District Councillors Report for September

District Councillors Report for September

The following is the District Councillors Report for September 2021, provided by Stratford-on-Avon District Councillor Ian Shenton (Wootton Wawen ward; covering Bearley).
Councillor Shenton can be contacted on:-

Tel: 07971 343074 Email: ian.shenton@stratford-dc.gov.uk

This month I thought I’d give you an update on

  • What is happening with the blue bins and recycling since the devastating fire at Ettington
  • Community Speedwatch
  • Climate Change

Blue bins

July and August tend to be quieter months at the Council as many residents and staff go on holiday and coupled with the warm weather I usually find that it’s a time when I can catch up on paperwork and filing. July certainly started that way but had a sting in the tail part way through the month.

On Monday 19th July a serious fire broke out at the recycling facility at Ettington that has subsequently totally destroyed the site. If you’re wondering what the significance of this is , the site housed the Material Recycling Facility (operated by a company called Pure Recycling) and it is where all the contents of our blue bins go. The process then is a mixture of manual and automated sorting so that we end up with bales of paper and cardboard, glass, tins , etc. and this is then sold to companies that either use the recyclate themselves or sold on to other companies that do use it. The current contract with Pure ends in July 2022 and we were looking to try and negotiate an extension until the brand new facility that we are building with all Warwickshire District Councils plus Coventry, Solihull and Walsall comes on stream in late 2023.

The good news is that whilst there were 31 people on site, no one was injured, the bad news is that 31 people lost their jobs and we, as a district along with some other districts that used the facility, were suddenly left without anywhere to send our recycling material. As at today (Friday 20th August) the site is still smouldering and you may wonder why that is some 32 days on. It was decided at an early point that the safest thing to do to avoid contaminating watercourses and land was to allow it to burn and use the minimum of water just to keep it under control.

We had to suspend the collection of the blue bins for a short period whilst we found another company to take our recycling. This we have done with 1/3rd going to a company in Worcester and 2/3rds going to a company in London. Capacity at plants is an issue. The temporary contract is in place for the next three months whilst we look around for a more economic facility for the remaining time until around September 2023. The Officers at Stratford District Council are still working on this.

Whilst all of this happened I had just started a short break and was following it and in regular contact from the Yorkshire Moors. So much for a quiet summer period.

I’d like to thank residents for being understanding during what was an incredibly fraught time for the officers and staff at the Council and my thoughts are with those employees at the recycling site at Ettington that have subsequently lost their jobs.

Community Speedwatch

I have set up a group in Wootton Wawen and at the same time Henley in Arden have set up a group. Wootton Wawen’s group (of which I am the Coordinator) are ready to go out and start monitoring speeds on the A3400 at two points. Two of us have had the full training from the Police whilst the remaining 4 members will get “on the job” training. I have the signs, the hi viz jackets and will be borrowing a speed gun from Wilmcote CSW with the aim of being out during the week commencing Monday 23/08/2021 onwards. Anyone speeding is recorded in our log and their registration details are passed to the Police. The aim is not to catch drivers speeding as such, it’s to encourage drivers to slow down and keep within the speed limits because as we all know, speeding through Henley and Wootton Wawen is a serious issue and the two groups will be hoping that they can make a difference. Motorcyclists are not immune from this (I’m a motorcyclist myself) as we will be able to monitor their speeds as well and capture the details from the registration plate. We could always do with more volunteers so anyone who would like to join us should contact John Clarke (via the Henley JPC website) or myself (for the WW group or for further details). We will operate in teams of three, one has the speed gun, one calls out the registration plate of anyone speeding and keeps an eye on the other two to make sure they don’t put themselves in any kind of danger whilst the third record the details in a log). We won’t be out when conditions are poor or its raining, snowing etc, as we don’t want to be the cause of an accident because a driver brakes suddenly having seen our group. Come and join us and make a difference.

Climate Change

I am the member of SDC Cabinet with responsibility for Climate Change (as well as waste services, grounds maintenance (think grass cutting), council car parks, and the less glamourous but essential public toilets) and the Chair of the Climate Change Panel that makes recommendations to the full Cabinet and the Oversight and Scrutiny Committee. The Panel consist of councillors from all the parties and since May, when I became Chairman, we have signed off to buy e cargo bikes for companies to trial and are looking at how we can reduce the Council’s carbon footprint, retro fitting housing with “super insulation” and encourage residents to use their cars less and public transport more. There are quite a few other areas that we are also looking at and we have a dedicated officer (the Director for Climate Change) based at Warwick as we are coordinating our approach to CC with Warwick district council.

In a rural area we rely heavily on the car (vehicles being the biggest polluter) and whilst electric cars may be the future, the cost of them currently coupled with range and a lack of charging points, are major issues. More drivers are purchasing electric vehicles but they are still a small percentage of the total vehicles on the road. Cycling to work and into town centres seems a great idea but we know that our roads are dangerous due to the idiots that speed and it’s not practical for someone in, say, Wootton Wawen, to cycle to Stratford to shop and then cycle back. I have attempted to cycle to Council meetings using the canal towpath which actually takes you right into the heart of Stratford but it is rutted and you share it with pedestrians so progress is slow and dangerous as well (for all concerned). Public transport is another option but if you live in one of our more remote villages then again, it’s not practical.

The cost of all the changes in our lives will be huge and that is the sticking point, everyone agrees we must do something but soon as you mention the huge cost financially and in life styles the intial enthusiasm and support melts away (just like the ice caps).

Another area we have to look at closely is replacing gas boilers with heat pumps (so we are told) but to instal a heat pump and “super insulate” an old house is costly, currently around £25,000 as heat pumps do not emit as much heat as a gas boiler can and this is why you need to upgrade the insulation . Government are currently wrestling with this problem and a paper is due out before the COP26 conference in Glasgow in November where leaders from nations all around the world will no doubt come up with headline grabbing rhetoric but then go back and do nothing. To illustrate this point remember that we as a nation are responsible for only 1% of all greenhouse gases whilst China, Russia, the USA, India and even Germany are amongst the biggest polluters. None of these are doing anywhere near enough to curb their use of fossil fuels and unless they do the effects of green house gases will get worse, The Paris agreement set a target of minimising the rise in temperatures to 1.5 degrees Centigrade (compared to pre-Industrial levels) but we are already at 1.2 degrees with the government’s own Climate Change Committee, the International Panel on Climate Change, the UN and the International Energy Authority all warning that we could see rises of between 3 to 4 degrees by the end of the century if the world does not act now. This would have disastrous consequences for everyone on the planet.

And yet we want to set the example to the world, spending billion of £’s on our quest to be net zero in a world that is not listening. Without a concerted and coordinated effort from all nations we will not be able to reduce greenhouse gases and the effects on our environment.

If I were a betting man I would say that we will hear a lot of headlines from COP26 but very little detail. Germany for instance rolled out their politicians who recently stated that we have to save the planet but then increased their dependence on gas from Russia via the new Nordstream 2 pipeline and fail to reduce their dependence on coal. A classic example of double standards.

As for the “special relationship” with the USA, its special when it suits them but as far as Climate Change goes they have a “little local difficulty” with one of their senators , Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who heads up the powerful Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and is resisting any further cuts in the use of fossil fuels stating that “coal has to be saved”.

President Biden needs to “step up to the plate” and support our lead but is highly unlikely to. Some friend!