Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Provision of environmental information and for public participation all too often late, inadequate, ineffective

No comments:
For someone who often professes firm belief in public participation the response of Lib Dem Cllr Jon Rogers to my recent question to the Bristol City Council Cabinet is utterly dismissive eg zero response is given to my question on what actions he proposes and when, even though there is acknowledgement that full compliance with the convention/directives is not currently being achieved...

QUESTION A 6 - Questions from Glenn Vowles

Public participation and environmental information

During 1998 the UN Economic Commission for Europe prepared a Convention on Access
to Information, Public Participation in Decision Making and Access to Justice in
Environmental Matters (The Aarhus Convention). In 2003 the European Commission
developed two Directives to implement the provisions of the Aarhus Convention. Article 6.2
of the convention states, ‘The public shall be informed, either by public notice or
individually as appropriate, early in an environmental decision-making procedure, and in
an adequate, timely and effective manner, inter alia, of…the fact that the activity is subject
to…environmental impact procedure.’ (UNECE, 1998).

Q. Is the member completely satisfied that all significant developments in Bristol, such
as the South Bristol Link or the many proposals for dealing with waste or for energy
generation in Avonmouth, like the biofuel power station, or Bus Rapid Transit plans
or developments on green belt land such as the BCFC stadium…involve provision
of environmental information and for public participation that is in full accord with the
Aarhus Convention and associated EU Directives ie that it is early, adequate,
timely and effective? If not satisfied, what actions does he propose and when?

A. I am satisfied that the council is endeavouring to meet these obligations fully
when progressing its major schemes.

Waffle, banal generalities and avoidance in answer to specific questions

No comments:
Received this inadequate response to specific questions about making the meaning of sustainable economic growth explicit in key council documents. The answer is waffle which repeats the error of not spelling out exactly what is meant by sustainable economic growth, instead talking in rather banal and and over-used generalities. Once again I've been pawned off with one response to several questions - they dont want to respond to specifics.

QUESTION A 5 - Questions from Glenn Vowles

Sustainability - Core Strategy

Q. The current draft version of the recently developed BDF Core Strategy contains this
statement, ‘ambitious and sustainable economic growth…maintaining the economic growth of Bristol above the regional and national level…’

1. Would the member recognise that this statement requires very heavy qualification to
make it remotely logical or possible on into the future given environmental, social
and indeed economic realities?

2. Would he agree with me that this statement should be qualified using the
concepts: efficiency; environmental limits; renewability; both local and global justice,
now and on into the future; health, wellbeing and quality of life, given that these are
the key features of development that makes it sustainable?

3. Would he agree with me that unless we make full and proper use of the term
sustainable in key documents, especially when paired with economic growth, the
way is open for ‘business as usual’ developments which will maintain or worsen
environmental and social sustainability here and around the globe?

A. The Core Strategy contains 11 Objectives to deliver the Council's spatial vision
for Bristol in 2026. The statement identified in the question is taken from Objective 3
of the Core Strategy. The first of these objectives is 'Ensuring a sustainable future
for Bristol'. The objectives, and the policies of the Core Strategy, are designed to
work together to bring the spatial vision into reality.

Sustainable development encompasses the community's social, economic and
environmental well being. The Core Strategy is right to aim for ambitious and
sustainable economic growth which will provide jobs and opportunity for our
residents. The Core Strategy is also right to promote health and well-being and to
make Bristol a leader in mitigating and adapting to climate change, implementing
low-carbon approaches to development.

The Core Strategy sets out bold aspirations for the city and will be a key driver of
sustainable development. Its policies will deliver flexible and adaptable new
buildings and a pattern of development which makes efficient use of resources. It
will also help to facilitate the growth and development of Bristol's diverse economic
sectors, including the new environmental technology sectors which will be at the
heart of tomorrow's economy.

This is not business as usual. The Core Strategy is a positive response to local and
global issues which will help bring about beneficial change.

Newquay Rd playing fields...latest

No comments:
Reporting back on submitting my e-petition on Saving Newquay Rd Playing Fields to the December BCC Cabinet meeting along with the question shown below. Whilst I welcome the recognition of the value of the open space I note that future plans for developing on them are not ruled out - and I dont welcome the amalgamation of the primary schools or the continued uncertainty surrounding what may happen as a result.

QUESTION A 1 Question from Glenn Vowles

Ilminster Avenue and Connaught Primary Schools / Newquay Road green space

What is the latest information on the [formerly?] proposed merger of Ilminster Ave and
Connaught Primary schools and what is the future of the associated playing fields/green
space off Newquay Rd given regeneration planning for the area?

On the 25th September 2008, Cabinet (CAB 21.9/08) approved a number of
recommendations concerning primary school provision within Bristol. Within the Extended
School Partnership (ESP) area S2, the amalgamation of Connaught Primary School and
Illminster Avenue Primary School in Phase 2 at two forms of entry was approved as a
Phase 2 project (2010-2013). The project was to be referred to the Knowle West
regeneration group to confirm preferred location and the impact on the wider regeneration

A report has been commissioned from Cambridge Education Ltd to explore the options
available in light of the Knowle West regeneration consultation proposals. We are still
awaiting the report. Any possible merger of the Ilminster Avenue and Connaught primary
schools has been deferred pending the review by the specialist consultant. The
educational and developmental needs of local children will be paramount when it comes to
making a decision.

The Council have no plans to dispose of, or develop upon, the Newquay Rd playing fields
or adjacent children's playground. This open space is a valuable facility providing for play
and recreation for local people.

The 'Knowle West' area of South Bristol, in which these facilities are located, is expected
to benefit from substantial regeneration investment in future years as a result of the
'Knowle West Regeneration Framework' which is being put together with the help of local
people. This investment will improve local facilities and opportunities.

Update on Sustainable Communities Act proposals made

1 comment:
I submitted a long list of suggestions to Bristol City Council's Sustainable Communities Act process (see here and here). Two proposals, one joint (on waste reduction) and one individual (on biodiversity/eco-footprinting in planning), have got through for consideration by the Secretary of State according to the email, below, I received today:

Dear Ms White and Mr Vowles,

Just a quick update to say that the LGA Selector Panel have now met and agreed the final shortlist for submission to the Secretary of State. I'm pleased to say seven of Bristol's eight suggestions have made it through, including both of your shortlisted suggestions as highlighted below.

I do not yet know why there has been a change in decision regarding biodiversity data suggestion, but it is recorded as going through to the Secretary of State, which is excellent.

For further information, please see our updated webpage

The LGA have advised they will be in contact in the New Year to advise on the next steps, so once I know more I will let you know.

Kind regards,

Deborah Kinghorn
Policy Officer
Bristol City Council
Deputy Chief Executive's department
Room 404
Council House
College Green

Biofuel power station impacts 'not significant' say council

Very recent email sent to city council planners (*below). Apparently the biofuel power station planned for Avonmouth is considered too small at 50MW to make providing an environmental impact statement mandatory (it would need to be 300MW or more for this). A statement could still be prepared as the power station plan falls into the optional category but city planners dont think its impacts are 'significant' enough to make a statement a requirement - such is the state of environmental regulation at present!

*Many thanks for your reply and attached document received before Christmas.
I'm both surprised and rather shocked that a city with green ambitions is
saying that an Environmental Impact Statement is not required in this
instance. It appears you have concluded that there can be no significant
impacts. In my personal and professional view this cannot be right. The
city should be insisting that all power station developments add to
efficiency, renewability, health and wellbeing and stay within
environmental limits - if it is to live up to its ambitions.

Leaving aside the enormously significant fact that you dont take a whole
system view (eg not considering the total impacts of obtaining the fuels
to be burned...) surely the impact on local air quality is significant in
a crucial sense. Air quality in Avonmouth is already poor and many other
developments in Avonmouth are underway or in the pipeline, therefore if
this biofuel power station cannot meet the very strictest emission to air
standards (which current figures suggest it cannot) then its operation
would worsen air quality still further.

It may well be that the Environment Agency would not give the station a
license to operate due to its air pollution. Could you please take what
I've said fully into account and check with your contacts at Natural
England and the Environment Agency (I'd appreciate it if you could give me
the direct contact details for both these organisations so that I too can
discuss the issue with them).

I'd also appreciate an update on when/where the plans will go to the
planning committee when you have such information.