There are many worrying reports on climate change that could be recommended, but most are long and require considerable reading time. The recently launched Climate Assembly UK report is similarly long but a little different. It focuses on the Government’s commitment to be zero carbon by 2050 so may not be as demanding as many would wish, but it is the outcome of the lengthy deliberations of a Citizens’ Assembly of over 100 people intended to be representative of the population. There are over fifty recommendations to be considered by Parliament and the UK Government. The report and a 31-page summary are available at: https://www.climateassembly.uk/report/
Provisional recycling percentages for 2019/20 show that Monmouthshire improved from 63.37% in 2018/19 to 65.57%, exceeding the Welsh Government’s expectation of 64%. Newport, which had a poor figure of 58.95% in 2018/19, managed to exceed Monmouthshire in 2019/20 with 66.36%. Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen also showed marked improvement.
Gwent Wildlife Trust is to receive a share of a £2.5 million grant to Wildlife Trusts Wales from the National Lottery to help local communities in Newport tackle climate change. The project will empower young people to take the lead on local climate change action in their own areas. Young people will receive training and skills including learning how to create green roofs and rain gardens, dig ponds, plant community orchards and hedgerows for wildlife corridors, and to take part in peatland restoration. This grant is among the first to be announced as part of the National Lottery funded Climate Action Fund, a ten-year £100 million fund to reduce the carbon footprint of communities.
The Budweiser company has appealed against Newport’s refusal of their application to display a large logo at the top of the approved wind turbine on the Caldicot Levels which will provide renewable energy for their Magor brewery.
GAVO Volunteer Team and Monmouthshire County Council, initially with Tintern and Abergavenny, are recruiting Volunteer Ambassadors to provide a warm, local welcome and to signpost visitors to the wide range of things to see and do in Monmouthshire, encouraging them to explore their beautiful environment and venture further across the county. More areas are expected to follow in due course.
Volunteers have been at the heart of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and their work in supporting communities has been overwhelming. Now as Monmouthshire County Council moves to the next phase of supporting businesses on their road to recovery, volunteers are being called upon once more. As well as promoting local businesses, the aim of the Volunteer Ambassadors will be to give reassurance to people who may be nervous about interacting with other members of the public in a busy area or who may have been missing social contact.
Anyone wishing to be considered for the roles would need to meet certain criteria and be available from mid-August to mid-September. For more information, the full role description, criteria and applications please visit https://gwent.volunteering-wales.net/vk/volunteers/my_opportunities_info_ur.htm?PID=10158118&searchqs (Tintern) or https://gwent.volunteering-wales.net/vk/volunteers/my_opportunities_info_ur.htm?PID=10158064&searchqs (Abergavenny)
The Welsh Government has outlined the measures it will take to improve the country’s air quality under its Clean Air Plan for Wales: Healthy Air, Healthy Wales, revised following consultation – https://gov.wales/clean-air-plan-wales-healthy-air-healthy-wales. The measures outlined in the Plan will work alongside existing schemes to reduce public exposure to air pollution, such as the Active Travel Act and the Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns Initiative. Some of the measures are:
- significant investment in active travel infrastructure, improving rail services and supporting decarbonisation through our aim for a zero tailpipe exhaust emission taxi and bus fleet by 2028.
- investigating measures to support a reduction in personal vehicle use such as road user charging, Clean Air Zones and/or Low Emission Zones.
- implementing our electric vehicle charging strategy and supporting an increase in the proportion of vehicles which are ultra-low emission (ULEV) and promoting a shift to ULEVs for waste collection.
- increasing air quality monitoring through the development of a new Air Pollution Monitoring Network.
- intelligent tree and hedge planting alongside expanding woodlands to support air quality improvements.
- strengthening the control of emissions in agriculture.
- new planning advice in the shape of an updated Technical Advice Note (TAN) 11: Noise, which will also incorporate guidance on air quality and soundscape.
- proposals for a new Clean Air Act for Wales to enhance existing legislation and introduce new powers to further tackle air pollution.
Local development plans have not previously addressed agricultural developments in any great detail. The administration has set up an intensive agriculture working group to consider how LPAs can better understand the impact on the environment during plan preparation and the consideration of planning applications.
Monmouthshire County Council is launching a three-month Active Travel consultation and is inviting residents to have their say. The consultation is a requirement by Welsh Government under the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013 and outlines draft proposals to encourage more cycling and walking. Draft Maps (called Integrated Network Maps) have been developed which show suggested routes for improvement for settlements in Monmouthshire. These are available to view online from 1 August until 31 October, 2020.
The Mon Life service within the Council has worked hard over the past six months to increase the focus on Active Travel. The aim is to encourage those who can, to leave their cars at home when travelling to work, shops, schools, a place of leisure or to get to a train station. Active Travel is not about walking and cycling for leisure but it could also significantly enhance leisure activities by helping link up existing path and road networks, and is an important contributor in addressing the current climate emergency – helping to reduce vehicle emissions. It also has the benefit of improving physical and mental wellbeing.
Due to the restrictions in place as a result of COVID-19, digital consultation is a key part of the process. There will be webinars in addition to socially distanced face-to-face events. Details about the webinars, the interactive maps and residents’ surveys can be found on the council’s website: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/active-travel-consultation.
Lord Burns’ South East Wales Transport Commission has published its Emerging Conclusions. Here are extracts from the Summary of a lot of information available at https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2020-07/emerging-conclusions.pdf:
Congestion on the M4 is largely a peak-hours problem, predominantly associated with commuting. A relatively small increase in traffic leads to a disproportionate increase in congestion. Many people do not have good transport alternatives to the motorway. The combination of the rail, bus and active travel networks do not accommodate the range of the journeys that people are undertaking, particularly commutes. All of the rail, bus and active travel networks are offering insufficient services. The individual modes are also poorly integrated, in relation to interchange, timetables and ticketing. This limits the value of each part. There is insufficient regional coordination. Land use decisions with respect to homes, offices and retail parks have contributed to congestion and, on the current trajectory, this looks set to continue. At the same time, the population of the region’s cities is projected to rise considerably. Without action, this will place additional pressure on the motorway.
If we are to alleviate congestion, we need to create attractive and viable alternatives for people. Until these exist, it is very difficult to solve the problem sustainably. Of course, the COVID-19 epidemic has radically changed the situation – the question is for how long. Traffic is at a much lower level and we expect congestion to be less problematic while social distancing is in place. In the long term, a substantive and sustained increase in remote working could have a meaningful impact on reducing traffic. However, our view remains that in order to function efficiently, the region requires additional, non-car transport options. Overall, a key emerging recommendation is a ‘Network of Alternatives’ for South East Wales. A network approach puts a focus on integration, allowing for flexible journeys, reflecting the diversity of types of trips that people want to make. When the different parts work together, its value can be greater than the sum of its parts. Our final report will make specific recommendations to the Welsh Government. These will cover all modes of transport, as well as wider policy on land use, governance and charging.
GAVO has arranged a FREE online Grant Writing Workshop on 23 July 6-7pm. Book your tickets on Eventbrite here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/introduction-to-grant-writing-online-workshop-virtual-tickets-110102523612. The workshop is aimed at helping groups to improve the quality of their funding applications and is being offered by Be Community in partnership with GAVO. GAVO development officers will be available for follow up support. It’s a great opportunity to learn the basics or to hone your skills in preparing grant applications..
Applications are now open for two new Welsh Government funds – the National Forest Community Woodland Grant Fund, and the Local Places for Nature Capital Fund – to help communities and organisations fulfil their role in responding to the climate emergency. The funds will be delivered in a collaboration between the Welsh Government and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with applications handled by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The National Forest Community Woodland Grant Fund will allow not-for-profit organisations to apply for funds for woodland projects, which help meet the needs of local communities and help boost ecosystems. This could include the creation of new woodland on derelict sites; the planting of trees on streets in urban neighbourhoods, or creating new corridors of trees to link existing woodlands. The fund may also be used for improvements to existing woodland areas, through the installation of footpaths or improving access.
The Local Places for Nature Capital Fund will give people the chance to create nature on their doorsteps. The scheme is aimed at community organisations to restore and enhance nature in their local areas, particularly in Wales’ most disadvantaged communities, and those with little access to nature. The fund aims to create places for nature across Wales, where people live, work and access public services. Projects may include creating urban green spaces, pollinator-friendly wildflower meadows and verges, and helping to remove threats to nature such as pollution, invasive and non-native species.