Queenswood turns over a new leaf

Queenswood HerefordshireAfter a period of uncertainty it appears that the future of Queenswood country park and Bodenham lake has been secured.

Despite the usual lack of transparency and heel-dragging by Herefordshire Council a 99 year lease looks set to be signed for both sites.

The new management team is a partnership between Herefordshire Wildlife Trust and environmental group New Leaf.

Both Herefordshire Wildlife Trust and New Leaf have undertaken a period of public consultation in order to put forward their vision for the future of these vital publicly-owned sites.

We spoke to Kate Gathercole from New Leaf about the future make up of the management teams for Queenswood and Bodenham lake.

“We plan to set up site management groups for both sites, made up of local people who represent the various interests for that specific site,” Kate told the Heckler.

“These groups will be making the decisions about what happens at each of the sites. Day-to-day decisions will broadly be guided by the underlying vision for the sites.

“Our aspirations on education are to develop the unique natural settings of Queenswood and Bodenham lake as beautiful centres of deep and experiential learning. We hope to build an education and visitors centre at Queenswood, which would offer a range of revolving exhibitions and a growing variety of short courses and other educational initiatives.”

As well as education New Leaf plans to promote sustainable energy techniques with a purpose built environmental centre at Queenswood.

“We plan to apply for finance to retrofit the existing buildings to the highest standards of efficiency and to ensure that any new buildings commissioned are built as demonstrations of best practice energy efficiency, renewable energy generation and water use,” Kate said.

And what will New Leaf do about parking charges?

“This is a really difficult one. We understand that the sites will need an income of around £100,000 per annum to be viable. Sadly, reviewing the most recent council figures for costs and income at Queenswood, it feels as though car parking charges may be unavoidable. However this is in no way set in stone.

“We are still looking at the possibility of a members’ scheme and would prefer this to the introduction of car parking charges.”

With Herefordshire Council desperate to get rid of its financial responsibilities, it’s good to see that these two sites have been handed to organisations with vision and imagination.

We look forward to New Leaf and Herefordshire Wildlife Trust’s management. Good luck to both.

Luther Blissett

Photo: Catherine Joll

Nappy group urges parents to ditch the disposables

A local group of parents is holding a series of events to promote the use of washable nappies.

The Hereford branch of Worcester Nappy Advisory Service will be taking part in Real Nappy Week from 20th–26th April and will be hoping to convince mums and dads to ditch the disposables.

“We hope to encourage more people to try out modern cloth nappies to see how easy they are to use, how much cheaper they can be and how much better for the environment they are. Cloth nappies are also more gentle on babies with sensitive skin,” Erika from WNAS told us.

WNAS offer demonstrations to the public and one-on-one advice. They also organise a nappy library where parents and carers can loan cloth nappies FREE of charge.

An incredible 8 million nappies are thrown away each day in the UK and they could take 500 years to degrade, so the environmental impact of disposables really can’t be ignored.

But using cloth nappies can also save money. Disposable nappies can cost upwards of £900 per year; using the WNAS nappy library can reduce this cost considerably.

For information on WNAS and Real Nappy Week visit their Facebook page.

Radical change needed in green movements

Edgar Street trees cutLast year’s loss of the Edgar Street lime trees left many people in Hereford feeling angry and disappointed. The trees were removed by the scheming and collusion of Herefordshire Council and the Environmental Agency. In opposition to their plans was a small but determined campaign group, which we at the Heckler were initially supportive of.

Whether this road widening plan has reduced congestion or will speed up entry to the soon-to-open shopping complex is open to debate. But there is no doubt that any traffic-management measures on Edgar Street are welcomed by those people who have to drive along there on a daily basis.

The passionate campaign that opposed the felling was driven by environmental concerns about the reduction of green space in Hereford, and it’s hard to argue with that—it seems obvious that green spaces should be an essential part of any city. But do these views take into account the realities of living in the world as it is today?

We live in a world with an ever-increasing population and with it comes the need to build more houses, roads and other infrastructure projects like high-speed rail links. No matter how efficiently we organise our communities a certain level of growth is inevitable and necessary. But we need to ensure that this growth is sustainable.

Another driving factor that comes at odds with environmentalism is economic growth. Many campaigners across the globe make the link between capitalism, growth and environmental destruction and promote a revolutionary, anti-capitalist form of ecology as a result. Unfortunately some of the environmentalists in Britain and other countries remain stuck in a green ghetto, seeing things in black and white terms of beautiful planet v. destructive humans. It is a ghetto that is as isolated as it is unresponsive to modern needs.

If we really want to challenge the destruction of the world around us we need to move on from NIMBYism, signing petitions or voting for ‘sympathetic’ political parties and instead think about real, radical change, both social and personal. Otherwise it’ll be the same faces holding hands and singing songs when the bypass ploughs through the Lugg flats in a few years.

No fracking way!

For many years the government has been spending a large amount of money on the research of the highly controversial process of ‘fracking’. Fracking is the process in which holes are drilled deep in to the earth’s crust and small explosions are set off deep underground in order to extract shale gas. This research has also been to find out what areas of the UK have good enough shale reserves to carry out the process and there have been up to 8000 fracking sites proposed for the country, including in Herefordshire! Recently Herefordshire Council has revealed three potential sites in the east of the county in which fracking could take place; Fownhope, Much Marcle and Eastnor.

What’s the problem?

Since similar areas have been used for exploratory sites, the problems have been clear to see. These problems are both environmental and economic. In the US, where ‘fracking’ has been established for a number of years, water supplies have been poisoned, seismic activity has increased and some people have experienced several linked health issues. In 2011, earth tremors were caused in Lancashire after test drilling there. Likewise, heavy vehicle activity associated with fracking in such small, rural places is neither good for the quality of life of residents, their health or the environment. Many are also opposed to it as it furthers the use of fossil fuels, a trend which environmental campaigners argue should be reversed.

The economic issues are equally as serious, house prices in some areas have dropped up to 30% in some areas of the country where the oil company Cuadrilla has started the construction process and many people have struggled to obtain house insurance.

Herefordshire is an area of outstanding natural beauty, with prestine countryside and what is generally seen as a green and healthy area to live. Fracking will almost definitely have an impact on the landscape of the county, with tourism likely to suffer. As an agricultural county, there are also potential risks to this industry from fracking. Experience in the US shows that fracking can create problems for local agriculture, including the loss of agricultural land, and concerns about clean water supplies.

Opposition rising

Opposition to fracking has been hitting the headlines recently. National newspapers have been running pieces on the practise of fracking, and the opposition to it, for a number of weeks now; namely because of events in Balcombe, West Sussex. Residents and environmentalists there have peacefully been opposing the site recently erected by Cuadrilla and have proved to be a force to be reckoned with. They successfully stopped the process from starting for over a week, despite the army of police officers deployed to push it through. This weekend saw a ‘weekend of action’ by protesters at the site, with camps set up for the weekend, a protest march which was 2,000-strong and a series of blockades, occupations and other forms of ‘direct action’ taking place against Cuadrilla and associated companies.

The opposition to fracking in Herefordshire has also been building. Nearly 400 people have signed an online petition to get Herefordshire council to reject all planning applications they get that relate to fracking, both exploratory and sites proper. A facebook campaign page has also been set up and meetings are being arranged to discuss the possibility of fracking in the county and what to do about it.

The coming weeks and months will show which way it’s going to go; will drilling companies start applying to drill in Herefordshire or is it just a case of ‘what if?’ Time will tell but the wheels are already in motion to oppose such a move. For any campaign against fracking to be successful, it needs to ensured that local people and the concerns of their communities are at the forefront of any camapign, as we have seen to an extent in Balcombe. Professional activists parachuting in from elsewhere just won’t cut the mustard, especially if drilling is rolled out to thousands of potential sites across the country.

Resources and more information

Petition against fracking in Herefordshire

‘Ban Fracking in Herefordshire’ facebook page

Frack Off (UK)

by Meadow Ender

Lime trees not limelight

The fight to save the Edgar Street trees continued this week with a demonstration of local residents and activists. Those who attended made their feeling known with music, song and the redecoration of the trees. It was a good turn out for the first demo, but almost inevitably it was hijacked by politicians. In the resulting video that was produced from the demo (which can be viewed here) these politicians feature heavily.

All residents of Hereford have an opinion on the trees, politicians included, but why they have to be thrust to the front of the campaign is unclear. Councillors from the ‘It’s their County’ party in particular have a bad record when it comes to community led organisations. Lets not forget that they destroyed the anti-Edgar Street Grid campaign in order to get themselves elected. And since when did the Tory party give a shit about the environment. Clearly for these individuals the limelight is far more important that the trees.

The people who really matter are those directly affected by the planned road widening scheme. Local residents like Anne-Marie Dossett who are working tirelessly to ensure that the public are listened too. These are the people who are driving the campaign, and should be commended for doing so.

What matters is the opinions of local people who feel passionate about saving these trees. Let hope their views aren’t ignored in favour of self serving politicians

The fight continues.