Local Group of Friends of the Earth 

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Community Action against Non-Native Invasive Species (NNIS) in Surrey

One of the biggest threats to our native wildlife is the presence of non-native species that have the potential to spread rapidly and out-compete native plants. Non-native Invasives such as Himalayan Balsam, Japanese Knotweed and Signal Crayfish also cost the UK an estimated £1.7 billion annually, through impacts such as damage to river banks and the cost of removal.
Community groups and voluntary organisations have a vital role to play in tackling NNIS. The Government has recently announced the roll out of the Catchment-based Approach to the management of rivers and wetlands, with a core principle of involving local communities in making decisions and taking action.
Following on from last year’s Invasive Species week, this summer Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) are again working with partners at a series of sites to tackle invasive species and give more people the chance to be involved and take positive action to protect native wildlife. This year we are also helping to promote and co-ordinate action that other organisations in the Wey and Mole Catchment Partnerships are taking to control NNIS

Check out the list of local sites including the River Wey, Unstead & Godalming, Farnham Park and the White Rose Lane Reserve in Woking



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Waverley’s Core Strategy

Kathy Smyth from GWWFoE was asked to discuss the planning implications of the recent Government Inspectors hearing and report into issues with Waverley Borough Council’s Core Strategy.
A transcript of Kathy and Bryn Morgan’s (Waverley Borough Council Planning Portfolio holder) comments can be found here: BBC Radio Surrey transcript.
You can listen to the interview below:

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Eashing Farm – proposal for 7MW solar farm on agricultural land close to Milford

19 May 2013

Thanks to local group member Patrick Haveron for alerting us to this proposal for a massive solar farm at Eashing.

The so called ‘consultation’ was probably the poorest consultation for a major planning application that I have attended in recent years.

The publicity was appalling (it was only thanks to twitter that Patrick heard about it on the  day thanks to an alert local resident).
It took place at Shackleford – so the other side of the A3 in a village some miles from the actual site which is just outside Milford.
There were no handouts or information to take away.
Some of the information on the boards was contradictory and confusing – particularly the references to the quality of the agricultural land and what it is currently being used for.

I asked if there were plans to do another consultation event nearer Milford.  The response was swift and curt ‘No, and we didn’t have to do this one’.   What a nice chap!  I’m sure the only reason they did this one is so that they can tick a box on the planning application and tell Guildford BC they have done it and write a report on the feedback from their “community consultation” which managed to consult the wrong community!

There are no proposals for any community benefit and there are certainly no proposals for community ownership (I asked).  According to the developers,  community ownership doesn’t work as you can’t expect individual people from the community to invest £10k in energy projects like this  with a total cost of £7-8million.  I wonder how hard they really tried.  A developer could certainly raise considerable sums for investment in this area of Surrey if it had the right attitude and it genuinely wanted to share ownership.  Clearly these developers haven’t heard of our local co-op Wey Valley Solar Schools which raised over £700k in six weeks in 2011 with individual investors subscribing sums between a few hundred pounds up to the maximum  allowed which was £20,000.  Nationally there are much larger members co-ops under the  Energy4All umbrella.  And finally, what about Westmill Solar?  That raised millions in the space of a few weeks. Mind you, having met the developer at the consultation whether anybody in this community would actually want to work with this bunch is another matter.

So for those of you that missed it (most of you) here is the developer’s presentation

Eashing Solar Farm Proposal Site Description and Location  and Eashing Solar Farm Proposal Planning, Principle and Traffic and finally Eashing Solar Farm Proposal – Site Masterplan and Next Steps.

Kathy Smyth
Planning Spokesperson


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Waverley Local Plan runs into trouble with Government Inspector

19 March 2012

Oh dear! We always thought that the emerging local planning policy for Waverley, the Core Strategy, was going to struggle to get through its examination by a government appointed planning inspector but it looks like it could be even worse than we expected. It has just emerged that Waverley has been in difficult exchanges with the appointed Inspector, Mr Hethrington, since 20 February but these exchanges have only just been made public – see Waverley’s site here.

There are two levels of difficulty a local plan can run into. The lesser level is that it is deemed not be “sound” when submitted to an Inspector but with extra work by the local authority it is capable of being made sound. That will usually require a long suspension period of between 6 to 9 months for the extra work to be carried out. That is what has happened recently to East Hampshire District Council. That is what I always thought would happen in Waverley’s case as I could never see the local plan being found sound without a lot of extra work.

Even more serious is when an Inspector thinks the core strategy is so flawed that it cannot be salvaged and will need to be withdrawn completely. In these circumstances the local authority will probably have to start again and go back to square one. Obviously this is a very serious prospect indeed for any local authority and not something any Inspector will do unless he or she has no choice. However in his note of 20 February the Inspector sent Waverley a clear signal that he is actively considering requiring the plan to be withdrawn. There seem to be two main reasons for this. The first is that the Inspector is seriously concerned that the Duty to Co-operate (with adjoining authorities) has not been complied with. As he says in the note, if he reaches that view he has no option but to recommend non-adoption. The other area of major concern for the Inspector is Waverley’s housing evidence base. This does not come as a big surprise because Waverley’s evidence base for housing numbers is very old, between 7-10 years, and so out of date that it does not comply with national planning policy. The Inspector is clearly very concerned at the inadequacy of the housing evidence base and it is another defect which he thinks is potentially so serious that it could bring the plan down altogether. He has therefore decided to have full hearings on these two issues ahead of considering any other matters because if he decides the problems in either area are so serious that they cannot be rectified then he has to fail Waverley’s core strategy and there is no point even considering all the other issues.

Kathy Smyth, Planning Spokesperson

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Upper Tuesley development – a benchmark for unsustainable development

8 February 2013

If you want an example of why brownfield first as a planning policy doesn’t always work, look no further than the proposed development for  104 new houses on the redundant land surrounding the (still open) Milford Hospital just south of Godalming.   40% of this housing is to be affordable housing.

The hospital was originally a sanatorium so it was built in a relatively isolated area.   The road access has always been difficult, but it didn’t used to matter when it first opened because the nurses lived on site and the TB patients did not have many visitors.

One way to measure the environnmental sustainabilty of a site is by looking at its existing and proposed transport infrastructure.  Distance to a public transport is a key issue.  In the case of Upper Tuesley the railway line is quite close and the route recommended by the developer will be via a public foothway and cycleway.  However not everybody can afford to use a train and an elderly person’s free bus pass isn’t much use on a train!  So access to a good bus network is still important.

There are no regular buses serving this site – there are just two buses a week.  The developer, the Homes and Communities Agency (a government orgnanisation) and Waverley Borough Council have been claiming for the last 18 months that there bus stops a 10 minute walk away.   Given the ground conditions it is hard to believe they are serious – either that or they have never walked it for themselves.  So to help them we did it for them in early December and and made a short film (under 5 mins, below) which helps to explain why we think it is is both duplicitous and ludicrous to rely on this footpath to claim this site is a 10 minute walk from the bus stops on Portsmouth Road:

This photo shows the ground conditions in the area near the River Ock – and it was actually taken last year during the drought and you still needed wellington boots to get across this section without getting your feet wet!

Ground conditions on public footpath Spring 2012

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Supermarkets. How much do they really care about the impact of their products on bees – here’s what they told us……

4 January 2013

With DEFRA still sitting on the fence while it waits for  the results of further research on the impacts of neonicotinoids on both bumble bees and honey bees,  we thought we would see if any of the major supermarkets are taking an interest in the subject and are doing anything to address the ‘bee problem’.  After all, if food production is hit because insect pollination fails, it will be their profits that suffer.

So, in August 2012 we contacted 4 major supermarket chains (Asda, Waitrose, Sainsbury and Tesco) and asked them all the same question which was:

A campaign is raising awareness of Neonicotinoid-based pesticides, which are harmful to the bee population. I wondered if any of your own brand cereal/bread products etc are farmed using pesticides, and if so, whether they are they contain Neonicotinoids?

In no particular order the responses were

Supermarket Number 1

“Our Pesticide Policy encourages our suppliers to minimise their use of pesticides and employ Integrated Crop Management. Our policy gives clear guidance as to the most appropriate choice of plant protection products for use on crops grown for us to promote protection of both wildlife and the environment.

Whilst there have been studies that show adverse effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on bees, none of these have been replicated in field scale trials and the UK government have not placed any restrictions on their use over and above those already required under legislation.  Therefore our stance is to keep a watching brief on any new research and follow government guidelines accordingly.”

Supermarket Number 2

“ I can totally understand your concerns. We are a major food distributor and therefore we have a large supply base.  I can confirm that our own brand products in this area are supplied by a company who don’t use any neonicotinoids.”

Supermarket Number 3

“Our ‘Nurture’ farm assurance scheme aims to deliver world-class quality fruit and vegetables for our customers.   The scheme assures our customers that we know who grows our fruit and vegetables, that they are produced in a way that isn’t harmful to the environment and includes the sustainable management of natural resources.

As part of these standards, we screen every pesticide before it is allowed on our products, assessing the pesticide against legal compliance, worker welfare, environmental damage and bee health.  We are one of the only major retailers to ask for extra controls on pesticides that may have an adverse effect on local bee populations.  The pesticides used on our own brand produce are controlled by the Global Gap farm assurance schemes.

We are aware of recent reports that suggest that neonicotinoids may have an adverse effect on bee health, and the majority of our seed treatments do not use neonicotinoids.  We have already been in dialogue with Defra on this issue, and we will continue to monitor and be guided by the latest scientific research on neonicotinoids.”

Supermarket Number 4

“ The use of pesticides is strictly regulated in the UK & Europe with legal approvals for individual crop types and specific uses. These approvals are based on human safety & environmental impact assessments, including the impact on bees and other beneficial insects.

In the UK only a few of the chemicals in the neonicotinoid family have approval for use on cereals and then only as seed treatments. This means they can only be applied to the seed prior to planting out and no further applications are permitted in the field.

We have recognised the huge importance of protecting and promoting bee populations and we are taking proactive steps in developing the understanding of this complex issue.  For the past three years we have been supporting the University of Sussex in a long-term programme to understand bee behaviour and identifying measures to improve bee health.  We are also engaged in a number of other research projects looking at the wider issue of pollinators and biodiversity.

In parallel with our own funded research, we are monitoring closely the studies by various Government and non Governmental organisations internationally, including Friends of the Earth, which are looking at the wider environmental impact assessment of pesticides, the impact of neonicotinoids specifically and better understanding bee health in general.”

Now we would like you to guess which supermarket said what – without resorting to google!  We tried this at a local group meeting and so far nobody has got them all right!  We will publish the answers in the next newsletter, if not before.

Rob Palgrave and Fran Hutchinson


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