Monday, 30 January 2012

Onshore wind turbines - most are good some are wrong

This Wednesday the action group Anglesey against wind turbines are holding a demonstration against onshore wind turbines outside the Council Offices at Llangefni.

According to their website their mission is:

'Anglesey Against Wind Turbines is dedicated to preserving our island landscape. We exist to oppose any further erection of commercial on shore wind turbines on the grounds that they are unsightly,damaging to our fragile economy, uneconomic, noisy and damaging to our wildlife.'

Sadly such a broad brush; that seems to rule out any onshore wind turbines irrespective of their individual merits, dilutes the case against specific sites where the erection of wind turbines should be refused.

Are wind turbines unsightly? - well that is a matter of opinion. Of course a large number of wind turbines in an area of outstanding natural beauty could be damaging to the landscape for many reasons. Then there is a case that wind turbines should be a safe distance from properties, with adequate planning conditions to limit noise pollution.

But to rule out all wind turbines onshore is plainly wrong.

I find it ironic that some people claim to be against wind turbines on the island because they say it would be damaging to tourism, but on the other hand fully support Wylfa B -  you've got to laugh haven't you?

Talking of tourism I found the following appeal decision from last August quite interesting reading.  Its an appeal against the decision of the Isle of Wight to refuse planning permission for the erection of wind turbines on land at Cheverton Down, Cheverton Shute, Shorwell, Newport, Isle of Wight.  You can read the appeal decision at the Isle of Wight website.

The planning appeal  was dismissed for specific reasons as set out by the Inspector. However, on the subject of tourism this is what the Inspector had to say:

94. ThWART and many others in written submissions and evidence to the Inquiry, consider that the proposal would adversely affect tourism, which is so important to the economy of the island. Various surveys, studies and questionnaires were submitted in this regard. Those studies which are prospective are easily criticised on the grounds that there is no guarantee that opinions would equate to actual responses to any change. In retrospective studies, it is not usually possible to say what would have happened had the change not occurred. Methods to try to quantify the effects of turbines on tourism in monetary terms are particularly fraught with difficulty. None of the studies presented to the Inquiry provide useful insight into the likely effects of the proposed turbines on tourism. The harm I have identified to landscape character and the AONB might detract from the recreational experience of those who come to the area to enjoy these attributes, but there is nothing to demonstrate that this would deter them from coming in numbers that would significantly impact upon the tourist economy.

95. I appreciate concerns about the effects on specific local enterprises. Uncertainty about the likely implications of change to this landscape is understandably a matter of some anxiety for those making investment decisions about tourism infrastructure and local businesses. However, for this to weigh significantly against allowing the proposal there would need to be some evidential basis for finding that the turbines would materially affect tourism, and the evidence presented to the Inquiry falls short of doing so.

96. Limerstone Down is a favoured location for hang gliding and paragliding. It is a good take-off point for cross-country flying, allowing for a wide range of wind directions, with lower fields for landing if required. However, I am not convinced that the proposed turbines would necessarily mean that flying from this site ceased. No doubt such high and moving structures would add to the safety risk. But experienced flyers use Chillerton Down, notwithstanding the existing television mast. Those who considered the risk to be too high would be forced to use other, perhaps less desirable, locations, but it seems to me that the financial effects of doing so would be unlikely to have a significant impact on the island’s tourist economy. This is not a consideration which weighs heavily against allowing the appeal.

97. The effect of the turbines on equestrians was raised. The nearest bridleway that is a public right of way would be some 250 m from the turbines. This would exceed the 200 m exclusion zone advocated by the British Horse Society, and cited in PPS22CG. The permissive bridleway would run close to T2 and T3. But these could be closed, albeit at a cost to the landowner.90 Whilst this might necessitate the use of other routes, it is not a consideration of much significance in determining this appeal. The scheme would not be likely to pose a significant risk to those nearby by reason of ice throw or blade failure. I do not consider that the likely effects of the proposed wind farm on equestrians would weigh significantly against the proposal.

Now whilst this appeal decision alone does not set a precedent, I think its an useful reminder that for objections to stand up against any planning application they must be based on some rational argument that you can  justify and back up when challenged.

And finally returning to AAWT mission statement, landscapes are a living entity, that over generations  reflected the growth of humanity. Even in the last hundred years, the landscape of Anglesey has changed due to i.e larger farms, growing towns. You cannot preserve a landscape, for without allowing it to change to reflect the needs at any one moment in time, you will only eventually succeed in destroying the very thing you are trying to protect.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Wet and cold and a chance of snow

The weather next week due to a high pressure dominating above Europe will be relatively cold.  However other than that it gets a bit complicated, as there is a battle between this cold air and the warm air in the Atlantic, as shown above.

What weather forecasters know is over the next few days a number of slow moving fronts will approach from the west, bringing with them on the leading edge a chance of snow. However, as to when the rain turns to snow and back to rain is not certain at the moment.

There is a chance of snow on the island, especially on higher ground, but more importantly should you have a journey over the bridge, say to South Wales, be prepared for snow.

For the island it looks like rain tomorrow, possibly snow or hail showers, clearing Tuesday with more showers, again possibly wintry, towards the end of the week.

One thing for certain it's going to be cold.

A good tip is to look at the moon if it has a blue halo then there is a chance of snow, but if the halo is yellow or brown in colour then its most likely to be rain.

Data Source: Weather Online

Land and Lakes publish revised plans for Penrhos development.

Land & Lakes; a tourism and leisure venture specialising in environmental awareness, whom have acquired the rights to develop land previously owned by Anglesey Aluminium have published revised plans for the development.

You can download the amended plans in pdf format from Land & Leisure website. You will need to allow a 'pop up' from their site to allow the file to be downloaded.

On their website Land & Lakes explain their vision:

The project vision is to create a world class tourism destination that utilises and protects the unique, natural beauty of the area whilst providing an economic legacy for the future. The exact composition of the tourism offer will be developed through public consultation and stakeholder input.

Following the Public Exhibition on 21st-22nd October, the Masterplan and Vision have been revised to reflect feedback from local Community, stakeholders and on-going site assessments.

I for one think the development well thought out,  will bring much needed jobs to one of the most deprived areas in Wales, and Land & Lakes have shown themselves quite willing to listen to local concerns and amended their plans accordingly.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The People's Budget

Last year we on the island with thanks to Paul Williams (aka The Druid) had the People's Manifesto. This year my attention had been drawn by a commentator to the People's Budget.

They say:

Billions of pounds of our money is being used by public bodies without any involvement of local people. The People’s Budget is a campaign to help your community group understand how to persuade your local council, health organisation, police force or housing provider to give you a significant say in how budgets should be spent.

Seems a good idea to me.

But why don't you make your own mind up by visiting the website

Cap on benefits - lone parents hardest hit.

The proposed cap on benefits will hit lone parents the hardest according to government data. The above chart from the impact assessment as published by the Conservative led Coalition Government.(click on chart to enlarge)

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Employment grows in Wales

The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show that for the quarter September to November 2011 as compared to the previous quarter of June to August 2011 the number of people employed in Wales grew.

In summary:

  • The total economically active grew by 12,000
  • The total in employment grew by 13,000
  • The number claiming unemployment allowance fell by 1000
  • The number classed as economically inactive fell by 9000
This needs to be compared with the fact that for the UK overall, the number of unemployed actually rose to 8.4% from 8.3%, the highest since January 1996.

See also: BBC News

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Tudur Owen and Ty Golchi - now open

Tudur Owen, a proud son of our island of good farming stock and successful comedian, he of S4C and Radio Cymru yesterday opened his latest venture at Ty Golchi. You know Ty Golchi by Bangor, bottom of hill just off roundabout, used to be a Chinese Restaurant.

The new venture at Ty Golchi promises to provide most excellent food and drink, as well as entertainment both musical and no doubt top UK comedic acts -  all served with a distinct welsh theme that Tudur is proud of.

Upcoming events are

The website is Ty Golchi, or phone 01248 671 922 to book a table or buy tickets.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Scotland and self-determination

I recently said that the 'controversy' of the proposed referendum in Scotland on whether it wanted full independence or greater devolved powers was a construct of the Conservative party, to divert attention from the dire state of the UK economy.

The official line duly followed by the mainstream media is that the Scottish Parliament does not have the devolved powers to hold such a referendum, but that the UK government would be willing to grant it such powers, as long as the referendum was held on UK government terms.

Some also argue that it should not be down to the people of Scotland alone, and that any referendum held should be for the entire population of the UK.

Or they say that should the Scottish Parliament 'go it alone' and hold a referendum, this could result in legal action that could tie the process down for many years.

All of which rather conveniently forgets Article One of The United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
  1. All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
  2. All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international law. In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.
  3. The States Parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.

In an article Understanding Self-Determination: The Basics by Karen Paker, she defines self determination as:

The right to self-determination, a fundamental principle of human rights law, is an individual and collective right to "freely determine . . . political status and [to] freely pursue . . . economic, social and cultural development." The principle of self-determination is generally linked to the de-colonization process that took place after the promulgation of the United Nations Charter of 1945. Of course, the obligation to respect the principle of self-determination is a prominent feature of the Charter, appearing, inter alia, in both Preamble to the Charter and in Article 1.

The International Court of Justice refers to the right to self-determination as a right held by people rather than a right held by governments alone. The two important United Nations studies on the right to self-determination set out factors of a people that give rise to possession of right to self-determination: a history of independence or self-rule in an identifiable territory, a distinct culture, and a will and capability to regain self-governance.

The right to self-determination is indisputably a norm of jus cogens [compelling law]. Jus cogens norms are the highest rules of international law and they must be strictly obeyed at all times. Both the International Court of Justice and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States have ruled on cases in a way that supports the view that the principle of self-determination also has the legal status of erga omnes. The term "erga omnes" means "flowing to all." Accordingly, ergas omnes obligations of a State are owed to the international community as a whole: when a principle achieves the status of erga omnes the rest of the international community is under a mandatory duty to respect it in all circumstances in their relations with each other.

In summary Scotland only 'offically' became part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain following the enactment of the Union with England Act of 1707,  just over 303 years ago. Even then Scotland still retained certain powers for its own, such as i.e religion and the law.

Scotland having "a history of independence or self-rule in an identifiable territory, a distinct culture, and a will and capability to regain self-governance" do have the right to self-determination. The right to self-determination does not dictate the outcome, it's not independence or nothing. They would be entirely within their rights in example to decide to remain within the union but have greater powers devolved to them, the so called devo-max option, or what I think the Conservatives call localism.

Scotland you could say has compelling law on its side for the holding of a referendum on self-determination, a fact further supported by the mandate that the SNP gained at the last elections for Scottish Parliament. The attempt by the UK government to force onto the Scottish people a referendum on it's own terms could be said to be interference by an 'outside body' on the basic civil and political rights of the Scottish people.

I suspect this may be a rather strong trump card in the hands of Alex Salmond, First Minister of the Scottish Parliament and Leader of the SNP.

Friday, 13 January 2012

UK growth nearly stalled

The UK economy barely grew in the final quarter of 2011, according to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.

The institute estimates that the economy expanded by 0.1 percent in the three months to December, compared with growth of 0.3 percent in the three months to the end of November. According to the institute this implies the economy expanded by 1 per cent in 2011, half the rate of growth experienced in 2010 (2.1 per cent,).

The press release says The National Institute interprets the term “recession” to mean a period when output is falling or receding, while “depression” is a period when output is depressed below its previous peak. Thus, unless output turns down again, the recession is over, while the period of depression is likely to continue for some time.

Reuters reports that whilst George Osborne said there were "signs" the economy was turning a corner and there were reasons to be optimistic in a year when Britain will host the Olympic Games in London...

...Britain is teetering on the edge of recession as global growth slows, government spending cuts bite, and all-important consumers struggle with high inflation, tax hikes and slow wage rises.

You may recall at the beginning of December The Daily Telegraph reported The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said that a bout of severe weather before the end of year could skew economic activity in such a way that Britain does not experience two quarters of negative growth....

Prof Nickell, a member of the OBR...said....“If you have a huge bout of heavy snow before Christmas that will probably rule out a double-dip recession because GDP will fall in the fourth quarter and bounce back in the first quarter",...but...he warned that disruption in the New Year would mean that the statistical masking of the slowdown could not take place. “It’s got to snow in the fourth quarter.”

Let's hope therefore we don't get a huge bout of heavy snow this month or in the following two months.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Have your say on the New Menai and Ynys Môn County Constituency.

Today the Boundary Commission for Wales publish their 'initial proposals' for public consultation. The changes to the boundaries of the parliamentary constituencies are being made primarily to:
  • reduce the number of parliamentary constituencies in Wales from 40 to 30
  • make sure constituencies have a more equal level of registered electors and are between 95% and 105% of the UK Electoral Quota of 76,641 electors.
The proposals create a new Menai and Ynys Môn County Constituency, although this should be of no surprise, as it had been talked about for some time (see Goodbye Ynys Môn).

You can download the full details of the initial proposals from the Boundary Commission Website. The consultation runs until 4 April 2012, should you wish to give your views in person you could attend a public hearing held at Menai Room, Celtic Royal Hotel, Caernarfon on 7-8 March 2012 (see Boundary Commission website for more information).

See Also: BBC News