloth right from the woollen bale right through to the finished cloth. Manufacturing ceased on the site in 1987 but as they say a 'phoenix has risen from the ashes'. The mills now are used as refurbished office space with a diverse range of businesses including an independent film studios, art gallery, conference facilities and cafe. They are also refurbishing one of the original forms of power on the site to generate electricity from hydro using an archimedes screw. This is due to be up and running next year and will mean that we will be utilising every microgeneration technology in some form or other in the Newsome Ward.

Mark Brooke officially opens the exhibition
Huddersfield University students have played an important role in researching the information for the exhibition and it really is worth a look at followed by cake and coffee in the cafe! One of the great things about this new exhibition is the opportunity it provides to bring alive local history for education of young people and the interest of the wider public and promotion of this new attraction and the Mills offer as a whole is something we need to get out there in the wider community so they know the facilities and the history that is on their doorstep.