Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Knowle relocation project > Pegasus planning application 16/0872/MFUL >>> Strategy 3 - Sustainable Development

When it comes to planning decisions, any application must comply with the tenets of 'sustainable development'.

When it comes to the planning decisions over Knowle, the idea of 'sustainability' his has been a central point for the District Council:

Richard Cohen, Deputy Chief Executive presented his report on options to address the Council’s future accommodation requirements. Since the Development Management Committee (1 March 2013) had refused the application for alternative use of the Knowle site, work had continued on the viability analysis of various options:
 Remaining at the Knowle in a reconfigured form
 Honiton options
 Relocation to Cranbrook
 Other sites in the district
The viability analysis identified that remaining at the Knowle site was not a sustainable option as the ‘outdated’ offices were not fit for purpose and costly to run.

However, such statements have to be seen within the context of what the Local Plan says on the subject of 'sustainable development':

East Devon Local Plan 2013 to 2031

Strategy 3 - Sustainable Development:
The objective of ensuring sustainable development is central to our thinking. We interpret sustainable development in East Devon to mean that the following issues and their interrelationships are taken fully into account when considering development: a) Conserving and Enhancing the Environment - which includes ensuring development is undertaken in a way that minimises harm and enhances biodiversity and the quality and character of the landscape. This includes reducing the risk of flooding by incorporating measures such as sustainable drainage systems. Developers should maximise the proportion of their developments that take place on previously developed land b) Prudent natural resource use - which includes minimising fossil fuel use therefore reducing carbon dioxide emissions. It also includes minimising resource consumption, reusing materials and recycling. Renewable energy development will be encouraged

17 Climate Change and Renewable Energy
Climate Change and Low Carbon Development
17.1 The best available evidence shows that we are seeing and can expect to see future changes in the global climate as a consequence of past and ongoing greenhouse gas emissions. These changes are predicted to escalate in the future and it is therefore essential that in East Devon we prepare for greater frequency of extreme weather events, and plan for greater energy efficiency and generation of energy from renewable sources. There can also be economic benefits to be gained. This chapter of the plan addresses these themes.
Transition to a Low Carbon Economy
17.2 The Climate Change Act (2008)68 has put in place legally binding targets for the UK to achieve an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 with reductions of 34% by 2020, against a 1990 baseline. Emissions from buildings account for approximately half of all emissions nationally. There is little scope to force existing buildings to become more energy efficient, other than by offering incentives to upgrade and making renewable technologies a requirement of applications for refurbishment or extension, but all new development will be required to be “low carbon”.
17.5 In addressing climate change and energy security the planning process can not only mitigate against the risks but can help to turn them into opportunities for local businesses, giving East Devon a competitive advantage and helping it to prosper in the future. The implementation of planning policy at a local level is crucial to deliver the radical reductions in energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions required to support the national transition to a Low Carbon Economy. The scope of policy can cover the appropriate location and layout of new development, and provide active support for energy efficiency improvements to existing buildings and the delivery of renewable and low-carbon energy infrastructure.
17.6 All development proposals must be planned over the lifetime of the development to ensure that the maximum potential for reducing carbon emissions and minimising the risks posed by climate change are achieved. Developers must be mindful of the carbon emission standards which will be required for later stages of the build programme as decisions taken at the outset can compromise the viability of emissions reduction in latter phases. In some parts of the District it will be possible to generate energy locally at a scale which could serve the local area, for instance through a Combined Heat and Power scheme. New development should include infrastructure to enable it to be connected to such CHP schemes, whether they already exist or may be provided in the future. Where low carbon technologies are not installed new buildings should be designed for easy installation and/or adaptation at a later date.
17.12 Proposals for well designed, sustainable buildings will be supported unless it would cause harm to a heritage asset or its setting or existing mature trees, and this would not be outweighed by the proposal’s wider social, economic and environmental benefits. This will also apply in the case of refurbishment of existing development, for example regarding the fitting of external insulation to properties with solid walls. Where conflict arises, for instance by the reduction of the effectiveness of photovoltaic cells due to overshadowing by mature trees or the impact of cells on the appearance of an historic building, the trees or historic building will usually take precedence and alternative forms of technology should be considered. Similarly, in planning for the lifetime of a building or development future conflicts should be considered, for instance the impact that tree planting to the south of buildings will have on the effectiveness of solar capture in the long term.

Demolishing a building is not 'sustainable development' as far as the Local Plan is concerned.

Indeed, working to improve the energy efficiency of the building should be a priority:

In 2008, a Display Energy Certificate was issued giving Knowle the “more energy efficient” band C.
This was accompanied by an Advisory Report from the Energy Assessor, who set out several recommendations such as more insulation, more double-glazing and a comprehensive heating strategy.
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: "How efficiently is this building being used?"
Indeed, the District Council has made commitments to the band C rating:
"Working towards an ideal energy certificate level for each property, rather than just reporting what level it had; to aspire to making improvements that brought each property to a minimum of level C"
Central government itself is keen to promote this certification:
Improving the energy efficiency of our buildings                 
In 2012, another such Certificate was produced [and this can be seen on the website of Savills which is marketing Knowle] – but it showed no improvement.
The question arises, therefore, as to why the vast majority of the Energy Assessor’s efficiencies have not been considered and modern sustainable technologies introduced?

Fundamentally, 'sustainable development' is about minimising carbon emissions and reuse/recycling/reduce - which means renovation rather than demolition of buildings:

Asset renovation 22 May 2014
In these tough financial times, why build new schools, council offices and other public buildings when you can renovate existing ones at a lower cost? 
AN EXCITING new product to transform existing public sector buildings so they are high quality, attractive and efficient – but delivered at a lower cost than new build projects – is being launched by Scape.


Rather than demolishing the buildings at Knowle to finance the proposed relocation to Honiton, Robin Fuller in his open letter [to the Herald] of 3rd September (‘EDDC, flats, Councillors ’) suggests ‘A TRULY GREEN ALTERNATIVE TO EDDC’S PROPOSAL’
1) Modernise the 1975 building at Knowle through the sale of the Honiton Heathpark site; the District Council has publicly stated that it needs half of the current 9200 square metres of floorspace and that the current building is ‘not fit for purpose’; halving energy use together with state-of the-art ecodesign would result in a truly ‘green’ office-space.
2) Sell the 1880/90s Knowle Hotel and caretaker’s lodge with outline planning permission to convert them into flats, which in turn would raise considerable sums for the District Council; this could well produce the 50 dwellings proposed in the draft LP and avoid the stated aim of building on greenfield land; the substantial gardens and parkland would not be eaten into; and the park-and-walk facility would continue to serve visitors.
Knowle – a positive and cost-effective way forward
I outline a proposal which offers a truly green alternative to EDDC’s plans to demolish perfectly sound buildings at Knowle and destroy public parks and gardens, trees in the arboretum and wildlife habitats, all in order to fund the provision of up to date offices.

Refurbishment v redevelopment or new build:
A précis and interpretation for Knowle

Nigel Addy and Peter McCallum of Davis Langdon, an AECOM company, discuss creating and adding value through refurbishment. Interestingly, Davis Langdon were consultants to EDDC on refurbishment costs, but they were only asked to examine full refurbishment of all of Knowle, old and modern, despite the fact that this would have refurbished nearly double the floorspace required. A précis of their article follows.
“So why is there so much excitement surrounding the refurbishment of existing offices?” ask Addy and McCullum. There are many pros and cons for developers depending on size and age of the building and what is required as an outcome. For a developer in our current financial times, there is the need for quick turn around and realisation of an asset, which is not necessarily the same motivator for a business owner wanting to make choices over relocation or refurbishment. Given that the article is written for developers who wish to make money, one should be able to assume that most advantages would also apply to EDDC.
Knowle: On that basis the refurbishment costs for the 2,725 m² of modern offices at Knowle would be £2.8million (at Central London prices, 2012).
So, in summary, Class A refurbishment of the modern offices at Knowle might cost just £2.8million, perhaps £3.7million and, at an extreme, £5.1million with substantial structural changes.
The chamber plus associated offices are not included in this improvement. Clearly, there would be the need bring the chamber rooms into whatever new heating system were installed in the modern offices, and possibly to add air conditioning; also to improve insulation.
Overall, these figures still indicate that refurbishment costs could be met by sale of the remainder of the old Knowle for conversion to flats. Equally, office-refurbishment and a new building extension might be funded by sale of the entire old Knowle, probably for complete redevelopment as luxury flats.
It is not reasonable to dismiss the option of refurbishment and extension without subjecting that option to the level of analysis that has been applied to ‘moving and improving’. To the contrary, any open-minded approach would have started with the refurbishment option applied to only those parts of Knowle which EDDC would themselves occupy; and it would only have explored moving as an option if refurbishment were shown by a full and fair analysis to be impossible.

Here is an excellent summary of the issues from the Save Our Sidmouth chair:

SOS dismisses “emotional, vague and unsubstantiated views” in Cllr Tom Wright’s letter.
January 22, 2015 by sidmouthsid
This letter has been sent to the Exmouth Journal, countering a Conservative councillor’s letter about relocation, which was published in that newspaper last week:
A response to Councillor Tom Wright’s letter is essential. He demonstrates EDDC councillors’ continuing inability to understand basic issues and he hopes that bland statements and unsubstantiated opinions can overcome the obvious shortcomings of EDDC’s proposed move from the Knowle. Let’s help him to understand those issues.
The facts are:
• EDDC chose Sidmouth for its HQ after the 1973 local government re-organisation. Modern and EDDC-approved extensions were built in the 70s and 80s.
• After a major review in 2001/2002 EDDC confirmed that it should remain at the Knowle because:
o It was central for the district, easily accessible by public transport from all the remaining towns and that considerable sums had already been spent in shutting outlying offices and depots.
o The Knowle allowed any necessary expansion.
o Refurbishment of nearly £4 million was implemented. The then-Conservative leader said that the building should never again be allowed to fall into disrepair but soon, regular planned maintenance ceased.
• An estimate in 2014 by EDDC’s advisers on Relocation suggested that some £1.5 million, to remedy defects, would enable the building “to be occupied for the next five years”. These repairs resulted from “the failure to carry out maintenance in previous years”, (their words).
• EDDC maintains it only needs an area marginally larger than the existing “new” Knowle buildings but no really detailed investigation has been undertaken to and extend the “new” building and sell older parts.
• The Skypark option collapsed when EDDC discovered that they lacked sufficient money to fund it and that they had overlooked statutory regulations on tendering.
• £750,000 has already been allocated and mainly spent on relocation fees despite the desperate need to fund other services.
• EDDC sums for the move do not make sense. The costs of the new Honiton building and the refurbished Exmouth building, plus other essential spend, will total more than £15m- in these times of austerity.
• EDDC plans to borrow £5.5m over 20 years for the move and claims that energy cost savings will make the move “cost neutral”. Informed commentators have ridiculed these energy saving estimates which are five times higher than government’s own predictions.
• Only a few chosen councillors know the financial breakdown for the Knowle sale, the costs of new and refurbished offices and all the other associated costs, yet other councillors continue to vote it through.
EDDC is secretive, responds tardily to FOI requests and even objected to the Information Commissioner’s ruling to release some reports prepared by their consultants. £7,500 has been spent on a barrister to appeal against this ruling.
The relocation, a Conservative-supported vanity project, is opposed by many councillors, including the Independent Claire Wright, the prospective Parliamentary candidate for East Devon who has long-since been an outspoken critic. Even the current Conservative MP, Hugo Swire urges EDDC to delay the relocation exercise because of uncertainties on the future of Local Government and the loss of 250 jobs to Honiton.
Any move, a disaster for which we would all pay over 20 years, cannot be justified by emotional, vague and unsubstantiated views.
Richard Thurlow
Chair, Save Our Sidmouth

SOS dismisses “emotional, vague and unsubstantiated views” in Cllr Tom Wright’s letter. | Save Our Sidmouth.

Knowle relocation project > Pegasus planning application 16/0872/MFUL >>> EN8 - Significance of Heritage Assets and their Setting

There is a strong case to have the original Victorian hotel at Knowle recognised as a so-called 'non-designated heritage asset'.

Interestingly, the latest applicant for planning permission to demolish the building does just this:

Heritage and Archaeology Statement

What exactly is a 'non-designated heritage asset'? 
This is from the Dept of Communities:

What are non-designated heritage assets and how important are they?
Revision date: 06 03 2014
Local planning authorities may identify non-designated heritage assets. These are buildings, monuments, sites, places, areas or landscapes identified as having a degree of significance meriting consideration in planning decisions but which are not formally designated heritage assets. In some areas, local authorities identify some non-designated heritage assets as ‘locally listed’.

A substantial majority of buildings have little or no heritage significance and thus do not constitute heritage assets. Only a minority have enough heritage interest for their significance to be a material consideration in the planning process.

Non-designated heritage assets | Planning Practice Guidance

The question, therefore, is whether the District Council considers a building to have 'enough heritage interest' or not.

This is from the District Council's Local Plan:

EN8 - Significance of Heritage Assets and their Setting

When considering development proposals the significance of any heritage assets and their settings, should first be established by the applicant through a proportionate but systematic assessment following East Devon District Council guidance notes for ‘Assessment of Significance’ (and the English Heritage guidance “The Setting Of Heritage Assets”), or any replacement guidance, sufficient to understand the potential impact of the proposal on the significance of the asset. This policy applies to both designated and non-designated heritage assets, including any identified on the East Devon local list.


And this is from the District Council's "Assessment of Significance" guidance notes:

Statement of Significance guidance notes for listed buildings

Our guidance note for Assessment of Significance

Required to accompany applications for listed building consent and planning permission affecting heritage assets

This guidance note is designed to show you as the applicant/agent what information you should be submitting as part of your Assessment of Significance, and where to find that information.

In determining applications, local planning authorities should require an applicant to describe the significance of any heritage assets affected, including any contribution made by their setting. The level of detail should be proportionate to the assets’ importance and no more than is sufficient to understand the potential impact of the proposal on their significance. As a minimum the relevant historic environment record should have been consulted and the heritage assets assessed using appropriate expertise where necessary. Where a site on which development is proposed includes or has the potential to include heritage assets with archaeological interest, local planning authorities should require developers to submit an appropriate desk-based assessment and, where necessary, a field evaluation.

These statements will form part of the justification for the proposal and should demonstrate that consideration has been given to the protection of the heritage asset and/or its setting. The purpose of the Statement is to identify the important characteristics/significance of the existing heritage asset and to explain how the proposals would affect these and justify why this is necessary or desirable. If appropriate the Statement can be incorporated as part of a Design and Access Statement as long as it is clearly identified within the overall document. A complete Statement must include:
- Statement of significance of the heritage asset
- Details of the proposal
- Analysis of the impact of the proposal on the significance (including a statement of need & statement of impact)

The term ‘Heritage Assets’ includes 'Designated Assets' such as Listed Buildings, Conservation Areas, Scheduled Ancient Monuments, Historic Parks, Gardens and Battlefields, as well as 'Non-designated Heritage Assets’ for example, sites and buildings of historic interest as determined by the Local Authority. In East Devon, such non-designated assets would include buildings on the Local List, and other non-listed houses, public houses, barns, and other farm buildings, amongst others.

The Assessment of Significance will need to contain a description of the significance of the heritage assets affected by the proposal, and the contribution of their setting to that significance.

It is important to note that Applications submitted without such Assessment of Significance will not be validated.

Statement of Significance guidance notes for listed buildings - East Devon

The applicant has provided this Assessment of Significance: the first paragraph has been copied above and demonstrates how the applicant has sought to justify demolition through belittling the heritage value of the Victorian hotel at Knowle:
Heritage and Archaeology Statement

However, national and regional heritage bodies would disagree:

“The alterations that have occurred both to the gardens and the house mean that neither meets the criteria for designation in a national context, though they are evidently highly-valued by the local community.”

Futures Forum: Knowle: Victorian hotel and grounds ... application to English Heritage for national listing 

"Given the status of The Knowle as a local landmark retaining many features of interest, the building should be considered a non-designated heritage asset."

Futures Forum: Knowle: Victorian hotel: heritage asset or not...

"It is important to note that  statutory listing recognises nationally important heritage sites - but it does not follow that undesignated heritage assets do not merit protection or have no value."

Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: SAVE Britain's Heritage >>> Historic England acknowledged that both the house and the park are of 'clear local interest' and are 'evidently highly valued by the local community'.

And the comments from mere members of the public on the planning application website are very critical of the lack of recognition of the heritage value of Knowle [for example: document 2310078]:
16/0872/MFUL | The construction of an assisted living community for older people comprising extra care units, staff accommodation and communal facilities, including a kitchen, restaurant/bar/cafe, a well-being suite comprising gym, treatment rooms and pool, a communal lounge and storage facilities; car parking for residents, visitors and staff of the assisted living community; comprehensive landscaping comprising communal and private spaces; and associated groundworks. | Council Offices Knowle Sidmouth EX10 8HL

These same concerns were voiced at the time of the earlier planning application in 2013. Here is just one comment:

Ms Clare Eastland (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 08 Feb 2013

The building

1. The Knowle is a significant and prominently-placed local landmark, in and overlooking a public park. Although altered due to change of use, the building has retained its external character created in the 1890s, which reinterpreted features such as the veranda from the older cottage on the site. Internally, the building retains features such as a Delft tiled fireplace and Pugin wallpaper.

2. A conservation area review of Sidmouth produced in recent years states that the area north west of the existing conservation area up to The Knowle should be assessed for potential inclusion in the designation. It points out that the first Sidmouth building noted in the original conservation area appraisal is Knowle Cottage, the earlier building on the site from which the surviving 1890s building was developed. This clearly acknowledges its significant place in the historical development of the town.

3. Given the status of The Knowle as a local landmark retaining many features of interest, the building should be considered a non-designated heritage asset. According to clause 135 of the NPPF,

"In weighing applications that affect directly or indirectly non designated heritage assets, a balanced judgment will be required having regard to the scale of any harm or loss and the significance of the heritage asset."

4. The heritage statement attached to the application does not provide any assessment of the significance of the main building and of the loss that would result from its demolition, focusing instead almost entirely on the listed summerhouse. The lack of information means that a balanced judgment cannot be made about the loss of the non-designated heritage asset.

5. The original Knowle hotel building, at least, should not be demolished, but be offered for sale or rent.

6. If EDDC are determined to move to Honiton, then mixed use of current buildings area only - offices or hotel use, crafts, art gallery - all would add to tourism - better use than residential which puts pressure on facilities such as medical. Parkland should revert to ownership by Sidmouth - e.g. by Sid vale Association.

12/1847/MOUT | Outline application proposing demolition of existing buildings (retention of building B) for class D1 non-residential institution and park rangers station (Sui Generis), residential development of up to 50no. dwellings (Class C3 use), 60no. bed graduated care home (Class C2 use) and access (all matters reserved except access) | Council Offices Knowle Sidmouth EX10 8HL

In which case, it could be strongly argued that the current application should be refused because it does not comply with a key policy in the Local Plan:

EN8 - Significance of Heritage Assets and their Setting

When considering development proposals the significance of any heritage assets and their settings, should first be established by the applicant through a proportionate but systematic assessment following East Devon District Council guidance notes for ‘Assessment of Significance’ (and the English Heritage guidance “The Setting Of Heritage Assets”), or any replacement guidance, sufficient to understand the potential impact of the proposal on the significance of the asset. This policy applies to both designated and non-designated heritage assets, including any identified on the East Devon local list.


See also:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project > Pegasus planning application 16/0872/MFUL >>> and the rejected planning application 12/1847/MOUT of 1st March 2013 >>> Part four: Contrary to policy EN9 (Extension, Alteration or Change of Use of Buildings of Special Architectural and Historic Interest)

The future of fracking in the UK

Fracking - or the removal of shale gas - is to start up again in England:
Fracking gets go-ahead in UK for first time since 2011 as North Yorkshire council approves plans
YP Letters: Opposition to Ryedale fracking is only growing - Yorkshire Post

This will have wider implications for the rest of the country:
Fracking firms set sights on beauty spots across Britain, including Yorkshire | Daily Mail Online

Fracking go-ahead: What happens next?

By John Moylan  Industry correspondent, BBC News: 27 May 2016

Plans for fracking in England are being prepared in the wake of the decision made in North Yorkshire earlier this week.

Brownfield sites and areas near motorway junctions could be used for future shale gas production.

On Monday North Yorkshire County Council approved an application by Third Energy to frack a well near the village of Kirby Misperton in Ryedale.
Campaigners say that they are still considering a legal challenge.

'Further applications'

The North Yorkshire decision is a landmark moment for the UK's fledgling shale gas sector. It is the first time a company has been given go-ahead since a moratorium on fracking was lifted in 2012.

"The decision in North Yorkshire was an important first step and underlined our firm belief that the process is safe and can be done environmentally sensitively," says Ken Cronin of the industry body UKOOG. We expect further applications and this chimes well with the need to provide a home-grown source of gas to heat our homes."

And firms are stepping up their exploration plans.

This week the largest independent operator of onshore oil and gas fields in Britain, Igas, said that it would drill two exploratory shale gas wells in Nottinghamshire early next year, subject to planning and permitting. It says it could apply to use fracking at one of the sites near the village of Misson if exploratory drilling is successful. It will also be applying to frack in the North West of England. The company previously drilled wells at Barton Moss near Salford and at two locations in Cheshire.

The chemicals giant Ineos has also confirmed plans to undertake large-scale 3D seismic surveys of its licence areas in Cheshire, Derbyshire and North Yorkshire, to help select exploration sites. Ineos says it is the biggest UK shale player with access to one million acres of potential shale gas reserves.

Plans by the shale gas firm Cuadrilla to drill and frack wells at two sites in Lancashire were the subject of a planning inquiry earlier this year.

A report and recommendation by the inquiry's planning inspector will be submitted to the government by 4 July. It will then be up to the Communities Secretary, Greg Clark, to decide whether to approve the plans.

However, it looks as though this won't be happening north of the border:
New SNP energy minister 'deeply sceptical' about fracking as Ineos moves resources to England
SNP announces indefinite fracking ban in Scotland - Telegraph

Meanwhile, there are questions about how the UK government is handling this:

UK government accused of sitting on fracking climate change report

Written by Reporter - 28/05/2016 6:15 am

Ministers have been accused of ‘sitting on’ a long-awaited report on fracking and climate change in a bid to help the oil industry.

According to reports the independent Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) study of the environmental impact of the shale gas technology has still not been published despite a legal requirement to do so.

Protestors were furious this week when North Yorkshire County Council made the landmark decision to approve Third Energy’s application to frack on a site near Kirby Misperton in Ryedale.

Environmentalists believe the CCC report could have had a material impact on the planning application if it had been made public in time according to HuffPost UK.
Under Section 49 of the new Infrastructure Act 2015, the Government must seek independent advice from Lord Deben’s Committee on whether shale gas production can be compatible with future carbon emissions targets.

In a previous study, the committee concluded that the new energy technology can only go ahead “if production is regulated sufficiently to ensure that fugitive methane emissions are low”. It also wanted shale gas production to be accompanied by “a strong commitment to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions” by setting a power sector decarbonisation target.

The CCC’s new report was submitted it to Energy Secretary Amber Rudd more than 6 weeks ago on 30th March. And under the Act, Ministers are meant to present that report to Parliament “as soon as practicable” after April 1st 2016 – yet it still remains unpublished.

Barry Gardiner, Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change, said that Labour MPs had pushed hard for the Infrastructure Bill to include statutory safeguards such as the CCC study. “It’s outrageous that the Government are deliberately withholding this essential information from both public and parliament,” he said. “If fracking does indeed put the UK’s climate change targets at risk that must be acknowledged and acted upon, not sidestepped. Delaying the report has denied North Yorkshire County Council the evidence it needed to properly consider all the risks that fracking may pose. The Government is now losing the trust of the public on this issue who can see that the Energy Secretary has been sitting on this independent report for 56 days whilst simultaneously threatening to impose fracking on communities against their will.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) told HuffPost UK: “We are carefully considering this report to ensure it is given the proper consideration it is due. It will be published it as soon as that process is complete. This report has no bearing on North Yorkshire County Council’s planning decision. It is a local decision taken by the local council who would have considered a large volume of evidence and opinion when making that decision.”

The Government insists that its duty under the act is to consider the CCC report properly before responding, and that the UK has one of the toughest regulatory systems in the world on fracking.

Energy Voice | UK government accused of sitting on fracking climate change report - News for the Oil and Gas Sector

This is the New Economics Forum's fortnightly take on the energy sector:

Energy round-up: frack on or frack off?

MAY 27, 2016 // BY: DAVID POWELL

Local politicians in North Yorkshire have given the green light to fracking –  so are we about to see shale gas drilling all over the country?
The decision comes after a five year hiatus in UK fracking; minor earthquakes near Blackpool in 2011 prompted a temporary national ban. Since then, the debate has become the fiercest climate battleground.
Local concerns about noise and pollution have combined with energised climate protest movements. Would-be frackers have, until now, found their applications to drill rejected by councils wherever they’ve tried. 
So this week’s approval for fracking near the village of Kirby Misperton clearly has national resonance – so much so that the UK’s former special envoy on climate change, John Ashton, gave evidence against the proposals in person to councillors.
But it does not necessarily mean fracking is about to take off.
The beleaguered fracking industry has spent five years watching lengthy slumps in both international gas prices and public support for the technology – these trends aren’t about to turn around quickly. And while shares in one publicly listed fracking company, iGas, rose on the news from North Yorkshire, they have still plummeted overall over the last year.
As Howard Rogers from the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies notes, “there could not be a worse time to embark on challenging gas projects.” 
The Government remains intent on emulating the US shale bonanza  - even though that’s turning distinctly sour. New figures this week that revealed that capital allowances for fracking infrastructure will cost the UK taxpayer £25 million.
The plains of America will always have one thing the UK will never have: hardly anyone lives there. Fracking in Blighty is about doing it in people’s faces; every single fracking application is likely to remain a case-by-case battle in the court of public opinion. Campaigners are already planning a legal challenge.
The industry hopes that trouble-free drilling in Kirby Misperton may help win the public over, but it isn’t just pro-frackers that can look over the pond: the USA is also a growing source of evidence on the worrying economics of fast-depleting shale wells.
As horror stories about flammable water and industry misbehaviouremerge, and studies suggest that the climate impact of shale may be far higher than first suspected, fracking companies may be advised to hold off on the celebrations for now. 

Don't miss these:

In other news…

Asian heatwave
Hundreds of people have died and crops have withered in the fields astemperatures of an astonishing 51C were recorded in Rajasthan, India. That’s only five degrees less than the all-time highest temperature ever recorded in the world, in Death Valley. In preparation for the heatwave residents of Karachi, Pakistan, were reported to have dug mass graves
Donald plays his Trump card on climate
The Republican candidate for the US Presidency, Donald Trump, threatened that if elected he would seek to renegotiate –if not pull out of entirely– the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change.  Trump has repeatedly claimed that climate change is a hoax, “invented by the Chinese to make US manufacturing uncompetitive”. He alsoannounced the appointment of renowned climate sceptic and fossil fuel acolyte Kevin Cramer as his official advisor on energy policy.
Bear necessities
Warmer weather means grizzly bears are increasingly mating with polar bears – with the resulting hybrid likely to evolve far more towards the former than the latter. The polar bear didn’t really need more bad news, already desperately under threat from shrinking ice packs and increased pollution. 

Energy round-up: frack on or frack off? | New Economics Foundation

Do you commute into Exeter? >>> Complete the University of Exeter's survey to find ways to reduce traffic congestion

A couple of messages from Transition Exeter's June newsletter around the theme of transport:

Next Steps for the Bus Station

Tuesday 14th June, 8 am - 7 pm, Guildhall Shopping Centre, Exeter

The city council has announced the date of the next consultation day on the bus station: The design team will be exhibiting the concept design - a first chance to see how the concerns expressed by Transition Exeter and many others have influenced the plans. 
Please try to drop in and have your say about the bus station, a key item of infrastructure for building a sustainable transport network for Exeter. For more information visit the Exeter Bus Station web page


Commuters of Exeter, your data is needed!

The University of Exeter is involved in an exciting new project, Engaged Smart Transport, which is aiming to find ways to reduce traffic congestion in and around Exeter. 

As a first step they are running a survey to collect information from as wide a range of commuters as possible; then they will follow up later in the year with more focused studies on particular routes with participation by local people. 
The survey is a key first step, so if you commute into or across Exeter using any form of transport, please consider filling in the survey – it only takes 10 minutes and it's open until mid June. 
For more information and to complete the survey please go to www.commute-exeter.com.

Transition Exeter

And here is the website of the new project:

Commute Exeter

The survey is now live. Please get involved

Engaged Smart Transport

Working together for a better commute

The University is working in a Consortium with Devon and Exeter Councils and commercial partners Ntt DataVaisala,Black Swan and Dynniq, in a ground-breaking, two year (from Nov 2015) intelligent transport project for the area, funded by Innovate UK/NERC.
Through this outcome-focused project, the group aims to identify solutions that will alleviate traffic congestion in and around Exeter, with research by the University an important validation for product commercialisation.
The Engaged Smart Transport project integrates real-time sensor data regarding traffic and weather conditions and public services performance with insights into behavioural decision-making, travel mode shift and engagement in smart technologies, and will co-create innovative interventions with public participation. The University data collection will focus initially on a general spread of people commuting in and out of Exeter to their place of work or study via a survey in May 2016. Then a more in-depth analysis of one or more of the commuter routes, e.g. the A376 Exmouth to Exeter corridor, will be undertaken, co-creating and testing a range of interventions with public groups. The research is based on the principles of socio-psychology,  statistical modelling and social influence, and literature from sustainable transport, smart technologies, travel behaviour, mobilities and social marketing.
A project such as this, which brings together big and small data, provides an exciting opportunity to influence travel behaviour bespoke to the Exeter region, and the potential to effect change further afield.

Take the survey

If you have any queries about the survey, or would prefer to receive a hard copy of the survey to complete, please contact Dr Sal Lampkin ons.lampkin@exeter.ac.uk or 01392 723337.


Interview with Dr Sal Lampkin by the Federation of Small Businesses (FBS)/business community

Commute Exeter - Dr Sal Lampkin Interview - The Federation of Small Businesses - Exeter Branch FSB - YouTube
Commute Exeter - Commute Exeter - University of Exeter