This week has been dominated by two subjects, Fracking and the EU Referendum. As I suspect these subject will continue to dominate in the weeks & months to come, it is right that I will use this, my last “Letter from Bassetlaw” for this year, to look at both.
Fracking vs Renewables.
This week we saw the Government renege on the commitments made before the election not the extract methane or oil from under National Parks & other sensitive areas of our countryside. Now, it will be OK to Frack under places like Sherwood Forest & Clumber just so long as the site they drill from is outside the sensitive area. They have also slashed subsides to the solar power industry by 65%.
Also this week Bassetlaw District Council’s Planning Committee voted not to object to iGas’s plan to drill a test bore under Misson to see if there is enough Methane there to make it worth Fracking. Only 1 of the Councillors (and thank you to Cllr Graham Oxby) was brave enough to stand up to the bullies and vote against the application. This was after compelling evidence had been presented to show that far from bringing jobs to the area, the drilling will put 75 jobs at risk on a local Organic farm as the chemicals used as lubricants in the drilling the bore would bit that Organic status at risk. The application now goes on to Nottinghamshire County Council to approve or not
Since May, our Government (which only got the support of less than 37% of those who voted in the General Election) has rolled back all the safeguards against Fracking put in place by the Lib Dem Secretaries of State, Chris Huhne & Ed Davey, when they were in charge at DECC. This is completely incompatible with the commitments made in Pairs last weekend to cut back on the burning of hydrocarbons.
After these developments, and prompted by a discussion I had been having with others, I posted a comment on my Facebook page.
Even if Fracking was clean, safe and economic, I would still oppose it as we cannot afford to burn more hydrocarbons. We must move away from this dangerous reliance on a technology that is poisoning the planet and the sooner we start making serious moves to do so, the better it will be.
Fracking will not help the drive towards a clean energy future. We must stop wasting time & money chasing ever harder to extract hydrocarbons and start make real investments into renewables.
The EU Referendum
In the run up to the European Parliaments elections, I was challenged to say why I was pro-EU so I wrote this post Why I am Pro-EU which I have reposted this week. While some of the details may have change, the basic arguments are just as valid today as they were two weeks ago. In some ways they are even more valid.
On a range of issues, from Climate Change to fighting International Crime, from combating terrorism & ensuring our security to making sure Human Rights are respected around the world, the problem cross national boundaries and can only be tackled by working closely with other countries.
The EU gives us that framework. The UK needs to be taking the lead in using the EU’s standing & influence to solve these problems rather than walking away from it and diminishing bout our & the EU’s power to be a force for the better in the world.
I am not naïve to think that the EU cannot be improved. Like most layers of Government, it can be over bureaucratic and remote from those it governs, just as Whitehall, County Hall and Queens Buildings can be. These issues need to be address, indeed our concerns on this are shared by many across the EU, but would anyone seriously claim that Nottinghamshire (with 786,700 residents it is bigger than some members of the EU) should leave the UK because the UK Government in Westminster does not reflect what we want, does not take our concerns into account and cost too much? No, and anyone suggesting that would be though to be a fool. Well the UK is in the same position towards Europe as Nottinghamshire is to the UK Government. We may have issues with it and what it does but to leave would be unthinkable.
A couple of weeks ago, I promised to come back to you about what D2N2 means and how it affects us in Bassetlaw. I had a meeting earlier this week with others from across Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire to explore this and found out that D2N2 is a “Local Enterprise Partnership” (LEP) for the combined area of Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire (including Nottingham & Derby cities) and is used to channel development funds from Central Government to the area.
The D2N2 area is now being offered the chance to get even more funding from the Government but the condition is that we have an Executive Mayor for the area and many of the powers, including planning, of the District, Borough, County & City Councils in the two Counties will be passed to the Mayor and a Combined Authority (CA) to oversee them. It is not yet clear who will make up this CA. The full range of powers to be passed up and the role of the Councils in the new settlement is still very unclear
The Government calls this Devolution but, to be honest, it does not look like devolving powers down to local communities, simply a way of taking powers from those communities & local accountable councils and centralising them in a single person even more remote and far less accountable by the people across two Counties
I am still working to fill in the gaps in my knowledge on the proposals and am open to having my views changed on this but for now, I feel the idea is bad news for us in the “remote north” of the area as we will get ignored both by the new CA and by the Sheffield City Region (which we also belong to) as both will think the other should be responsible for development here in Bassetlaw.
As I wrote at the beginning, this will be my final Letter from Bassetlaw this year, I will post my next one on the first weekend in January 2016. I hope you all have a great time with family & friends over the next couple of weeks and look forward to a prosperous & rewarding time in 2016
Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year