Friday, 27 January 2012

Weekly compilation 27.01.2012

Here are the news stories we've gathered through twitter over this week:

@PlanBee1: Help Bumblebee Conservation Trust + bumble #bees by filling in a survey about bees visiting your garden:"
RT @mwarhurst: "almost everything that is happening on the environment is now happening because of #EU level decisions"
RT @pauldezylva: "Bee decline should concern us all, because their wellbeing affects us." #bees

Energy & Climate Change
Just been sent this poster which will be going up around Birmingham to help people stay warm:
Tomorrow we're launching our Close the Door campaign in Kings Heath to get retailers to save energy and money:
Read more about our Close the Door campaign here:
RT @dpcarrington: by me: Leaked data: Palm #biodiesel dirtier than fuel from #tarsands #biofuel #oilsands

RT @WoodbrookeUK: Did you know that Woodbrooke now has solar PV panels? Read details in this week's Good Lives blog:
Hydro-power in Wiltshire, Yorkshire, Somerset, Devon – and now Hall Green, Birmingham?
RT @BirminghamPress: the realities of a 'low carbon' economy: "What's in it for me?" - agree communities need benefits
RT @guardianeco: Climate change: threats and opportunities to the UK - graphic
RT @guardianeco: Climate change set to hit the UK hard and the poorest hardest | Damian Carrington
It would be brilliant if this attempt to reveal where GWPF's funding comes from were successful: via @leohickman
RT @wwwfoecouk: Blog: George has got it wrong on Feed-in Tariffs: What Alan Simpson (former MP) thinks:
Ask David Cameron for a Bright Solar Future:
RT @WarwicKnowledge: Climate Change: Going Beyond Dangerous

Quite impressive nonsense: RT @wwwfoecouk: Blog: Nonsense on stilts: Policy Exchange's numbers don't add up, again:
RT @olliehayes: Friends of the Earth: Government Loses Appeal Over 'Unlawful' Solar Cuts @wwwfoecouk
“Burning crops and breaking rocks: Biofuels, shale gas fracking and other ways NOT to save the planet”
Excellent blog post for @wwwfoecouk on "What Lord Lawson didn't tell you about shale gas" by @powellds:
Lawson spouting his usual rubbish on climate change in debate with @Tonyjupiter on shale gas 2 hrs 42: via @dpcarrington

RT @digbeth: New DiG blog post, Statement from Quintain Estates regarding Island House - #saveislandhouse Friends of the Earth: Don't let Oliver Letwin bin green regulations @wwwfoecouk
"Unfortunately, planning process is highly permissive & designed to encourage development" @neilelkes: #saveislandhouse
RT @ReStirredForum: Follow & join the ongoing discussion on Island House on Restirred Form See: #saveislandhouse
So, should we organise a 100th birthday party for Island House? It'll be something to celebrate if it reaches it in 2013 #saveislandhouse
RT @birminghampost: Legal contract could save 100-year-old Island House from demolition: #saveislandhouse
RT @digbeth: New DiG blog post, The fight to Save Island House is far from over! - #saveislandhouse
MT @paulmdale: Legal conundrum for Brum planners over Island House demolition row. My blog post: #saveislandhouse
We need to get everyone to object to application 2012/00182/PA to change sec106 planning conditions and allow demolition: #saveislandhouse
Joe's take on what happened in the Planning committee meeting today to #saveislandhouse - confusion reigns:
New post on our blog about planning in Birmingham and why it's important to #saveislandhouse not carry on demolishing:
A common agenda for retail and wholesale markets: - good post on the need to work together and promote benefits.
This rubbish about supermarkets helping regeneration: Their practices are v damaging 4 suppliers:

RT @AirportWatch: WWF report “Moving on. Why flying less means more for business”: to fly less = saving time & cash.
RT @AirportWatch: Proportion of business passengers fell between 2005 and 2010 at 5 main UK airports. #tourismdeficit
How about a bit of enforcement of parking rules, then? RT @bournvillenews: Police blast lazy parents
The cost of #HS2 today versus the cost of building the Trent Valley Railway in 1847:
RT @RichardHebditch: Government to repeat M6 Toll failure? (blog post from @Roads2Nowhere)
RT @Channel4News: #Fuel supply fears as #oil refinery stops deliveries: #Coryton #c4news

Waste & Resource Use
RT @BhamCityCouncil: Green waste collections restart from 06.2.12. You can still recycle your green waste. Here’s how: RT @EBRI_UK: A power plant that is carbon negative? Find out how EBRI are making this a reality in our short video at
Parliament calls for urgent measures to halve food wastage in the EU:
RT @agaqueen: Making AD plants more attractive to small-scale farms | Features | Farmers Guardian:
Health Protection Agency confirms new incinerator study into affects on human health:

Only risks? RT @guardianeco: David Cameron's eco-friendly image risks 'retoxification', warns WWF chief
.@DowChemical should NOT be 2012 Olympics sponsors until they take responsibility for #Bhopal. Tell @sebcoe to drop Dow
We think there needs to be a serious re-think of economics, otherwise @katecooper will be right about mass unemployment
RT @pauldezylva: "Capitalism in its current form no longer fits the world around us." World Economic Forum debate Davos
RT @pauldezylva: Govts may be ambivalent on #sustainability but power behind thrones (World Econonic Forum) seems keen
We need a supermarket watchdog - urgently:

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Confusion reigns in the planning committee

Well, I've been to a few planning committee meetings in my time, but never anything quite like this.

All the councillors on the committee wanted to save the lovely Island House from demolition. There were some excellent speeches both from those who opposed it from the floor and from councillors, particularly Clancy, Smith and Henley. However, the planning officers seemed determined that there was nothing they could do. The hearing today was only over whether they should have to approve the method of demolition and then what is done afterwards.

There were proposals to say they should agree they need to approve it, but then not approve the conditions for 8 weeks to allow more time for building a case against demolition, but this was another of those cases where the council feared legal costs from a challenge by the developer, so they chickened out.
The biggest saving grace that should play in favour of saving this historic building is a section 106 agreement which the developer signed with the council that they had a duty to retain and renovate it. Follow this link to the consultation or search for 2012/00182/PA on the Birmingham City Council planning website - it is  now taking comments as to whether they should alter this agreement on retaining the building and will close on 6th Feb.

Scaffolding is going up around the building as I type, so who knows what will happen in the next few days. Will they just knock it down and pay whatever fine the council imposes? It probably wouldn't be a huge amount for a developer.

Accountability around planning in this country seems rather muddled and it seems agreements are struck behind closed doors that even democratically elected members are unable to do anything about. I hope that the developers don't just rise roughshod over public opinion and legal agreements, but nothing would shock me.

Joe Peacock

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Planning - time for some sense

Tomorrow, the planning committee will hear an application to demolish one of the last buildings to survive the demolition job that has been BCC's "regeneration" of Eastside.
Flattening Island House for no good reason sends out totally the wrong signal. Eastside has been decimated already and it's time that Birmingham learned a lesson that flattening everything and starting again is not always the best way to go about making places better. We really should not allow one of the last buildings of note there to go, too.
The original Big City Plan had Island House as an important building leading on to the new city park, but things now seem to have changed - why? Is it something to do with HS2?
Luckily, people are kicking up a fuss about this one.
Digbeth Residents are up in arms about it, as are various conservation groups and also Occupy Birmingham, who've done the call to arms above. The hearing is at 11am tomorrow and people will be gathering outside the council house to protest. If you are able to come along and show support, that will be really great.
Only those who have registered to do so may speak at the planning committee meeting, but public may attend.

Joe Peacock

Friday, 20 January 2012

weekly compilation 20.01.12

Here's our regular round up of the key stories in the news by campaign areas:

RT @guardianeco: Conserving biodiversity hotspots 'could bring world's poor $500bn a year'
Really horrible - ignoring evidence: RT @Earth_News: Badger kill zones revealed: :
RT @SimonBowens: BASF pull GM out of Europe - potentially great news for campaigners against GM potato trials at Hedon:
@Buzz_dont_tweet: '#UKGov must ban neonicotinoids now before further damage is done to our fragile ecosystems' #bees
RT @foeeurope: Another nail in the coffin for genetically modified foods in Europe as #BASF quits Europe #gmo ^FG

Energy & Climate Change
News just in: Judgement on Govt appeal against High Court solar ruling will be made on Weds 25th January at 10am #FITs
RT @DeborahDoaneWDM: So now high carbon investments are "sub-prime". You have been warned: in @guardian
#FF @GreedyLyingBast Greedy Lying Bastards: US filmmaker attacks oil industry
Light at end of the tunnel for solar industry:
RT @dpcarrington: UK: #Wind power passes 6GW in UK, can now supply 3.3m homes >Chief Sec to Treasury calls for more
RT @powellds: Looks like @Policy_Exchange's report is not doing their reputation with Govt economists much good...
RT @BBCBirmingham: Solar panels are installed on Wolverhampton Civic Centre at a cost of £123,00. - good to see.

RT @CPRE: Want to know how planning works and how to respond to a local application? - planning explained.
RT @digbeth: Support @OccupyBrum in their campaign to #saveislandhouse
MT @wwwfoecouk: New roads, nuclear power stations and biomass plants can be stopped. Free training day on 25 February:
Brighton and Bolton Councils are investing in their markets . . . Birmingham next?

RT @doug_parr: Reduce CO2 emissions and get better school performance from kids. Would beat any Gove initiative. Estuary airport would be an environmental disaster:
Thames Estuary would mean no expansion at any other airport if we want to hit legally binding CO2 reduction targets:
Excellent article by John Stewart on Cameron's support for Boris Island Airport: #notoaviationexpansion
RT @leftfootfwd @donnahume: FoE: Support solar to help low-income families cut energy bills
RT @carbonbrief: A new book suggests climate models inaccurate as they fail to include effects of trees via @SciDevNet
New post on the blog about Big Energy Week and what @BCABS5 Birmingham Citizens Advice Bureau are doing to help people:
Guard rails on Kings Heath High Street - we say they're a bad idea and other measures should be looked at:
BAA believes that by 2032 HS2 will cut Heathrow domestic flights. Numbers have been falling for past 10 years, anyway:

Waste & Resource Use
RT @EBRI_UK: Biochar is a by-product of the bionergy process which has a number of useful properties. Find out more:
RT @gasstreetworks: Oooh Apple are offering you cash for your old tech as part of their new 'reuse or recycle' scheme.
Talking Rubbish on the Radio Again - our piece is at 6 mins 30 seconds: and there's a blog post:
RT @EBRI_UK: Check out our latest video on producing bioenergy from waste

Govt "takes a step backwards & offers scant hope in facilitating UK’s move to a truly sustainable economic & environmental future" @CIWEM You can read their full report on mainstreaming sustainable development here:
RT @birminghampost: Comedian Rob Newman takes part in Birmingham environmental event
RT @dailybirmingham: Eating Your Greens: The Birmingham Green Restaurant Awards for 2012 have been launched.
If you're looking for a short-term part time job getting experience in energy advice, @northfieldeco are recruiting:
RT @Localfoodhere: Want to work for HEFF? A full time job vacancy for someone to run our exciting Local Food Store!
RT @MikeChilds1: Why I disagree with Fred Pearce and @GeorgeMonbiot on solar & rail (as much as I love them too!)
"A sustainable start to the year at Aston University" and we'll be there as usual:

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Birmingham Citizens Advice Bureau helps people to cut their fuel bills in Big Energy Week

As we are well aware through our work on the Final Demand Campaign, rising fuel bills are stretching household finances and people are looking for ways to save money on their energy bills. Supporter of our campaign, Birmingham Citizens Advice Bureau, is here to help.

They will give practical advice and help throughout Big Energy Week (16-21 January 2012) to help people cut their fuel bills and get all the financial support they are entitled to. They will also be putting on a special event at the Tyseley bureau on Thursday 19 January (09:30-18:30). Staff will be on hand to help people reduce their energy bills, and will be signposting those who qualify for additional support and home improvements.

Financial Inclusion Manager Florence Betts said: “More and more people are coming to us for advice on how to spend less on their fuel bills. Through Big Energy Week we want to tell people that help is at hand and that there are things they can do to cut their fuel bills.”

Birmingham Citizens Advice Bureau is urging people to speak to their energy supplier to check that they’re getting the best deal and are on the cheapest payment method - and to save energy by insulating your home – most energy companies are offering free and/or discounted insulation.

You could save more by switching energy suppliers and an accredited switching website can help you do this.

Plus it’s important to check that you are getting all of the benefits and tax credits that you’re entitled to – as you could be missing out on money that could make it easier to pay your fuel bill.

You can pick up a leaflet with tips and advice on cutting your fuel bills at Birmingham Citizens Advice Bureau.

Big Energy Week is an advice campaign coordinated by Citizens Advice to help consumers spend less on heating their home.

A new website – - is full of tips on how to cut your energy bills. And as part of Big Energy Week there will be events up and down the country where people can get practical advice on how they could spend less on heating their home.

We are also continuing to gather support for our campaign for a public enquiry into the power and influence of the ‘big six’ energy companies, to assess whether our current system is fit for purpose to deliver the clean, affordable and secure energy we need. You can sign the petition online here or on paper in the reception of our building.
Joe Peacock

Monday, 16 January 2012

Talking Rubbish on the Radio Again

This morning I was asked to go on BBC Radio WM to defend councils' abilities to fine people for not recycling or persistently putting waste in the wrong place after Caroline Spelman said the government were going to put a stop to bin fines.

Up against "Big Brother Watch" (another of those right-wing libertarian organisations set up by Matthew Elliot of Tax Payers' Alliance), I was presented with a view of a world when councils send people out to spy on innocent residents, handing out fixed penalty notices every time a wheelie bin is a couple of inches from where it should be.

Now, going on to defend councils fining people wouldn't be everyone's favourite thing to do, so it was important to make points on cost above all else. Fines are (or certainly should be) a last resort, but the government is just playing to certain parts of the press with this latest announcement.

The real issue should be that we are no longer living in a world where waste management is about disposal. Resources are too valuable for that and prices are going up all the time, so recycling is not just an environmental imperative, but a financial one too. This means that in fiscally stretched times, it is more important than ever that people do recycle and recover value, rather than costing the council more money by chucking everything into the bin to be burnt or buried.

Last week we gave evidence to the scrutiny committee review on this and are very determined that Birmingham should transform services to a "resource recovery system". This means mainly working with communities and companies that can give us the best value and environmental outcomes possible. If fines are removed, it simply gives the wrong message to people about the value of doing the right thing. It should never be near the top of actions to be taken and I think it is very unlikely that it ever is.

People want their streets to be clean and their bills to be lower. Councils need to work together with residents and recycling companies to achieve this, reduce carbon emissions and create jobs.

Joe Peacock

Friday, 13 January 2012

weekly compilation 13.01.12

Here's our weekly look at what's been in the news and is relevant to our campaigns interests:

MT @pauldezylva: Tipping point for honey #bees nears: - Is a techno-fix ready to pollinate crops when #bees go? No?

RT @PlanBee1: If anyone is worried about wildlife appearing early in their garden, this gives some tips on how to help:
RT @marinetuk: Tuna stocks continue to plunge globally:
RT @purplelionness: Petition against Ethiopian Land grab, please sign
RT @pauldezylva: Are #pesticides the cause of the huge decline in #bees after all? via @motherjones
RT @northfieldeco: In Northfield? Love the local park? Info about volunteer projects in Victoria Common, 7pm Wed 11 Jan

Energy & Climate Change
RT @neilelkes: Cllrs trying to work out how city will meet ambitious carbon reduction targets by 2026. Not very clear at all from reports. Our view on what govt should do on solar #FITs as we go to court again! In @guardianeco:
That does sound good: RT @MikeChilds1: I love how clever and flexible you can be with solar, great example here: tp://
Have you got something like this for Brum? MT @Andy2Atkins: Mini Stern review for Low Carbon Leeds region
RT @leohickman: UK's solar capacity grew 10-fold in 2011 >>despite FITs mess but from v low base
Average Brit uses a Kenyan’s annual carbon emissions by 13 January:
Friday the thirteenth will hopefully be unlucky for the government:
All power to the wind – it cuts your electricity bills:
RT @adamvaughan_uk: Cuadrilla gets licenses to drill for shale gas in Sussex, Surrey and Kent - trouble ahead!!

Fair trade shop Shared Earth to close Birmingham store as company faces liquidation: - very sad.
New Eastside "Masterplan" on the Big City Plan website: We're looking at it, but would love to hear your thoughts.

This data blog about savings on journeys times doesn't seem to recognise the time getting to #HS2 station from others: RT @digbeth: New DiG blog post, #HS2 and Digbeth/Eastside -
Please stop this awful idea! MT @mullaney3: a short section of railings by Asda, subject to consultation, will be installed by end of March
Evidence about use of railing guards making streets more dangerous courtesy of @livingstreets
Lufthansa's bio-fuelled fantasy finally grounded: -we imagine many other similar ones realise it's not sustainable, too
MT @RennieConsult: Short video about why dropped kerbs so important to me & wheelchair users - brilliant & parents with prams!
Useful website. This website works out how CO2 from your flight compares to heating, car use, electricity:
MT @guardianeco: Ryanair adds 25p for "eco-looney tax" to fares - that'll really mess up their "cheap" fares!
RT @jonwalker121: The public consultation into #hs2 came out two to one against the scheme
Surely not: RT @guardianeco: Airlines could net £1.6bn windfall from EU carbon trading scheme, report says
RT @birminghampost: Alister Scott Blog: The planning headaches facing HS2 - excellent piece highlighting key issues.
Here's our press release on the #HS2 announcement "High Speed? How do we get to the station?":
Thought it'd never happen! RT @BirminghamPress: Public transport users finally able to use easier way of buying tickets:

Waste & Resource Use
Industry calls for more ambitious Waste Strategy as resource shortages threaten:

If you buy this track, we get a share of the profits - enjoy:
Birmingham: Eco tourism destination for the week!
Thanks to @SWMtweet for putting up a couple of new volunteer positions with us on their website:
"The Green Economy – which way to look in 2012": - It's clear that we need to explain better economic models.
Good to see @warehousecafeuk and @loafonline getting some recognition for their part in Brum's food renaissance:
Response by @CraigBennett3 to @GregBarkerMP "environmental Taliban"+ @ZacGoldsmith asking greens to praise Govt:

Friday, 6 January 2012

weekly compilation 06.01.2012

Here's our first news round up of the new year:

Tories and Labour renew backing for GM food crops: - here's why they're wrong:

RT @guardianeco: An early spring may be bad news for honey-poor bees
"I would much rather make films which are simply unadulterated pleasure in the natural world" Attenborough on #climate:
Please take action with @marinetuk's campaign to "Help stop fish extinction":

Energy & Climate Change
RT @wwwfoecouk: Court of Appeal schedules Friday 13th as Judgment Day for #solar battle:
"the three unlimited sources of wealth we have – people, ingenuity and renewable energy" lovely positive article:
Excellent plan - preserving Sarehole Mill's sluice gates and potentially generating electricity:
RT @MikeChilds1: Great post on threat of methane releases at Real Climate basic conclusion it's CO2 that matters
RT @pauldezylva: "Environmental Taliban": lost argument on #planning + cut to #FITs, so #GreenestGovtNever resorts to name calling. Classy
Great news management by the pro-nuclear lobby? We certainly hadn't heard that!
Unseasonal activity in Birmingham – and Met Office data: - who knows what weather will bring, but global temp rising.
Our first blog post of the new year is about sewage and gas. Start as you mean to go on, eh?

Birmingham council: value and nurture the markets – central to the health and vitality of the city: RT @SamwiseBaggie: RT @MDFOXY
Birmingham folk - please take 5 mins to oppose demolition of Island house -comments here:

RT @Roads2Nowhere: An 80 mph public health warning from the BMJ, and call for full details to be released for debate:
Why do all arguments over #HS2 have to be so simplistic - this route or nothing, wealthy opponents, back yards etc?
RT @bbcwm: News: A rail watchdog attacks a 13% increase in a rail fare between Birmingham and London.
Very good round up on the @airportwatch site about oil prices and what's happening to them compared to DECC forecasts:
"In 2012, please be considerate to other road and pavement users" (post on @b31voices hyperlocal blog):
Staycations’ and weak pound have boosted British trade, says Bank of England: - so why encourage more flights abroad?
Bus fares shooting up (20%) due to govt cuts in grants. Why so little outcry over that?

Waste & Resource Use
Blog post on @b31voices - Your opportunity to change how rubbish is collected:
Please do let your councillor know that we should have a better waste (resource recovery) system in Birmingham:
There is a lot less rubbish going to landfill (but way too much being incinerated and not enough re-use/recycling!):
Brilliant Christmas video message by @Glosvain to the council about the proposed incinerator:
Global hunger for plastic packaging leaves waste solution a long way off: incineration is certainly not the answer!

RT @BirminghamPress: Three workshops in Stirchley Park for local people interested in discussing the park's future. RT @guardianeco: 'Greenest government ever' must do better – but so must green groups, too | Zac Goldsmith
RT @theneweconomics: Two billion reasons to rethink the economy | Mike Harris
New blog post on green new year's resolutions that you could take:
RT @MikeChilds1: great blog by @James_BG on the name-calling by @GregBarkerMP in the FT Now let's move on.
RT @mwarhurst: New study on sustainable development through left wing and right wing UK political narratives:

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Green New Year's Resolutions

Have you made a new year's resolution this year? If so, is it one that will benefit the environment as well as yourself?

There's no reason why you couldn't make a late one now if you haven't got round to it yet...

How about one of the following?

  • Fly less, or not at all if you can help it. Flying is the most polluting activity a person can take and not doing it will make more impact on reducing your carbon footprint than anything else. The reason why it is only a small proportion of the UK's carbon emissions is because relatively few people do it still.
  • Drive less. Per mile, driving can also have very high CO2 emissions (although people don't tend to drive as far as they fly). It also has a negative impact on the area in which you live in terms of congestion, air pollution, noise pollution and creating a dangerous environment for pedestrians and cyclists. If you can cycle, walk or take the bus/train, please do. It's good for your health and can also mean lower stress levels than driving in the rush hour.
Waste and Resource Use
  • Think about buying things with less packaging. Plastic bags are an environmental problem, but then so is the packaging that most food (and other products) is encased in. If you buy fresh fruit and veg to cook from scratch, it almost always has less packaging and you could also make a point by unwrapping things in the shop and leaving the retailer to deal with the waste - they might re-think what they stock then.

  • Try to find ways to re-use as many things as possible rather than throwing them away or putting them in the recycling. It can be fun to think of new uses for things. 
  • Buy local. Use local independently owned shops/market stalls as much as possible and try to find products that are produced locally, too. The smaller the distance between where things are produced and bought, the better for the environment, generally speaking. Also, eat less meat and dairy, as these foods have a bigger environmental impact.
  • Ensure electrical devices are turned off when not in use, both at home and at in the work/study places you go to. Also, make sure you don't leave doors/windows open when the heating's on.
  • Get involved with Birmingham Friends of the Earth and help us to campaign for change and a better environment.
Do you have any other ideas you'd like to share?

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

A good time to contact your councillor about waste

Next week Birmingham Friends of the Earth (along with other interested parties) will be giving evidence to the scrutiny committee's Municipal Waste review.

If you wish to read in detail a lot of the work we've done on this, then it's on our website, but I just want you to grab this opportunity to get your councillor to feed in to this review, too. I have been made aware that councillors have today received details of the terms of reference of the review, so will know it is happening and can respond if they wish.

If you are unhappy with the current system, do not want black bags whose contents get strewn everywhere, would rather we moved away from burning rubbish and creating 280 000 tonnes of CO2 per year from the incinerator to a system where we get maximum value for money out of the resources we have, please contact your councillor today and ask them to put this case.

Email us via if you want advice on what to say.

Joe Peacock

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Minworth - a source of gas for Birmingham

One of the country’s largest sewage works is at Minworth just outside Birmingham.  Birmingham is a consumer of energy, much of it gas.  Are the two related ?  The answer is yes: sewage processing can create methane gas.

An encouraging story from 2011 was an award to CNG Services for Didcot Biomethane to Grid.  The achievement that is now a success at the Oxfordshire town of Didcot, better known for its power station cooling towers, is that biomethane is now being injected into the UK gas grid.
Before this project, Didcot was flaring its biogas.  Now the gas is cleaned, upgraded, and used.  Could Minworth’s managers, Severn Trent Water, consider something like this ?
Comments on this blog are welcome
John Hall