WCA Newsletter No5
Time for another WCA newsletter already, because things are moving fast in Wiltshire, and there's a lot to catch up on – especially news regarding the A303 Stonehenge Tunnel and the proposed Westbury Waste Incinerator, and the council u-turn on People Friendly Streets in Salisbury. Our Youth Group and various Topic Groups have also been busy, we will have special guest speaker presentations at our December members' general meeting, and we are planning an online AGM in January at which we will also plan how to mark the 2nd anniversary of Wiltshire's Climate Emergency Declaration in February.
On top of all that, Wiltshire Council has just unveiled its draft Local Plan revision, which will shape planning decisions for the next decade.
Lots happening, so please read on ….....
In This Issue
Diary Dates for December/January
WCA All members' General Meeting
2nd December @7pm. Including two special guest speakers: Thomas Minter, CEO of Malaby Biogas, Warminster, and someone from Severn Wye who will talk about £324K funding to make businesses greener in Wilts. Here is the LINK to register for the meeting
Transport Topic Group
3rd December @7pm – Register using this LINK
Zoom with John Glen MP re Local Electricity Bill
4th December @2pm (hosted by Salisbury Community Energy) https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82616463072?pwd=cVU5YndaNWl3akNRSS9OQy9HTGhHdz09
Meeting ID: 826 1646 3072
Waste & Recycling Topic Group
9th December @7pm – Register using this Link
Land Use Topic Group
14th December @6pm - Register using this Link
Energy Topic Group
16th December @7pm – Register using this Link
Outreach & Engagement Topic Group
22nd December @6.30pm– Register using this Link
Coming up in January 2021
WCA & Wiltshire MPs meeting (provisional): we are working to set up a zoom meeting with all (or as many as possible) of Wiltshire's MPs, to discuss how they can help Wiltshire to achieve its target of becoming carbon neutral by 2030. We have proposed that this should take place on 22nd January 2021 [date and time to be confirmed].
WCA Annual General Meeting
30th January 2021 from 10.30am. It is now almost a year since our first meeting, called to plan action to mark the first anniversary of Wiltshire Council's Climate Emergency Declaration, decided to set up the Wiltshire Climate Alliance. It is therefore time for us to hold our first Annual General Meeting (even though we can still only do so by Zoom), take stock of our achievements so far (which probably surpass all expectations), and make a plan for Wiltshire Council's 2ndanniversary. Please keep this Saturday free, and watch out for more information in our New Year newsletter.
Local Plan will shape vital decade ahead
writes Nick Murry
Wiltshire Council has revealed its vision for its revised Local Plan, which amongst other things, will set the scale of development and where it will be located, for the Plan period up to 2036.
What goes into the Plan will have a significant impact on the county’s capacity to address the Climate and Ecological Emergency and the Council’s ability to make Wiltshire carbon neutral by 2030. What is being proposed in terms of concreting over vast tracts of countryside, destruction of natural capital and wildlife habitats, and releasing large quantities of greenhouse gas emissions, does not bode well.
The proposals being discussed at Cabinet on Tuesday (1st Dec.), were revealed to councillors and the public for the first time on Tuesday 24th Nov., with a deadline for questions (that will receive a public response) of noon the following day, Wednesday 25th Nov. They already contain 'preferred options' for towns like Chippenham, without having been seen, let alone consulted on, by the public.
The beautiful Avon-Marden Valley – looking out from Chippenham towards Bencroft Hill – destined for destruction under Wiltshire’s Local Plan Review.
The Chippenham sites include a large area of countryside, including three County farms, to the east of the town and would build across the Chippenham-Calne Cycle Path to the banks of the River Marden, obliterating the green spaces designated for protection in the Bremhill Neighbourhood Plan.
Whilst the Local Plan proposals mention enhancing green/blue infrastructure, sustainable design and construction and encouraging renewable energy (as does the current Plan), these would mostly be in mitigation of disproportionate environmental damage caused by urban extensions, which promote car dependency, create bigger commuter towns and drive up carbon emissions.
The value of irreplaceable natural capital, in terms of its current benefits and the longer-term implications of its removal (habitat loss, biodiversity loss, loss of agricultural land, release of carbon, loss of carbon sinks) seem not to have been considered.
There is still time for the Council to reconsider and the Local Plan Review will need to go to a Planning Inspector before being adopted. In the meantime, we would urge you to send your questions, concerns and any objections to the Cabinet, which will be recorded, though won't be responded to at the meeting. More importantly please make sure you respond during the consultation scheduled to begin in January - it is very important that WCA members and local groups play a full part in this process. Look out for more details in our New Year newsletter.
For statements/ question for the Cabinet meeting on 1st Dec., please email: Stuart Figini Stuart.Figini@wiltshire.gov.uk
To express your concerns about the Local Plan after that, you can write to: Cllr Philip Whitehead Leader of Wiltshire Council, and Cllr Toby Sturgis Cabinet Member for Planning and Environment, or click here to find the councillor who represents you.
For further information on the Campaign to Save the Avon-Marden Valley go to: https://www.causewiltshire.com/take-action or sign the petition at: Stop Urban Sprawl and Destruction of Wiltshire Countryside on 38 Degrees here.
Stonehenge Tunnel Go-ahead
Climate and Archaeological Vandalism as Minister overrules Inspectorate
Writes Brig Oubridge
On November 12th, Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps MP gave the go-ahead for the long-threatened A303 road widening and tunnel, carving its way through the unique Stonehenge World Heritage Site. The scheme, opposed by UNESCO and by leading archaeologists throughout the world, as well as conservationists, climate campaigners and self-styled Druids, was also turned down by the government's own expert panel of transport planners and economists, all of which the Minister chose to ignore. It will cost an estimated £2.4 billion, and save an average of about 3 minutes on the journey between London and the Southwest.
For me, as a child growing up in London in the 1950s, the view of Stonehenge from the crest of the hill was an awe-inspiring highlight of the journey westwards to annual family holidays in Devon or Cornwall, which made it an irresistible stopping place in the days when the only car park was a grassy field, and the entrance fee was still in line with the maximum of one shilling laid down in the Chubb bequest which had gifted the site to the nation. I had no doubt that it was a precious part of our collective cultural heritage.
Now it has become a multi-million pound money-spinner for English Heritage, who mistakenly think they will make even more once the new road takes away that iconic free vista – failing to realise that it is actually their best billboard which underpins Wiltshire's whole tourism industry. They argue that hiding the road in a huge cutting and tunnel will provide a better experience for visitors, without considering that there may be fewer of them once they secure a monopoly over any sight of the monument.
The issue, however, is about for more than just the view (even though a new research paper by WCA's Andrew Nicolson shows that traffic delays on the road are due entirely to 'rubber-necking'; by passers-by [link]. Like all new roads, the scheme will simply encourage more traffic, adding to pollution and worsening the climate emergency, until it becomes just as clogged as it is at present. The false promises of “no jam tomorrow” will fail to materialise, but the unique World Heritage Site will have been irreparably scarred, and whatever undiscovered archaeology lies in the path of the new road will have been destroyed forever.
Despite the government decision, the battle is far from over. Campaigners now have six weeks (until Christmas Eve) to apply for Judicial Review in the High Court. The Stonehenge Alliance campaign group is busily consulting its lawyers, and others may also appeal (either separately or as part of the Stonehenge Alliance case). For more details, and/or to contribute to the expected legal costs, visit Stonehenge Alliance [link].
Better road news...
Patrick Kinnersly of the White Horse Alliance reports that funding for the A350 Yarnbrook - West Ashton Relief Road has been withdrawn because work could not start on site before the deadline of March next year, according to Paddy Bradley of the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership. The withdrawal of LEP funding leaves a £5.5 million gap jn the scheme, which was also to be part-funded by builders Persimmon as part of their plan to build 2500 new homes east of Trowbridge.
The plans have been held up by Natural England because it could lead to the eventual extinction of the breeding colonies of rare Bechstein’s bats roosting in ancient woods next to the site. For more details, visit our website [link].
Or maybe not?
The Yarnbrook - West Ashton road is just one link in Wiltshire Council's road building plans for the A350 corridor from Chippenham to Poole via Trowbridge, Westbury and Warminster, which they have been pursuing since the early 1970s. Unfortunately, these are currently being boosted by Bath's Lib. Dem. MP Wera Hobhouse, who is urging that these plans should be brought forward to get HGV traffic out of Bath, with some support from Bath XR.
While we can sympathise with the people of Bath, nimbyism and shifting the problem into Wiltshire is not the solution. The only answer is less reliance on road haulage overall.
Council U-turn in “People Friendly” Salisbury
Wiltshire Council has scrapped Salisbury's People Friendly Streets scheme after only two weeks of what was supposed to be an 18 month experimental period, following a coup by Conservative councillors on Salisbury City Council, who have sacked climate-aware local council leader Jeremy Nettle.
The scheme was originally backed by the Conservative-dominated City Council, and funded with Government money via Wiltshire Council. It involved closing various roads in the city centre to traffic other than buses, taxis and blue badge holders, and introducing new cycle lanes. Although falling short of full pedestrianisation, it was welcomed by campaigners in Salisbury, which has suffered for years from congestion in its ancient streets and pollution levels in places 50% or more above the legal maximum.
However, opponents of the scheme orchestrated a storm of protest. Tory city councillors took fright, were backed by local MP John Glen, and Wiltshire Council pulled the scheme, saying they had no option as it no longer had City Council support.
Despite the highly vocal opposition, the majority of residents seemed undecided and willing to give the scheme a chance. Climate campaigners are left scratching their heads, and taking what comfort they can from the fact that the scheme can no longer be blamed for the fact that trade has dropped in the new lockdown.
The first thing we must all do is to sign the petition to bring back People Friendly Streets at LINK.
Incinerator Decision due in January
The first meeting of WCA's new Waste & Recycling Topic Group on November 6th was not a moment too soon, with the huge issue of the proposed Westbury incinerator due to be decided by Wiltshire Council at their January meeting.
Westbury residents have been fighting against this proposal for over 5 years so far, without enough support from other areas over what is really an all-Wiltshire issue. Although it is Westbury which will suffer the worst of the pollution and the increased lorry traffic, it is all of our rubbish (and recycling) that it will be burning, and we will all suffer from the extra greenhouse gas emissions which the new plant will lock in until at least 2050. (For a full summary of the history, see the Waste & Recycling Topic Group report at [link].
Last time Wiltshire Council considered the project, in July 2018, a big turnout of protesters helped convince councillors to reject the plans, although council officers told them they could not even consider emissions and had to reject on size and visual impact grounds. This time, the council's own head officer for carbon reduction, Ariane Crampton, has objected internally on emissions grounds. The fact that Ariane's post even exists shows how far we have come in the past two years, but we will still need a big presence at the January meeting to back up her arguments.
The big underlying problem is the long-term waste management contract between Wiltshire Council and their contractor, Hills, who are also behind the incinerator proposals. This commits Wiltshire to supplying Hills with at least 50,000 tonnes of waste for incineration annually, with penalty clauses if they fail to do so. Our aim has to be not just to defeat the current planning proposal, but to overturn this whole disastrous contract.
The Environment Agency is inviting people to have their say on a permit to operate the proposed new waste incinerator in Westbury. This consultation is crucially important, because in 2018 Wiltshire Council officers ruled that councillors could not refuse the previous application on emissions grounds, as that is the province of the Environment Agency to decide.
Comments must be received by 5pm on 22 January and only issues covered by the environmental permit can be considered in this consultation. Responses can be made via the website by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org quoting application number EPR/CP3803LV/A001 in any correspondence.
Paper copies can be obtained by contacting the Environment Agency’s Customer Contact Centre on 03708 506 506.
Wilts Council Climate Strategy Update
writes WCA's Councillor Nick Murry
From information recently received, the provisional timetable for the next set of Climate Emergency Task Group recommendations (on Planning Policy) and the Carbon Reduction team's Climate Strategy work is as follows:
Wiltshire Council Cabinet response to the first report of the Climate Emergency Task Group (Energy and Transport) to be published imminently;
The second report of Climate Emergency Task Group (Planning) to be published ahead of the Environment Select Committee on 13 January 2021;
A Climate Strategy update report to go to Cabinet on 2nd February 2021;
Wiltshire Council Cabinet response to the second report of the Climate Emergency Task Group (Planning) to be received by the Environment Select Committee on 3rd March 2021.
Currently, it is unclear whether the Climate Strategy will be completed before or after the elections in May but we will continue to investigate and keep you informed.
Youth Workshop with Wiltshire Council
Poppy Taylor, Eva McHugh and Christian Lange write
On the 12th November, we held our first ever youth event, with the aim of providing young people with an opportunity to influence what Wiltshire Council is doing to plan for a greener recovery. Young participants had the chance to have their voices heard and put ideas straight to the council.
We were delighted that 25 young people joined the meeting and around 40 people in all attended including Wiltshire councillors and officers. We had an excellent spread of age groups, with several university students and also people as young as 9 attending.
Participants discussed issues in 'breakout rooms' on topics including energy, waste, biodiversity, food, fashion, and how to bring about change, and helped to put together recommendations which can now been seen in a report on this LINK, including all the ideas that were suggested on the night. It is hoped that several of the young participants will be able to present this to Wiltshire Council at a future meeting.
Due to the positive feedback we have received on the workshop, we will be holding our next Under 25’s zoom meeting on 30th November @6pm to discuss and plan for future events. If you would like to register to take part use this link.
Topic Group Updates
Energy Topic group
This topic group has now met on three occasions and has been an ideal place to share knowledge and ideas on a variety of subjects. 17 people attended the last meeting which covered diverse subjects such as starting up community energy schemes, solar PV Preferred supplier schemes and the Green Homes Grant Scheme.
The next meeting will be held on 16th December at 7pm where we will explore electric Car Cubs, demand management and several other topics – Everybody is welcome as this is a place to learn and share experience. To register for the next meeting and other information please follow the LINK
The Outreach and Engagement Topic Group
This group is exploring ways in which the WCA can use its influence to bring about change within the broader community. We have embarked on a significant piece of work to engage businesses in a positive was by creating an effective network and identifying those businesses who are working hard to become more sustainable. We hope that they will be able to share their ideas with businesses who are starting out on that journey.
The group is also starting to look at how WCA members can influence the Community Area Boards to take a more proactive role to planning for a more sustainable future.
The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday 22nd December at 6.30 PM More information can be found on the following LINK
The Land Use and Management Topic Group
Land Use group has now met twice. The first meeting looked particularly at wild flower verges and a separate meeting was set up with Wiltshire Council to explore how best to introduce them into the County. We also discussed what other areas we would like to tackle.
The second meeting put more focus on what direction the group wants to go in. Main topics were farmer engagement, creation of green corridors and a new area of water management. Verge development is ongoing.
The next meeting is scheduled for 14th December at 6pm, where we are hoping to have a talk on farmers engagement and possibly also on water management in the County. Go to this LINK to register.
Shout outs for help
WCA needs volunteers! As our activities expand fast, we are looking for helpers on several fronts, who can put in some time, however short, working from home.
As part of engagement with businesses we’re developing a plan to work with businesses to help reduce carbon emissions throughout the county. We’re particularly looking for members who are in business or have contacts with businesses to find a few who would be prepared to review our plans for workability in a business environment.
We’re also looking for members who might have a few hours to spare to help us research businesses in Wiltshire to establish basic contact details and also to perhaps look a little deeper at the business to see how they’re doing, carbon reduction wise. All of this can be done online when you have a few spare minutes.
If this is you, or you know someone you know, please get in touch with email@example.com or reply to this email.
Admin and note taking
Topic Groups are getting busy and we’re looking for help to help with action note taking. Nothing special and we try to keep them as simple as possible.
We’re also looking for someone who might be able to manage a growing photo library for use in articles being developed by the writing group. Photos can be sent in by any member for use, clearly subject matter needs to be clear and related to all we do in WCA. These will probably be held on the website but that can be sorted once we have a willing volunteer.
If this is you, or you know someone you know, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org or reply to this email.
Good Listeners/Telephone Callers to take on survey work reaching out to Wiltshire farmers, to learn their attitude to sustainable and carbon capturing practices, what problems they face, finance, and what would make a difference.
Artists, designers, photographers and more
WCA will need visuals! The successful launch of the Writers Group has surfaced a need for copyright-free and original graphics to go with items for the Wiltshire Times. Topic groups may need resources, the WCA website can use them, and future post-lockdown rallies and actions will be seeking banners, photo/video coverage and much more.
Please give us a shout if you or a group member may be able to help as a: * fine artist * illustrator * graphic artist * cartoonist * photographer * calligrapher or sign writer * cartographer * photo editor * film/video maker * art administrator or any other skill.
If the talent is there in numbers, a WCA Steering Group member may be able to help by kick-starting a new online working group.
Please email@example.com to offer help or for more information.
Musicians & Other Performers
WCA can use the performing arts! A few singers in Bradford on Avon want to start working towards post-pandemic times when we can meet face-to-face again. We hope there will be many and varied ways to tackle the Climate Emergency by performing.
Please give us a shout if you or a member of your group is willing to join in as a: * singer * folk, rock, classical, jazz or other musician * busker * arranger * choir leader * actor * comedian * dancer * roadie * producer/director * promoter or any other skill.
If the talent is there in numbers, a WCA Steering Group member may be able to help by kick-starting a new online working group. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to offer help or for more information.
and (last but not least)
PLEASE DONATE TO WCA
This is a time of year for making a donation as a gesture or a gift to a family member.
As WCA and its groups gear up for massive and urgent activity on the climate and biodiversity emergencies in Wiltshire and Swindon in the New Year, we will need funds.
Please donate if you can, using the DONATE button on the WCA home page or this link - Any amount helps, however small!
Please remember to mention the need, and the details of this method of giving, early on at each online WCA group meeting and each meeting of your member organisation.
WCA Steering Group is also considering Wiltshire Climate Action Bonds, which would be handsome printed certificates formally recognising financial contributions to the cause. However, if we are to do this, we will also need a deputy treasurer just handling these special donations made online, a “registrar” to maintain a spreadsheet of full details on each bond issued, and a packer-poster to put documents into envelopes or small tubes and post out. Please email@example.com to offer help or for more information.