Local Nature Partnerships to be Included in The Duty to Cooperate

From the gov response to the Natural Environment White Paper DEFRA Select Committee report published today

Now that many Local Nature Partnerships (LNPs) have been designated, the Government will amend the regulations governing the preparation of local plans, making LNPs a prescribed body under the duty to cooperate. This means that bodies bound by the duty will have to have regard to the views of LNPs on strategic planning matters, further reinforcing the Government’s commitment to ensure that environmental issues are properly considered through the plan making process.

Osbornes’ latest Crazed Anti Green Rant -NGOs are ‘Environmental Taliban’


George Osborne has begun describing the green lobby as the “environmental Taliban”, it has been reported.


The joking reference reflects the Chancellor’s position as the Treasury fights to water down renewable energy commitments in the Coalition’s Energy Bill, according to a newspaper.



It comes after the Government’s quad of top decision makers – Osborne, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander – met yesterday to thrash out details of the legislation with Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey. The bill is expected to be published within weeks.



Mr Davey is said to be pushing for a legally binding commitment to the total amount of carbon that can be emitted by power stations by 2030, in order to “bind in” the Government to renewable energy.



The Liberal Democrat minister has also been arguing that the Treasury should guarantee loans that energy companies will need to invest in new renewable and nuclear power stations.


However, Mr Osborne and the Treasury have been opposing both measures, reflecting the Chancellor’s growing scepticism about the need to take immediate action to “de-carbonise” the economy during a recession, senior Conservative sources told The Independent.

One MP said: “It was fine to be talking about spending money on climate change in the good times but when energy bills are going up it doesn’t seem like good politics.”

Another source said: “George has started referring to the green lobby in Government and Tory party as the environmental Taliban. It’s meant as a joke but it shows where he’s coming from.”

The Chancellor is also said to be pushing for a new “levy control framework” which would effectively put a cap on the total subsidy from taxpayers and energy customers going towards green power.

It is a move that would allow Mr Osborne to claim that he was helping to keep energy bills down, although critics believe it would result in a “dash for gas” and, in the long term, less green energy.

Yesterday’s meeting was understood to be inconclusive, with a source close to Mr Davey telling the newspaper that discussions were still ongoing.

Liberal Democrats are keen to be seen as holding their ground on environmental policy after Greenpeace targeted their party conference warnign them “not to let Osborne kill green growth”.

Owen Patterson Bans Ecosystem Services


he is said to have forbidden Defra officials from using the phrase “ecosystem services”, a jargon phrase for the benefits bestowed by the natural world.

So what phrase do we use?  Im all for plain English providing it is done from a position of lucidity and clarity not prejudice and ignorance.

Will Civil Servants, Economists and Academics now go around using the code ward – ‘shropshire services’?

Hackey – A woodenheaded proposed planning policy

I missed reports from May on Hackney’s Proposed ‘Wood First’ policy.  My interested was highlighted by support from the UK Forestry Panel.

Hackney Council is set to be the first local authority in England to promote timber construction in its planning policy.

Although the Council is keen to promote the benefits of building with wood, it is not considering a policy that would exclude locally sourced building materials or prevent the use of other sustainable building materials in future developments. However, it will take into account the carbon footprint of a new development to ensure it is in line with its sustainability policy and the use of structural timber would help to contribute to this.


A government-commissioned report has backed controversial proposals that councils adopt a ‘wood first’ planning policy for construction projects.

In May, Hackney council became the first local authority to propose introducing a ‘wood first’ planning policy, which would favour timber buildings being built in the borough.

But trade body Modern Masonry Alliance and development organisation the Concrete Centre denounced the move as ill-considered and a leading construction lawyer has said such criteria would be open to legal challenge.

But the report by the Independent Panel on Forestry, commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: “Local Authorities should use their Local Plans to introduce a ‘wood first’ policy for construction projects to increase use of wood in buildings.”

Sorry this policy, introduced at the urging of group Wood for Good,  would likely to be counter-productive and in the short-medium term actually increase carbon emissions   This is quite apart from the issue that policies promoting one material over another are likely to be illegal and the arguments over which is the most sustainable material.

Imagine we had an imaginary reference material that was completely carbon neutral throughout its whole life.  Even measured against this a wood first policy would perform poorly.

Why – Forestry Economics – a subject I now know rather too much about because of research for a book im writing about capital theory (The planting and cutting down of trees has often been used as a mathematical allegory model for investment).  The key model here is what is known as the Faustmann Model.  This shows that  It is optimal to cut a stand, when the relative value growth rate is equal to the interest rate multiplied by a land rent component, this land rent component is always positive; therefore it increases the ‘effective’ interest rate (opportunity cost of timber) and subsequently shortens the rotation period.  The Faustmann rotation is (other things being equal) shorter, the higher the timber price and interest rate and the lower the planting costs.

So if timber prices go up then more trees will be cut down.  Growing trees sequester carbon, decomposing trees release it.  Incineration is energy neutral.  Again I don’t want to get too deep into the maths here but broadly speaking the about of carbon sequestered is related to the volume of the tree and so to the age of the stand to the power of three.

So what if timber prices dramatically shoot up because of widespread adoption of a ‘wood first’ policy.  What this is likely to mean is that the ‘strike point’ (the age of a stand when felled) is likely to fall because it now becomes economic to fell for less than fully mature trees – Faustmann’s key result.  So if say instead of felling stands at 70 years they were felled at  50 we now get 20 years less carbon sequestration from the trees that would otherwise have been felled.  of ting past course many more new stands would now be planted because of the higher price of wood, but it might be another 40 or 50 years before we are back in the carbon black after getting past the red.  Any planning policy which is carbon negative for 40 or 50 years can hardly be called a great success.

Sorry Wood for Good, but you need to do some mathematical modelling before advocating policy and convincing the likes of me, especially to easy to please local planning authorities.  Your approach is rather like advocating construction of a new series of ships of the line to boost wood demand, we all know what impact that had on our forests.

Wiltshire Anti Windfarm Policy as Cllr thinks blades can ‘fall’ 3km

Words fail me.  This policy would ban windfarms everywhere but the middle of Sailbury Plain, where presumably falling blades will kill squaddies!


The motion passed by Wiltshire council would ban the erection of turbines within three kilometres of a home for turbines taller than 150m and two kilometres for those over 100m. The council cited “the interests of residential amenity, including safety”, referring to the danger of falling bladesLincolnshire passed a similar motion unanimously, but in Wiltshire, the LibDems opposed it.

“I was very disappointed that anyone voted against it,” said councillor Toby Sturgis, cabinet member for the environment. “I was quite amazed that people want to compromise on safety. We need these guidelines to go forward.”

But LibDem councillor Simon Killane said: “These kinds of statements are completely ill-advised. Where is the evidence? It’s a small-minded political stunt.”

Of course unlike Wiltshire  unlike Lincolnshire is an LPA.  Cant wait for the first appeal mentioning such wimsical policy.

To my mind though any planning policy not put forward through the LDF/local plan process is illegal.  Firstly the 2004 act states that all planning policy must be part of the LDF and also that prior consultation and SEA is needed before it can be become part of the LDF.  This argument is often used, I have used it myself, to rule that motions for ad hoc policy changes would be ulrtra vires.  Wiltshire should get a good legal opinion and report it back to the Full Council.  Before the policy becomes expensive and the council become a laughing stock.

ICE calls for Greater Water Metering to Increase Water Security


ICE’s State of the Nation: Water report has called for decisive and prompt action to tackle the UK’s water security, which they warn will continue to worsen if not addressed urgently.

 The report, launched by President Richard Coakley, says the recent droughts have been a ‘wake up call’ for the UK but the urgency and severity of the UK’s water issues is still not properly understood. It rates our current water security as level 4 on a 1-10 scale.

To tackle the crisis ICE has called for the creation of a ‘UK Water Security Taskforce’ to deliver an integrated roadmap to water security by spring 2014, based on strategic plans from all Governments. If the roadmap includes time-bound steps the UK could be out of danger – at water security level 8 or 9 – by 2025.

To achieve this, the report makes several recommendations for change including the development of new water storage facilities across the country, the removal of regulatory barriers that discourage water sharing between neighbouring companies and collaborative investment in new infrastructure, and the phased introduction of universal metering, with social tariffs to protect the poorest in society.

Chair of the ICE Water Panel Michael Norton said there is no silver bullet solution. “We are a populous nation facing a growing gap between what we can supply and what our water users need. Sadly it’s only when hose-pipe bans are inflicted on us that the public has any glimpse of this reality. We have a valuable opportunity while water is in the forefront of the nation’s minds to impress on the public the real value of this resource and we mustn’t squander it.

“The changes ICE is recommending will require some upheaval to current regulations as well as firm decisions on how to forecast future demand, but once done we would see the effect relatively quickly.”

The report says changing pricing structures to reflect the true value of water and building smaller but more evenly distributed water storage facilities across the UK will be crucial.

Currently most households pay only a £1 per day for unlimited water, which requires a costly treatment process to make it potable. ICE says in the long-term using expensive, potable water for everything including outside activities like watering the garden is unsustainable. It calls for a 30% reduction of per capita consumption in homes (currently 150 litres per day) and discretionary tariffs that reward low usage with prices rising as usage increases.

Michael said: “Commonly thought of ‘rainy’ areas won’t be like that in the future – rainfall will be more varied, both in terms of time and location – so relying on very large reservoirs in only one or two places will no longer be effective.

”However the single biggest problem is the low value we place on water. It’s currently much undervalued and provided to most of us without limit. The UN has rightly stated that water for health and hygiene is a human right and should be affordable to the whole of society, but it makes up only a small proportion of our direct water use (less than 15%). Everything else is discretionary and should be charged as such.”

This would also encourage a public shift in attitude towards solutions that can significantly reduce domestic water such as recycling household water for non-drinking uses and rainwater harvesting for outside uses such as watering the garden. Currently potable water is so affordable to most of us that there is little public appetite for recycling water in the home, however using this ‘grey water’ to flush the toilet alone could reduce domestic water usage by a third.

Whilst the Government has made some positive steps in the Water White Paper and the announcement of a draft Water Bill, the report urges it to deliver on these intentions without delay and within the context of a UK-wide vision. Download a copy of the report at www.ice.org.uk/sonwater2012

RAND Corporation – Car Sharing will reduce Congestion but Minimal Impact on CO2


In analyzing the potential for growth of car-sharing in the United States, a new study (pdf) by the RAND Corporation e…point out that [a shift towards car sharing could] significant benefits such as easing congestion, reducing the need for parking, and reducing transportation costs, they also report that the potential of such a shift to reduce energy use and carbon pollution is minimal.

“Here are the numbers: If 7.5 million Americans signed up for car-sharing services, the RAND study estimates that greenhouse-gas emissions from all U.S. vehicles would decline just 0.6 percent. If we got outlandish and assumed a future in which 20.3 million Americans (or about 12.5 percent of all eligible drivers) used car-sharing, then emissions from light vehicles would still just drop 1.7 percent.”

…the reason for the meager decline is due to the current driving patterns of those most be likely to use the service.

For the most part, the people who sign up for car-sharing services were barely driving anyway. On average, Americans who use these sharing services see their car ownership numbers drop from 0.47 cars per household down to 0.24 cars per household. In other words, they went from barely owning cars to… barely owning cars. In contrast, car ownership for the country as a whole is about 1.87 vehicles per household.”

“Indeed, as StreetsblogDC’s Tanya Snyder points out, public transportation — taking the bus or train — is a much more effective way for city dwellers to cut emissions.”

Is your Roof Insured against Climate Change? -‘Diurnal Drift’ causes Roof Collapse for Will Self and Neighbours

Four houses in a terrace in a Stockwell South London Conservation Area will need to rebuild their roofs after a collapse.  One of them is owned by Will Self.

The unlikely cause – Evening Standard

The writer and his family were among those evacuated after bricks, masonry and other debris fell from the properties on Tuesday evening when the roofs crumbled.

Today structural engineers told residents the collapse could be a result of “diurnal drift” – which is the change in temperature over the preceding 24 hours.

On Tuesday the capital experienced the hottest day of 2012, with temperatures rising to nearly 26C – 17C higher than the lowest temperature the day before.

The home of the Solicitor General, Edward Garnier, MP, was among those affected.

His wife, Anna, 57, said: “There were meetings on the site all day yesterday. The engineers have been wonderful. They told us that they think it happened as a result of diurnal drift – which is the change in temperature.”…

Will Self’s wife, Guardian columnist Deborah Orr, last night voiced concerns that insurers would not cover the incident.

Tweeting about a future claim, she said: “The bummer is the insurers are very reluctant”

Early reports claimed the cause of the collapse could be “wear and tear”, which is not covered by insurance, but it is unclear whether the heatwave would be deemed “an act of God”, which would not be covered either.

Just try challenging the Solictor General on the insurance policy fine print, just try.  Is your roof insured against global warming?