Letters to the Press

Sizewell plan - our roads are inadequate

 

Monday’s article on the wide loads travelling to Sizewell highlighted a major issue constantly ignored by the authorities.

A relief road would not have helped in this situation, this is designed for traffic coming from the south. The loads were coming from the north down the A12 and would have still ended up using the same route.

The plan build of Sizewell C is flawed as the current and proposed transport links are not up to the task. As a Yoxford resident I despair for the future as we will be inundated by trucks from all directions, as this proves.

Many people are still unaware of the scale of the proposed development of not one but two new nuclear power stations. To have an engineering project larger than the Olympics here, in a largely unspoiled area, highly important to wildlife and natural diversity, at the end of a single lane B road, is ridiculous!

Why is this project being pushed above cheaper, cleaner and safer alternatives? What would happen if there was an accident? If everyone tried to leave in that event, could they get out easily? The answers are evident and continue to be ignored.

Tom Haslam
Yoxford

 

Sizewell delay provides opportunity for proper debate

Letter published in the East Anglian Daily Times, March 24, 2015

The numerous delays in the dates for consultation and construction of Sizewell C & D must be good news for many so-called ‘interested parties’ ( EADT 5 Feb,11,19 and 20 March). It opens up the opportunity for a really thorough and well-informed debate which is certainly not evident so far. 

The reported community consensus about building two major roads -one the four parishes A12 bypass, the other the resurrected Layfield D2  new road from the A12 - will take a fair amount of time with land purchase and the now widely adopted ‘Grampian’ principle that any associated works for a big development need to be in place before the development starts. 

The numerous organisations supposed to be representing the environment and wildlife should welcome the extra time to reconsider their apparent support for EdF. This has not being going down well with their members from what one hears. They seem to have got in bed rather too quickly instead of sticking to their primary responsibilities to wildlife and protected nature habitats. 

The tourist industry, which the recently  reported Suffolk conference says needs to up its act might now find time to consider the impact of two new huge reactors, and a big waste store and coastal bridge on their future customers too, not forgetting the traffic and blight of a vast construction site for maybe 10 or more years.

Councillors above all should welcome the delays, and if they are really following events rather than being led by the nose - should know that the delays could be even longer. This is because of unsettled business at Hinkley, and the likelihood that Sizewell would not ‘enjoy’ a special strike price subsidy. Hinkley claims to have a so-called green light, but there is still no money, negotiations drag on, and the green light is truly only half an amber, with lengthy legal appeals in Europe only just getting going. 

The majority of councillors who seem to have been kept in the dark by the Joint Local Authority Group, who do all the talks with EdF, should be able to start asserting their rights and doing their duty, demanding to know what is going on in their name.

And then after the general election, a new government will have to realise that if the lights are going to go out, it will be years before any new nuclear power could even dream of being up and running. And the little publicised operating life extensions for existing nuclear plants present problems too: recent micro cracks in steel containment vessels in Sizewell B type reactors in Belgium means that this is not a reliable project either.

Add to all this the severe financial problems of EdF and French reactor builder Areva back home in France, and the fact that Sizewell would be a very much more expensive operation. Hinkley has cost over £100 million in so called ‘mitigations’, although the Government banned a property blight offer to ‘refurbish’ affected private homes, knocking a bit off the bill. Sizewell with so much nature and protected wildlife and such huge road and traffic problems would cost a whole lot more, and we now know it has not been allowed for in the Chancellor’s five year austerity forecast.

 Next comes our government’s launch of a new financial model with a 'golden share'. This poses new competition and investment problems and is meant to mollify public concern about foreign (Chinese and Middle Eastern?) ownership of British nuclear plants. After all, EdF could sell it all off.  What a load of extra headaches coming down the policy pipelines!

So it’s a chance for a real debate, and one stresses ‘real’:  key facts have to be on the table. One still to be properly understood is that Suffolk does not have to have these reactors. There are eight chosen sites for seven new nuclear projects. That’s in the national planning law. Secondly, and to be argued out, there are energy alternatives which will be more flexible, quicker to build, cheaper long-run, safer (of course) and better for the environment and nature. Protecting nature (that’s landscape and tourism jobs and property as well as birds and creatures and their habitats) is a legal duty, not an obstacle to be overcome. These laws require full alternatives to be explored. 

EdF are supposed to be considering alternatives energy sources too: how about a big solar park on the estate in place of dangerous new reactors ? Or a wind farm …

Regan Scott
Great Bealings

 

Smaller parties gathering steam

Letter to the East Anglian Daily Times, March 20, 2015

I enjoyed reading Paul Geater's insightful article, "Are traditional party loyalties no longer so vital to voters?" (EADT, Thursday, March 19) in which he describes a widespread feeling of disillusionment with the "mainstream" Westminster parties.

I can confirm, from having canvassed the opinion of hundreds of people on the doorsteps of Central Suffolk, that the complacency, bordering on contempt, with which the establishment (both locally and nationally) regards ordinary people has left most feeling that radical change is essential. In Wales, Labour assume themselves to be unassailable  and take what they see as their God-given right for granted. In Suffolk it's exactly the same, but with the Tories. In reality, it doesn't make a blind bit of difference whether it's Labour or Tory: either way you end up with more of the same old business as usual. (Is it really any wonder that some are even considering a "Grand Coalition"?!?) Sitting in the middle are the poor, beleaguered Lib Dems -increasingly an irrelevance- desperate to prop up whichever worn-out administration that will have them. 

Thank goodness then, that at last it seems large sections of the community are becoming engaged in politics and showing a willingness to cast a vote that will make a real difference. At many Green Party constituency meetings these days it's standing room only with all chairs taken. The Green surge is bringing with it young people in droves, but it's not just the young who are signing up. I've spoken to numerous Suffolk people in their eighties and nineties who have the wisdom to have seen through the establishment parties. A recent recruit to the party, Tommy Gee, a former Lib Dem who will be ninety in a few months time, has expressed his determination to stand as the Green Party candidate for the Hoxne ward of Mid Suffolk District Council.

For the first time in many decades, the Conservative establishment is seriously under threat: from the Greens on the radical left, as well as from UKIP on the right. A combination of this pincer movement, together with massive defections from disillusioned former Labour and Lib Dem voters, could bring about some very surprising results on election night.

Whatever the outcome, after the election it will be necessary for the Green Party and UKIP, together with the Lib Dems (if there are any left) to bite the bullet and to work together to ensure that electoral reform is firmly back on the political agenda. It may not be the most scintillating topic for discussion but, for the sake of democracy, the implementation of a truly fair and representative system must be the top priority.

Rhodri Griffiths
Green Party Candidate for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich



Bring railways back to the people

Letter published in the East Anglian Daily Times, March 10, 2015

The steady, year on year increase in the number of passengers using the East Suffolk line demonstrates the popularity of rail travel as a stress-free alternative to our increasingly congested roads. (“The soaring popularity of the East Suffolk rail line”, EADT, Friday, March 6th.) It is all the more remarkable that this has been happening in spite of relentless fare increases and neglected, run-down station facilities.

The future for passengers using the line looks promising, however, with innovative station restoration schemes such as Station House Community Connections planning an exciting new amenity at Campsea Ashe/Wickham Market and a similar station regeneration happening further north at Beccles.  At the forefront of the refurbishment of Beccles Station has been Green Party Councillor, Graham Elliott, who has seen the need for a café, cycle hire, public toilets and a taxi hotline to be incorporated into the scheme.

Although local councillors, station adopters and community groups can do a great deal to improve the travel experience for rail passengers, a serious commitment towards investment in the railways from national government is long overdue.  While an invigorated and flourishing East Suffolk line will undoubtedly benefit the Suffolk Coastal community, other parts of the county are stuck with virtually no public transport: scarcely a bus to be seen, let alone any hope of a train!

We hear demands for housing developments around market towns and yet our road infrastructure is full to capacity. If more homes are to built in rural Suffolk, and I acknowledge there is a need for low cost, social housing, then the only sensible way to create viable transport links would be by reopening some of the disused railway lines around the county.  If we had the initiative and engineering skill to provide rail links to towns such as Eye, Framlingham, Hadleigh and Lavenham over a century ago, surely it should be possible to come up with quiet, non-polluting trains in the 21st century. Just imagine the benefits it would have for tourism, as well as for residents, commuters and local economies.

Critics will say that such proposals would be impractical or too expensive, but the time has come for radical solutions to get ourselves out of the transport mess we’re all in.  Instead of squandering billions of pounds on HS2 or, worse still, widening motorways and building more and more roads, the government should use its transport budget wisely to invest in rail to benefit neglected rural communities. Getting more commuters out of cars would also, of course, have a hugely beneficial effect on towns such as Ipswich.

The time has come for the railways to be brought back into public ownership and also to be brought back to rural towns and villages.

Yours truly,
 
Rhodri Griffiths
Green Party Candidate for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich

 

PM should talk on nuclear energy policy

Letter published in the East Anglian Daily Times, February 24, 2015

 

Sir, - The nearest the prime minister got to mentioning the big Sizewell question during his regional visit was one word ‘energy’, which could refer, of course, to offshore winds as much as nuclear. Is there a reason for him avoiding detailed nervy issues when they are so big and important here?

EDF’s very confident 20th birthday for reactor B would surely have given him an ideal opportunity. After all, the birthday came just a day before EDF’s self-congratulatory publicity for the B reactor’s 20 years.

Am I unfair to speculate that maybe the PM knows what local politicians and, I fear, planners refuse to acknowledge: that more big nuclear plants in Suffolk is not good news at all, at least with sufficient electors, and especially those in the marginals where every vote counts.

Maybe there were energy matters in the much vaunted five-year eastern region plan? But it’s not there either. The routine Downing Street back-up detailing the plan is silent.

So maybe EDF felt a bit left out of it all. They are entitled to their birthdays, of course, but there is always a day-after reckoning. This comes in the form of the claim about massive carbon savings.

EDF claims that Sizewell B over 20 years has saved the planet 117million tonnes of carbon. One has to ask in comparison to what? And do the figures include, at the very least, one of the obvious carbon creators with nuclear, the huge construction works?

But that’s only the obvious bit of the negative balance. The life cycle of energy sources is measured as an average total in which carbon saving is balanced by other costs. For nuclear, these are mining, transporting and processing uranium, construction, operation (outages), waste disposal, and decommissioning. Construction is the least of these!

And some reactors, maybe the EPR, blow off CO2 if they overheat.

How this all works out at each site can be quite varied; but one thing is clear. These associated costs are always included for renewables, e.g. steel for offshore windo towers etc, so what’s good for renewables surely has to be good for EDF nuclear.

It remains to be asked if we are getting the whole-site, whole-life cycle figures.

Will someone make my birthday by publishing some proper figures about CO2?

And will the prime minister please talk about energy policy in the election campaign.

 

REGAN SCOTT

Green Party member,
Great Bealings

 

 

 

Trident - best use of £100bn?

A small, rather inconspicuous item on page 9 of Wednesday's EADT brought dreadful news to anyone who really cares about world peace ("Trident backed after debate", EADT, January 21.)

Being one of a generation who grew up in the cold war era, with the threat of a nuclear holocaust constantly hovering over our heads, I am utterly dismayed at the attitude of Labour and Conservative MPs who are determined to push ahead with more modern and "efficient" weapons of mass destruction. Just think of the good that could be done with the £100 billion that Trident will cost. Against who on Earth can these weapons ever be used? Surely Labour and the Tories can think of better uses for £100 billion.

The Trident issue should certainly focus minds before the general election. UKIP, like the Tories and Labour, are only too keen to drag us back to the grim, cold war days of their beloved 1950s. The Lib Dems, true to form, have a policy on nuclear weapons which is as clear as mud. We need to look at the young generation of of fresh, emerging parties if we are ever to rid ourselves of the obscene menace of atomic missiles. The SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party are totally, unequivocally committed to scrapping Trident.

Clearly, voting for the SNP or Plaid Cymru is not an option for the electorate of Suffolk. There is, therefore, only one choice left to anyone who, like me, is not willing to stand back and see politicians spending inordinate sums on the tools of a nuclear armageddon which, we can only hope and pray, will never, ever be unleashed.

 

Yours truly,

Rhodri Griffiths
Green Party Candidate for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich

 
 
Anti-social behaviour
 
28 December, 2014
 
I wonder if I'm alone in seeing a connection between Annabelle Dickson's account of Punch and Judy antics at Westminster and the disturbing front-page article on violent behaviour and exclusions in local schools. ("Primary school pupil exclusions up 117%" and "Making accurate predictions for 2015 will be no easy task", EADT, Saturday, December 22.)
 
It strikes me that, for the best part of two decades, many prominent politicians have been engaged in a race downhill towards the gutter with their laddish, loutish behaviour. I agree with local MP, Ben Gummer, when he says that "parents are responsible for the behaviour of their children", but sadly the behaviour of parents reflects that of a society that has little or no respect for politicians and consequently little or no respect for most other forms of authority.
 
Having been a teacher for forty years, I am well aware that the spectacle of leading politicians lying, using uncouth language and even breaking international law, will lead most of us to despair of expecting clear moral guidance from so-called "leaders". I refer, in this particular instance, to Tony Blair, who lied in order to take us into a disastrous, futile, illegal war and who famously used a four-letter expletive to describe the people of Wales. (In his frustration at the Welsh Assenbly rejecting his brand of "New Labour".)
 
Things were a little different before the premiership of Mr Blair. Decency and such principles as an ethical foreign policy were genuinely promoted in the Labour Party. It has been a tragedy for that party and also for the country that those principles appeared to have died with John Smith and Robin Cook. Since Blair took the helm, the standards of behaviour of Westminster, both at Westminster and in their constituencies, has plummeted. The expenses scandal and numerous accounts of MPs being involved in fraudulent, abusive and even violent behaviour have brought the level of esteem in which our elected representatives are viewed to an all time rock bottom. Sadly, but not surprisingly, we have a few local Suffolk examples of politicians behaving badly. 
 
It is no coincidence that in the days of Mr Blair's premiership the issue of behaviour in schools was seldom talked about. League tables and raising academic standards by "target setting" were the clarion call. Competition and the creation of a meritocratic, materialistic "me first" culture was the  overriding ethos. Behaviour was scarcely commented on and rarely featured as an important item on the agenda in school inspections. It is not really surprising that it became an elephant in the room which has subsequently got bigger and bigger.
 
I am convinced that having good role models in management make a huge difference, in society as well as in schools, businesses and other organisations.  We need to seek out qualities such as wisdom, reflectiveness and honesty when we make the all important decision about who we place in positions of responsibility.
 
Yours truly,
 
Rhodri Griffiths
Green Party Candidate for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich

 

Gas v Renewable Energy

18 December, 2014

It looks as though the proposal to build a massive 299 megawatt gas-fired power station near Eye is yet another example of the government's top-down, heavy-handed approach to pushing through unwanted, environmentally disastrous schemes against the will of local people. Sadly, but not surprisingly, the Conservative-controlled county and district councils are more interested in kowtowing to David Cameron and Eric Pickles than in caring for the future of the planet.

Now and again, one comes across a forward-looking scheme aimed at lowering carbon emissions, such as the award-winning Suffolk One sixth-form centre ("One building that's passing all its environmental tests." EADT Monday, December 15) which collects thermal energy to heat the building. What a shame that shining examples of good practice like this are so thin on the ground in Suffolk.

If the county and district councils used their planning powers to ensure that developers installed renewable energy  facilities in all new buildings as a matter of routine, there would be no need whatsoever for any fossil fuel-powered or nuclear power stations.

Unfortunately, they continue to permit the same kind of unimaginative, rabbit hutch development that disfigures the outskirts of every market town. The developers - and the councils, at both levels - are missing a golden opportunity to turn each new home into a micro-generator. Where are the solar PV panels on the roofs? Where are the thermal energy installations? Many of these houses (I've been looking closely at those near Wickham Market and Saxmundham) don't even have a chimney which could at least allow the owners to fit a carbon-neutral wood-burning stove, and all are totally dependant on gas central heating.

Our Conservative politicians are showing utter irresponsibilty and disregard for future generations in failing to act to cut carbon emissions and in actively increasing our dependancy on gas and other fossil fuels.

Yours truly,

Rhodri Griffiths
Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Suffolk Central and North Ipswich

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