Participation is better than Consultation

Havant Borough Council has recently concluded a six-week public consultation on its draft local plan. All local planning authorities must have a long term plan for their areas prepared in accordance with national policies. The government’s message is that if councils don’t have a plan then Whitehall will step in and write one for them.

The process is well defined and consists of several steps starting with gathering evidence through to consultations on the draft plan, an independent test for soundness, a public inquiry and finally adoption by councillors.

In 2011, in a bid to make planning more resident friendly, the government launched localism to encourage the active participation of local people in developing Neighbourhood Plans. The government say that so far over 200 communities have voted in favour of their Neighbourhood Plans and 1600 more are work in progress, but mostly in southern rural areas. Writing a Neighbourhood Plan to withstand legal and other challenges is extremely labour intensive and often involves mostly retired people with a grasp of planners jargon.

As for the plan itself it might start out with high hopes, but before long it encounters the District Council’s own plan which takes precedence especially when it comes to where to build new homes and how many. Neighbourhood Plans are probably here to stay and be improved not least through encouraging their use in urban areas through the formation of local forums.

Only Emsworth is among Havant’s 14 wards which has a Neighbourhood Plan. Planning should be a compromise between technocrats, politicians and the voters. It so often becomes a struggle between planning officials and residents while local politicians lie low, blame the government or each other. This can be minimised through a clear vision at all levels, an offer of real options and a better understanding of the needs of people and a developers’ payback for nature.

Aiming towards plastic-free towns

When Teresa May launched the government’s 25 year environment plan earlier this year, she pledged to eliminate plastic waste by 2042.

Among other measures Mrs May wanted to see more plastic-free aisles in supermarkets, a deposit-return scheme for Britain’s 13 billion plastic bottles and extension of the very successful 5p charge for plastic bags to small retailers.

Films like Plastic Ocean, a documentary, made by an Australian journalist and shot by David Jones, a Chichester-based underwater cameraman, and recently screened by Havant Friends of the Earth, have made a deep and lasting impact.

The film features David Attenborough whose own Blue Planet series on TV sparked off various nationwide beach cleaning campaigns as well as raised public awareness of how the plastic waste we all create is causing the death and near extinction of hundreds of marine creatures.

During the recent election Havant Friends of the Earth wrote to every candidate inviting them to make a pledge to help reduce plastic waste in the borough.

The seven point pledge asked the council to set an example by using non-plastic products, reducing micro plastic pollution, providing water re-filling points and producing more publicity to residents on the avoidance and disposal of plastic waste.

Of the 52 candidates invited a third committed to join the campaign.

The next step is to bring forward a motion and give the full council the opportunity to show its support and thus send an important message to Havant’s 120,000 residents.

As a rapidly expanding community with more than 50 kilometres of coastline, Havant, like many seaside borough’s, has a special interest in pollution-free seas.

Individuals and some local businesses have already shown extraordinary commitment to cleaning up the area.

It is now time for councils everywhere to join their residents on the challenging journey towards plastic free towns.

Managing plastic waste starts with reducing it

The BBC series Blue Planet inspired a surge of interest in reducing the use and disposal of plastic straws and coffee cups.

It is a small but symbolic step towards cleaning up our planet.

Most people will have heard of the three Rs, namely, reduce, reuse and recycle.

Some enthusiasts have added two more and these are – repair and refuse.

Back in 1950 the then world population of about two billion produced 1.5 million tons of plastic.

Now, with seven billion on the planet, the figure is around 320 tons.

Around our coastline, up to 5,000 pieces of marine plastic have been found per mile of beach.

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean is the great garbage patch, a swirling, soupy mass of plastic debris the size of Texas.

With reduction in mind, what can be done about the use of plastic generally?

We could stop suffocating fruits and vegetables in plastic film, buy a refill cup for beverages or use plastic-free tea bags and wrap our sandwiches up in wax paper in place of cling film.

The plastic bag campaign has been enormously successful with an estimates 30 per cent drop since most European countries introduced charging.

Getting our supermarkets to follow the example set by a store chain in Holland and create plastic-free aisles could help a lot.

Ekoplaza, a Dutch supermarket with 74 branches, is creating a plastic-free aisle in each of them with up to 700 items on sale.

Any packaging will be biodegradable or recyclable and products, they say, will cost no more.

Many of our smaller shops, for example, my home town Emsworth with its two butchers, a bakery, and a greengrocer make plastic-free shopping achievable.

The prime minister, in a recent speech on greening Britain, urged supermarkets to consider creating plastic-free aisles after being advised that over 90 per cent of shoppers would use them.

In a society in which mega corporations are always trying to limit our choices it’s time for customers to speak up and for politicians and corporate bosses to listen and take action.

Recycling is more important than ever

The most recent figures from the government show that, after a period of flatlining, average recycling rates have started to go down from almost 45% in 2014 to 43.9% in 2015. Hampshire authorities continue to struggle to meet even the national average with the best of them, Eastleigh, achieving almost 41%.

At other end of the scale is Portsmouth which manages a paltry 22.7% which is slightly below Gosport’s 23.5%. But some authorities like South Oxfordshire and Surry Heath are up in the mid sixties so it can be done. The EU had set a target for the UK at 50% by 2020 but that was before brexit so the outlook is now less clear.

Contributing factors for the decline include lower commodity prices for plastics, steel and pulp plus deep cuts to local authority funding affecting staff whose role was to promote the benefits of recycling to local residents. Hampshire County Council claims it sends less household waste to landfill than most other authorities, but omits to mention how much of the waste stream is diverted into the county’s hungry incinerators, including spoiled batches of green material that could otherwise have been recycled. Incineration is now described in more user-friendly language as energy from waste but reduce, reuse and recycle is better.

The case for recycling remains stronger than ever as it helps to conserve the world’s dwindling stocks of raw materials, saves energy, reduces emissions and creates new jobs. It’s also a process everybody can contribute to and thus play an active part in protecting the planet for future generations. Hopefully, the government elected on 8th June 2018 will take recycling more seriously than the current government it replaces.