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.

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.