Cuckmere Meanders Flooding.

Below is the letter I sent off to the media and local MP’s this morning after making a visit yesterday.  A sad state of affairs…

ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE at CUCKMERE, EAST SUSSEX.

 

© Jon Rigby/Eastbourne Herald.

People from across the country and abroad, travel to Exceat near Seaford to view the world famous Seven Sisters chalk cliffs and the majestic, winding meanders of the Cuckmere River set within a green baize, one of the best examples of a meandering river on the planet…

Well regarding the second point, not at the moment!  Nine days ago the BBC’s South East Today ran an article concerning the flooding within the Cuckmere valley and the fact that the world famous meanders were no where to be seen, they literally submerged beneath ‘flood water from the recent heavy rains.’

On Wednesday, October 30th I visited the area, the meanders are barely discernible, they still being largely masked by flood water.  I will digress here for a moment if I may.  I worked on the Country Park through which the meanders wind, for twenty years including two short period of managing it.  We would in those days monitor and finely adjust the height of the water level in the meanders.  Over the following ten years I also had an input into managing the Country Park.    The meanders have not been as high or surrounding meadows so completely flooded like they are at present, in living memory.  So I do understand in minute detail how the drainage system there works.

Back to my visit…  Upon inspection during the afternoon, there was a spring tide within the tidal river so its level was understandably high.  On the landward side of the floodbank however, water was alarmingly racing through the metre diameter sluice from the tidal river and welling-up in the meanders as a large pool of angry, swirling water.  Yes, the sluice instead of draining the meanders, was actually allowing seawater into the meanders!  Somebody has at some point, tampered with the sluice by ‘obstructing’ one of the large cast-iron sluice flaps and very likely though not visible, also having ‘adjusted’ the sill of the sluice that controls the height of the meanders.  A canoeist, vandals?  Debris in unlikely.  Where the water level had dropped away from its maximum height two weeks ago, the grass was brown and possibly has been killed.  Tourists are going to be somewhat disappointed when coming to view the meanders, they winding through a large tract of brown dead grass!

Later in the afternoon I managed to speak with a local Environment Agency official who said that though they are not responsible in managing the meanders, they were aware of the problem and were monitoring the situation and when it becomes possible to gain access when the river levels drop, they will rectify the situation.  They no longer carry out work on the river towards the sea because they only have sufficient funds to carry out essential works where flooding of the built environment may occur.

The meanders and the surrounding land are part of an extensive Site of Special  Scientific Interest (SSSI) designated by another government agency, Natural England.  Damaging such areas is a criminal offence; however English Nature does not now have the staff or expertise nowadays to monitor and safeguard SSSI areas or enforce their protection, they now possessing too few staff.  Flooding of the area containing the meanders with largely seawater has probably caused untold damage to the surrounding specie-rich grasslands, polluted and destroyed the rich biodiversity of neighbouring ponds and ditches – these also now unfit for watering of livestock.  The meanders are now more salty than they would normally be, so affecting the life within them.  The grazier of the Country Park will have temporarily lost a significant amount of his grazing pasture.

Funding cuts by successive Conservative governments have emasculated the above two important statutory agencies, one supposedly protecting us from pollution and rising sea levels, the other supposedly acting as guardian against damaging land management, short-sighted development of our diverse countryside and is now banned from criticising government policy.  So the moral of this sad microcosm of a tale with the approach of a General Election is, if you value our public services, value your countryside and its wildlife, then whatever you do, oppose the Conservative Party!  Regarding Brexit, if enacted, we are likely to be saddled with lower environmental regulations than in Europe.

Monty Larkin      (www.montylarkin.co.uk)

cc to the following:

BBC South East                  south.today@bbc.co.uk

Eastbourne Herald           laura.sonier@jpimedia.co.uk

The Argus                        editor@theargus.co.uk

The Guardian                  alan.evans@theguardian.com   and                                             natalie.hanman@theguardian.com

Sussex Express           sussex.express@jpress.co.uk

Eastbourne and Lewes respective MP’s.                                stephen.lloyd.mp@parliament.uk    maria.caulfield.mp@parliament.uk

 

Rewilding Making Strides Across Europe

Balkan chamois

Take a look at the following link concerning the Rewilding Europe organisation which was set up in 2011 to encourage rewilding in suitable areas across Europe, with much of the funding coming from the EU’s LIFE project.  Items in the attached link include: Rewilding of peatlands in Finland, making community forests in Portugal more wildlife friendly, the RSPB’s Wallasea Island project in Essex, the bio-diverse Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria (I have been there – fantastic!) and habitat restoration in the Oder Estuary in Germany.

https://rewildingeurope.com/category/news/

 

Agriculture Emissions Stay the Same

https://www.desmog.uk/2017/08/23/lack-progress-agricultural-emission-reductions-shows-need-green-brexit

[Extract from a lightly longer article; go to above link for full version].

The UK has failed to make any cuts to emissions from agriculture. Again.

New government statistics released 22 August show UK farming emitted 49.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2015, the exact same amount as a year before and remaining at about the same level since 2008.Overall, agriculture accounted for about 10 percent of the UK’s greenhouse gas

While the sector only contributed one percent of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions, it was responsible for 53 percent of the UK’s methane emissions. Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and – pound for pound – can trap much more heat in the atmosphere over the course of a couple of decades.

Agricultural emissions come from a variety of sources. The production of animal feed is the main driver, while generating power to keep the industry going also creates a lot of emissions. Livestock such as cows, sheep and pigs also emit a lot of methane.

A recent study suggested converting land for farming has led to the release of 133 billion tons of carbon dioxide globally over the last 12,000 years. That’s the equivalent of 13 years of global emissions from all sectors at their current levels, the Washington Post pointed out.

Since 2008, the UK has failed to cut its agricultural emissions, with reductions stalling at about 17 percent below 1990 levels. There is no specific climate target for the agriculture sector, instead the industry is captured under the UK Climate Change Act’s general 80 percent greenhouse gas emissions reduction target, from 1990 levels, by 2050.    continues…

An Environmentally Sound UK and US-Produced Meat?

Two items of current focus in Brexit news this week have been environmental standards and trade talks.

Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox, appear to have differing goals where these two suggested policies meet.

Michael Gove

Post-Brexit, Gove is talking of a ‘gold standard’ for the environment and for farming in the UK, whilst Fox has been in America getting-up close and cosy discussing a possible post-Brexit trade deal, which would very likely have to include meat US, produced to both lower husbandry and processing standards, being imported into this country.  Read here, industrial-scale animal production with far fewer animals enjoying life outside grazing on grass (at least during the summers) and gobbling-up vast amounts of cereal and soya.  Widespread use of growth hormones, antibiotics in feeds and lower cleanliness in poultry slaughter relying on a final clean-up with heavily-chlorinated water.  The emphasis here should be about how the meat is produced not about whether the meat id healthy to eat or not.

Liam Fox

The UK can’t have post-Brexit both Gove’s ‘gold standard’ environmental standards and Fox’s imported meat produced by cheaper, lower welfare standards.  This ‘cheapness’ – with animals paying the difference with their lower standards of well-being, would make both the profitability of UK farmers even harder to achieve and it would also allow meat produced by these morally lower methods into the UK’s food chain.

 

Impassioned Speech Against Brexit

Unusual, rousing speech at end of tonight’s Prom concert by conductor Daniel Barenboim in the Royal Albert Hall with the Berlin Staatskepella orchestra, about international isolationism, education, music, Europe and rounding it of with a rousing performance of Land of Hope and Glory. Watch last 15 minutes of the concert on BBC iPlayer!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08xyskt

UPDATE  BBC have edited/blacked-out speech!  So listen to some of it at  https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://youtu.be/PmBDKk6YlF0&ved=0ahUKEwjLsLOA7Y7VAhVBYlAKHTlmAPsQhlQI9wEwHA&usg=AFQjCNEPKEHli664mh8pKFHtoXPYdGzKYg

 

Green Groups and MPs Calling for Amendments to the Repeal Bill

http://www.ciwem.org/green-groups-and-mps-are-calling-for-an-amendment-to-the-repeal-bill/

July 7 2017.  The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management,  (CIWEM).

 

Green Groups and MPs are calling For an Amendment To the Repeal Bill.

Thirteen major environmental charities in the Greener UK coalition have begun working with a cross-party group of MPs to ensure the Repeal Bill does not “dilute” the force of environmental law in the UK

The MPs that back the amendment so far include Ed Miliband, former Labour Party leader and secretary of state for energy and climate change, and Caroline Lucas, Green Party co-leader.

The government has said that existing UK mechanisms, primarily judicial review and the role of parliament, are enough to replace all the functions currently carried out by EU agencies and the European Court of Justice (ECJ).  But these UK mechanisms do not compare to current EU arrangements, the groups say.

Currently, EU agencies play important roles in monitoring the state of the environment, checking governments comply with environmental law and, where necessary, enforcing the law by initiating investigations into possible breaches, including in response to complaints from citizens and civil society organisations. If breaches of the law are identified, remedies and sanctions can be applied, including fines.

Shaun Spiers, chair of Greener UK and executive director at Green Alliance, said: “No one voted for dirtier beaches or worse air quality. The government has promised to bring all environmental protections into domestic law, but laws are only effective when there are strong institutions to enforce them.

“The ultimate risk of fines imposed by the European Court has led the UK government to clean up its act several times – for example, when it stopped pumping raw sewage into oceans on a regular basis and, more recently, being ordered by the courts to publish stronger air quality plans.

“To secure the high level of environmental protection that the public overwhelmingly wants and needs, UK governance institutions must be sufficiently resourced, independent and expert. Otherwise, environmental law will fail.

“The government will protest its good intentions, but it should be establishing systems that are proof against any future government that may want to weaken environmental and other protections.”

The Greener UK coalition formed in response to the EU referendum, united in the belief that leaving the EU is a pivotal moment to restore and enhance the UK’s environment. It brings together 13 major environmental organisations, including the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, and WWF.

The Great Repeal Bill will end the supremacy of EU law and return power to the UK.

Amendments.  The text of Repeal Bill amendment the groups are recommending the following:

(1) The relevant Ministers must, before the UK’s exit from the EU, make provision that all powers and functions relating to the UK that were carried out by an EU institution before the date of the UK leaving the EU will—

(a) continue to be carried out by an EU institution; or

(b) be carried out by an appropriate existing or newly created domestic body; or

(c) be carried out by an appropriate international body.

(2) For the purposes of this section, powers and functions relating to the UK exercised by an EU institution may include, but are not limited to—

(a) monitoring and measuring compliance with legal requirements,

(b) reviewing and reporting on compliance with legal requirements,

(c) enforcement of legal requirements,

(d) setting standards or targets,

(e) co-ordinating action,

(f) publicising information including regarding compliance with environmental standards.

(3) Within 12 months of the UK’s exit from the EU, the Government shall consult and bring forward proposals for domestic governance arrangements to ensure equivalent provision of the regulatory, monitoring, oversight, accountability, enforcement and other functions relating to the UK currently provided by EU institutions, by providing for the establishment by primary legislation of—

(a) a new independent body or bodies with powers and functions equivalent to those of the relevant EU institutions in relation to the environment; and

(b) a new domestic framework for environmental protection and improvement.

(4) For the purposes of this section ‘EU institution’ includes but is not limited to—

(a) the European Commission;

(b) the European Environment Agency;

(c) the European Chemicals Agency; and

(d) the European Court of Auditors.

(5) Responsibility for any functions or obligations arising from EU-derived UK law for which no specific provision has been made immediately after commencement of this Act will belong to the relevant Minister until such a time as specific provision for those functions or obligations has been made.

 

This article was originally posted on CIWM Journal Online.

Tories and Labour Not Being Honest With Voters

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-40057115#

Tories and Labour not being honest with voters: IFS  [Abrided].

By Chris Johnston, May 26 2017.

Neither the Conservatives nor Labour are being honest with voters about the economic consequences of their policy proposals, an influential think tank has warned.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said the Tories had very few tax or spending commitments in their manifesto.

Labour, in contrast, was proposing very big increases in tax and spending.  However, the IFS said Labour’s plans for paying for its proposed expansion in state activity would not work.

IFS deputy director Carl Emmerson said neither manifesto gave voters an honest set of choices or addressed the long-term challenges the UK faced.

“For Labour, we can have pretty much everything – free higher education, free childcare, more spending on pay, health, infrastructure. And the pretence is that can all be funded by faceless corporations and ‘the rich’,” he said.

“There is a choice we can make as a country to have a bigger state – that would not make us unusual in international terms. But that comes at a cost in higher taxes, which would inevitably need to be borne by large numbers of us.”

Meanwhile, the Conservatives offered spending cuts the party had already promised, Mr Emmerson said.  “Additional funding pledges for the NHS and schools are just confirming that spending would rise in a way broadly consistent with the March Budget,” he told a briefing in London on Friday.

“Compared with Labour, they are offering a relatively smaller state and consequently lower taxes. With that offer come unacknowledged risks to the quality of public services, and tough choices over spending.”

The IFS said the Tory plans “imply at least another five years of austerity, with the continuation of planned welfare cuts and serious pressures on the public services including on the NHS”.

Labour’s calculations that £49bn a year could be raised from the wealthiest individuals and companies were flawed and would raise £40bn at most in the short term, and less in the long term, it said.

National Trust Calls for Complete Reform of British Farm Subsidies

This is one of several articles I have just posted, all connected with the future of the countryside and farming following the UK decision over Brexit.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/aug/04/national-trust-calls-for-complete-reform-of-british-farm-subsidies?CMP=share_btn_tw

National Trust calls for complete reform of British farm subsidies
pigs

Piglets on a organic farm in Wales, UK  Photograph: Herb Bendicks/Alamy

 

John Vidal, The Guardian, Thursday 4 August 2016.

The National Trust has called for complete reform of the British farm subsidy system after Brexit, by ending payments for owning land and only rewarding farmers who improve the environment and help wildlife.

“The subsidy system is broken. It is not working. Farmers are going out of business. The state of wildlife is in steep decline and large parts of that is because of intensive agriculture. The vote to leave the EU allows us to think radically about the future of the entire system,” the trust’s director general, Dame Helen Ghosh, told the Guardian ahead of a speech at Blenheim Palace on Thursday.

“Taxpayers should only pay public subsidy to farmers in return for things that the market won’t pay for but which are valued and needed by the public. The current system rewards people for the hectares they own, with very inadequate standards for wildlife and the environment,” she said.

“In the long run there’s no conflict between maintaining our ability to grow food and looking after the land and nature on which it depends. The first is utterly dependent on the second.”

The proposals by the trust, which calls itself “Britain’s largest farmer” and is one of the biggest recipients of European common agriculture policy (CAP) payments, would see the basic income support system of subsidies scrapped and farmers being paid out of public funds only for environmental services such as flood prevention, wildlife and nature protection.

“It is essential to act now as 60% of species have declined in the UK over the last 50 years. Habitats, breeding grounds and food sources have been lost, soils have become depleted and natural fertility impoverished,” Ghosh will tell a BBC Countryfile conference.

“This has happened in large part due to the industrialised farming methods incentivised by successive funding regimes since the second world war. So it is not the fault of farmers but the fault of the system which is flawed and expensive,” she will say.

The biggest farms currently receive the biggest cheques but they often do the most harm to the environment. A new system could swing subsidies towards small farmers, benefiting those who protect soils and rivers, she said.

“Unless we make different choices, we will leave an environment that is less productive, less rich and less beautiful than that which we inherited,” she said.

The EU pays British farmers up to £3bn a year, of which around 20%, or £600m, is paid to farmers to protect the environment. The trust, which owns 618,000 acres of land and has about 2,000 tenants and 4 million members, received £3m in direct subsidy from CAP last year and £8m for environmental stewardship schemes. All the money was spent on conservation, it said.

Ghosh said she did not expect the price of food to automatically increase with the elimination of subsidies for land ownership. “The price of food is already affected by the global market. Only about 8p of the price of a loaf of bread is the cost of the wheat that it is made from. The link between the subsidy system and the price of food is not absolute.”

She said that many upland National Trust farmers already managed their land for the benefit of nature and landscape rather than for food production. Renewable energy, flood protection services and eco-tourism could pay more than subsidies.

Ghosh envisaged a phase-out period during which farmers would continue to receive payments for land ownership. “It cannot be done overnight. It is not clear yet when the current subsidy system will phase out. But all interested parties are asking for it to remain until 2025,” she said.

“We may need some kind of transition period to get there but that means payments for goods that go beyond food production – for the wildflowers, bees and butterflies that we love, for the farmland birds, now threatened, for the water meadows and meandering rivers that will help prevent the flooding of our towns, and for the rebuilding of the fertility and health of the soils on which both nature and production depend.”

Ghosh laid out six principles of farming and conservation which she said should apply in the new, post-Brexit system:

  1. Public money must only pay for public goods. There will need to be a transition to the new world but this basic income support payment should be removed.
  2. It should be unacceptable to harm nature but easy to help it. In the future, 100% of any public payment should be conditional on meeting higher standards of wildlife, soil and water stewardship.
  3. Nature should be abundant everywhere. The new system needs to support nature in the lowlands as well as the uplands.
  4. We need to drive better outcomes for nature. Nature needs joined up habitats on a landscape scale with subsidies implemented on a farm-by-farm basis.
  5. Farmers that deliver the most public benefit should get the most. In the future, those farmers and land managers who get the most public money should be those who deliver the best environmental outcomes.
  6. We must invest in science, new technology and new markets that help nature. Public money should help create ways of farming that benefit nature and help develop new markets to reward farmer for storing carbon, preventing floods and promoting biodiversity.

The National Farmers Union, with around 47,000 farmers, is consulting all its members before proposing a future domestic agriculture policy.

But its president, Meurig Raymond, rejected Ghosh’s proposals: “The picture the National Trust is trying to paint – that of a damaged countryside – is one that neither I nor most farmers, or visitors to the countryside, will recognise.”

He added: “We should not be contemplating doing anything which will undermine British farming’s competitiveness or its ability to produce food. To do so would risk exporting food production out of Britain and for Britain to be a nation which relies even further on imports to feed itself. In our view, food security should be considered to be a legitimate political goal and public good.”

Ross Murray, president of the Country Land and Business Association, said he was: “concerned by the Trust’s vision for a policy that sets solely environmental objectives. Only a profitable farming sector present throughout our countryside will ensure we have the people, the resource and the experience to deliver the environmental improvements the Trust rightly seeks to achieve. The policy that replaces the CAP must provide support for productive farming.”