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BTN Hustings 21st April 7 pm for Borough Council elections 6th May 2021

The next three years are the most critical 3 years in modern times. The Climate Emergency, post-COVID, is the key election issue.

The first council elections for 2 years are upon us. And, on May 6th, we will choose who will be in power for the next 3 years. These will be the three most important years in responding to the climate emergency. This is our last chance to elect people who can respond. Making changes in 2024 will be too late.

We need to be carbon neutral by 2030. And that means the decisions our Council make in the next 3 years will determine if the response is adequate.

Our two local councils – Basingstoke and Deane and Hampshire County Council – make key decisions on things like:

  • How many, and how energy efficient, our new homes and buildings will be.
  • Our transport policy and whether we tackle the immense environmental damage our transport system is doing to our air quality.
  • How we effectively manage waste and recycling.
  • How much we invest in renewable technology.
  • Whether we lead, or lag, in creating the green jobs of the future.
  • How we are going to protect and nurture our land and water resources.

The people we elect on May 6th will determine whether Basingstoke and Deane tackles the climate emergency or falls victim to it.

To help us all decide on who should be making these decisions, and who we should vote for, Basingstoke Transition Network (BTN) has invited all of the major party groupings standing locally in these elections to provide a representative to participate in an online question and answer session.

The event will be streamed online at 7pm Wednesday 21st April.

Please submit questions for the hustings before end of Saturday 17th April to secretary@basingstoketransition.org

If there is time, we will also present questions asked by the online audience on the night.

How to Take Part

You can watch here, on YouTube or on our Facebook Page. Instructions will be provided at the event on how to submit live questions.

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Basingstoke Transition Network

At Basingstoke Transition Network (BTN) we believe we can work together to find ways to reduce our carbon emissions and develop sustainable lifestyles while building a resilient and flourishing local community. We also wish to protect the natural environment and promote improved bio-diversity and nature conservation within the borough. 

BTN is part of the Transition Network. Transition is a movement of communities coming together to reimagine and rebuild our world.

  • Find out more information about BTN in the About Us section.
  • Learn more about the Network on the Transition Network page.
  • Join us at our monthly meetings via Zoom at 7pm on the first Tuesday of each month.

South West Basingstoke – Why Restoring Nature Means Planning Differently

Basingstoke must do much more to put nature recovery, biodiversity, accessible green spaces and a healthy environment at the heart of the planning process.

The recently published Vision for South West Basingstoke does not conform to national planning policy for protecting and restoring biodiversity and deserves root and branch revision. The issues raised are not just important for south west Basingstoke but the whole Borough, concerning as it does Borough-wide Local Plan policies and decisions about sustainable development and land use.

Council continues to hand landowners and developers the power to choose where development should be located, how much land should be developed and what it is used for. That should no longer be tolerated.  Council should shape policy and own decisions on behalf of residents, protecting land that can contribute to plans for natural green infrastructure and other environmental services instead of approving developments that are in conflict. 

Basingstoke is located in the Hampshire Downs, a landscape shared with the North Wessex AONB to the north and the South Downs National Park to the south. Natural England has stated that “bridging the gap makes sense from a landscape and ecological perspective”.  There is an opportunity to create an important corridor in a gap to the west of Basingstoke and at the same time enable wildlife to avoid crossing the A30, and M3 between Junction 7 and 8. 

Despite national planning policy there is no partnership working, no properly functioning Local Nature Partnership, and no credible nature network map for south west Basingstoke to which local communities are able to contribute. Our countryside and wildlife has been fragmented and devastated by a focus on development, intensive farming and the road network.  Corridors are to be measured in tens of metres when hundreds of metres or even kilometres are more viable. Reducing fragmentation by joining and expanding Priority Habitats for wildlife abundance and mobility should be at the heart of planning to achieve lasting change.

It is 14 years since the NERC Act of 2006, 10 years since Making Space for Nature and 8 years after the planning system was remodelled by the National Planning Policy Framework.  Council must fulfil its planning and delivery responsibilities with a policy framework and partnerships that will halt losses, restore biodiversity and deliver a much healthier environment for all life.

Holistic planning is urgently required; for nature, climate change and community and for genuinely sustainable development.  We need a better Vision, with adherence to relevant policies, more science, expertise and partnership working, more decisions in favour of the environment and ambition for restoring biodiversity as well as dealing with climate change.  

Paul Beevers

2020 Air Pollution report from Borough Council

The Council issued its statutory report on air pollution for 2020 (actually covers 2019 and is dated June 2020)  which is accessible from its page:

https://www.basingstoke.gov.uk/air-quality

Basingstoke Clean Air Campaign has reviewed it and notes the following points:

  • 12 sites commenced monitoring air quality in 2017 (including in Bramley and Chineham but mostly on busy roads in the town) of which two have now ceased and 10 sites started being monitored in 2019.
  • March 2018 BDBC received Ministerial Direction to undertake targeted feasibility study into NO2 compliance between A339/A33 and Black Dam roundabouts.
  • BDBC installed two new diffusion tubes at sites 57 and 58 beside the A339 in 2018
  • Levels of NO2 found to be significantly lower than expected and met EU standard on public footpath but marginally exceeded on carriageway
  • Despite these results, DEFRA required further work to explore ways of reducing vehicle emissions here.
  • This further work indicated that reducing speed limit from 70mph to 50mph may achieve desired NO2 reductions.
  • Oct 2018 further Ministerial Direction issued to both BDBC and HCC.
  • Council submitted evidence to DEFRA that air quality did not breach exposure levels and no need for speed limit to be lowered.
  • Government Direction was withdrawn in July 2019.
  • There is no Air Quality Action Plan or Air Quality Strategy though BDBC ‘has taken forward several initiatives in 2019 to pursue improving local air quality’ (Clean Air BDBC campaign, stickers, work with local schools on vehicle idling, electric vehicle charging hub, key themes in local plan, consultation on transport strategy);
  • Attitude for the future is ‘we don’t need any Air Quality Management Areas as annual NO2 objectives are not being exceeded anywhere, we will carry on monitoring and do something if we find a problem. It’s up to individuals to minimise their use of cars, bonfires, coal and wood burning stoves’.

With an all-out election coming in May we encourage readers to ask the candidates about their plans to reduce air pollution in the Borough.  In particular, we should like to know how “business as usual” after the pandemic can be restored while keeping whatever air quality benefits the lockdowns have had (which will be evident in the “2021” report).

Cars trying to join Basingstoke bypass on a winter morning, January 2018.

 

Hampshire 2050 Partnership

https://www.hants.gov.uk/aboutthecouncil/haveyoursay/visionforhampshire2050

The Hampshire 2050 Commission of Inquiry reported in 2019, and more recently, on 21st July 2020, held a meeting on “Creating a Sustainable Hampshire”, the report of which is here:

https://www.hants.gov.uk/aboutthecouncil/haveyoursay/visionforhampshire2050/hampshire-2050-partnership/21-july-2020

This (virtual) meeting looked at five key areas:

  1. Rebuilding a more sustainable economy
  2. Cutting air pollution and promoting active travel
  3. Creating greener, digitally connected homes
  4. Supporting the vulnerable
  5. Promoting the natural environment

The report is worth reading and drawing to the attention of Borough and local/parish councillors, especially on matters of planning.  It identified ten priority projects (comments in italics are mine):

1.Development of a Green Homes retrofit programme potentially linked to the government’s Green Homes Grant initiative and involving corporate partners. (Make sure new homes don’t need the retrofit)

2.Building a digital inclusivity strategy helping to cut carbon emissions and support vulnerable groups.

3.Further boosting low carbon community energy initiatives to increase awareness and up-take. (This might require reversal of planning presumptions against onshore wind.)

4.Exploring what a ’15-minute community’ looks like in reality potentially testing the concept in Winchester and/or Portsmouth.

5.Boosting the electrification of transport covering commercial as well as public sectors. (Hampshire CC is at present considering a transport plan including mass rapid transit for Basingstoke)

6.Developing a pioneering airport and port initiative showcasing a new way of operating that cuts carbon.

7.Further boosting tree-planting and access to nature for all sections of society. (Strategic thinking on green infrastructure is necessary.)

8.Building a sustainable food strategy for the county seeking to reduce food waste, encourage healthy eating and reduce environmental impact. (This might feed through into domestic waste disposal policy in Basingstoke.)

9.Explore the feasibility of creating a county-wide carbon literacy programme boosting awareness and inspiring people to reduce carbon emissions.

10.Further evolve a circular economy strategy for the county starting with the highest impact areas.

 

One of the overarching principles is that: “There was agreement that increased efforts should be made to build a wider coalition of collaborators”, including local and community initiatives.

homegrown marrowfat peas – sustainable food strategy

 

Borough Council consultations on Local Plan and Climate Change/Air Pollution

BTN urges its supporters to comment on the Borough Council’s consultations on the Local Plan, and on Climate Change and Air Pollution.  See:

(a) Local Plan Update – deadline Monday 9th November

https://www.basingstoke.gov.uk/issues-and-options

(b) Climate Change and Air Quality Strategy – deadline Sunday 15th November

https://www.basingstoke.gov.uk/climate-consultation

BTN will be considering its collective response on Tuesday 3rd November 2020 and would welcome your views – contact secretary@basingstoketransition.org

It is important, though, that you put in your comments as an individual as well as letting us know.

 

Government white paper “Planning for the Future”

From Sheila Peacock, secretary, BTN: I spent an afternoon reading the government’s proposal for reforming the English planning laws, which are at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/launch-of-planning-for-the-future-consultation-to-reform-the-planning-system

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/planning-for-the-future

Deadline is 11:45 pm on 29th October (that will be GMT since the clocks go
back the previous Saturday – so you get an extra hour to ponder it – !!)

There are some good and some alarming suggestions in this document, and the implications for house-building, infrastructure and local democracy in Basingstoke and Deane are profound.  I shan’t try to colour your thoughts with mine, but urge every supporter of BTN to have a look and make a comment. 

 

 

Green Homes Grants

The government is inviting applications from up to 600,000 homeowners or landlords to be given out in grants of up to £5k covering up to 2/3 of the cost of home improvements to increase energy efficiency or supply low-carbon heat.  See

https://greenhomesgrant.campaign.gov.uk/?utm_campaign=green_homes_grant_2020&utm_medium=ppc&utm_source=google&utm_content=search-051020

You have to find a registered installer via TrustMark at https://www.trustmark.org.uk


Another useful site is

https://www.simpleenergyadvice.org.uk/

which will recommend local installers.

Local Residents ask Questions of BDBC on Nature and Biodiversity

https://www.basingstoke.gov.uk/webcast

The entirety of this post was sent to BTN by some local residents and BTN endorses these questions.  If you agree with them please do write to your Councillor in advance of the 15th October Full Council meeting,6.30 pm – watch on YouTube at

https://www.basingstoke.gov.uk/webcast

 

Questions on Nature and Biodiversity for Council on October 15 2020

Residents are able to ask questions of Cabinet Portfolio Holders at a full Council meeting if they meet certain conditions. A group of concerned conservation volunteers have submitted questions which they have asked to read out publically at the next full Council meeting on October 15th which begins at 6.30pm. The aim is to seek more engagement and action by Councillors to repair the poor state of biodiversity across this Borough especially on Borough owned land and to ensure children today are better educated about nature and equipped to deal with the consequences of decades of mismanagement and development. What we are asking Council to do is:

  1. Map and deliver urban and rural nature recovery networks as per National Planning Policy to include the creation and safeguarding of green spaces and corridors for species mobility and, solutions to overcoming obstacles to migration and dispersal caused by the built environment.

  2. Schedule with communities and stakeholders extensive habitat restoration to a consistently high standard to deliver biodiversity net gains.

  3. Propose new measures for encouraging, incentivising, empowering and rewarding communities to have oversight and influence over green space services and learning opportunities and meaningful volunteer participation in service delivery.

  4. Propose an urgent and recurring funded programme of outdoor learning for all communities about nature and climate change with a focus on children of school age.

  5. Examine the State of Nature across the Borough and compare spending on nature with all other expenditure.

  6. Review Local Plan policy monitoring criteria reported in the Authority Monitoring Report to resolve discrepancies or ambiguities and recommend improvements.

 

Place Shaping and new development in Basingstoke and Deane

Paul Beevers provides this discussion paper (pdf at PlaceShapingandnewdevelopmentinBasingstokeandDeane)

The subject of “Place” or Place Shaping” was a topic for open discussion at the latest meeting of Basingstoke Transition. The first consultations on Manydown when the project was first launched several years ago involved a company called Beyond Green to bring ideas and lead public consultation. From my recollection, there was quite a lot of agreement in the meetings I attended that the dominance of cars in street scenes should be diminished to create more informal greener spaces for walking, cycling and greater informality in which people might sit and walk and children play. We subsequently learned that such proposals were hampered by B&DBC Councillors certainty that the approach would never be accepted by people in Basingstoke. Cllrs insisted that residents had to be able to drive to their homes and park cars so that they could step out more or less straight into their houses. While we still have to see the final designs for homes on Manydown, and we may be pleasantly surprised, the question remains, can we improve the way we design new communities to make them better for the people who live there?

Without over indulging in a critique of existing “place making” design the dominance of the car in recent decades is very obvious. It was interesting in the discussion that examples were quoted of parts of Brighton Hill and other parts of central Basingstoke where developments prevented residents from parking cars outside their homes but required them to use communal garage areas. Other examples were quoted including old parts of industrial Leeds where terraced houses on opposite sides of a street were pedestrianised in front of the houses and with a green space with trees down the centre. I can think of a similar street in Winchester. In other northern towns there are more examples of old not new streets being pedestrianised and traffic being required to park at either end.

As examples of a more modern approach reference was made to Poundbury, a consequence of Prince Charles being interested in “place”, sustainability and “communities”. Some people will disagree but Poundbury has many supporters and it doesn’t ban cars from its streets. A new project by the Duchy of Cornwall is Nansledan. This too offers a very different image of a community from the dominant experience in Basingstoke. One other notable difference seems to be the quality of the builders allowed to build, a far cry from the builders whose names dominate the mass house building industry.

Discussion in the group was wide ranging with some agreeing that the Basingstoke dependence on cars would not be easily broken. Others pointed out that Cllrs still hold to the same view and were still insisting on the same thinking that informed their views on Manydown. Another view was that a small development would trial some of the ideas on “place making” that hitherto have not been entertained, on the principle that there must be some people interested in a different approach to place making, after all Poundbury has been a success and Nansledan is well on the way. Village Makers (connected with the Living Villages Trust) have been engaged in innovative design and “place making” for several years and it is worth taking a look at community designs on their webpage. These ideas may be on a smaller scale to the estates that are commonly built but surely we need to encourage more innovation and quality in design?

 

Paul Beevers