Tree Survey – NDR – initial visit

Today was one of those glorious Autumn days, cold and bright, with a lovely fresh smell in the air. For a while now I’ve been wondering how many trees the council planted alongside the new dual carriageway near me have actually survived, so I thought I go take a look. Short answer from the small survey of 216 trees on one particular stretch: 16% have died.

The Northern Distributor Road (NDR) has been open for a few years now, and had lots of trees planted alongside it to try to restore the damage done by the road. We’re supposed to call it the Broadland Northway now; I think this is probably an effort by Norfolk County Council to disguise the fact that its purpose is to open up the countryside to more development, distributing traffic to new parts of the county.

Unfortunately, many of the trees planted have died due to the extreme weather we’ve been having. It’s just been too hot and dry, and they haven’t been watered sufficiently. A plethora of plastic tree guards now stand empty in many places, grave markers for the saplings that have sadly perished. It was good to see so many other plants growing in the verge alongside the road, however I’m sure Yarrow shouldn’t be flowering at this time of year; I guess that’s because of how warm it’s been.

My plant ID skills aren’t brilliant, but I saw Comfrey, Yarrow, Ribwort and Greater Plantain, as well as thistles, Red Campion, Hogweed, Common Mugwort in abundance, Oxeye Daisies and Buttercups. There were loads of other species however I’ll have to take along a guide to ID them next time. Roadside verges can contain lots of biodiversity, I’ve seen hares feeding alongside the cycle path, kestrels hunting, and lots of insects in the summer. However, I don’t think the verges really make up for the swathe of destruction caused when the road was built.

Today was an exploratory visit. I counted trees on a hundred metre stretch not far from the Plumsteads, noting down species as well as dead or missing trees. I concentrated on the eastern side of the bank built up next to the dual carriageway, which is more shaded. The western side looked to have more empty tree guards, however it’ll need a return visit to confirm this. Results of this initial exploratory survey below.

SpeciesCountPecentage
Dead/missing3516.20%
Hawthorn4922.69%
Field Maple5625.93%
Oak (English)2310.65%
Dog Rose73.24%
Cherry73.24%
Dogwood62.78%
Apple31.39%
Blackthorn2612.04%
Spindle41.85%



Total216
TREE SURVEY 25 NOV 2022

Here’s a pie chart of the results.

Field Maple came our top, followed by Hawthorn, however it was good to see other species mixed in such as Cherry, Spindle, a good number of English Oaks, Dogwood and Blackthorn. Lots of good species for wildlife to use. Unfortunately 16% of the tree guards were either standing empty, or had dead saplings inside them. I suspect the percentage is in fact a bit higher than this as some tree guards have either been removed or have blown away. I think the western side of the bank will have a bigger percentage of dead trees, and I know other stretches have been impacted to a greater or lesser degree. I’ll have to get out and do other surveys in different locations.

I believe around 6,000 trees were cut down to build the NDR, a road that cost £205m to build. It was reported in October last year that around 3,500 of the trees planted to replace those lost when the road was built have died. Norfolk County Council pledged to plant 5 trees for every 1 they cut down, 30,000 in total. They must be a long way off this target, especially as many more trees and shrubs, lots of them replacement replacements, perished during the heatwave this summer.

It’s frustrating that Norfolk County Council think you can just replace mature trees and habitat, destroyed to make way for road building, with saplings that will take decades to do anything meaningful in terms of carbon sequestration. It will also take centuries for the soil to recover, species to translocate, and for any sort of mature woodland landscape to settle back in. The Council are planning the same with the Northern Distributor Road; it just doesn’t add up when we’re in a climate and ecological emergency, not to mention the impact it has on local communities, flood mitigation, and local wildlife. It’s also frustrating to see so many empty plastic tree guards littering parts of the landscape next to the NDR.

I hope to get out for further surveys over the coming weeks so I can report back findings to Broadland Green Party, who will be able to raise this with Broadland District Council. Tree ID gets a bit trickier as they lose their leaves, so I’ll have to put my winter buds knowledge to use.

No pictures of Gideon on this blog post I’m afraid, he’s hiding somewhere after having an argument with one of the neighbour’s cats. I’ll leave you with some pictures of a glorious Norfolk sunset from the other evening.

I’d rather be in the woods

I really would rather be in the woods, engaged in bushcraft training, foraging, learning about plants, animals and trees. Helping others learn about them too. That would be great. The year long bushcraft course I finished last year with the Woodcraft School, which was actually two years long due to the pandemic, was brilliant. I want to be sitting around a campfire with mates swapping tales after a hard days graft. But I just don’t feel I can at the moment.

Me and my camp
Me and my camp

I think I’m having one of those days where everything feels a little bleak, hard work, headachy, not to mention frustrating and emotionally taxing. October was pretty intense on the protest front, helping to support Just Stop Oil as we took action in London. November is turning out to be similar. Not that I could think of doing anything else at the moment, the crisis being so urgent.

Like many others I’ve taken holiday from my day job to support the Just Stop Oil protests, and am often busy in the evenings and at weekends doing similar. It’s tiring, but what else can we do in the face of a Government that simply won’t do what’s needed? These ordinary people from all walks of life are some of the kindest, most compassionate and self-sacrificing people I’ve ever met. It’s a privilege to work with them, learn from them, cry with them and do whatever I can to help get their stories and message out there.

The UK Government want to open up over 100 new oil and gas projects, when all the science is saying we can’t afford the climate wrecking emissions from doing so. Just Stop Oil are demanding no new oil and gas licenses are granted, and that we transition to renewable energy. We have enough oil and gas reserves to keep us going for years, we don’t need to open up new ones that take decades to come online, are 9 times more expensive than renewables, and won’t do anything to help with the cost of living crisis or our energy security.

People around the world, especially in the Global South, are dying right now because of floods, droughts, fires and famine. A report from Oxfam in May this year said it was likely one person is dying from hunger every 48 seconds in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. It’s only got worse since May. Thirty three million people have been displaced from their homes in Pakistan due to flooding, and now disease is rife. The list of climate related disasters goes on.

On the home front we’re protected from the worst impacts, however the summer heatwave where temperatures went over 40C for the first time saw over 3,000 excess deaths. The London fire service had their busiest period since the blitz due to fires caused by these temperatures, and sixty homes round the country were lost as a direct result. Harvests are failing both where I live in East Anglia, and around the world, which is going to drive food prices up even further and will mean even more people go hungry.

You don’t have to believe Extinction Rebellion or Just Stop Oil when we tell you just how serious the crisis is. Thousands of scientists are screaming it from the rooftops. Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General, said this week we’re on course for Climate Hell. The International Energy Association and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are saying we can’t have any new oil and gas projects. Sir David King, ex-chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Government says we have 2 or 3 years left to act to slash green house gas emissions. Saint David Attenborough is saying the same. We need to act now or we face societal collapse.

I am so scared about not only what’s going to happen to me as I grow older, but for my niece and nephew; will they have a chance to grow as old as I am? I’m 47, they are 9 and 11. It’s the same for all my friends’ children. I just feel like I have to do something to give them a chance at a survivable future, and hopefully one they can thrive in. I know this sounds awful, but it’s the truth, one that’s not being talked about enough.

The protests by Just Stop Oil on the M25 this week have rightly sparked outrage amongst the general public. Traffic has ground to a halt meaning people can’t get to work, have missed funerals, may have missed or been late for hospital or doctors appointments. It’s terrible that it’s come to this. The people taking this action know they are going to be hated, but don’t think they have any other recourse. Everything else has been tried: writing petitions, talking to MPs, writing letters, standing on a pavement with a placard or going on a march. Civil resistance is all we have left. Actions have included blockading fuel depots and disrupting oil refineries, road blocks in London, disruptive actions outside Downing Street and other Government departments. Soup and cake has been thrown at artworks, not damaging them, but causing media uproar and public backlash from some quarters.

These actions create the tension required for discussion to happen, for the climate crisis and the action needed to mitigate it – we can’t stop it – to get into the media and for the Government to take notice. Our criminal Government could stop the Just Stop Oil actions right now by agreeing to not allow any new oil and gas projects. It’s a straightforward demand that all the experts are saying needs to happen, right now. Sunak is at COP27 saying action needs to be taken, the crisis is urgent and we need to hit our targets, but it’s all nonsense. He and his party are doing the opposite of what’s needed and falsely accounting UK carbon emissions to make us look good. COP 27, like COP26, is full of fossil fuel lobbyists and I hold out very little hope it will result in any concrete commitments for change. Meanwhile year on year the situation gets more and more dire, people are suffering and dying, and our futures are going up in smoke.

I do understand why many of the public are getting angry about the civil resistance taking place. It’s really shit, however I’m also getting pretty frustrated with how misdirected that anger is. This isn’t a popularity contest, however the Government are being negligent and are far more deserving of your ire. I learned this week that hundreds of lawyers wrote to the Government to say that if average temperatures rise 1.5C above pre-industrial averages we will lose the rule of law. They are talking about societal breakdown. The UN said last week that there’s no credible path to keeping temperates below +1.5C. The Government’s continued inaction on the climate crisis, and continued support of the fossil fuel industry, is therefore criminal. They are still subsidising oil and gas companies to the tune of £236 million pounds a week, when instead they could be investing this money into renewables and helping with the cost of living crisis. The ‘windfall tax’ they’ve imposed on energy company profits has massive loopholes, allowing the likes of BP and Shell to offset profits versus new development costs. BP and Shell are making billions of pounds, profits for a really small minority, whilst the majority suffer.

Back to the frustration. As a spokesperson for JSO (Just Stop Oil) you hear and see all the criticism, either during interviews or online on social media platforms, or in the media. Here are several of the common topics, with my comments:

  • You’re all hypocrites, you drove to those actions, you wear clothes made from oil products, eat food that uses oil, have a mobile phone etc
    • Yes, it’s true, we’re hypocrites. We can’t be anything else in the current system. We can recycle as much as we like, stop flying, go vegan, but we still exist in a system where not using oil and gas is impossible. Taking action or being noticed whilst campaigning for change, and not using fossil fuels, is impossible. What should we do, go and live in a cave and wear a hemp sack? Doing nothing isn’t an option. We’re not saying stop using oil and gas tomorrow, we’re saying no new oil and gas projects. We need a just transition to a new way of living.
  • The traffic delays are causing loads of pollution and green house gas emissions. You’re making the crisis worse by your actions.
    • Ok. Deep breath. The increased emissions/pollution from delays pale into complete insignificance versus the emissions caused by continued fossil fuel exploration, construction, increased overall car use, and the continued and increasing production of all the things we’re told we need and have to buy, but don’t really need. This argument is so tiring, and doesn’t make sense. People could also just turn their engines off if they’re in a traffic jam.
  • You’re losing public support. You need public support. You’re damaging the cause.
    • There’s no evidence to suggest JSO actions are damaging the environmental cause. In a recent poll 66% of respondents supported direct action on the climate and ecological crisis. People may dislike this style of civil resistance, but it get’s results. People are talking about the issue. The media are publishing articles and interviewing us every day; they wouldn’t if we just stood on the roadside with a placard. Previous movements that used civil disobience to get results were loathed at the time, like the Suffragettes. Martin Luther King was the most hated man in America. The LGBTQ+ community had to fight for the rights they have today. They got results from taking direct action, results which everyone recognises today were the desperately needed.
  • Go and protest in China or the US, they’re the big polluters. The UK is responsible for less than 1% of emissions. Us cutting emission won’t do anything. Stop disrupting our lives.
    • One, the 1% stat doesn’t really take into account all our emissions, such as those from the production and transportation of all the goods we consume that a manufactured abroad. Two, this doesn’t account for our historical emissions – we’re a world leader on that since the industrial revolution, and have a responsibility to acknowledge an act. Three, we need to set an example, we can be world leaders at that, and on green tech and a green transition. We really do have a responsibility to face up to our colonial past and the exploitation of the Global South for profit. So we’ll continue to take action in the UK against our criminal Government and the oil and gas industry.
  • You’re delaying ambulances. People are dying because of the actions you’re taking. People can’t get to hospital appointments etc.
    • Yes, it’s really terrible when any delays like this take place, or if ill people get caught up in disruption. I hate it. Worth noting that the South East ambulance service recently said no ambulances had been delayed as a result of protests. JSO and XR also have a blue light policy and always let emergency vehicles through road blocks. It’s still awful if anyone is delayed, but 1000’s round the world are dying right now due to the climate crisis, our futures are at stake, and the Government is doing the opposite of what’s required. What else can we do?
  • You’re nothing but a cult, full of brain-washed idiots!
    • I like this one, it’s quite new. If we’re a cult, we’re a cult that is supported by thousands of scientists, and scientific bodies, the UN Secretary General, the IEA, IPCC, and 1000’s of ordinary people who work as teachers, doctors, nurses, carpenters, students or retired folks. Strange sort of cult really, campaigning to preserve life

There are no doubt lots of other examples. Maybe mention them in the comments and we can discuss further.

I just want to touch on the media’s role in all this. They are complicit in the crisis and just aren’t telling the truth, or giving the public the facts they deserve and need to know. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but just how little people are aware of how dire the situation, and how they haven’t really emotionally connected with it, is still amazes me. The 1.5C target being blown means nothing to so many folks, and I’m not surprised given how little attention the media give the climate and ecological crisis. Reporters don’t challenge oil and gas execs enough, and certainly don’t hold the Government sufficiently to account. Mainstream media is controlled by billionaire oligarchs with an interest in maintaining the status quo, at the expense of everyone else. The media have a duty to report the truth, the same way that we have a duty to rise up versus a morally corrupt and criminally negligent government.

It’s really hard sometimes. I get why people feel the way they do, the anger and frustration, the hatred, I wish people could look beyond the disruption to the reasons for it, and who is ultimately responsible. I was encouraged today to hear people stuck in traffic saying they get it, and support the direct action being taken. I hope this marks a shift in public perception. I hope people spare a thought for those now on remand or serving prison sentences for the action they’ve taken to try to save lives. We’ll see.

One thing for certain, we’ve just got to keep on taking action, and trying new forms of civil resistance to bring about change. Do something and have a chance at a survivable future. Do nothing and perish. Not really a choice there.

Please consider joining Just Stop Oil or Extinction Rebellion out on the streets, or any other organisation taking non-violent direct action. There’s lots of ways to get involved, and plenty of support.

I’d really rather be in the woods though.

I just realised that as the police are starting to arrest reporters and film-makers covering protests, and to arrest ordinary folks on charges of conspiracy when they haven’t actually done anything, there’s even a risk I could be arrested for writing a blog post like this. The Public Order Bill currently going through the House of Lords is terrifying, and a subject for another blog post. If you don’t hear from me for a while you know why (only semi joking).

Picture of Gideon by way of goodbye for now. I asked him about COP27. He pondered for a bit, but reckons there isn’t much hope, especially as humans seem to be interested in cat pictures more than the reality of the climate crisis. Not that he’s complaining, he’s quite vain. Then he went to sleep.

Happy Halloween and a wander in the Wensum Valley

Happy Halloween to one and all. The thing that scares me most this Halloween is how hot it is for October. Doesn’t bode well for more extreme weather events, and what it could be like next Spring/Summer. It’s terrifying how little the Government is doing about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Just lies and false accounting. Sunak won’t even go to COP27. Meanwhile temperatures are forever creeping up and up.

Average temperature increase since 1880.

Before I get on to my wanderings in the Wensum Valley yesterday, I went for a dusk walk round Salhouse on Friday evening, mildly spooky, and weird to be walking around in just a t-shirt.

I love Salhouse Church and the Yew Trees around it. They are covered in berries this year, best not to eat them though. The big skies of Norfolk also offer some great sunsets and night skies.

On to the Wensum Valley where I went for a long walk yesterday. Has to be said it was quite damp, but it’s always regenerative to be in such a special place. I meandered round some of the areas that will be destroyed if the planned Western Link road goes ahead, ploughing through wetland, areas of ancient woodland, and very rare chalk stream habitat. This diverse and ancient landscape, the last green corridor into Norwich, needs to be protected. There’s an endangered super-colony of Barbastelle Bats that make their home there; might be the only super-colony of its sort in the UK.

I made a short film of my visit. The sound of the River Wensum babbling it’s way to Norwich was very calming. There was also a guest pig appearance.

Norfolk County Council are championing the link road, which will compromise the rare chalk stream habitat and the species that live there, as well as increase carbon emissions and pollution. It will also open the countryside up to yet more development. Surely public money should instead be spent on public and active transport, and to help people with the cost of living crisis. Norfolk County Council really need to move with the times and get over their addiction to road building and unsustainable growth.

More info and join the Stop the Western Link campaign here – https://www.stopthewensumlink.co.uk/

And please support the legal campaign here, any donations would really help – https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/stop-road-building-wrecking-climate-nature/

Scientists – why bother listening to them?

This morning I ascertained that pyramid tea bags are easier to throw into a mug at a distance of 2 metres, than the standard round tea bags. I feel I’ve done some important science.

I wish decision makers, the courts and big business would listen to scientists more. It feels like they should do, rather than paying too much attention to the likes of Rupert Murdoch and his minions, or fossil fuel company lobbyists. Shell just announced grotesque profits of £8.1bn in the last quarter.

Meanwhile we have a cost of living crisis and a climate crisis. People are dying from famine and drought in Africa, and 33 million people have been displaced in Pakistan due to floods. Harvest failures around the world, heatwaves, wild fires, permafrost melt, extreme weather, ocean death, the list goes on. People will die from the cold in the UK this winter as they can’t afford to heat their homes, and others can’t afford to buy food. The London fire brigade had their busiest period since the Second World War this summer due to wildfires; 60 people lost their homes in the UK.

All this is being driven by our continued reliance on fossil fuels, which is being driven by these massive energy companies (BP, Shell, Exxon, Gazprom etc) and their greed, plus a complicit Government. Our futures and our children’s futures are at stake, as well as much of life on Earth. Large regions of the planet are likely to become uninhabitable during my lifetime, and the target to contain global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial averages is blown; the UN have said today that there is no credible path in place to meet this. Billions of people are going to have to move – mass migration – resulting in war for remaining resources and the rise of the far right. It’s already happening.

More reports from climate scientists out yesterday; they, the IPCC, Antonio Guterres, Sir David Attenborough, Sir David King, they’re all screaming from the rooftops that we need to slash emissions now, but they’re being ignored in favour of growth and profit. Check out the lancet if you want more info – https://www.thelancet.com/countdown-health-climate. This ongoing mantra that economic growth is good is false. It’s killing us.

But yeah, why should we listen to scientists? Why listen to people that really know their stuff and are shouting into the void about how dire the situation is? They’re desperate, grief stricken, in tears a lot of the time. They’re telling the truth, but our criminal Government aren’t listening. Even worse a lot of the scientific papers or statements by the IPCC (Inter Governmental Panel of Climate Change) don’t tell us exactly how bad it is, as they’re peer reviewed to ensure mass consensus on what’s published, and often dumbed down due to pressure from oil and gas industry lobbyists. If you want to avoid becoming overly depressed about it avoid having a pint down the pub with a climate scientist.

COP27 starts on 06 November. I’m not holding out any hope for anything concrete to come out of it in terms of legally binding cuts in emissions. They’ll be a tonne of green washing, and once again I expect the largest delegation will be from fossil fuel companies sowing misdirection and scepticism about what is scientific fact – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-63316362

When ordinary concerned individuals, including scientists, protest about Government inaction and their complicity in the destruction of our futures, they get chastised and locked up, called selfish, told they’re damaging their cause. Protest and non-violent civil disobedience is our last port of call in demanding change. We’ve known how bad things are for 30 or 40 years, but writing letters, signing petitions, and talking to politicians hasn’t changed anything. We know a direct action form of protest works, it got people the vote, including women via the Suffragettes, and the Chartists (working class rights). It worked for the American civil rights movement, and the Indian independence movement. It can work for the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced.

The Government want to bring in the Public Order Bill to silence freedom of speech and stop protests. There are measures in the Bill that will turn us into a police state similar to Iran, Russia or Syria. Tracking devices on people regarded as potential trouble makers, bans from protesting, curfews; even if you haven’t attended a protest before. I find this both terrifying and enraging. How have we let things come to this? Suella Braverman wants to bring in laws that will slide us into fascism. She dreams of putting refugees on plane flights to Rwanda for god’s sake.

So yeah, maybe more people need to listen to scientists. We’ve got a few years to turn things round, or we face societal collapse.

Here’s a short film I put together of ordinary people from the East of England taking direct action outside the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy last week. Brave and eloquent individuals doing all they can to demand change.

Looking forward to the Norwich beer festival later. Argh. Cognitive dissonance. Maybe I’ll try and write a blog post on that next.

Just Stop Oil – Shoreditch 15 Oct 2022

Short (ish) film I made of Just Stop Oil supporters from East of England taking action in Shoreditch on 15 October.

Their demand – No new oil and gas projects. We have 8 years of oil and gas reserves, which is enough to transition to renewable energy which is 9 times cheaper and far quicker to build. Mean while companies like BP and Shell make billions at our expense.

Very proud of these people, my friends, taking non-violent direct action in a hostile environment to demand change. It has unfortunately come to this to draw attention to the crisis we’re in, as writing letters, signing petitions, and trying to talk to a more than useless Government doesn’t work.

Civil Resistance to this corrupt Government may be the only way we can ensure a survivable future.

Warning: Film contains some scenes of violence and swearing some may find uncomfortable.

#JustStopOil#KeepitintheGround#ClimateCrisis#EnoughisEnough#RiseUp#NoNewOil#ClimateJustice#ActNow#civildisobediance#OccupyWestminster

Just start doing something

Today has to go down as pretty memorable in terms of stuff that’s happened in my lifetime, although not in a particularly good way. Liz Truss resigns, the shortest ever UK Prime Minister; not in terms of stature, rather in terms of term served. It really seems like the blind leading the blind in the Tory party at the moment. A shambles. Complete chaos. Other adjectives no doubt apply. The ‘Have I Got News For You’ Twitter account summarised things quite well:

  • BREAKING: Only 67 more Cabinet ministers till Christmas.
  • BREAKING: The Government.
  • Truss resigns. U-turn expected imminently.

I mean, you really couldn’t make this up.

Here’s a nice picture of Gideon, my cat, just to calm things down a bit before I continue. He doesn’t really care about UK Politics, although he is a bit vexed about me going down to London repeatedly to complain about the Government and Oil companies, leaving him without lap time and treats (lies).

Gideon getting some well earned lap time
Gideon getting some well earned lap time

If this blog post ends up not making much sense it might be because I’ve caught covid again. I caught it the first time around in September 2021 and it wasn’t too bad, aside from losing my sense of smell and taste for a bit. This time I have the annoying persistent cough and am generally feeling a bit crap, hence this post might go off-road. Gideon says it’s my fault for going to the germ filled capital and leaving him to fend for himself (the latter is also lies).

Alright, on to the serious stuff. Because the farce going on in the Houses of Parliament at the moment is nothing compared with the challenges facing ordinary people in the UK. Or the challenges we face on a wider front due to the climate and ecological crisis. Thousands in the Global South (non-western nations) are already dying.

I was thinking about it today, and whilst the Tories can’t even agree on a Prime Minister and Cabinet, the following is happening:

  • UK people are being forced to choose between heating or eating, or can’t afford either. Children in the UK are suffering now, and 1000’s of the elderly may die this winter due to the cold.
  • I read about a kid today who pretended to eat stuff out of an empty lunch box cos his family can’t afford food, and he doesn’t qualify for free school meals. He didn’t want to be embarrassed in front of his friends.
  • Inflation and interest rates are hitting ordinary folks hard, whilst the rich just get richer. Big energy companies like BP and Shell are making record profits at our expense, and the Government refuses to tax them.
  • Division in the UK, between the rich and the poor, as well as different communities, is getting worse. One has to conclude this is an active policy by the Government to make sure we don’t unite against them.
  • Harvests are failing around the world due to extreme weather, driving up food prices. I read East Anglian potato harvests are down by as much as 50% due to the hot and dry weather.
  • Floods in Pakistan have killed thousands and displaced 33 million people. Imagine for a minute if that happened in the UK.
  • Floods in Nigeria kill 100’s and displace over a million. One person every 36 seconds is estimated to be dying from hunger in East Africa. Drought and famine in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan – list not exhaustive. These crises are all exacerbated by Climate Change but you won’t hear about it as much because, you know, it’s Africa rather than Florida.
  • The Amazon and rainforests around the world continue to be slashed and burned to make room for farming – mostly cattle or to grow animal feed. The Amazon is now at, or may have crossed, a tipping point towards savannah/desert.
  • Wildfires still rage, heatwaves are getting worse and killing people, conflict for remaining resources is increasing often breaking out into all out war (e.g. Ukraine).
  • The refugee crises just gets worse and worse, many of them climate refugees, and we want to fly them to Rwanda.
  • Civil liberties, the right to protest and freedom of speech are being restricted and criminalised by the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, and now the Public Order Bill; please look the latter up as it’s truly dystopian and scary, and will turn the UK into a police state like Russia, Syria or Iran.

I’ve not added lots of climate and ecological items to the above list, but lets not forget oceans are dying from over-fishing and acidification, insect numbers have plummeted, rare habitats are still being destroyed, we’re still slaughtering mammals for sport or ‘scientific research’, and parts of the world are becoming uninhabitable. Greenhouse Gas emissions are still going up, and we’re seeing dangerous levels of methane released from the permafrost that could trigger a rapid extinction level event. Oh, and storms really are getting fiercer and more frequent.

People often ask when societal collapse is going to happen? When will the apocalypse strike? I think it’s already happening right before our eyes. Given all the above how can it not be? We’re hanging on by a thread and whilst it could take years, there may be no coming back from it now.

I really think mainstream media is very much to blame for a lot of this. They fail to report key issues, concentrating instead on trivialities and celebrity culture. They vilify or ridicule ordinary people taking action to try and bring about change, and scare off anyone else who was thinking about taking action. A few billionaires own the majority of mainstream media. I think it’s safe to assume they’re just protecting their own interests at everyone else’s expense, and most are blind to it because we’re hit with their messaging day in day out. Just watch the film ‘Don’t Look Up’ to see what’s happening; terrifyingly accurate.

But it’s ok, because the world’s Governments have got this all in hand, haven’t they?

Bollocks they have. COP26 was a failure, and COP27 is likely to be too with fossil fuel companies having far too much influence, and green washing endemic. In politics short-termism is rife, egos abound, lobbyists make sure the Government doesn’t upset the status quo, and the police and criminal justice system is clamping down on any dissenting voices. Any politicians who make it into serious positions of power seem to only have their own interests at heart, or are narcissists, or frankly psychopaths.

So what can we do? Just start doing something at least. Recently I’ve been down in London taking direct action with Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil. Why? Because nothing else is working and civil disobedience has a track record of bringing about a change. Writing letters, signing petitions, talking to your MP or even going on marches have very limited if no impact. Check out this film clip from Zoe Broughton of Lora Johnson, a Just Stop Oil activist.

Lora tells it like it is, whilst being arrested ✊

At the moment 100’s of Just Stop Oil supporters are being arrested down in London for demanding a different future, an end to new oil and gas projects. 1000’s of Extinction Rebellion activists have been arrested over the last few years for demanding the Government tell the truth, act now, and form citizens assemblies to guide us through a just transition.

We’re not saying stop using oil and gas right now, we’re saying we can’t afford the emissions from any new projects, and yet the Government wants to license 130 new oil and gas fields. This goes against what climate scientists, the IPCC, Sir David King, Antonio Gueterres, Sir David Attenborough and many others are saying. We have 2 to 3 years to rapidly reduce green house gas emissions and transition away from fossil fuels or it’s game over. Renewable energy is 9 times cheaper and much quicker to build than extracting new oil and gas, which can take decades to come online.

Why on earth would we want new oil and gas, it’s only purpose at this stage is mega profits for a minority at everyone else’s expense, especially those that live and are dying in the Global South.

Politicians and mainstream media, and members of the public led by this toxic media, are vilifying ordinary people fighting for a future which doesn’t involve more famine, war, death and societal collapse. Here a film mash up I made of a recent Just Stop Oil protest in Trafalgar Square. I’ve got more in the pipeline from last week.

These protestors, ordinary people of all ages and from all walks of life, are some of the kindest, most selfless and courageous people I have ever had the privilege of calling friends and taking peaceful action with. They’re people that have properly emotionally connected with the danger we’re in, not just understood the facts and figures. They are retired, students, have jobs and have taken holiday, or yes they might be between jobs sometimes. And yes they still have to use fossil fuel products because that’s the system we’re stuck with at the moment; we’re all hypocrites to one degree or another.

Yet we are being called selfish, arrogant, and accused of destroying the cause we’re fighting for. Critics say we block emergency vehicles when in fact we have a blue light policy which means we always let them through. The media have slammed two young women for throwing tomato soup on a Van Gogh they knew was covered in glass protection, and two climbers for shutting down the QE2 bridge for two days. People say I agree with your cause but not your methods and that we’re hypocrites; that’s ok, just do something.

You're all hypocrites
You’re all hypocrites

So many claims are being made, many of them false, about our actions, however look at what is happening. Spoke persons from Just Stop Oil (JSO) and Extinction Rebellion (XR) are being invited on TV and Radio shows to debate these issues. The newspapers are covering our actions. The public are talking about the climate and ecological crisis, new oil and gas, and insulating homes. People are starting to understand that the cost of living and energy crises are linked to the climate and ecological emergency; we can solve them together with a just transition. And thousands are joining movements like JSO, XR, Enough is Enough and Friends of the Earth. Yes, JSO actions can be regarded as radical and down right annoying, however they push the window, and as a result more people join the more moderate activist flanks.

People hated the Suffragettes and Dr Martin Luther King when they were active, yet the actions they and many others took are regarded as justified and necessary now. Martin Luther King explained the need to create tension to drive change far better than I can.

MLK theory of change
MLK theory of change

Please look beyond the headlines when you hear about people taking non-violent direct action to demand change, to demand a survivable future, to demand we stop ecological destruction and new oil and gas projects. They’re not doing it to piss you off, or because they want self-attention, they’re doing it because they’ve realised we’re screwed and this is the only option left to them. And now the Government want to clamp down even harder on these legitimate protests.

Please, whatever you are capable of: Just start doing something.

Just Stop Oil are taking action in London throughout October and into November, meet 11am ish outside Downing Street. Extinction Rebellion are planning to get one hundred thousand people out on the streets next April. There’s a big multi-movement march planned in London on 05 November. Don’t be a bystander, get involved in the fight for our futures.

A calming cat picture of Gideon to round things off, hiding in a wrapping paper tepee for some reason. He is still vexed about me going to London, but really thinks humans are making a right old mess of things and need to step up.

Not sure if I should get ill more or less often if it makes me write blog posts like this. I think I’ll go and watch Question Time to relax now, that should be interesting.

Protect the Wensum Valley

Silent Sentinels – Wensum Valley

On the longest day of the year Silent Sentinels stood vigil in the Wensum Valley as part of the Stop the Western Link Road campaign.

Sentinels stood vigil from dawn til dusk, immersing themselves in the landscape with reverence and love, whilst observing the destructive drilling that has already started. This is a short film I made of the day.

Norfolk County Council are championing this link road, which will destroy rare chalk stream habitat and species, increase carbon emissions and pollution, and open the countryside up to yet more development. Invest instead in public and active transport, and help people with the cost of living crisis.

More info and join the campaign here – https://www.stopthewensumlink.co.uk/

And support the legal campaign here – https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/stop-road-building-wrecking-climate-nature/

Seals and Sunsets

The title of this blog post might end up being slightly misleading, that remains to be seen. I’m not entirely sure where it’s gonna go. Best if I start off with some pictures of Gideon, in reclining mode.

The egg box is currently one of his favourite things. He sometimes sleeps on it, which looks very uncomfortable if you ask me. He is very ‘playful’ at the moment, just this morning ambushing me from behind the sofa and savaging my leg; note to self, shorts not always a good idea.

Newsflash just in from BBC – ‘Met police chef Cressida Dick to step down’. Earlier today she said she had no intention of stepping down, so the writing was on the wall really. Maybe now they can appoint someone who will really sort out the institutional racism and misogyny within the police force. I did say I didn’t know where this blog post was going to go didn’t I?

There have been some beautiful sunsets in Norfolk recently. It’s been nice taking a break from work to go and watch them. This one was particularly startling, with an amazing sequence of colours over the course of a few minutes.

Norfolk really does have big skies, which is especially evident when you visit the coast. I popped up to see the seals recently at Horsey Gap, with a couple of friends. Aside from seals, windswept sand dunes, and endless horizon, I just love the sound of the sea and being next to it. I think that’s one the things I loved so much about my Bike around Britain cycle tour in 2013; being next to the sea everyday.

Horsey Gap – sound of the sea

Horsey Gap is home to a massive seal colony, consisting of Atlantic Grey Seals and Common Seals. There must be thousands of them, with thousands of seal pups born every year. Sadly many of them perish before reaching adulthood, but they’re a delight to witness.

When walking down the Norfolk East Coast it’s easy to see how just a small sea level rise could result in massive flooding. It’s so flat behind the dunes, which if breached could see sea water covering vast stretches. I guess it was all under-water once, and probably will be again in the not too distant future.

Did I mention there might be quite a lot of pictures of seals? It’s worth it though, they’re so wonderful to see. The wardens are really good too, able to give you loads of information whilst also keeping the seals safe.

The wardens are very good at keeping people away from the seals, especially those who might otherwise think it’s a good idea to try to pet them, or get a selfie. I am told that if the mother can smell a human on her pup, she may well abandon them, so whilst I’d thoroughly recommend going to see them, best not to get too close.

I took pictures using my old Cannon 550D with a zoom lens, but I think the ones I got on my phone might have actually been better. The Cannon pictures just don’t seem to have picked up the colours as well as the phone. Here are some last ones of mother and pup.

We walked all the way down to Winterton, had some chips and a hot chocolate, and then walked back. I was sad to see the cafe at Winterton is no longer there, due to coastal erosion, however there was a very good circle of food vans which met requirements.

Other stuff that’s been happening. We had a great turnout for the protest versus the proposed Western Link Road. The road will cut through rare chalk stream habitat, endangered Barbastelle bat colonies, and destroy a swathe of precious Norfolk countryside; the last natural corridor into Norwich and its green lungs.

The protest was organised by Norwich Extinction Rebellion, and attended by loads of local groups including Stop the Wensum Link, the Wensum Valley Alliance, Norwich Friends of the Earth, Green New Deal, Green Party and Labour Party councillors and Clive Lewis MP, Trade Union reps and many others. It was so heartening to see so many people come together to oppose an ecocidal road scheme, one that will increase emissions, traffic and pollution, whilst also opening the countryside up to more development. We should be investing the £200m+ it’ll cost for the 4 miles of road into green sustainable transport (buses) and active transport (cycling infrastructure), instead of investing in ultimately our own demise.

Great press coverage and opposition is definitely growing versus the road, with Norwich City Council recently coming out against it. Norfolk County Council and institutions like the University of East Anglia just need to catch up a bit.

You can sign a petition against the road here – https://www.change.org/p/stop-the-wensum-link-road

But why not also get involved in an opposition group too; let me know if you want to learn more.

Ok, nearly there. I really will try to do blog posts more often so I don’t deluge you with updates.

Have you heard to the Nationality and Borders Bill, currently going through Parliament? It will criminalise refugees and asylum seekers, and allow the Government to strip people with dual-nationality of their UK citizenship without warning (clause 9). It’s pretty awful, and another step towards authoritarianism and fascism. I joined a protest in Norwich against it last Saturday, as I don’t want to see more people fleeing for their lives drown in boats crossing the channel, or get persecuted for just wanting a better life for their children. Especially when it comes to climate refugees, of which there are already thousands and will be millions. The UK is historically and currently responsible for this, and we need to help.

It feels like the Government is trying to dehumanise refugees by calling them illegal immigrants, and painting them as a burden and threat. Refugees rebuilt cities like Hamburg after the second world war, and have brought so much to this country already. They deserve a chance like anyone else.

I think that brings us about up to date. A few bullet points to round us off:

  • Still doing physio on my knee after falling off climbing wall in November, and awaiting operation to build new ligaments. Luckily I can still cycle and walking is fine
  • Planning a cycle tour for later this year – I fancy Cornwall
  • Also might be going to Scotland for a bit for some walking, will probably get lost
  • Don’t just think about how wrong things are sometimes, try and do something about it. There are tonnes of groups to get involved with, and Extinction Rebellion are taking to the streets in April on another effort change things
  • Anxiety and depression are a thing, friends are amazing. Keep on keeping on
  • Gideon wants me to let him in, so I’d better go

Stay safe and and hope to see you soon…

2022 – Here we go…again

Happy New Year, here’s to hopefully a less contagious 2022! Or at least less in the way of lockdowns and bad decisions by the powers that be. Maybe I should just stick with less contagious and hope for the best.

Gideon had a good Christmas despite me having to abandon him for a few days; he was well looked after by a friend whilst I escaped to my parents (thanks Adam). I don’t think he would have got on very well with my brother’s dog, given previous experience of him chasing canines around.

Now it’s getting colder he’s decided staying inside with blankets is probably for the best. I can’t say I blame him.

I had a good Christmas break down at my parents’ house in East Sussex, with my brother and sister-in-law’s family too. Great to be able to get together after last year’s shenanigans. Got out for some lovely walks on the beach down in Bexhill, and ate too much.

I’m generally not a big fan of Christmas. I really hate all the commercialism and pressure to buy stuff. It brings back memories of people no longer with us like Lucy. I can’t believe it’ll be 10 years since she passed away this February. Lots of happy memories of Christmas’ with her but that makes it harder when it comes round again somehow. Still, this was a good one and had lots of fun playing with my niece and nephew; just waiting for reports of what my niece has broken with the catapult I bought her. Naughty presents are what Uncles are for…right? I’m not playing Monopoly against my nephew again though, too many hotels on Mayfair for my liking, and I kept ending up in jail, which as an Extinction Rebellion person does not bode well.

In between Christmas and New Year I managed a few days of not doing very much, aside from more eating, and reading books, pretty good really. Did get out for a few nice walks including down to Salhouse Broad.

It’s really peaceful and regenerative down there at this time of year, without all the boats and bustle. Always seem to bump into someone I know as well – was good to see Nigel, an ex-colleague from work now with longer hair and living the dream playing in bands and whatnot.

I’ve got a bit of a broken knee at the moment due to falling off a climbing wall in November. Some ligaments that are quite important aren’t there anymore, and need to be rebuilt from bits of my hamstring later this year. Means I can’t climb or do Kendo, but can still walk about, albeit with one of those huge knee brace things. I can still cycle. Cycling is in fact encouraged as apparently I need (I was going to do a bad knee pun then but resisted) to have thighs like Chris Hoy’s before the operation. This could be challenging. As always I am thoroughly impressed with the NHS and how hard they work, and enjoyed the MRI scan. They weren’t very complimentary of the Government and how they’ve handled COVID, unsurprisingly.

Before going back to work I went for a walk round the Wensum Valley, to look at the proposed route for the Western Link Road. The road will destroy large swathes of beautiful and massively important Norfolk Countryside.

The Wensum Valley is a Special Area of Conservation with ancient woodland, rare chalk stream habitat, endangered barbastelle bat colonies and diverse flora and fauna. It would be a travesty if the link road went ahead.

Building the road will devastate rare habitat, plant and animal species, and increase traffic and emissions. We simply can’t afford to carry on with schemes like this whilst we’re in the middle of a climate and ecological emergency. It would be far better if the Council invested in a joined up green public transport plan, including cycling infrastructure, instead of opening up the countryside to more development and cutting 5 or 10 minutes off a journey. The Wensum Valley is the last natural corridor into Norwich, it needs to be saved.

The good news is that the EDP reported today that Norwich City Council no longer back the road, great news in fact – thank you! Just need Norfolk County Council to catch up now. More on that story here – https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/local-council/norwich-western-link-city-council-rejection-8600434

I really do dream of the day when politicians start taking the climate and ecological emergency seriously. Maybe 2022 will be the year for it after last year’s disappointing COP26. Here’s the proposed route for the link road – if you’re Norfolk based please write to your MP and/or councillor to tell them to oppose it, and you can always join the Stop the Wensum Link campaign (or XR Norwich).

Whilst you’re at it please ask them to oppose the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which could stop you protesting about anything, and will send this country sliding further info authoritarianism. Have a look at the Netpol site for more info.

What else does 2022 have in store? More Extinction Rebellion stuff for me, it feels more important than ever to be out on the streets demanding change, for ourselves as well as the sake of future generations. With wildfires and floods raging round the planet, Antarctic ice melt getting really scary, emissions still going up and the Global South really suffering we need action now, not by 2050. I know this means big lifestyle changes, but surely that’s better than loads of people dying and society breaking down? Maybe see you out rebelling for life later this year – message me if you want to get involved.

I am also hoping for a bit of a gradual career change in 2022. I passed my level 4 Bushcraft course last year, which took two years due to COVID. I am really proud of the achievement and would love to teach stuff to others. Stay tuned for more on that soon. And I can’t recommend The Woodcraft School enough.

And I want to do more cycle touring again. Formulating plans for that too.

Have you watched ‘Don’t Look Up? And if so what did you think? I thought it was brilliant commentary on how politicians and the media don’t take the climate and eco crisis seriously, and how society reacts to it. This was reinforced by much of the media and critics slating it, cos they really don’t get it.

All the best for 2022, and Happy Birthday to Sheila and Susan who are both very young again imminently.

Just getting comfortable

Reply from Jerome Mayhew MP

The week draws to and end, and I’ve even written some Christmas cards and acquired a few gifts. Almost feel semi-organised, with only mild levels of pre-festive stress and worry about stuff I haven’t done. I like Christmas, when it gets to the actual few days of celebration, but not the weeks of build up.

Gideon has been decidedly unstressed. In fact he appears to be doing very little as we approach mid-winter. This was mostly him today.

Reply from Jerome Mayhew below, but if nothing else please watch the film from George Monbiot at the end of this post, it’s really important…beware of the clowns.

Now you’ve enjoyed the cat pictures, here’s the response from Jerome Mayhew MP, to the email I sent him earlier this week. To be fair on him, he responded very quickly and comprehensively. The bit about public transport is ok, the rest I mostly find dubious – I’ve inserted a few comments in square brackets and in italics. I shall be replying when I have some time. Let me know what you think…

Dear Mr Harvey,

Thank you for your email.  You have raised a number of points with me so please do forgive the length of my reply.

Weston Link Road

Whilst I do not have a constitutional say over whether the Norwich Western Link takes place, as this is a matter devolved away from MPs, I do support the scheme.  I agree that none of the potential routes for the WLR is without very considerable costs in terms of impact to an otherwise lovely part of our countryside [If all the proposed routes are bad, then why go ahead?].  So what we are looking for is the least-worst option.  The County Council has undertaken extensive consultation on which route to adopt and, on balance, Option C was found to be the best in terms of its impact on local communities, environmental impact, value for money and through the benefits it will provide to local transport links and safety, by removing the rat runs between the A47 and the NDR.  Whilst some people, would prefer one of the other options, without there being a significant failing in the process of consultation, I don’t feel able to argue against the outcome that the consultation produced.  In addition to those opposed to it Option C has wide-ranging support including Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Norwich Airport, Norfolk Constabulary, Norfolk Fire and Rescue and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership. [Using the emergency services to justify more roads doesn’t work for me. More roads equals more traffic, more emissions, and they’ll still get held up. Plus emergency services are going to be under massive pressure due to climate crisis over the coming years]

Having spoken with the Council I understand ecologists have carried out extensive bat surveys over the last three years across a wide area to the west of Norwich, most recently completing further bat radiotracking surveys earlier this month.  Consequently, the Council are developing mitigation proposals to take account of the data collected and are planning to put in considerable measures designed to support local bat populations, including green bridges, underpasses, and improving existing habitats and creating new ones. [The Barbastelle Bat colony is one of the biggest if not the biggest in the UK. They are an endangered species and the road would destroy the colony]

The Council have asked Dr Packman several times if she would be happy to share the data behind the conclusions she has drawn about barbastelle bats and the Norwich Western Link, including the locations of any barbastelle bat roosts her surveys have identified.  To date the data has not been provided.  As I am sure you can appreciate without seeing this data the Council cannot comment on the conclusions Dr Packman has drawn and will continue to base their proposed mitigation and enhancement measures on the evidence they have collected through their surveys. [The research he is referring to is being written up and checked pre-publication – it needs to be fact checked thoroughly to ensure it cannot be disputed, only wish the Government did more of that]

Public Transport

Given the majority of Broadland is not served by rail the only realistic public transport we can talk about are bus services. I fully accept that the current service needs improving as it fails the needs of the majority of residents with infrequent, poorly used and diesel powered buses. The only way I can see the majority of the network being improved is through the adoption of new technology. For example, smaller vehicles which have the right capacity and ride sharing technology which enables on demand door to door service. This is something I have previously raised with Norfolk County Council to see if there is appetite for a trial run in Norfolk.

In addition to this technological solution, earlier this year the Prime Minister announced £5 billion of new funding to overhaul bus and cycle links for every region outside London. This package of investment will boost bus services by focusing on a range of priorities, set to include:

  • Higher frequency services, including evenings and weekends, to make it easier and less restrictive for people to get around at any time of day
  • More ‘turn up and go’ routes where, thanks to higher frequency, people won’t have to rely on timetables to plan journeys
  • New priority schemes will make routes more efficient, so that buses avoid congested routes and can speed passengers through traffic
  • More affordable, simpler fares
  • At least 4,000 new Zero Emission Buses to make greener travel the convenient option, driving forward the UK’s progress on its net zero ambitions

Cycle routes will also see a major boost across the country with over 250 miles of new, high-quality separated cycle routes and safe junctions in towns and cities to be constructed across England, as part of this multibillion pound package.

[Ok, so on public transport I think we can agree, to an extent, but it needs even more investment]

Thorpe Wood

Thorpe Woods are a mixture of semi-natural woodland around compartments of commercial planting which was harvested under their FC woodland management plans.  Given the encroachment of Norwich on three sides and the increasing informal use of the woods by these residents, together with the small scale of the commercial plantation, it is no longer suitable to continue to use the site for commercial forestry.  The area of commercial forestry was planted in the first place because it was poor quality land, and had since developed poor ecological value due to its heavy monoculture [this is really outdated terminology – it’s old Heathland that would regenerate quickly if left alone. As a friend said – Here, in Thorpe, right on the edge of Norwich, we have 200+ acres of prime lowland heath / ancient woodland / wood pasture habitat, containing more rare & scarce plant species than almost any other site outside of SSSIs] .  So the Thorpe and Felthorpe Trust decided that the best future use of the land was to supply local housing need and thereby secure the long term future of the wider woodland for public access, biodiversity growth and recreation.

The planning process undertaken by the Thorpe and Felthorpe Trust is a matter of public record, which included the right to appeal to the planning inspector, who spent six days hearing evidence from all interested parties as well as visiting the site, before coming to her decision granting outline planning permission.  I agree that we should protect and manage the mature native woodland in Thorpe Woods, work to improve biodiversity and focus on ecological management.  As made very clear in the report of the independent Planning Inspector this is exactly what the Trust will be doing; giving for ever and for free c.140 acres of Thorpe Woods as a community woodland for everyone, whilst improving ecological management, biodiversity, public access and recreation.  The Planning Inspector found that: “… the development proposals as a whole would protect and enhance the biodiversity of the District.”  This is even after the new housing is taken into account.  She went on to conclude that the plan, “…constitutes Sustainable Development.” [I, many local ecologists, and the residents of Thorpe are going to have to agree to disgree on this. You can’t improve biodiversity by destroying important habitat]

The development site is now the responsibility of Hill Group, to whom any enquiries about the development should be directed. [Yes, we’re doing that – keeping an eye on their plans after you sold the woods to them for millions]

Planning

We do need to build new homes for younger generations as our local population expands and the size of individual households decreases.   That being said, I think any new homes that are being built should be in keeping with the area and should bring with them sufficient infrastructure investment so that the additional population do not impact negatively on local public services.  I note from your own address that you live in new build estate, which until a few years ago was a field. [Thanks for that, yes I do live in a new build that was built on old agricultural land I think – ecological deserts most of the time, due to intensive farming, not the same as cutting down woodland]

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill contains a huge number of useful additions to our criminal justice system, as the rather unwieldy name implies.  Many of these are uncontroversial and I would certainly not want to delay their introduction by voting against this Bill.  Many of the provisions are also a direct delivery of Conservative manifesto pledges from the election, so it would also be deeply undemocratic of me to seek to prevent their introduction.  The clauses relating to non-violent but highly disruptive protests are there to help the police to manage the new wave of protest direct action, where the aim is not so much to protest as to cause chaos and inconvenience to as many people as possible. We all have a right to protest and to make sure that our voices are heard, but it is a right to protest, not to prevent. Why should one section of the public have an unfettered right to impose massive disruption on the rest of society? What about their right to get on with life? Where competing rights clash, the law must maintain a balance.  Modern protest movements, such as Extinction Rebellion, game the system, and disruption, not peaceful protest, is their objective. The law needs to adjust to maintain the balance of competing rights, and I think this Bill helps to achieve that.

Is this new power open to abuse? Yes it is, like every power that the police have, but there is no difference between this power and every other power that we loan to the police. It is open to challenge and review through the press and the courts. As a democracy, we are well used to holding those in power to account. Every single member of the public has the power to become a citizen journalist immediately through their ‘phone.  As a result, the police are subject to review and oversight like never before.

The setting up of illegal traveller sites can be a nuisance for local communities and an inappropriate development of open space.  Many local residents across the country are concerned about anti-social behaviour, fly-tipping, and noise related to unauthorised sites. 

After two consultations on this issue, as part of the  Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill, new laws will be introduced to increase the powers available to the police in England and Wales. The Bill will introduce a new criminal offence where a person resides or intends to reside on any public or private land without permission and has caused, or is likely to cause, significant harm, obstruction, or harassment or distress.  In addition, the Bill amends the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to broaden the list of harms that can be considered by the police when directing people away from land; and increase the period in which persons directed away from land must not return from three months to 12 months. Amendments to the 1994 Act will in addition allow police to direct trespassers away from land that forms part of a highway.

I can reassure you that the Government has taken steps to ensure that those exercising their rights to enjoy the countryside are not inadvertently impacted by these measures.

These new measures are a proportionate and necessary increase in powers for the police.  The Government has made it clear that only a minority of travellers are causing problems, such as through abusive behaviour and extensive litter and waste at illegal sites.  The vast majority of the travelling community are decent law-abiding people and we must ensure that there are legal sites available for travellers.  As of January 2020, the number of lawful traveller sites increased by 41 per cent from January 2010.  The Government has also given £200,000 to support projects working with Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities to tackle discrimination, improve integration, healthcare and education.

[I don’t know where to start with his commentary around the PCSC Bill. Organisations like Amnesty say it’s bad, very bad. It is going to curtail freedom of speech, and put people in prison for speaking out against the Government. 1930’s Germany anyone? See film fro George Monbiot below for more info]

Yours sincerely,

Jerome Mayhew MP

http://www.saveoursavers.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Portcullis-logo.gif

Jerome Mayhew MP

Member of Parliament for Broadland

House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA

Email – Jerome.Mayhew.mp@parliament.uk

Website – www.jeromemayhew.org.uk

This is the film from George Monbiot on the PCSC Bill, please watch and share widely.