Adequate transit system or chaotic growth

The Westminster government has threatened to put bids for the Wales and Borders franchise on hold amid a dispute with the Welsh Government over who gets the cash for rail improvements.

Population is increasing, and the vast majority of people will gravitate to cities – which will become larger, more congested, and more crowded. The planning of our cities is of paramount importance if we are to enable the prosperity of our citizens, and of course plan for their happiness.

The current rate of urbanization will lead to more traffic, more pollution, and more frustration if we do not plan to relieve these symptoms of growth. A Green economy in a crowded city needs to be planned carefully in terms of infrastructure, transport networks and technical connectivity just as much as a dirty economy

Even if we all bought electric or hydrogen powered cars, it is only a matter of simple maths to see that cars make no sense in an urban environment. Mass movement of people requires adequate, fast and affordable mass transit networks.

Who controls where we live, how we travel, where we work? In Wales it should be the Welsh Government. But it isn’t. It’s Westminster, and Westminster doesn’t care if Wales is a congested backwater or not. That is why they insist on pulling the strings of investment and compel Wales to dance to the tune of a vassal state.

Matters of future prosperity and well-being in Wales should not be left to the Westminster government. They are mostly concerned with London which, by the way, has excellent public transport networks and world class broadband connectivity.

The recent debacle over rail franchises, and the money to improve the rail network, is evidence that the Welsh Government is playing with one hand tied behind their back. In 2018 Wales will have total responsibility for rail franchises, and it is entirely reasonable that Wales should receive the money direct from these franchises in order to improve the network.

At stake is more than a faster, cleaner, less crowded version of what we already have. At stake is the entire SE Wales Metro which, if planned properly will relieve the congestion in Newport and Cardiff, liberate the Gwent Valleys, and get us all to work and back without the stress of having to sit in endless traffic.

It is unfathomable to me that the funding of the Metro is tied up with rail franchises concerned with replacing the services we currently have. They are separate issues, and need to be negotiated separately. Of course the franchises coming up for renewal should revert to public ownership, but frankly I don’t think the WG is up to managing it.

There is money in the system and it needs to be put to work. We need to support our workplaces and our people. The underlying structure of our society needs to be properly supported with excellent mass transit systems.

It’s essential that the WG has plenty of time to negotiate the next tranche of trains, and that means the franchises should be fit for the future, not the horrendous deal done 15 years ago with Arriva which sees passengers in cramped and crowded conditions for hours.

Without an adequate, sustainable (and obviously clean) transport system in place, growth will be chaotic.

 

 

No Imagination, Gove

Scrapping diesel is not the end of the problem.

Michael Gove has announced today that diesel vehicles will be banned from 2040.

Gove is just spouting the lines of his brief, and shows no imagination for coping with the wider implications of pollution in a car-bound society. The current road-building programme, such as the proposed M4 across the Gwent levels, will bring even more cars onto the roads, cancelling out the benefits of what is being proposed. Westminster has also cancelled electrification of the remaining railways, forcing Wales into a dirty fuel future, when in fact with our access to abundant renewable energy we could be one of the cleanest countries in the world.

Fixing the problem of polluted air in our towns and cities needs much more than the promise of a ban by 2040, by which time hundreds of thousands of people will have died from causes related to polluted air. We face inter-related problems of pollution, inactivity related obesity, and public health funding crises. This needs the imagination to see beyond car use as the main way to travel.

Norway, Netherlands, and France have already adopted electric road vehicles, and crucially they have invested in a decent re-charging network – something which is lamentably lacking in Wales.

Gove has missed the chance to talk about a new green industrial revolution, investment in energy storage and infrastructure. This was the time to talk about reducing the need for road travel, localisation of supply chains and upgrading the public transport network. We need clean air zones in our urban centres and measures to help us all switch to clean public transport, walking and cycling for our everyday journeys.

The green industrial revolution could happen inside or outside the Single Market. The whole issue is proof that, contrary to Tory ideologues, big matters cannot be left to the market. Gove’s recent moves expose how shallow Labour is on the really big issues such as a clean energy future. There is clear green water between the Green Party and the rest of politics. Massive subsidies to fossil fuel companies are continuing at the expense of our health and our productivity.

We know diesel and petrol are poisoning our air but switching to electric cars is just not going to make the difference needed to clean up our air and let people trust the air we breathe. We will still be left with street-clogging congestion, lethal pm2.5 particle pollution and the misery of road danger.

The govt should be investing in rail electrification, electric buses and networks of routes for walking and cycling. The important thing is not diesel scrappage for individuals but providing affordable access to work, education, health care and shops. If the government had any imagination they would see the unmitigated disaster of air pollution as an opportunity to rid our towns cities and villages of the problems of congestion, parking and noise while improving people’s health and cutting NHS costs.

The Power of Less – Policy on Waste in Wales


I had a most heartening morning at the well attended Policy on Waste in Wales forum today (which I as usual gatecrashed as I’m not about to pay £200 for the pleasure of having my own policies talked back to me). All those years of going to these things and asking the awkward questions seems to have paid off. This was evident in that a lot of people called me by name, and yes I did still ask awkward questions, but there were not so many of them as before. Policy makers are now thoroughly convinced of the necessity for a circular economy (or closed loop system). Of note was the humanising of waste systems – with an extra 4000 jobs in the pipeline and 30,000 jobs in the ultimate Welsh circular economy, the fact that politics is holding back investment and that waste regulation assumes that waste has no value -which of course is a ludicrous concept. On a planet with finite resources everything has a value. Importantly it became clear that waste – on any level – is a failure of imagination.

Re-manufacturing was a big subject, abolishing built in obsolescence and increasing producer responsibility in manufacture, particularly in packaging is finally acceptable.

To hear more than one speaker talking about getting us to a one planet economy by 2050 was music to my ears, so the intention is there even if the framework needs much to be desired. There was much dependence on the Well Being of Future Generations Act, to sort things out. I hope it does, but am not optimistic on this particular point.

Today, we definitely talked the talk. I hope that tomorrow we will walk the walk.

Finally a word on gender balance. It was stunningly even. This is the first time I have been to a Policy seminar which was not criminally overwhelmed by men in suits. I have to wonder if this is a true sign of changing times, or whether the subject matter of waste and all the implications arising from abolishing it, has touched the imagination of the female of the species, and spurred them to take part for the common good. The panels weren’t quite gender balanced, but I get the feeling we are at last on the way to equal representation in all strata of society.

So congratulations to the organisers for bringing me a Green morning in every way.

Formal objection letter to WG re the M4 motorway extension

 

Dear Madam or Sir,

Re: M4 Corridor around Newport

 Formal objection – please forward to the Welsh Government.

I strongly oppose the proposal to build a new M4 motorway through the beautiful Gwent Levels.

Building another motorway will inevitably cause the burning of yet more fossil fuels. ‘Build it and they will come’ has never been truer than in the case of road building. Far from solving the problems of congestion, new roads are the harbingers of even more congestion. More congestion means more pollution, and more pollution is the very thing we want to avoid.

Pollution hurts our health, our environment and all living things, sometimes terminally in the case of heart and lung disease.

I would like to see the Welsh Government protect our most important places for wildlife such as the Gwent Levels that are already recognised as being nationally important through their designation of SSSI status.

The Gwent Levels is extremely rich in wildlife with otters, water voles, wading birds such as lapwing, snipe, redshank and curlew, 25 rare plants including the world’s smallest flowering plant Wolffia arrihiza and 144 rare species of insects.

Damage to the Gwent Levels will include;

  • A total of 125 hectares of SSSI habitats including grazing marsh and reedbed lost or permanently damaged
  • Permanent damage to 9 Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation
  • Permanent loss of a section of Gwent Wildlife Trusts Magor Marsh Nature Reserve
  • Loss of 2568m of SSSI reen and 9136m of SSSI field ditch which would be infilled or culverted, that are full of nationally rare plants and animals that have taken centuries to reach their current equilibrium.  Replacing these with freshly cut channels cannot be described as a positive impact on biodiversity
  • Habitat and species loss outside of “protected areas” has not been quantified but is also substantial
  • Damage to protected conservation priority species populations and their habitats including European protected species
  • Cumulative loss of land which will leave the remaining spaces unviable for much of the flora and fauna.

Llanwern steelworks, Tesco Warehouse, Gwent Europark, Uskmouth Power Station and the Aluminium and chemical works have already led to the loss of 910ha of wetland habitat (CCW 1991). Further loss has only continued over the last 25 years. The motorway proposals and the anticipated loss of habitats and species are not in isolation. Cumulative impacts of development on this nationally important landscape have already been catastrophic leaving habitats degraded and fragmented and making rare species more vulnerable. We cannot let the degradation of the Gwent Levels continue.

I don’t believe that building a new six-lane motorway through the Gwent Levels ancient landscape is sustainable. The Welsh Government should do all it can to encourage cars off the road by providing greener transport options rather than making more space for traffic. The £1.2 billion (in todays money) would be far better spent on the South East Wales Metro – a plan which has been ready for some years, but which has lacked the political will to build. Reopening small stations along the Magor to Castleton route could start immediately. No-one want to spend time in congestion. A good, frequent, affordable public transport option is what is really needed.

I also don’t believe that building this motorway meets the goals of the Future Generations and Well-Being goals and in fact brings a sad future for the people of Newport surrounded by air and noise pollution with hundreds of acres of their cultural and natural heritage destroyed on their doorstep.

I urge you to stop this new road from being built and protect the natural environment and wildlife of the Gwent Levels.

Please ensure the Welsh Government receives this email so my objection will be considered and counted.

Yours faithfully,

Pippa

Pippa Bartolotti

Candidate for Newport West and lead candidate for SE Wales Regional List

The undeniable sin of destroying wetlands.

otter

Yesterday I visited Magor marshes with Peter Varley ( standing for Newport East). To say the Directors of Gwent Wildlife Trust were depressed was an understatement. They have just had a Compulsory Purchase Order served on them, in order to use this fragile landscape for a 6 lane motorway.

I studied the plans, and in some places this motorway will be banked up an eye watering 18 meters above the land. The associated bridge over the Usk will restrict the height of shipping which will be able to enter Newport Docks, thus jeopardizing the jobs and commercial viability of the dock itself.

It is important not to forget that Llanwern Steelworks was itself built on the wetlands in 1962, so even then the viability of the wetlands was being compromised. To steal yet more of this Outstanding Landscape of Historic Interest is simply wrong. This environment cannot be re-created. The damage would be permanent.

My job as a Green is to protect and enhance life on this planet for all species, including humans. Scientists are in agreement that by continuing to burn fossil fuels we are releasing too much CO2 into the atmosphere, causing the planet to warm at a speed which will be almost impossible to control. This warming, for all our sakes – otters as well as humans – must be halted at once if this planet is to remain habitable.

Building another motorway will inevitably cause the burning of yet more fossil fuels. ‘Build it and they will come’ has never been truer than in the case of road building. Far from solving the problems of congestion, new roads are the harbingers of even more congestion. More congestion means more pollution, and more pollution is the very thing we want to avoid.

Pollution hurts our health, our environment and all living things, sometimes terminally in the case of heart and lung disease.

This 6 lane extension to the M4 is not necessary. If we look at the 19 miles ( yes only 19 miles) of sometimes congested road around the Bryn Glas tunnel area, it is not difficult to see that this is the Magor to Castleton area which is poorly provided for in public transport. Crossing from one side of Newport to another on public transport is a time consuming and tricky business, for no bus goes straight across the city, and worse, you have to walk from one bus station to the other because our planned sensible bus station site – opposite the train station – was sold to out to commercial interests. Inevitably, it has become preferable to face the congestion and buy a car.

SEW metro

The real solution for our ever increasing congestion and growing levels of pollution is a fast, affordable, and frequent public service. The plans for  South East Wales Metro have been drawn up for some years, yet the political will to bring them to reality has been lacking. Conversely the political will to build a 6 lane motorway across site of internationally recognised protected habitat seems to be all too forthcoming.

The cost of this M4 extension will be ( at today’s figures) £1.2 billion for 20 miles of motorway. That is more than enough to pay for an upgrade to the relevant part of the Metro, including the opening of all the little stations along the route.

In summary, this short-sighted vanity project by the Welsh Labour government will mean the devastation of one of our most rare wetland habitats which will have the automatic effect of increasing pollution, whilst depleting the financial reserves which should rightly be used to bring us a much-needed public transport system.

I would like to see us all freed from pollution and congestion. I would like to see Wales pulling its weight to respect the health and well-being of future generations. If you elect me to the Senedd on May 5th you can be sure I will fight to stop this motorway being built, whilst at the same time working for a world class public transport system which we will all be proud to use.

 

 

 

Letter to the Planning Inspectorate regarding Rhiw Las One Planet Development

Dear Madam or Sir,

We would like to see the Planning Officer’s recommendation of approval for this project upheld in line with the laudable One Planet Development (OPD) planning policy, the criteria of which the Rhiw Las development certainly meets.

The trend for truly sustainable zero carbon dwellings must be encouraged if Wales is to meet its carbon reduction targets of 40% by 2020. Connecting to a low carbon lifestyle will not be an easy cultural shift, and we need trailblazers to show us the way through innovation, reinvention of old methodologies, and the training of those who will inevitably follow in their footsteps.

The Rhiw Las project will improve the environmental quality of the site as it transitions from low quality grazing to a rich and diverse mix of orchards and horticulture free from artificial pesticides and fertilizers. It will also provide a rare haven for our beleaguered pollinators.

If the Well Being of Future Generations Act is to be taken at all seriously, Wales must transform its agricultural outlook away from monoculture land use and toxic chemical interventions. We need to address the malady of normalisation of poor land husbandry and chemical spraying in favour of a more organic approach.

Fifty years ago we were organic by default, now it seems as though we are toxic by default, whilst to gain organic certification can take 4 years. Surely it should be the other way round, with the use of unnatural pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers needing to go through stringent legal hoops, and the organic methods returning to their rightful default criteria.

It is therefore most concerning that a true One Planet Development has been rejected, whilst vast housing estates of low building and environmental standards are encouraged.

We trust the Planning Inspectorate will share our concerns, and the inevitable concerns of generations to come, who will not thank us for discouraging this type of small development. We trust that the recommendations of the Carmarthenshire planning officers will be upheld.

Eat or Beef?

The farming of animals is classed as a production line, and we slaughter, or kill, more than 155,000 cows a year, and that’s just in Wales. There are 19 abattoirs in Wales, 2 in Gwent. Worldwide 95% of all the mammals on the planet are the animals we keep to eat.

The overall environmental impact of beef is disproportionately higher than every other foodstuff. Cows reared for beef need 28 times more land than pigs, chickens, or lamb, and 11 times more water.

The UK imports 236,000 tonnes of beef, which is equivalent to 790,000 cows, most of which are bought in little pieces, wrapped in plastic, from Tesco.

The head of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who has openly identified eating less meat as an important step in combatting climate change, says “ Livestock are responsible for 18 per cent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together.” A study of tens of thousands of British people’s daily eating habits shows that meat lovers’ diets cause double the climate-warming emissions of vegetarian diets.

Now I am not at all trying to ‘have a go’ at our farmers, I am in fact asking them to farm in a different way, because not only can they help in the battle against climate change, but they can prepare themselves for a changing marketplace in preparation for our changing eating habits.

According to Google, the search interest for “vegan” spiked in 2015, increasing 32 percent from the previous year.

In 2015, millennials surpassed baby boomers as the world’s largest generation. With millennials comes an increase in plant-based eating, as 12 percent of them identify as committed vegetarians.

A rough count shows there are 59 dedicated vegetarian restaurants in Wales, and every restaurant and café I know of has a good selection of veggie food – and I’m not talking about the ubiquitous pre-frozen veggie lasagna either.

In Gwent the internet tells me there are 127 vegetarian- friendly restaurants in Gwent, and 64 vegan- friendly ones – which was a pleasant surprise. Times are changing.

Farmers can grow more food on less land if they cut out beef. When compared to staples like potatoes, grains, and vegetables, the impact of beef per calorie is even more extreme, requiring 160 times more land and producing 11 times more greenhouse gases. It is expected that the population will increase by another 2 billion people by 2050, so it makes sense to free up the land to feed us all.

Compared to beef, 78 times more vegetables and grain can be grown on a single hectare of land. That will feed a lot of people.

We don’t really have a choice whether to abandon our fossil-fuel driven cars or to eat less red meat if we truly want to leave a pleasant and habitable world for the future, but the biggest single intervention we can make is to eat less beef.

And don’t tell me vegan food is boring.  Try it!