Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Coronation Street & Newsome Ward

Simon Gregson aka Steve MacDonald with Growing Newsome Guru Diane Sims and the gang
There has been both positive and negative input from the cast/former cast of  Coronation Street in the last few weeks in the Newsome Ward. To start with the really positive, Simon Gregson who plays Steve MacDonald in the hit soap came to show his support to Growing Newsome at the Community Allotment at Ashenhurst. Growing Newsome are finalists in the 2015 National Lottery Awards for their sterling work to grow individuals and communities as well as fruit and vegetables. What they do is really inspiring and has made a genuine and positive difference to the area with the community events like potato day and seed swap day at Newsome Scout Hut, the Community Allotment and most important of all to get folks who may never have met before to come together doing positive and enjoyable activity in their local community. It brings people together on a project where they can literally enjoy the fruits (and Veg) of their labours. You can support Growing Newsome in the National Lottery Awards here

Compare Simon's support for Growing Newsome with the recent views on a key local issue expressed by Bruce Jones, formerly Les Battersby in Corrie. He was in attendance for the opening of The Newsome Tap, the former Newsome Working Mens Club on St Johns Avenue recently He gave his opinion to the Huddersfield Examiner on the leaseholders proposal to build on the adjacent Bowling Green which has been there for the last 110 years. He suggested that it was time for the Bowling Green to be built on to build much needed housing. It is progress apparently and matches the  view of the proprietor of The Newsome Tap who had hired him. It is a plot worthy of Corrie itself where someone with a degree of 'ownership' is seeking to make a fast buck by destroying a facility which is well used and very much loved by the local community. There will be more plot twists yet in this particular tale!

This is not the end of the Newsome/Corrie relationship. Back in 2012, in Labour's I'll fated attempt to take Newsome from the Green Party, former Kirklees Labour Leader Cllr Mehboob Khan engaged the services of Tracey Brabin who played Tricia Armstrong in their campaign. The Labour supporting star canvassed for a while in the rain at Ashemhurst before heading to the University to try to canvass Students. This was the year that Labour threw everything into the campaign, including a Corrie star, but fortunately for us to no avail.

Friday, 24 July 2015

PRESS RELEASE - Greens call for Passivhaus Revolt by local Councils

A Passivhaus in Denby Dale near Huddersfield

* Greens call for a cross party campaign by local Councils to specify ‘Passivhaus’ low energy building standards
* Chancellor Osborne is ‘ignoring the reality of climate change’

The Green Party is calling on Councils to respond to the government’s cancellation of Zero Carbon Homes by specifying ‘Passivhaus’ design standards on Council-owned land and as a condition of sale on all Council land.

Earlier this month, Chancellor George Osborne announced that he will withdraw a commitment to improve the energy efficiency standards of new homes by cancelling an improvement of building regulations scheduled for next year. The announcement has received widespread condemnation from over 200 businesses (1) who have asked the Chancellor to reverse the decision.
Councillor Andrew Cooper, Green Party Energy Spokesperson, condemned the dropping of these higher energy efficiency standards:

“This backwards step by the Government will hardwire higher fuel bills for people living in homes built today. For people on low incomes moving into new social housing this will mean they are more likely to suffer fuel poverty and be faced with the difficult choice of whether to eat or heat their homes.

“The Chancellor is ignoring the reality of climate change by locking us into energy wasteful building standards for many years to come.

“Nearly a decade of work has been carried out by building professionals preparing for the new Zero Carbon Homes standards. The Government has simply wasted the skill and expertise that has been established by industry in preparation for what was mistakenly believed to be a firm Government commitment.”

The Green Party is calling for a cross party campaign by local Councils to specify ‘Passivhaus’ standards on all new homes and buildings constructed on Council land or as a condition of sale on Council land sold for development.
Passivhaus is an internationally recognised standard that typically means that an average household can have heating bills of less than £100/year due to the highly efficient thermal performance (2).

Cooper added:

“This is the Local Authorities’ own land and there is no reason why Councils cannot decide to adopt more sustainable standards than the unambitious ones specified by the Government. As the Conservatives say they believe in Localism we would expect them to not stand in the way of locally determined targets be they specified in Local Plans or as we are calling for as policy on their own land”.

PRESS RELEASE - Greens dismiss Amber Rudd’s speech as a Smokescreen for an attack on green businesses & covert climate change denial

"Weasel words" from Climate Change Minister Amber Rudd on fossil fuel subsidies
Councillor Andrew Cooper, the Green Party’s Energy Spokesperson responded to Conservative Ministers speech on climate change today by describing her attack on “left wing anti capitalists” influence on Climate Change Policy as a smokescreen

“In the few short weeks since the Tories were elected we have seen cuts for support to the solar industry, cancelling of high energy efficiency standards for new homes, cancellation of the minimal support to householders through the Green Deal and an abandonment by Government of the Green Investment Bank. We are now told by the Minister that the problem with climate change policy is “left wing anti capitalists". This can only be described as a highly cynical smokescreen by the Conservatives. When Ministers are in a very weak position it is not an uncommon tactic for them to go on the offensive rather than have to defend the undefensible. This is what we have seen from Amber Rudd today”

“The only rational explanation for the Tory assault on policies to address climate change is that there is a covert strain of climate change denial in the Conservative Party and particularly in the Treasury. If Government policy is being driven by an unscientific climate scepticsm then the Government should come clean and not hide behind paranoid, unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.”

“What Green Business wants is the same as what all businesses want and that is certainty and not a Government that continually chops and changes the rules. If we are to seriously address fuel poverty, insulate millions of homes and build the renewable sector we need to provide us with stable prices and clean energy then Government has a big job to do to regain the confidence of businesses. The Government has provided certainty and support for the fracking industry, for the oil and gas sectors and the nuclear industry yet it has abandoned the thousands of people employed in the green energy and building industries.”

Councillor Cooper  responded  to the Ministers claim that the "UK Government does not subsidise fossil fuel consumption" - "These are clearly weasel words. What the Government does subsidise to the tune of billions of pounds is fossil fuel production. In the March 2015 budget the North Sea Oil and Gas sector received over £1.3Billion of tax breaks. Does the Minister really believe we have such short memories?"

Monday, 20 July 2015

PRESS RELEASE - Green Party Action on Flying Lanterns.

Green Cllrs Robert Barraclough  & Andrew Cooper, Farm Manager Ian Smart and Cllr Karen Allison
Green Party Councillors are calling for a ban on the release of Flying Lanterns from Kirklees Council land and are encouraging the Council to urge other large land owners in the area to do the same. A Green Party motion to Kirklees Council on July 29th will call for a ban and for signage to be placed at the entrances to Parks and sites such as Castle Hill.

Cows on Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Stirley Farm, near Newsome, have had to be destroyed due to metal from flying lanterns contaminating their feed. Lanterns are known to have been set off from Castle Hill and have been chopped up into small pieces when grass in farm fields is mowed for animal feed. Once in bales these small pieces of metal are almost impossible to detect but do terrible damage and pain to animals as the metal tears through their internal organs.

 Green Party Leader Councillor Andrew Cooper said,

 “This call for a ban is aimed at raising peoples’ awareness of the consequences of setting these lanterns off and the consequences it has for cows, sheep and horses on local farms. Many people simply do not understand that these lanterns are dangerous and damaging.

 Kirkburton Green Party Councillor Robert Barraclough who himself is a farmer and formerly owned a dairy herd for 30 years said.

“This is not just about litter in our environment it is about animal welfare and educating the public about the dangers posed by these lanterns. There is also the very real danger of fire risk to land and property particularly during long periods of particularly dry weather.

This problem not only affects livestock farmers but also the thriving Equestrian population in our area as horses also are fed on fodder which can be contaminated with the lanterns.

Organisations such as the National Farmers Union and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust are backing calls for a ban on these lanterns

The Green Party motion will be proposed by Cllr Robert Barraclough at the Kirklees Full Council meeting on Wednesday 29th July


Green Party and Valley Independent Group Motion on Flying Lanterns

 That the Council recommends that the Cabinet considers the potential risks   associated with sky lanterns (known as Chinese lanterns)  including those relating to health & safety ; fire risk , animal welfare and impact on the environment including litter and referred to in the Trading standards Institute code of Practice  for sky lanterns  and  if it accepts the potential threat and risks and subject to proper consideration of the cost implications

 1.            Where legally possible to take steps to ban the use and release of sky lanterns from council owned land following the statutory test in section 120 (1) (b)  LGA 1972 ; and encourage other landowners in Kirklees area to do likewise on their property ;

 2.            Place appropriate signage at prime locations for launching sky lanterns e.g. Castle Hill and Public Parks

 3.            Consider recommending that  full Council adopt byelaws for pleasure grounds, public walks and  public open spaces under section 164 Public Health Act 1875 and sections 12 , 15 of the Open Spaces Act 1906 which may contain a specific provision to regulate the release of sky lanterns  (subject to confirmation by the secretary of State for Communities and Local Government ) ;

 4.            Request Licensing committee to consider the scope to which Licensing legislation may be used to mitigate the risk associated with sky lanterns;

 5.            Consider the provision of advice to discourage organisers of events from using sky lanterns due to the potential harm they may cause;

6.            Encourage West Yorkshire Trading Standards /West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service to work with manufacturers , distributors and retailers in West Yorkshire to improve safety standards ;biodegradeability  of sky lantern products  and  urge them to sign up to the Trading Standards Institute  Industry Code of Practice –sky lanterns

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Bowled over by the support for the Bowling Green

They say a picture says a thousand words. These photos from today's demonstration in support of retaining the Newsome Bowling Green certainly demonstrate the tremendous support in the community to protect this 110 year old local asset from development. Given the provocation that we have seen in the last few days it was particularly heartening to see such a calm and dignified demonstration by the local community.

 There was a lot of promotion on social media and myself, Cllr Karen Allison and Jacqui Sullivan got out the best part of 1000 flyers out over the last 2 days.  A lot of thanks are due to Jacqui Sullivan for all her hard work on behalf of the Bowling Club, to Diane Sims for taking the photos & helping publicise the event, to Janet Siddall for making so many banners and of course to everyone else who helped and turned up today.  Our colleague Cllr Julie Stewart-Turner, who wasn't able to be there today, has given a tremendous amount of support behind the scenes to the bowlers. The campaign to save the Bowling Green from development goes on!

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Zero Commitment

The first Zero Carbon  Home by Kingspan. It was built on the BRE Innovation Park
One of my many personal failings is that I am always surprised when Government does the wrong thing. Given the inglorious record of the 'Greenest Government Ever' I should be used to the many disappointments by now. The lastest is the complete abandonment of the Zero Carbon Homes policy. This was due to come into force next year and was already mired in controversy as energy efficiency standards to comply with the policy had been diminished and a system of 'allowable solutions' introduced meant that builders could affordably make up for the carbon saving shortcomings by some carbon saving activity off site e.g. planting trees or mitigation activity in existing buildings. The 'allowable solutions' regime already looked pretty dubious but even that has now been dropped. There were also legitimate concerns backed up by a study showing that so called exemplar eco efficient homes were not performing as well as they were supposed to bringing into question the whole approach being taken by Government with Zero Carbon Homes.

It started off so well with a lot of innovation and experimentation carried out by industry to see how they might achieve these standards. Kingspan went to considerable effort to build the UK's first net zero carbon home back in 2010. A number of developers worked with the Building Research Establishment to develop ways of reaching this new standard. A Zero Carbon Hub was established in 2008 with a wealth of professionals in the energy and building sector who together have put in thousands of hours of work . Their role was to "take day-to-day operational responsibility for achieving the government’s target of delivering zero carbon homes in England from 2016"  They must be seriously asking themselves now whether Government has let them down and wasted a considerable amount of their valuable time.

 Why? Is the question.Well it is to help hard pressed developers reduce costs & regulation so they will build more homes. The reaction from developers however does not appear to have been at all positive. They definitely sound like they have been seriously mucked about by Government. Roy Lambe of Wilmott Dixon was reported in the Architects Journal today saying the following,

“Since the original zero-carbon announcement, Willmott Dixon has been supportive of setting a long-term trajectory, enabling industry to invest with confidence. This announcement seriously undermines industry confidence in government policy and will diminish future investment.”

Here's Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive of the Green Building Council in todays Guardian

 “It is short-sighted, unnecessary, retrograde and damaging to the housebuilding industry, which has invested heavily in delivering energy-efficient homes. Britain needs more housing, but there is no justification for building homes with a permanent legacy of high energy bills.”

The whole Zero Carbon homes policy has had poor support from Government for years and the lack of a  robust Building Control regime meant that there were serious doubts as to how these properties would perform anyway. This is the reason why the Green Party advocated the Passivhaus standard in our manifesto. It is an internationally recognised energy performance standard for buildings that is assessed using a quality assurance method. The real fundamental strength of the Passivhaus Standard  is the fact that the UK Government has nothing whatsoever to do with it and long may that continue.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

EU Committee of the Regions 8/7/15 - Energy Union - Response to MarosSefcovic, Vice President of the European Commission

A key aim of the Energy Union is Energy Security but far too often this is framed only in terms of Energy  Supply Independence (from Putin's Russia usually) but true energy security is about much more than this, important though that is.

We live in an increasingly insecure world and if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change then energy security cannot come from a european coal mine or from a european Fracking well. If humanity is to avoid simply becoming fossils ourselves then fossil fuels have to stay in the ground. Real security for future generations will only be achieved through serious investment in energy efficiency and a massive scaling up of our renewable energy resources. The emission commitments that have been made so far in preparation for Paris simply are not fit for purpose. They will not keep global temperatures below 2 degrees and the consequences of that lack of resolve must be understood.
It is not enough however to simply make those energy resources clean and sustainable. For real security we need to ensure that energy is owned by individuals, communities and local authorities and devolved administration such as the ones we all represent. The political power wielded by large energy corporations will ultimately get in the way of action on climate change. EU citizens should not simply be energy consumers they should be energy producers & generators in their own right. We need an Energy Generating Democracy.

And finally if the people of Europe are to have Energy Security then their heat and power must be affordable. Energy or fuel poverty must be eradicated across Europe. No one should have to choose between eating of heating their home. I would like you to come to England to see some of the work Kirklees Council is doing to tackle fuel poverty not because of the policies of the UK Govt but because of our own local priorities. 

National policies too often act as a limiting ceiling on local ambitions on energy security we need them to be a floor that we can build upon.

We need an Energy Union for now but also for future generations. 

We need an Energy Union for the people.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

World Summit Climate and Territories - National policies should be afloor not a ceiling for Local Government action on Climate Change.

The World Summit Climate and Territories is the way Local Government and devolved administrations from around the globe are feeding into Novembers Paris Summit on Climate Change. It is being held in Lyon in France and I am there in my role as a Political Coordinator for the ENVE Commission of the EU Committee of the Regions.

One of the most telling slides in one of the presentations contained the words 'Cities Act while Nations Talk'. Governments can set targets but ultimately it is the implementation at the local level that is going to deliver the changes we need. 

In the UK we seem to be going backwards. Onshore wind has been effectively outlawed in the UK with  recent Government pronouncements following the General Election. So called 'Zero Carbon Homes' due to enter building regulations next year, will be nothing of the sort following Government caving in to the Home Builders Federation on energy efficiency standards. So what has this got to do with the summit I am attending? A particular recommendation I have sought to get included in the text for the summit was calling for national government policies and standards on energy efficiency and renewable energy to be regarded as a minimum beyond which local government could set higher standards. Effectively I was calling for a national policies and standards to be a floor not a ceiling on individual Councils ambition and activity.

Current agreements on climate change from Governments from around the world are inadequate if we are to have a chance of halting global temperatures at around a 2 degrees C. So one way that we could ensure there is greater progress would be to free Local Councils of the constraints on what energy efficiency and renewable energy standards they can specify in their local plans. In Kirklees I would like us to be allowed to specify Passivhaus standards for all new buildings. At a stroke this would cut new buildings energy demand by 90%. To put this policy in our Councils local plan would undoubtedly be challenged/thrown out by the Government's Planning Inspectorate as being too onerous or costly for those hard pressed developers. An International Agreement in Paris freeing Local Authorities to specify high energy effiency standards in buildings would be really helpful. Lets see what happens next.