Lake District – the role of sheep farming in the environment

George Monbiot, in a recent article criticising the granting of World heritage site status for the Lake District examines the flaws in current policy which have focussed on sheep farming to the detriment of the natural environment.

Everything that has gone wrong with conservation is exemplified by this decision: the cowardice, the grovelling, the blandishments, the falsehoods. The way conservation groups rolled over is shameful, but also familiar. They did nothing to prevent the Lake District, England’s largest and most spectacular national park, from being officially designated a Beatrix Potter-themed sheep museum.
Lake District is UK’s first national park to win world heritage status
Read more

On Sunday, the UN agency Unesco granted the Lake District world heritage status. This, according to the report on which the decision was based, will correct an “imbalance” between “natural values” and “the cultural values of farming practices”.

The entire high fells have been reduced by sheep to a treeless waste of cropped turf whose monotony is relieved only by erosion gullies, exposed soil and bare rock. Almost all the bird, mammal and insect species you might expect to find in a national park are suppressed or absent, and 75% of wildlife sites are in an unfavourable condition. So you could be forgiven for thinking that the balance should be tilted back towards nature. Oh no: apparently it’s “the cultural values and benefits of the farming activities” that have been neglected.

Another of George Monbiots controversial articles. There is certainly a lot to think about here and scope for policy change. An important question is whether there is room for an element of sheep farming in the area and maintaining the rural economy by retraining local farmers to become land managers in the widest sense of the word.

Removing the sheep without creating alternative employment options could result in farmhouses becoming second homes, to the detriment of the local population.

A new approach to the environment?

The new Secretary of State for the Environment – Michael Gove – made a speech on Friday about his vision for delivering a green Brexit. Much has made of his comments on the unfairness of agricultural subsidies and the negative impact of certain agricultural policies. A review of policy is much-needed if we are to limit climate change, stop our destruction of the environment and create a greener and sustainable world.

Whether the aspirations will be translated into policy is another matter, time will tell.

There are two flaws in the speech – there is no mention of population growth – without a policy objective of a steady state population, other green policies, however well-intentioned will not succeed. The second flaw is that there is no recognition that economic growth in its current form is incompatible with safeguarding the environment. Again we need to aim for a steady state economy.

Unless we take the right environmental action we risk seeing more species die out, with potentially undreamt of consequences in terms of the health and balance of nature. We risk flood damage to the homes in which we live and devastation to the islands that others know as their only home. We will see the forward march of deserts compelling populations to be on the move and the growing shortage of water creating new conflicts and exacerbating old rivalries.

Indeed, ultimately, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat and the energy which powers enterprise, are all threatened if we do not practice proper stewardship of the planet.

If we consider the fate of past societies and civilisations, it has been, again and again, environmental factors that have brought about collapse or crisis. The Pulitzer Prize-winning academic Jared Diamond has, brilliantly, anatomised the forces which led to past civilisational destruction – deforestation and habitat destruction; soil problems such as erosion, salinization, and soil fertility losses; water management problems; overhunting; overfishing; and the effects of introduced species on native species.

For the full speech see:

Nigel Tipple – moving around – another environment, another tale of unsustainable growth!

Many years ago Nigel Tipple was a leading light in the ‘regeneration’ of Camborne and Redruth. Now he is doing similar work in Oxfordshire.

No doubt more of the same – more houses, more roads and more people – it’s not really regeneration is it? It’s just unsustainable growth!

Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership has appointed Nigel Tipple as its new CEO.

He joins the Partnership from Cornwall where he has been Chief Executive of the CPR Urban Regeneration Company for the past 6 years.

Nigel Tipple has spent his career working in economic development and has a strong track record working with both public and private sector players to bring about economic transformation in different areas of the country.

Prior to his role in Cornwall he worked for Renaissance South Yorkshire and before that, as the Objective One Programme Executive in Sheffield.

He takes up his role at the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership on 1 June 2013.

HS2 – a vanity project -what are the lessons to learn?

‘HS2 was always designed to be much more than just a high-speed railway and today we can see the opportunities it brings right around the country – spreading prosperity, acting as a catalyst for investment and rebalancing our economy 10 years before the railway even opens,” said David Higgins, chairman of the high-speed railway, as the first construction contracts were awarded on Monday.

We’ll have to get used to self-serving boasts in this style. The most irritating part is the invitation to think that it’s OK to spend £55.7bn on a high-speed railway – the last official budget – if the construction spreads a little peace, love and rebalancing on the way.

The better question is to ask is whether HS2 is the most effective way to pursue such goals and whether the promised “jobs bonanza” – another pet phrase of the HS2 fans – could be delivered more cheaply by other means.

Last year, the House of Lords economic affairs committee and the Treasury committee in the Commons came to the awkward conclusion that the economic case for HS2 had not been made conclusively.

One can add Michael Byng to those sceptical voices. He is the rail consultant who has calculated that each mile of the initial section from London to Birmingham will cost more than £400m, almost twice the official figure.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling told the BBC the calculation is “just nonsense”, but let’s hope his department bothers to publish a transparent reply, including workings.

Better still, Grayling could order some worked-up examples of what else you can buy for £55.7bn. Railway experts look to smaller-scale upgrades of track and junctions and wonder how many won’t be built as the HS2 mega-project dominates transport spending for the next decade.

Ask the public, and one suspects 90% of respondents would happily settle for a conventional railway to expand capacity on the west coast if the savings could be spent on the NHS. Or perhaps they’d prefer a serious housebuilding programme.

Don’t hold your breath, though. The engineers have won the battle for HS2, and they are determined to persuade you that theirs is the only possible way to spend £55bn, or whatever the true cost turns out to be.

Large iconic projects have been the project of choice for policymakers and politicians. The reasons are somewhat obvious – they are very visible, it is easy to grab media attention for them and public opinion is easily manipulated to support them.

HS2 is not the only iconic project which will use large amounts of funding and probably wont achieve what its supporters assert.

In Cornwall we have had the Eden project, Heartlands and various road schemes which have used up considerable amounts of funding and where the benefits are dubious.

As with HS2, we could ask how could the money have been spent in a more beneficial way? Instead of more roads, more public transport for example!

The difference between assertion and evidence! (Danny Dorling versus CoSERG)

The HOUSE OF LORDS Select Committee on Economic Affairs,Report Building more homes makes interesting reading. One comment which caught our eye is the paragraph below –

27. Professor Danny Dorling from the University of Oxford argued the fact people were living longer was having the biggest effect on housing demand.27 Professor Robert Rowthorn from the University of Cambridge said longevity may affect demand for housing more than immigration: “longevity may mean more people living on their own, for example, and more single-person households. Immigration might not mean that in the same way.”

HOUSE OF LORDS Select Committee on Economic Affairs, 1st Report of Session 2016–17, HL Paper 20, Building more homes

Now in the world of fake news and alternative evidence we might and ought to expect that academics make a more robust case when presenting a case. Yet there is no evidence to back up the assertion made above.

We looked at household type by category for Cornwall for 2001 and 2011. Over the whole period the number of households increased by 15,574. And what was the cause of this?

Well one person pensioner household numbers actually fell from 35,223 to 34,137!

Other one person households rose from 29,307 to 35,132.

Bearing in mind that Cornwall’s population would fall without in-migration, we can attribute all of the increase in households to in-migration. More pensioners living alone has not impacted on housing at all.

Now that’s evidence!

Temple road widening – more road space – more traffic!

News last week that the road widening at Temple on Bodmin moor had been completed and the road was open.

One of Cornwall’s most important strategic routes has been transformed as the four lanes of dual carriageway between Temple and Higher Carblake on the A30 is now open.

Both Lanes of the A30 Temple to Higher Carblake were open from 6:00am on Friday 14th July. The eastbound carriageway was fully open and running at 70mph, on the 12th July along with one of the bridges at Preeze Cross which opened on the 6th July. It has confirmed that Cardinham Bridge will be open the week commencing 17th July, with Temple Bridge opening by the end of the month. Ancillary works will continue throughout this time and into the Autumn.

Long delays for motorists and queues of up to nine miles during peak season will be a thing of the past, with the improvement expected to bring big tourism benefits to Cornwall, as well as open up access for business investment and economic growth.

The successful completion of the scheme is expected to bring more than £134 million into the Cornish economy each year, and play a key role in the future prosperity of Cornwall by encouraging economic growth and aiding regeneration, business expansion and housing delivery, and supporting tourism.

Although car drivers may jump up and down for joy, the reality is that widening roads and increasing road capacity is neither economically necessary or environmentally sustainable.

The effect of increasing capacity is to encourage more car traffic whereas the aim should be to reduce car use.

The final sentence above states that “The successful completion of the scheme is expected to bring more than £134 million into the Cornish economy each year, and play a key role in the future prosperity of Cornwall by encouraging economic growth and aiding regeneration, business expansion and housing delivery, and supporting tourism.” In reality the scheme will allow and encourage housing and population growth neither of which will improve the economy. As for supporting tourism – Cornwall is too dependent on a sector which is heavily reliant on car use.

The consequence of the ‘improvement’ will be more traffic on the A30 – which will then lead to congestion and other issues on the rest of the road network; and, higher population and housing growth neither of which are good for Cornwall.

We will end up with the same problem on the road network as before and with a poorer environment.

Again, we should have invested in other modes of transport with an emphasis on a sustainable transport and tourist policy!