Group News: Aug - Nov 1997

Conference 1997
Every September at the annual Local Groups’ Conference we have the opportunity to rant and rave at FoE central office about their campaign priorities. However, local groups can’t have a spontaneous rant, but need to prepare motions in advance which they put to other groups to vote on in the conference. This year our group has decided to request that FoE campaigns to change the planning system.

What we’ve said:
The motion has to be in “conference speak”, but basically says that the planning system isn't helping the environment. As we think it could we therefore request FoE to think about campaigning for planning reform.

The importance of the planning system
Almost all environmental issues are influenced by the way we use land. In Britain, changes to land use are regulated through the land use planning system. While it is local councillors who usually approve development decisions, national guidance and local plans strongly influence both the issues which are considered and the weight given to those issues. We feel that the existing system allows decisions to be made on the wrong issues; this motion details how and why we want this to change.

What’s wrong with the planning system
The existing planning system does not result in sustainable development. This is clear from the many environmental damaging land use decisions which continue to be made. Poor access to information accompanied by bureaucratic and intimidating consultation procedures severely limit the extent to which outsiders, like FoE, can participate in either policy choices (i.e. national guidance or local plans) or in decision about land use on specific sites. These difficulties have resulted in a lack of public confidence in the planning system, a fact demonstrated by the road protests.

What we want instead

  • Third part (eg FoE)  rights should be extended
  • Environmental protection to be given greater priority, e.g. SSSI sites.
  • The system must be more accessible to the public.
  • The current presumption in favour of development should be challenged. Such reforms would have potential benefits for many FoE campaigns.

Why we should campaign on planning
FoE campaigners already engage with the planning system at many different levels. These experiences are a ready source of information about the existing planning system which could be collated to provide a blueprint for planning reform. Planning is likely to be under review both nationally and at the European level in the near future. It is vital to ensure that FoE develops a position on planning to ensure that any changes to the system extend its ability to protect the environment.

What happens next?
Having obtained support from Brighton and Hove FoE to second the motion, we submitted it with background information to Underwood Street. They are now in the process of compiling it with all the other motions to send out to all local groups. FoE groups will have time to consider these motions over summer, before instructing their delegates how to vote - or whether to make their own decisions at conference. Come “motions day” in September, some sill bugger (Liz) has to stand up and tell everyone why they should vote for a campaign to reform the planning system.

FoE Post Cards
Why not buy some colourful Sheffield FoE  postcards printed on recycled material. We have two types (Tree Huger shown opposite and one called “Big & Small”). Please send a cheque to our postal address for the appropriate amount and state which cards/mixture you want.

10 cards  £2.00
15 cards  £2.50
More than 15 = 15p each

News in Brief
Since the last newsletter, we have raised money at a street collection, attended a regional meeting in York which included training workshops and a day of action against genetically modified food. We have also toured the open cast sites near Chesterfield and have visited the centre for Alternative Technology. As we plan to do more press work a meeting has been scheduled, but the transport meeting with the PTE was cancelled.

Take Action

Press for change
Write to your local paper (including free titles) asking them how much recycled paper they use and if they will print this on the masthead of their paper. Press them to set a target to increase the proportion of recycled fibre they use. It is perfectly possible to print newspapers on 100% recycled paper.

Food campaign 
Two campaigners from the region will be job-sharing the new food and Biotechnology campaigner post. They are Pete Riley from Barnsley FoE and Adrian Bebb from Leeds/Bradford FoE. The campaign will be aimed at local groups and the public.

Food Miles
Great Britain can produce a rich variety of food yet we import it from all over the world producing millions of tonnes of pollution from road traffic and air freight. Traffic emissions have soared in recent years with total miles travelled by road freight increasing 42% between 1984 and 1994, food transport is responsible for a third of the increase.

The examples below show just how far certain foods travel to get to this country.

  • New Zealand lamb 11,404 miles
  • South African apples 6,011 miles
  • Spanish onions         773 miles.

Climate wreckers
Oil and car companies are actively blocking international agreements to help stop global warming through their main lobby group the Global climate Coalition (GCC). Please write to the following companies asking them to withdraw from the GCC and support green energy and FoE’s targets.

Dr Chris fay, Chief Executive, Shell UK Ltd, Shellmex House, Strand, London, WC2R ODX

Mr Ian McAllister, Ford Motor Co. Ltd, Central Office, Eagle Way, Brentwood Essex, CM13 3BW