Category Archives: Localisation

News from the Environmental Law Foundation

The Environmental Law Foundation Ltd is a charity which promotes the collective, good decision-making which is at the very heart of civilised, democratic and stable societies.

It does this by providing free information and advice on environmental issues to individuals and communities via its in-house and university-based law clinics, and via its network of specialist environmental lawyers and technical experts.

ELF exists primarily to help socially and economically disadvantaged communities which want to address their concerns but lack the resources or information to do so. All, however, are welcome to enquire.

This message from the Environmental Law Foundation focussed on:

  • National Planning Policy Framework Review
  • Third defeat for government on air quality
  • Environmental Crime in Europe

It included information about ELF’s assistance to a residents’ association in Farringdon which represents vulnerable social housing tenants. ELF helped the association to make their case at a Public Inquiry into the proposed building of a 180 room Whitbread run hotel and commercial area by Endurance Land.

The Catherine Griffiths and Clerkenwell Community Tenants’ and Residents’ Association (chair and members left) claimed developers are “land grabbing” Clerkenwell, and the site should be used for “useful” shops and affordable housing.

They felt that the proposals would have significant effects on an already stressed community where development was forcing the indigenous community out. There were serious concerns over the proposed loading area on traffic flows, significant light impacts of building a high rise building and the serious impacts on local historical assets, including the Finsbury Health Centre a Grade 1 Listed Building.

ELF member barrister Jonathan Metzer and Charlotte Gilmartin at 1 Crown Office Row, appeared on behalf of the group who had Rule 6 (main party) status. They led evidence from two expert witnesses and two lay witnesses. They acted pro bono through the Environmental Law Foundation, on the instruction of Emma Montlake. The inquiry lasted 7 days.

 

 

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Hawes: as government sheds commitments, ‘we are going to provide for ourselves’

As large-scale cuts in public expenditure began to ‘bite’, the 2010 Conservative manifesto presented the Big Society as its flagship policy, later endorsed by the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition. The Big Society Network was formed, owned by The Society Network Foundation charity. It had £2 million from the National Lottery and public-sector grants. However in July 2014, the Charity Commission investigated alleged misuse of funds by the network; it went into administration and was wound up. David Cameron did not use the term in public after 2013 and the phrase ceased to be used in government statements.

Years earlier the people of Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales were realising this vision, because, as John Blackie, a district and county councillor explained: “Here we say (to government), ‘If you aren’t going to provide for us, we are going to provide for ourselves’”.

Necessity has been the mother of invention.

Hawes: 1137 population, 683 dwellings

The Wensleydale line and Hawes railway station had closed in 1959. Then both police houses closed. Last year one of the town’s two banks left, leaving Hawes with a single branch open three days a week. “One of the big issues here is that we are losing young families; if we lose services we lose families,” Mr Blackie said. Four local schools in the Upper Dales are only half full, he added.

In 1992, Dairy Crest, its biggest employer, sold the Wensleydale Creamery, featured in the 1989 Wallace & Gromit film: ‘A Grand Day Out’.

Four of the creamery’s managers and a local businessman bought the enterprise and revived it. More than 200 people now work there and it produces 4,000 tonnes of cheese a year.

Since then the business has gone from strength to strength and a new dairy was built there in 2014.

In 1997, the community opened the Upper Wensleydale Community Partnership, in a place where people could get access to council services and pay rents and rates five days a week. Before this, a council clerk visited Hawes one day each week.

Over the years they began to run their library, post office and police station. The police moved in, using a room in the community centre which moved to a new site in 2005, bringing the library with them and opening it five days a week instead of two. These local services would have shut down if locals hadn’t volunteered to run them ‘on their own terms’. The town has a retained Fire Station, crewed by firefighters who provide on-call cover from home or their place of work.

After years of dwindling bus services the community launched its own Little White Bus in 2011 to meet the trains at Garsdale station seven miles away. Today they have a fleet of 10 minibuses that rely on 53 volunteer drivers and nine part-time staff, ferrying 65,000 passengers a year. They also have a Land Rover to take children from the most remote farms to and from school.

After the village was hit by Post Office cutbacks, the Northern Echo reported in 2014 that the Upper Wensleydale Community Partnership had voted to run a post office at the Community Office, a sorting office in the town’s business park and outreach services in Askrigg and Bainbridge. The move followed the retirement of Hawes postmaster whose departure left residents facing a 17-mile drive to the nearest post office. Councillor Blackie said he would also aim to relaunch post office services in some of the 11 villages where sub-post offices had closed over the past 17 years.

Their latest enterprise (October 2017) is taking a three-year lease of the petrol station which was closing down. They hope to install a 24-hour self-service pump and an electric charging point and – one day – to buy the site, offering community shares. It is the first in the country to be run by its community, (part-time staff and volunteers) not for profit but to save local people from making a 36-mile round trip along narrow roads to the nearest filling station open full time. Hawes is so remote that they qualify for a government rebate of 5p per litre to keep the prices down.

Many readers will wish them well as, next year, the partnership plans to buy two plots of land to build affordable homes for rent in perpetuity . . .

and as the Wensleydale Railway Association plans to rebuild the railway from Northallerton to to join the Settle-Carlisle Railway at Garsdale, re-opening the station in Hawes.

 

 

 

Textiles: returning to domestic production, rebuilding local economies

Five years ago Inbusiness reported a British textile manufacturing revival, ‘led’ by Lancashire. It reported that, after decades of decline due to rising foreign competition, tariffs and protectionism, and Britain’s high cost base, some manufacturers are successfully competing with overseas suppliers. This 2012 text prompted a search to see what is happening today.

Leigh Spinners, once a cotton mill, operated by the family firm that built it, now focuses on making  carpets and synthetic turf. John Morrison, managing director explains:”About three years ago we decided to convert to tuft grass, artificial grass,” he explains. “We make 150,000 square metres a year. There is big demand, for school playing fields, and so on”. Its huge listed building is now underutilised and Leigh Building Preservation Trust is working with the Prince’s Trust and Leigh Spinners to restore the building for additional uses.

Lance Mitchell, of Mitchell Interflex in east Lancashire, makes cloth, furnishings, interlining and traditional narrow striped fabrics for deck chairs and might have further diversification in mind as he finds the ‘industrial side of fabrics’ fascinating: “Modern fibres are being developed all the time – McLaren cars are based on a woven product, and the next generation of aircraft, they say, will be woven”. This brings to mind the work done on hemp-based panels for the car industry (‘biocomposites’) piloted earlier at the University of Bangor.

S Dawes Weaving in Nelson makes ‘high end’ jacquard fabrics for the furnishing, upholstery, industrial and apparel markets (including organic cotton), as well as high-performance fabrics for the automotive and defence sectors. In 2015 Dawes upgraded its design capability with the purchase of the Ned Graphics software system along with new Jacquard looms. This was followed by further capital investment last year when they took delivery of a Karl Mayer GOM Sample Warping Machine. June 2017 saw another major investment: a new single end Jacquard machine – one of only 3 in Europe.  Their prices are similar to those of comparable material made in the Far East because of the difference in transportation costs and taxes. Dawes’ designer Joanna Brocklebank (above) oversees the designs for such clients as John Lewis and Laura Ashley.

Community Clothing is a manufacturers’ cooperative (workforce above). On top of intense competition from cheap labour markets one of the biggest challenges the UK factories face is the seasonality of demand. For several months of every year even the best factories are operating at well below full capacity. Community Clothing was founded in 2016 to address this exact issue. By utilising the spare capacity to make a range of stylish, great quality, British-made clothing, Community Clothing are able to create job opportunities and stability, filling British factories all year round.

David Collinge manages John Spencer Textiles, a family-owned company in Burnley, which had formerly specialised in shirt materials but had to find a new market. They began to make fabrics for the Ministry of Defence, for combat clothing, artillery uses and parachutes. They also developed their own brand in furnishings and home textiles. They are to invest £400,000 in new technology and equipment with the support of a £55,000 grant from the N Brown Textiles Growth Programme.

Bolton Textiles Group supplies contract furnishing fabrics and production and design services to retail, hotel, cruise ship, restaurant and bar operators The Bolton Textiles Group comprises four companies, Rufflette, Cliq Designs, Sinclaire and JH Cunliffe & Co, covering textiles, manufacturing, weaving, yarn processing and ‘cut, measure and trim’ services. The companies share two factory sites in historic converted mills in Bolton and Rochdale, producing curtains and curtain tapes, quilted and bedding products and fabric designs.

Lancashire Textiles persevered throughout the difficult times and continues to be a strong and successful business. Its workforce produces superior quality products manufactured in-house to British Standards 5335 1994, 5852 parts 1 and 2 and 7175. It has a vast range of online products and an experienced sales team. Its products range from quilts, pillows, cushions, mattress toppers, mattress protectors, duvet covers and other bed linen, to bath towels and made to measure items.

The latest news from the county is that the Lancashire Textiles Manufacturing Association ran its 7th Student Study Tour on 17th May this year.  The study tours give textile undergraduates from Manchester Metropolitan University an opportunity to see commercial textile production. They visited D H J Weisters in Darwen, which weaves quality fabrics, Blackburn Yarn Dyers (cotton and blended yarns) and John Spencer Textiles in Burnley where they saw a range of fabrics being produced, including curtaining, protective clothing, fashion  and industrial fabrics.

It is often recorded that investment in better machinery brings rewards and a fairly new development in the SME sector is the acquisition of software for a whole range of purposes from marketing management to stock control; Dawes installation of  NED Graphics is one example. Another company recently recommended OrderWise which automatically accounts for stock levels, forecasts demand, forwards orders, records minimum stock requirements and even emails, faxes or prints orders then sent directly to suppliers in their native currency.

27 textile companies in Lancashire have been supported by the N Brown Textiles Growth Programme delivered across the UK and funded by the Regional Growth Fund. Set up by the Manchester Growth Company for the Combined Authority in Greater Manchester and the Alliance Project, this programme has created or safeguarded 443 jobs in Lancashire and encouraged investment by these companies: with over £1.7m of government funding since 2014, the textile companies in Lancashire have invested almost £7m.

 

 

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Lambeth patients, doctors, nurses and local residents create food-growing NHS gardens

A food co-operative set up by a GP surgery is helping patients to grow food in Lambeth, one of London’s most deprived boroughs. Set up in 2013, the Lambeth GP Food Co-op includes patients, doctors, nurses and local residents who created a network of food-growing NHS gardens.

On 23 March, it launched a new venture with Stockwell GPs – building gardens at their surgeries. The initiative – inspired by the work of food co-ops across the UK and abroad – started at three GP practices, with initial funding of £160,000 from the clinical commissioning group and Lambeth Council.

As part of the project, 11 GP surgeries across the borough have turned unused outdoor space into gardens where patients can grow fruit and vegetables. The produce is sold in King’s College Hospital via a market stall, a joint venture with Medirest, the hospital’s catering supplier.

Preparing the raised grow-boxes used for growing food near Lambeth surgeries. Read more here.

As well as helping patients with long-term health conditions, the co-op aims to influence food procurement within the NHS, serving both an economic and a therapeutic purpose. Its long-term aim is to encourage NHS hospitals to buy locally sourced food by drawing on community capacity to grow food in an urban environment, engaging patients in the management of the co-op. The patient group makes decisions on what is planted, what happens to the produce, when meetings are held and whether they should get involved in other food-growing activities.

The benefits of gardens and gardening on health are highlighted in a report by the King’s Fund. These include reductions in depression and anxiety, improved social functioning and wider effects, including opportunities for vocational development.

 

 

 

 

SciDev, Positive News and a Palestine Polytechnic bring good news

hebron7In 2009 Israeli physicists Elad Orian and Noam Dotan (below) set up an Israeli group Community Electricity and Technology Middle East (COMET-ME which became an Israeli-Palestinian NGO). It was initially set up to help people to make their own renewable power, funded in large part by the German foreign ministry.

The Palestinians living in this part of the West Bank are mainly off-grid and either have no electricity at all, or use expensive diesel generators if they can afford them. Area C, which spans two-thirds of the West Bank and is under Israeli control, is home to 300,000 Palestinians. For villages in the mountains of South Hebron — often no more than a few households living in caves in the hillside — Palestinians living in this part of the West Bank are mainly off-grid and either have no access to basic services is a daily struggle. According to Israeli-Palestinian NGO Comet-ME, the Israeli authorities refuse to provide energy to Palestinians as part of a systematic campaign to push them off their lands, into Areas A and B. But these arid, windswept lands are perfectly suited to solar and wind energy

As work proceeded, from 2012 onwards, several disturbing reports came of threats to this work. The following paragraph is typical of such reports.

2013 HEBRON (Ma’an) — Israeli forces on Sunday demanded Palestinians remove 10 solar panels from their rooftops in the Yatta region south of Hebron, a local group said. The team often had to erect turbines at night to avoid confrontation with the Israeli authorities who previously halted installations.

An escalation from state threats in 2014 was widely reported: settlers destroyed solar panels and olive trees in the West Bank on Thursday, local news agencies reported. A group of settlers from the illegal outpost of Mitzpe Yair attacked and smashed solar panels belonging to a Palestinian community in the south Hebron hills, locals told Ma’an news agency.

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An off-grid solar system in Sha’eb el Buttom, a village in the South Hebron hills. In the background is an illegal Israeli settlement that Israel has fully connected to the grid. 

Positive News and SciDev report that, more recently, persistence appears to have won the day, bringing renewable energy to around 2,000 people in 24 villages in the southern West Bank. In 2015 Comet-Me summarised a few years’ work with people in South Mount Hebron to set up small-scale renewable energy systems based on these technologies. These have improved lives and livelihoods by providing clean energy for refrigeration, cooking, making butter and cheese, and communications.

hebron-2Hajeh Nuzha pours milk into a new butter churner, powered by renewable energy. Electric churners slash the time it takes women to make butter and cheese — one of the staple livelihoods here.

Many of the villagers in the Mount Hebron hills live in caves such as this one in Tuba. Family incomes have grown by as much as 70% since the electric goods were introduced.

hebron-3Women also use renewable energy to run laundry machines, such as this one in a home in Sha’eb el Buttom. Electricity has “revolutionised the lives of women”, Orian says, because they tend to do household tasks and take care of butter and cheese production.

As many Palestinians in Mount Hebron had to rely on rainwater harvesting, Comet-ME has built clean water systems for the communities — 70% of whom, the UN reports, are not connected to the water network. In some villages, people use as little as a fifth of the World Health Organisation’s recommended level. Because this often fails to meet their needs, families have paid high prices for extra water brought in by tanker. To reduce this burden, Comet-ME supplies equipment to improve access to clean water. Here the team are installing meters to monitor water use for new water systems.

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A pump and priming tank on top of a cistern in which rainwater is stored. Pipes carry water from the cistern to homes, where taps are installed. Before reaching the tanks, the water goes through particle filters to clean it. The new systems mean that children no longer have to carry heavy loads of water to their homes.

In July 16 the Palestine Energy Ministry granted licensing and permits for its first large-scale solar power plant near the city of Hebron, according to the two companies involved in the development. To develop the 5.7MW PV project, US-owned, Holland-based solar power firm Gigawatt Global formed a joint venture with Jordan and Palestine-based energy engineering and technology solutions company Rack Tech. As reported by Saur Energy International, Fadi Bkirat, Rack Tech founder and CEO said, “This project really is very important at this time because of the shortage of electricity in the vicinity. Also it will be a good way for employment for the Palestinian engineers. It will be very good for the country.”

An MRES course is now being offered at Palestine Polytechnic University in Hebron. The Master of Science in Renewable Energy & Sustainability is a project of eight universities, three from European countries & five from Mediterranean countries, with financial support from the European Union (EU) under the umbrella of TEMPUS projects. It aims to establish a program that will effectively utilize the renewable energy resources and help to support the sustainability of these sources and local environment. 

 

 

 

 

Germany’s people-powered energy and American micro-grids

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Source (2013): https://ilsr.org/germanys-63000-megawatts-renewable-energy-locally-owned/

A 2015 National Geographic article with the most remarkable photographs: Germany Could Be a Model for How We’ll Get Power in the Future … led to the ISLR article written earlier this month.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ISLR) informs readers that its mission is to provide innovative strategies, working models and timely information to support environmentally sound and equitable community development. To this end, ILSR works with citizens, activists, policymakers and entrepreneurs to design systems, policies and enterprises that meet local or regional needs; to maximize human, material, natural and financial resources; and to ensure that the benefits of these systems and resources accrue to all local citizens.

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Instead of expanding or connecting to the national energy grid, some companies, municipalities, and individuals are creating miniature grids of their own that can operate independently – “microgrids” – providing options for groups that want lower energy bills, more control over where their energy comes from, or a level of reliability that the grid cannot provide.

The costs are high and they are economically viable for only a limited set of situations. As Karlee Weinmann, ISLR Energy Democracy Initiative Research Associate pointed out, however, the cost of new technology invariably falls as it is adopted: “The cost of materials, installation, and maintenance for the components that make up a microgrid are going down, so the value proposition for a microgrid increases in turn. The general viability of microgrid projects is also reinforced through replication, like anything else, so the more that various stakeholders test the technology, prove its value, and improve upon it, the easier it is to justify buying in . . . As we see it, the future of the grid will be far more decentralized than the system we have now. Rather than paying a far off utility for electricity, which in many cases comes from problematic, dirty sources, customers’ money can stay closer to home.”

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Hurricane Sandy, which cut power to 8.5 million people, one million of whom went without power for a week, was cited by the ILSR report Mighty Microgrids as one of the key motivators of regional investment in microgrids. While up to 60% of backup diesel generators failed in medical centers and other essential facilities, Princeton University’s 20 MW microgrid kept the campus operational in island mode for three days while a connection to the grid was being restored.…

Regulations governing interconnection processes can also hinder microgrid adoption, particularly because these regulations vary from state to state. Opposition from utility companies is often a factor that makes the regulatory environment hostile or resistant to positive change. In an ideal world, a national standard would be adopted.

Richardson concludes: “Perhaps in the future, microgrids will be a common feature of communities . . . connected by the larger grid and selling electricity to each other as necessary. For now, they represent a useful tool for businesses and communities that need reliability that the grid can’t offer or that can leverage scale to reduce energy costs”.

 

 

 

Corbyn’s environment and energy plan

Corbyn has launched an environmental manifesto that outlines his plans for the UK to achieve 65% of energy from renewable sources by 2030 – without fracking.

corbyn-eee-manifestoHe undertakes to use the precautionary principle to protect the environment and people from harm – not a pay-to-pollute approach allowing the richest corporations and individuals to wreck our planet.

Jeremy Corbyn plans to put cities, councils, devolved governments and communities at the heart of an efficient decentralised energy system with:  

  • a shift to largely renewably generated electricity and hydrogen powered buses and cars;
  • a network of low-emission zones;
  • cycling on safe cycle lanes and hire schemes in every town and city;
  • more nature corridors created to connect protected nature sites, providing pathways for wildlife such as bats and butterflies and
  • a ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides which harm pollinating insects including bees and encourage bee-friendly plants in our parks, urban spaces and countryside.

Jeremy Corbyn also encourages the British public to take action as individuals to help to meet the Paris climate agreement.

A “publicly run, locally accountable energy system”.

He has promised to promote over a thousand local energy companies in the next parliament and legislate to give community energy co-operatives the right to sell energy directly to the communities they serve.

Launching the report in Nottingham, the Labour leader said, “We want Britain to be the world’s leading producer of renewable technology. To achieve this, we will accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy, and drive the expansion of the green industries and jobs of the future, using our National Investment Bank to invest in public and community-owned renewable energy. This will deliver clean energy and curb energy bill rises for households; an energy policy for the 60 million, not the Big 6 energy companies.”

It would launch a National Home Insulation plan to insulate at least 4 million homes and phase out coal-fired power by 2025. The Labour leader estimates over 300,000 jobs would be created in the renewables sector as a result of these measures.

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At the event in Nottingham, Jeremy Corbyn said that Labour would reinstate the department for energy and climate change in its first month of government, as part of its plan to rebuild and transform Britain, “so that no-one and no community is left behind”.