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Revolt Newsletter 115

21/02/2002

Text version


Revolt News 115   Text version

1. We have just heard the very sad news of the death of Michael Craven, the pioneering organic farmer from Huby Burn, who gave such impressive, sincere and moving evidence at the inquiries and hearings in 1992 and in later years. Michael died just before Christmas after a long illness. His deteriorating condition is bound to have been affected by the grinding cruelty of National Grid's steamrollering project to ruin his home and his organic farm.

2. Michael's widow Rosalind is unbowed and battles on with spirit and wit (see also news82.8 of 25.3.01). She has written 16.2.02 to "Dear Mr Group Head Wayleaves", as the intimidating NGC wayleaves officer Charles Waite is designated, and also to Energy Minister Brian Wilson and NGG chairman James Ross. Rosalind protests against the "Very-Secret-Nothing- In-Writing-Negotiation" methods of NGC, which is at the heart of their impasse with so many landowners and their agents. She sees Mr Group Head Wayleaves, alias Mr-Big-The-Terminator, as the arrogant antithesis of negotiation. She also points out the damage that has been done to the now-crumbling Tollerton Road after NGC's botched road works.

3. Points of violation of planning conditions (dry weather, vehicle routes) mentioned in news114 have been taken up with Hambleton DC. Meanwhile Energy Minister Brian Wilson writes to Anne McIntosh to refer to the old 10 inch rut rule. We explained the position, and the problem, in news 67.3 which is appended below for convenience. How Orwellian, that the planning Condition says "Work in connection with the development shall be undertaken in dry weather conditions and when the soil is in a dry state" whereas it means, according to the Energy Minister and NGC, that work may take place in extreme rain and when the soil is as wet as possible, as long as a construction vehicle doesn't make ruts deeper than 10 inches. Departures from (reversals of) the literal meaning of regulations, whether planning conditions or grid security standards, always seem to favour NGC. The condition set by Sec of State was firmer than the background documents. Shouldn't the firmer version apply, or was it just spin to soften an unpopular decision?

4. The outcome from Alne (news114) is a victory for objectors and for common sense. The report on BBC Look North was good. NGC project manager David Mercer said in interview that NGC will go back to reopen negotiations with the landowners and their agents. That is the right thing to do, as they had not responded properly to the land agents' professional letters. If they had gone straight to court, we could have made a strong case that they had acted unreasonably and had not completed proper consultations. Of course, NGC should have done the right thing in the first place instead of bullying their way in. Credit where it's due, they have responded properly albeit late, thanks to objectors' efforts. Unless of course it's the same old Mr-Big-The- Terminator's non-negotiation.

5. From DEFRA's Energy & Environmental Management Jan/Feb 2002: 
(a) A new government Fuel Poverty Strategy includes a 10 million pound pilot for micro CHP, according to. The strategy paper is at http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/energy/fuelpov/index.htm 
(b) Energy Minister Brian Wilson concedes that he should remove trading obstacles to CHP and renewables.
(c) Tony Blair welcomes the PIU report "Resource Productivity: Making More With Less". See http://www.cabinet-office.gov.uk/innovation/2001/resource/report/default.pdf  
(d) The PIU report recommending 100M pounds spend on renewables is at http://www.nds.coi.gov.uk/coi/coipress.nsf 
(d) Energy Minister Brian Wilson spoke of "a new period of expansion for wind energy". The Cefn Croes 58MW wind farm in Wales will be the largest in the UK, until (or unless) the 600MW (300 turbines) Isle of Lewis development in the Hebrides.

6. The Victorian state government in Australia has a good scheme for dealing with National Grid's Bass Link Project. The project is an undersea cable between Victoria and Tasmania plus miles of pylons. A statutory Community Consultative Committee is formed with members from government departments and community no-pylons groups. Even National Grid seems to have approved since they recommended something similar for the Tasmanian end, though that is not a statutory committee and doesn't have government departments on it. Still, it's a step forward.

7. Meanwhile in UK the government is moving to curtail public involvement in planning approval for major projects. The Dept of Transport etc. (DTLR) has issued a consultative booklet "Major Infrastructure Projects: delivering a fundamental change". Its aim is to speed up decisions. More likely to speed up approvals and make them easier. A key proposal is that parliament would look at projects first and endorse them in principle. Then the local consideration would be less than the public inquiries as we know them and need would be taken as established by parliament. You can get a copy from Fiona.Emslie@dtlr.gsi.gov.uk  and the deadline for comments is 22 March. I intend to send a full response.

8. Heard of the PIU? It is the government's (relatively) new Performance and Innovation Unit which reports to the Prime Minister on strategic policy development. It has just produced (on Valentine's Day) an Energy Review to give vision and strategic policy guidance up to 2050. There will be an Energy White Paper to follow later this year. The Energy Review emphasises diversity and security, low-carbon technology, international policy development, and keeping options open. Some think it's flying a kite for nuclear power, which is an option it would keep open. It floats ambitious targets: 20% improvements in domestic energy efficiency by 2010 and a further 20% by 2020, and 20% of electricity generated from renewables by 2020. A 200 page document, it contrasts with President Bush's shallow and un-green 'plan' published the same day (Independent 15.2.02). It can be seen on http://www.piu.gov.uk  or ordered free by phone on 020 7276 1416.

9. Selected points from Microwave News 22(1) Jan/Feb 2002: 
(a) Swedish research notes that babies in incubators are sometimes exposed to high power-frequency magnetic fields. Feychting et al [Epidemiology 13, 45-49, 2002] studied 53 children with leukaemia and 57 controls, all having been in incubators, but found no statistically significant connection, though Feychting says the results do not contradict the positive findings for residential exposures.
(b) ICNIRP is the international counterpart to NRPB's specialist group AGNIR on non-ionising radiation. ICNIRP has now recognised that EMFs may be a risk factor for childhood leukaemia. See Environmental Health Perspectives, 109, Supplement 6, 911-933, Dec 2001.
(c) One factor making it hard to pin down risks from EMFs is that we don't know what type of exposure is most important. Studies leading to the statistical association with childhood leukaemia used the time- waited average (TWA) magnetic field. Recent results showing an association with miscarriage used maximum magnetic field (MMF). The study on incubators (above) also looked at cumulative magnetic field (CMF) which can be measured in microTesla-hours. Other things which might be important are the rate of CMF (e.g. microTesla-hours per year) or the CMF above a threshold value. Then there is the electric rather than magnetic field. Doubt about the exposure metric dilutes the possible effects; that is the effects would show up stronger if we got the right metric. It is important therefore that studies consider all reasonable metrics in their search for potential effects. We can conclude that any real effects are at least as strong and probably stronger than those which show up in statistical studies based on a limited choice of metrics. [These are my comments going further than the note in Microwave News.]
(d) The studies by Li & Neutra on miscarriage [Epidemiology 13, 9-20, Jan 2002] which show risk ratios for miscarriage up to 5.7 times, have led to a sensible dialogue in successive issues of Epidemiology [Jan, March and May 2002 - in press] about the use of the MMF metric. (e) A new president of the NCRP, Thomas Tenford, is about to be installed. The NCRP is the US counterpart to our NRPB. Back in 1995 an NCRP panel chaired by Prof Ross Adey produced an 800 page report on EMFs and recommended strong action to control exposures. The report was suppressed in the drawn out review process which included industrial members, but it was leaked at the time. Tenford is sceptical about the link with childhood leukaemia, speculating that there may be some other explanation.
(f) The NRPB has been folded into a new government agency, The National Infection Control and Health Protection Agency. NRPB staff were surprised by the change, but are assured the NRPB will remain a distinct entity. The web site http://www.nrpb.org/  has been revamped. The Radiation Protection Bulletin can be downloaded and is no longer available in print.

10. Lorraine King writes from New Zealand with details of small-scale solar and wind power systems from Solwind Ltd http://www.solwind.co.nz . They have small wind generators with a vertical axis, and low visual impact. Lorraine runs a dairy farm on renewable power and great economic gains. She says running a farm on zero energy costs can be done for the price of a new tractor and save a dairy farm down-time losses.

APPENDIX 1 Repeat of news67.3 re. dry weather condition.

3. Planning Condition 11 to the Picton-Shipton line consent reads: "Work in connection with the development shall be undertaken in dry weather conditions and when the soil is in a dry state". The reason given is to minimise the risk of damage to the soil. We now have the background and definitions. NGC has sought clarification from DTI, who in turn refer to what the local authorities agreed in 1992 (paper NYLA24), which in turn refers to a definition in a DTI letter of 14.2.92 given for the Norton- Saltholm line as a precedent. That definition was specifically of "when the soil is in a dry state" and not of "dry weather conditions". It states:
(1) Construction equipment shall not traverse soil which is in a fluid state (as identified by the Soil Survey Field Handbook) or when there is standing water on the ground surface.
(2) Movement of construction equipment shall stop immediately if rutting in excess of 250mm (ie approx 10 inches) starts occurring as measured from the original ground surface level. Movement of equipment may only recommence when equipment can be moved without causing rutting in excess of 250mm. NGC sought DTI guidance received as recently as 18 Oct 2000 on the definition of "fluid state".
The Field Handbook page 60 gives the definition; briefly it is that a handful of soil when squeezed tends to flow into the spaces between the fingers, even if after exerting full pressure most of the soil remains in the hand (ie "slightly fluid"). So, going back weakens the Condition 11 from its actual wording, introducing reference to construction traffic only, as distinct from all "work in connection", and introducing the 10 inch rut rule. We have to ask what is the legal force of that background, when the publicly declared Condition was stronger.
On the other part of the Condition, "dry weather conditions", Hambleton DC takes the view this means there must be no precipitation (rain or snow, but not mist or fog). Putting it all together, the Condition (even by DTI's interpretation) should require work to stop if ANY ONE (or more) of the following applies:
(a) there is any standing water on the ground surface;
(b) a squeezed handful of soil tends to flow between the fingers;
(c) ruts of 10 inches occur;
(d) it is raining, snowing or drizzling.
Landowners and protesters may find (b) the simplest and most effective test, especially where the soil is clay. In any event, NGC require the agreement of landowners to enter their land, and if landowners have doubts or unresolved issues, they should be entitled to refuse entry.

 

Mike O'Carroll