2 June 2012

Whatever you think of the jubilee celebrations and monarchy, joy or hostility or indifference, one excellence has come from it. The Woodland Trust has masterminded the creation of new woods throughout Britain. Yes, there are sixty of them; yes, they are called jubilee woods; but my attitude in these circumstances is Lydgate’s towards incantations. The sixty are the noted ones and all over the country trees are planting, many by schools.  We are scattering woods across the country.

Look at this page for what is happening in Cornwall.  Put in your postcode or location and celebrate the wooding of Cornwall and Britain. Perhaps add a tree of your own. Just don’t tell the sell-off-the-forest government.


Lydgate and incantations: George ELIOT,  Middlemarch,  Chapter 17

Like more than half a million others I signed the petition against the Tory Libdem proposals to dispose of the national forest in England. I was against the proposals and I also thought the consultation was seriously flawed: it did not ask whether one was for or against but drew one into supporting the disposal by inviting one to choose between various options in making it. All the Cornwall MPs voted against (see item 20) the Labour motion calling for a rethink of the disposal plans – except Stephen Gilbert who voted for and against which means an abstention.

When the government, in the face of widespread opposition from all sorts of people, sensibly called off the flawed consultation and abandoned its current proposals, Andrew George (Libdem MP, St Ives) extraordinarily said on 17 February 2011 that the consultation should have “run its course” and “having commenced the consultation, the prime minister should have allowed it to have been brought to a conclusion”.

The Tory Libdem government in its disposal plans was building on the work of its Labour predecessor.

Here in the deposited papers of the House of Commons library is a list of woods in Cornwall sold by the forestry commission since 1 January 1997: look at the file DEP 2011-0200 of 3 February 2011.

The lists shows that in Cornwall 41 hectares were sold in 1997; 91.74 hectares in 1998; 21 hectares on 20 July 2007; and 31 hectares on 2 February 2010. That’s a total of 184.74 hectares, about 456 acres, in Cornwall, mostly, perhaps entirely depending on the date of the 1997 sales, under Labour.

Pots and kettles, I think.


17 November 2009

Update 17 November 2009

Cornwall council has put out a media statement about waste disposal in Cornwall, Integrated waste management contract statement. It sets out the current position and does not mention EU taxes. A public inquiry looms about the St Dennis proposals and the future is very unclear and looks to be costly whatever happens.

Original post 30 March 2009

The argument about whether to build an incinerator in Cornwall for our rubbish has been settled, at least temporarily: the county council planning committee voted against on 26 March. What happens now is much more problematical as EU landfill taxes loom and there appears to be no ready-to-go alternative to an incinerator or landfill and the company may appeal against the decision to reject the incinerator.

Amid the celebrations and gloom of the decision Matthew Taylor, Libdem MP for Truro and St Austell, which includes the area earmarked for the incinerator, said the decision to reject the incinerator proposal showed that “Liberal Democrats are all about listening and democracy…”


“All about listening and democracy” is a leaping generalisation too far: mia gar chelidon ear ou poiei.

As I argued in several posts here in 2007 and 2008 the Libdem-controlled Cornwall county council foisted the unitary council on us without engaging the people of Cornwall in full and open debate; refused to poll the voters of the whole county about it; was casually dismissive of the district polls that showed people didn’t want the particular unitary scheme; and obviously believed people in Cornwall shouldn’t be allowed to decide about their own local government. In short, in my view, about the unitary proposals over several months it was neither listening nor liberal nor democratic.

And now, we are assured, Libdems here are the party that listens and chooses the democratic approach.

Yeah, right.

(And let me degeneralise and say that some Libdems in Cornwall did oppose the unitary and bulldozer approach to local government change.)


mia gar chelidon ear ou poiei (one swallow does not make a spring): Aristotle Nichomachean ethics
I cannot write Greek characters in the blog.


15 October 2009

The third debate this year in the House of Commons on water and sewerage bills in the south west: in May a Tory MP initiated one, in June a Labour MP, and now a Libdem. You can read the latest debate at Hansard 12 October 2009 column 135.

Anna Walker’s interim report, the Independent reveiw for charging for household water and sewerage services, was published in June. The report discusses intelligently the question of the bills in the southwest and explains there are three options for payment: by the local water customer as at present, by the national water customer, or by the national taxpayer. The Walker review is considering these and will plump for one in the final report this autumn.

The report is firm that water charges should “continue to regionally based” (paragraph 3.6.1). However, in paragraphs 3.3.1-3.3.18 there is an interesting exploration of the arguments for and against nationalising the environmental part of the bills. This is the aspect that the latest Commons debate focused on; no one is suggesting that the whole of the water and sewerage bills should be equalised across England. We are all aware of the argument that southwest customers are paying for an environmental clean up which benefits the many visitors, that people in the southwest are relatively few and the southwest coastline long, and it would be fairer if those costs were shared out nationally. However, there are difficulties in moving to any national payment scheme such as what counts as an environmental aspect to be nationally charged, some environmental benefits are basically private benefits (tourism benefits from clean sea water and beaches), some environmental improvements benefit locals, and nationalising aspects of costs and bills might reduce the pressure on regional water companies to drive down their costs. MPs from other parts of England have also expressed their financially hard-pressed constituents’ concerns about taking on part of southwest bills (Hansard column 140).

If we did go to a national scheme for the environmental components it would include other environmental improvements outside the southwest such as the Thames Tideway. Water customers or taxpayers in the southwest would pay a share of those; but I do not expect our local MPs to dwell on that aspect.

In fact the report says that the nett benefit of a shift to a national payment scheme for environmental components would be “limited” (3.6.2), though I think in the southwest any reduction would be welcome. That wording makes it difficult to see the final report recommending such a shift.

There are of course other important aspects of water services that the Walker report looks at: affordability and availability, for example.

This is a complex issue with no easy solution, economically or politically, in 2009. Note that it is being discussed and settled outside the ambit of Cornish nationalism because it does not readily fit the nationalist agenda: the issue is about the southwest not just Cornwall, and indeed about water and sewerage in England as a whole; simultaneously claiming autonomy and a national subsidy for a service lacks credibility; and the arguments about what is a fair solution are as much technical as philosophical or political. It is an issue which reasonably exercises many people in Cornwall and tellingly there is no relevant specific nationalist argument to make.

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23 March 2007

Cars used to be the chief villain of the environmental religion; now it’s planes. The Independent for 17 March 2007 had an article, ‘The battle of Newquay’ by Jonathan Brown and Ian Herbert, which reported an argument by some greens that BA should not go ahead with its daily return air service between London Gatwick and Newquay, due to begin on 20 March, because there is already a London Stansted/Newquay service and that trains and cars are less polluting and the price is similar enough for all three.

I don’t see this persuading many people. The air journey is faster, even adding on the time getting from the airport into London, and physically and emotionally pleasanter, much less of a strain. I’d like to see Newquay airport develop with more flights not fewer as this airport helps the Cornwall economy and thus people in Cornwall.

However, as Greenpeace offered to exchange air tickets for the Newquay flights for train tickets, we can see, can’t we, how green people are. The Western Morning News reported on 21 March that when the first flight took off from Newquay nobody took up the offer. It didn’t help that first one would have to catch a bus from Newquay to Par as the train line was out of action at present for engineering work.

On 17 March, too, there was a positive article in the Guardian, ‘£25 fridge gadget that could slash greenhouse emissions ‘ by David Adam. This is about a black wax device that reacts to the temperature of the food not the air in the fridge and thus the fridge uses less energy. If it was fitted to all fridges and freezers in Britain it could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by two million tonnes a year.

Now this I do see people and manufacturers taking up.

It seems to me that people are willing to be green, to cut back on damage to the Earth, but to an extent. It is going to be hard to persuade people, including me, to adopt less polluting forms of travel – and there’s a dispute about which pollutes more and less per head – and only hefty financial penalties and incentives are likely to persuade. But things like the black wax, and energy-saving light bulbs, are more accessible and less costly of time and money and comfort and thus more likely to be taken up.