Sunday, 31 May 2015

'Human Touch' >>> Applied art installations contributing to well-being and cohesion

It is possible to have architecture which is both human and inspiring:
Futures Forum: Toxteth and Turner: "It has taken the Turner prize to highlight that there is an alternative to replacing low-income housing with expensive flats."

Architecture should enhance well-being:
Futures Forum: Designing places for healthier lives

Buildings should sit in their environment:
Futures Forum: Making places through bottom-up planning >>> "The design review is dead. Long live Place reviews"

These are some of the themes put together in a new book by local Sidmouth author Graham Cooper:

Human Touch - Constructing a special form of art

Since 2005 the author has prepared ten publications and is delighted to launch his latest compilation Human Touch - Constructing a special form of art. 

A full colour introduction to art in relation to architectural space and public places, Human Touch features the work of many talented artists and designers throughout the UK. Documented and collated are applied art installations by numerous traditional masters, modern and contemporary fine artists. Included are artworks in important real life situations such as commemoration and health care, contributing to spiritual wellbeing and social cohesion. Mostly free from admission charges and other restrictions each example is located within the public domain, where art is located for the enjoyment of all.

The book provides an art and architecture trail, spanning historic masterpieces from medieval churches through to the pioneering work of the modernists and beyond.  Sections include: Historical Perspective, Landmark Buildings, Fine Art Practice, Applied Art Installations and a Regional Directory. Based on a personal journey over a forty year career the publication is assembled from the author’s own research and documentation.

In the spring of 2014 the author had the pleasure of donating a large slide collection he and photographer Doug Sargent had assembled to the English Heritage photographic archive. The unique collection consisting of over four thousand pictures feature photographs of UK outdoor wall paintings and many other kinds of urban decorative art, the majority of which were taken in the late 1970’s. Now listed as the Art and Architecture Slide Collection at English Heritage it is a record of the human creativity and artistic touches which make life in cities more tolerable.

Produced by Harmonie Press Format: 297x210mm Pages 216   £22 incl UK P&P
Orders from Graham Cooper (coopergraham2011@gmail.com)
Harmonie Peak Hill Road Sidmouth Devon EX10 0NW

Graham Cooper, Environmental Artist, Art and Architecture, Space related
Royal College of Art, The Building Centre, Pentagram, RCA Library, Alan Baxter, Art & Architecture
Sidmouth Science Festival - Polychromatic Chords
Futures Forum: From Bury to Sidmouth: book launch

Devon Cycling Strategy: agreed... but 'it will need to be more targeted and selective about which projects it invests in'

The cycle routes out of Sidmouth are notoriously difficult:
National Cycle route 2 9th section Sidmouth to Exmouth Rail in Devon, United Kingdom | MapMyRide
Sidmouth Cycling Routes - The best cycling routes in Sidmouth, England

What is actually available on the ground is very 'selective'...

The County Council's own webpage for cycle routes includes nothing for East Devon:
Cycle routes and maps | Cycle Devon

And the cycling pages on the tourist site 'Select Sidmouth' give no mention of routes within the Sid Valley itself:
Cycling - Visit Sidmouth

Some years ago, the route between Sidmouth and Sidford was completed:

There have been many efforts to extend the route to Sidbury:

And meanwhile, the proposed route to Ottery St Mary and beyond continues to be considered:

Two years ago the Devon Cycling Strategy went out for consultation:

Futures Forum: Cycling: Devon Cycling Strategy

It has now been agreed - as this report from the VGS earlier this month relates:

Cycling News

Silhouette photograph of a cyclist
The Devon Cycling Strategy has now been agreed and released by Devon County Council (DCC).

DCC had agreed to a period of consultation with the general public, community groups and Sustrans. There has been no consultation yet (outside DCC).

Zsolt Schuller, our main DCC officer for contact with DCC is no longer working in the county.

At a meeting of Devon Sustrans members, held in Exeter on 25 April, the part time Sustrans Manager for Devon (Rupert Crossbee) said he would do all he can to raise the Sidmouth (and surrounds) profile with both DCC and Sustrans.  However, his main position is (and has been for some time) as Sustrans Manager for North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

It was suggested by Rupert Crossbee and Graham Heysett (Sustrans Volunteers Coordinator) that VGS needs to be more persistent and assertive in  its dealing with DCC, Sustrans, STC, and EDDC, and other groups and relevant bodies. The example was given of the recent success of Dawlish in obtaining about £1.2m to improve cycling access into Dawlish. DCC will carry out most of the work.

Vision Group for Sidmouth - Cycling News

Here is the section from the County Council cabinet from last month:

Cycling and Multi-Use Trail Network Strategy

Given the changes to the government funding detailed above, it will be increasingly difficult for local authorities to secure or make a strong case for smaller scale schemes, including walking and cycling projects. The exception may be cycle schemes that relate well to specific developments, and are able to evidence that they are necessary in delivering sustainable housing and jobs or growth to the economy. These would be delivered as part of the development management process.

The County Council will continue to be proactive in its pursuit of cycle infrastructure; however, it will need to be more targeted and selective about which projects it invests its design resources in. The lack of funding directly available to the County Council means that it will need to identify a range of funding sources that will help deliver the county's strategic priorities. This will include preparing bids through the LEP Growth Deal process, other government funded bids and ensuring that cycle schemes are included in Local Planning Authority infrastructure delivery plans so that developer contributions (S106/CIL) can be secured.

The following aims and objectives have been proposed, which reflect the changing financial context and the pressures it will put on future funding of cycle schemes across the county:

Showcase Exeter, Newton Abbot and Barnstaple as premier cycling towns

- to provide a healthy, more efficient alternative to travelling by car for a proportion of journeys cyclists will be able to avoid congestion and benefit from a number of traffic-free cycle routes in the urban areas.

Invest in Devon's leisure routes and trails

- to secure transitional economic and health benefits in rural Devon by increasing peoples' access to Devon's impressive countryside and heritage, and providing linkages with rural towns and villages.

Influence the planning process to enable cycle aspirations in market and coastal towns to be delivered

- to ensure that cycle schemes are included in Local Plan infrastructure delivery plans so that developer contributions can be secured and new developments designed to create attractive walking and cycling environments.

A copy of the draft Cycling and Multi-Use Trail Network Strategy is included within Appendix II. This document was discussed at Place Scrutiny Committee in September 2014.

Cabinet (Devon County Council) - Wed Apr 08 2015

Latest planning application for solar farm at Clyst St Mary: 9th-10th June ... and the promise of shared ownership

There is more news on the upcoming applications for solar farms in East Devon:
Futures Forum: Latest planning application for solar farm at Clyst St Mary: Tuesday 16th June

A comment posted on this blog yesterday gives an update:

Solstice said...
Hi - events have moved on with Solstice Renewables' solar farm proposals for Shepherd's Farm and Kenniford Farm, and they will not now be decided by the planning committee on June 16th. 
However, the appeal hearing for the original planning application for the 7.5MW solar farm at Shepherd's Farm will be taking place on June 9th and 10th. 
If this is successful part of the solar farm will be made available for community ownership under the government's new 'shared ownership' framework.
Futures Forum: Latest planning application for solar farm at Clyst St Mary: Tuesday 16th June - comment

More information has been forthcoming:

The decision to postpone the decision on Kenniford has been taken by the District Council's planning committee - the applicant has had no influence on this:

Details for the appeal hearing for the first application for 7.5MW at Shepherd’s Farm have now been confirmed: it will be held on 9th-10th June at:    
Aylesbeare Village Hall, Village Way, Aylesbeare, Exeter EX5 2BS starting at 10 am (not Sidmouth as previously thought)
Most of the discussion is expected to happen on Tuesday 9th:
Aylesbeare Parish Council - Home
Aylesbeare Parish Council - Meeting Dates Agendas & Minutes

Here is more information from the CPRE:
Shepherds Farm, Clyst St Mary Solar Park (23 acres) – pending decision « CPRE Devon

And this is a piece from the Express & Echo last year:
Exeter's Crealy set to get solar power park | Exeter Express and Echo

The promise of part community ownership has been flagged by the developers, by which a share offer would be launched enabling local people to invest directly in the solar farms.

This has been pushed  by the government and welcomed by the industry:

The Community Energy Strategy sets out our vision for shared ownership: 
• From 2015 it will be commonplace for communities to be offered the opportunity of some level of ownership of new, commercially developed onshore renewables projects 
• Includes a commitment from the renewables industry to facilitate this 
• Government will review progress in 2015 and if this is limited, we will consider requiring all developers to offer the opportunity of a shared ownership element to communities

Shared Ownership – DECC’s perspective

"Another economy is possible" >>>>>>>>>>>>>>> >>>>>>>>>>>> 'orthodox' vs 'heterodox' economics

Recently, the front page of the French daily Libération carried the headline:

Alain BARRE (@AlainnBARRE) | Twitter
Economistes : La révolte «hétéro» - Libération

The most recent challenge to 'orthodox' economics started over ten years ago at the Sorbonne in Paris - and was coined as 'post-autistic' economics:

Post-Autistic Economics (PAE) is a movement of different groups critical of the current economics mainstream: behavioral economics, heterodox economics, feminist economicsgreen economics, and econo-physics. It was born through the work of University of Paris 1economist Bernard Guerrien. It was started in 2000 by a group of disaffected French economics students.[1]
The term autistic is used in an informal way, signifying "abnormal subjectivity, acceptance of fantasy rather than reality".[2]

The Post-Autistic Movement | Adbusters
Real-World Economics

The PAE Network started in France and has spread first to Cambridge and then other parts of the world. The name derives from the fact that mainstream economics has been accused of institutional autism; i.e., qualitative impairment of social interaction, failure to develop peer relationships and lack of emotional and social reciprocity. In short, economics has lost touch with reality and has become way too abstract.
The Crisis in Economics: The Post-Autistic Economics Movement: The first 600 days, Edward Fullbrook (editor) | P2P Foundation

The French do indeed have a tradition of challenging tradition:

Other, more radical, historians see the state as playing an instrumental role in getting markets going. In some accounts, it seems like the state only exists for the benefit of greedy capitalists. Michel Foucault, possibly the most radical of the lot, writes in an early work that state institutions like hospitals, asylums and prisons emerged in the early part of the industrial revolution in order to play an explicit economic function. During periods of economic prosperity, the working classes could be let free to contribute to economic growth: that helped to keep wages down. But during downturns, the working classes were locked up (madness or criminality, argues Foucault, were effectively invented to justify so doing). Locking up the poorest people minimised the risk of violent rebellion:
"Cheap manpower in the periods of full employment and high salaries; and in periods of unemployment, reabsorption of the idle, and social protection against agitation and uprisings."
Foucault’s later works—such as his most famous book, "Discipline and Punish"—are not quite so reductionist; although a whiff of what some leftists call “structural Marxism” persists. But Foucault’s general conclusion is similar to Polanyi’s and Marx's: governments were crucial for creating capitalism.
Economic history: Governments and economic progress | The Economist

This is all part of the 'heterodox' challenge to the 'orthodox' - the notion that there are 'alternatives' to the 'neoliberal mainstream':
Les économistes hétérodoxes
Bataille d'influence chez les économistes français - Libération

Which is what Libération looked at recently:

Economistes : La révolte «hétéro»

Orthodoxe contre hétérodoxe.Orthodoxe contre hétérodoxe. (Photo Pascal Colrat)

Economistes : La révolte «hétéro» - Libération

See also:
Orthodoxie et hétérodoxie en économie — Wikipédia
Heterodox economics - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Heterodoxe Ökonomie – Wikipedia
Economía heterodoxa - Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libre

The 'mainstream' UK daily, the FT, also thinks there should be a re-look at how economics is perceived and taught:

Economics needs to reflect a post-crisis world

The dismal science should be grounded in reality to stay relevant
Karl Marx©Getty
hen the global economy crashed in 2008, the list of culprits was long, including dozy regulators, greedy bankers and feckless subprime borrowers. Now the dismal science itself is in the dock, with much soul-searching over why economists failed to predict the financial crisis. One of the outcomes of this debate is that economics students are demanding the reform of a curriculum they think sustains a selfish strain of capitalism and is dominated by abstract mathematics. It looks like the students will get their way. A new curriculum, designed at the University of Oxford, is being tried out. This is good news.
Defenders of the status quo have pushed back, pointing to a rich hinterland of heterodox economics thinkers. Dig deep and you can find plenty of academic treatises on bank runs, unstable credit cycles and irrational markets. That people are selfish and that businesses pursue profit is not the fault of economics but of human nature. Accurately predicting the future is an unrealistic test of any academic discipline, particularly one that encompasses limitless human interactions.
But the fundamental point made by the critics is right. For a subject so engaged with studying worldly behaviour, there is too much timeless abstraction and too little scrutiny of real-world events. The typical economics course starts with the study of how rational agents interact in frictionless markets, producing an outcome that is best for everyone. Only later does it cover those wrinkles and perversities that characterise real economic behaviour, such as anti-competitive practices or unstable financial markets. As students advance, there is a growing bias towards mathematical elegance. When the uglier real world intrudes, it only prompts the question: this is all very well in practice but how does it work in theory?
This theoretical bias left the discipline resistant to challenge at a crucial time. When in 2005 Raghuram Rajan, now governor of the Reserve Bank of India, warned that financial innovation had become a source of instability, his paper was dismissed as “slightly Luddite”. His call for greater prudential supervision of banks was ignored.
Fortunately, the steps needed to bring economics teaching into the real world do not require the invention of anything new or exotic. The curriculum should embrace economic history and pay more attention to unorthodox thinkers such as Joseph Schumpeter, Friedrich Hayek and – yes – even Karl Marx. Faculties need to restore links with other fields such as psychology and anthropology, whose insights can explain phenomena that economics cannot. Economics professors should make the study of imperfect competition – and of how people act in conditions of uncertainty – the starting point of courses, not an afterthought.
Mathematical models ought to keep their place, so long as their results are not taken too literally. But many of those used in central banks have hitherto ignored the financial sector as a source of instability. Remedying this will add even more complexity. The maths will get harder.
In the aftermath of the financial crisis the popularity of economics courses has surged. Having watched the global economy fall off a cliff, new students will not tolerate anodyne lectures on the wisdom of markets. They demand more pluralism and humility in a subject that has hitherto overvalued purism and certainty. Economics should not be taught as if it were about the discovery of timeless laws. Those who champion the discipline must remember that, at its core, it is about human behaviour, with all the messiness and disorder that this implies.
Letters in response to this editorial:
Economics needs to reflect a post-crisis world - FT.com

See also:
post-crisis |
Economics students aim to tear up free-market syllabus | Business | The Guardian
Economics of Crisis: Economic Restructuring Post-Crisis
BBC Radio 4 - Teaching Economics After the Crash



Uploaded on Aug 27, 2010
From Academy Award® nominated filmmaker, Charles Ferguson ("No End In Sight"), comes INSIDE JOB, the first film to expose the shocking truth behind the economic crisis of 2008. The global financial meltdown, at a cost of over $20 trillion, resulted in millions of people losing their homes and jobs. 
Through extensive research and interviews with major financial insiders, politicians and journalists, INSIDE JOB traces the rise of a rogue industry and unveils the corrosive relationships which have corrupted politics, regulation and academia. 
Narrated by Academy Award® winner Matt Damon, INSIDE JOB was made on location in the United States, Iceland, England, France, Singapore, and China.

INSIDE JOB Official Trailer in HD! - YouTube
Inside Job (2010 film) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Inside Job: how bankers caused the financial crisis | Film | The Guardian


Saturday, 30 May 2015

"The real-life Mad Max will be about water"

Back in 2008, the observation was made that the original Mad Max movie was about living in post-nuclear devastation - whereas actually, it will be about living in a world without water:
The real-life "Mad Max" will be about water | Blog | Futurismic

Which is exactly what the Mad Max remake would have us believe:
New 'Mad Max' Trailer Debuts: "Our World Is Fire and Blood" - The Hollywood Reporter
Mad Max: Fury Road 3D (2015) - YouTube

Australia has got it bad:
The coming Australian water wars
Mad Max and the Outback Apocalypse | Science-fictionality
Mad Max: Fury Road may be the Anthropocene at its worst — but it makes for pretty sick cinema | Grist

So has California:

What The US Can Learn From Australia To Avoid A Mad Max Future


The drought is no longer a California problem. The Colorado River, which supplies water to one-eighth of the population of the United States, is now reporting record low water levels. The US needs a little perspective when it comes to how bad this is going to get. Luckily it has one: Australia.

Over the past 20 years, Australia has weathered one of the most devastating droughts on the planet. You’ve seen the dust storms. You’ve seen the wildfires. And you’ve seen the trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road.The film takes place in a parched, near-future Australia, where the control and manipulation of water is the greatest power in the world.

Even as a kid growing up in Australia, director George Miller was influenced by the scarcity of water in his environment. He remembers adults talking about the imminent water wars, he told the Hollywood Reporter. “Growing up in an isolated rural town, I was very aware of the cycle of droughts and floods, so it was a natural thing to put in this story.”

Of course, Mad Max is fiction (we hope). But there is no question that the future it describes is not so very far flung. And over the last two decades, parts of Australia were transformed into something very close to that post-apocalyptic reality. Here’s what the US can learn from Australia when it comes to managing its hydrological fate.
“The Big Dry”

Australia’s Millennium Drought is named because it started around the turn of the millennium. But it could also be seen as a once-in-a-millennium event — it’s said to be the worst drought in the continent’s recorded history.

Australia’s naturally arid climate always sees a great deal of variability in precipitation. But starting in the early 1990s, it began to see much lower than average rainfall year after year. By 1995, an official drought was declared with the lowest annual rainfall seen in 100 years or more. Exacerbating the dry conditions were high temperatures triggered by El Niño — the very same weather pattern that’s making the West of the US so hot and dry right now. Some some major reservoirs shrunk to 25 per cent of capacity or lower.

Average rainfall from 1970 to 2010. Some areas saw the lowest amounts ever recorded. Commonwealth of Australia, 2011, Australian Bureau of Meteorology

Entire ancient forests were killed, lakes turned acidic, rivers evaporated and many species were pushed to the brink of extinction. The groundwater in some parts of Australia became so saline it was unfit to drink.

By 2000 the drought’s repercussions had reached major cities. Australia was on the brink of a full-scale economic disaster that threatened the livelihood of its citizens. But the farms were hit hardest. The part of the country that suffered the most was the Murray-Darling Basin, which grew almost half of the country’s food.

In 2008 the Murray-Darling Basin was climatologically off the charts, receiving its seventh straight year of below-average rain and 11th year in a row of above-average temperatures. Some regions ceased all food production. No more food being grown. At all.

That same year, the Sydney Morning Herald published a radical thought — this is the new normal:

It may be time to stop describing south-eastern Australia as gripped by drought and instead accept the extreme dry as permanent, one of the nation’s most senior weather experts warned yesterday.

“Perhaps we should call it our new climate,” said the Bureau of Meteorology’s head of climate analysis, David Jones.

In preparation, Australia made some major changes in the way they looked at and lived with water.
A new grid for water

As people in the US have heard a thousand times this year, curbing municipal use is a very small part of the water puzzle. Still, Australia began with some impressive cutbacks in this area. Cities launched programs to promote conservation like stormwater capture, greywater recycling and rain barrel incentives for homeowners. “Indoor use only” water restrictions went into effect in for the cities of Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Melbourne in particular was able to reduce daily per capita water use by 43 per cent.

The country then focused on investing $US25 billion to strengthen the country’s water infrastructure, building a “water grid” much like how an electrical grid works. Three desalinisation plants were built on the coast to service the cities of Perth, Melbourne and Adelaide. But the important part about these plants were that they didn’t simply supply water to the nearby city. They could be linked to other waterways, allowing water to travel back and forth as needed.

The new “water grid” for the region around Melbourne with improvements made from 2007-2010, Australia National Water Commission

A series of pipelines were proposed — William Shatner’s idea doesn’t sound so crazy now, does it? — to connect these previously separate watersheds into one network. Notice they are pipelines, not gravity-powered aqueducts. Meaning water could be moved either way — it could hypothetically flow in both directions to go where it’s needed.

But the biggest impacts were seen through larger, systemic improvements to the way water was managed. The National Water Plan for Water Security placed water projects under national oversight and the federal government launched a reformed system to specifically change the way water was allocated. Instead of hierarchical rights that dole out different amounts of water, scientists make predictions about how much water will be available the next year and everyone pays the same, set market rate for water.

This spurred the biggest change in behaviour because it was financially beneficial for farmers to be more efficient in their usage, according to Jane Doolan from Australia’s National Water Commission:

From a revenue perspective, in 2008-09, our irrigators used 53 per cent of the water they used in 2005-06 which was still during the drought, but the on-farm production was only reduced 21%, so effectively through the drought, our irrigators ended up using virtually a third of their water and getting two-thirds of their production.

A final and very important goal of the water plan was to balance agricultural and economic demand while mitigating environmental impacts. The Australian government took the protection of riparian habitats very seriously, but all of this — including the privatisation of the water system — was highly controversial and led to many protests.
The call for a national plan

A few weeks ago I explored the archaic and downright backwards laws that govern California water rights, many of which could stand to learn a lot from Australia’s radical restructuring. Right now, the state is currently beginning emergency water cutbacks at the municipal level — looking at water use by community and telling each one how much more needs to be reduced.

But reform is absolutely needed, namely to help to fairly distribute the scarce water among California’s many powerful agricultural interests. But this is why state regulations aren’t enough: This is clearly a national problem, especially because the state produces 80 per cent of the food in the US.

Empty reservoirs in the Murray-Darling Basin from 2007 look a lot like California today. Robert Cianflone / Getty Images

It’s also obvious now that the drought is affecting more than one state. Oregon and Washington are seeing their own historic droughts. Las Vegas is plunging a new straw deep into a historically low Lake Mead. Even in wet years, the Colorado River is overtaxed in a way that prevents it from flowing into the Gulf of California.

Now states like Arizona are drawing their full allotment off the Colorado River, which could spell unequivocal disaster for an entire swath of the country — a kind of ecological domino effect.

Instead of improving each watershed with these piecemeal, stopgap emergency measures, the US federal government needs to see the country as a holistic system. It needs to focus on policy and infrastructure working together. And it needs to reform its water rights as one US system.
Preparing for change

Here’s a curious footnote to this story. When Mad Max began location scouting, Australia was deemed no longer suitable for filming an arid post-water future. After almost two decades of drought, the climate made a complete 180 and the previously-parched desert saw torrential rains. Due to the years of drought, these rains were equally devastating, as floods swept through the country in 2010 and 2011. And those wet years turned the area around Broken Hill into a verdant landscape of wildflowers. Production was moved to the deserts of Namibia.

Since Australia’s drought ended with some of its wettest years, some of the infrastructure projects completed have never even needed to be used — yet. But with a better overall system in place, the country also had a better way to handle the influx of water. Stormwater was captured, reservoirs could be filled more efficiently, and water could be sold more fairly. Australia, as a whole, was more resilient.

And then, of course, drought conditions came back.

A still from Mad Max or Sydney Harbour during a 2009 dust storm? AP/Rob Griffith

The lesson here is that in the climate of today, cities cannot just prepare for one extreme or the other — they must be prepared for anything.

As for where to shoot the next Mad Max, Miller might need to look for yet another location. Namibia — considered to have some of the driest places on Earth — has started to see its own historic floods. Climate change may force the filmmaker to follow emerging weather patterns, chasing catastrophic droughts all over the globe for the best post-apocalyptic settings. Hopefully they won’t be filming the nextMad Max in the Central Valley of California.

Sources: Australia is not ready for the next big dry; Lessons from Australia’s Millennium Drought; A new water paradigm for California; Lessons from the Millennium Drought

What The US Can Learn From Australia To Avoid A Mad Max Future | Gizmodo Australia

From another movie about 'water wars':

The Water Fight That Inspired 'Chinatown' - NYTimes.com

A recent report from NASA does not bode well:
NASA: California Has One Year of Water Left

Is California’s Drought Part of a Global Water Crisis?

According to NASA scientist Jay Famiglietti, some of the world’s most unstable regions will face their own severe water shortages in the near future.

Leighton Akio Woodhouse April 16, 2015

The unfolding catastrophe of California’s now four year-old drought and the depletion of its aquifers is not just a crisis for the state and the region surrounding it; it's part of a global pattern of groundwater loss that NASA has been tracking for years. 

Jay Famiglietti, Senior Water Scientist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and author of a now-famous Los Angeles Times op-ed on the drought, has seen this global groundwater deficit firsthand. 

Through a pair of satellites called GRACE, Famiglietti has measured the draining of the world's aquifers in places like India, Pakistan, the Middle East, and California. 

As climate change persists and the planet's arid and semi-arid regions become even drier, we can expect this global phenomenon to become even more acute, with a whole host of perilous consequences: violent conflict, seismic activity, stream depletion, sinking land surfaces, and the monopolization of water by those with financial means.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Latest planning application for solar farm at Clyst St Mary: Tuesday 16th June

There has been considerable controversy over plans to build a solar farm in East Devon:
Futures Forum: Is the proposed solar farm at Clyst St Mary to be built on 'prime agricultural land'?

Here is a message from the developers:

Solar farm planning application.

I wanted to update you on its progress through planning. It was due to be heard by the planning committee a few weeks’ ago. However, it was withdrawn from the agenda at the last minute after the opponents threatened East Devon District Council with Judicial Review.

As there is no planning committee in May due to the election, it will now be heard at the June meeting - on Tuesday June 16th at 2pm.

You may be aware that there is now no more grid capacity for large-scale renewable projects anywhere in the SouthWest. This project already has grid agreed and if it does not go ahead it would be an awful missed opportunity for renewables in East Devon.

The appeal for the original planning application for a 7.5MW site is also being heard in June (9-10th) although the outcome of that probably won’t be known for a couple of months after that. Of course we are hoping for success with both!

If you would like to attend the planning committee meeting on the 16th or speak at it please let me know.

More information and updates on the project can be found on this website page: http://www.solsticerenewables.com/shepherds/
It is understood that there will be some 'benefits to the community':

Community benefits

A community benefit fund would be set up, which would pay £1,000 per MWp installed capacity (index-linked) for the 25-year lifetime of the solar park. This is likely to amount to £5,000 a year, or £125,000 for the lifetime of the solar farm. We would work with the local Parish Council on how this could best be used to bring economic, social and environmental benefits to the area.

We are also offering an additional £2,000 a year to be used for educational purposes linked with the solar park. We are already working with Clyst. St. Mary primary school, organising a site visit in June (click here to read about the visit) to study renewable energy and biodiversity. Click here to read more about our educational benefits.

Clyst St. Mary, Exeter | Solstice Renewables

Solstice Renewables | Solstice Renewables

Development Management Committee development management committee agendas - East Devon

Here is a piece from earlier in the month from the Express & Echo:

Comment: Are the fields of Devon best place for giant solar farms?

By EdOldfield | Posted: May 11, 2015

More solar farms are planned for Devon

Solar power is regarded as one of the solutions to climate change. But giant solar farms springing up around the Westcountry are causing concern because of their impact on the landscape. And there is also the question of who is benefiting from huge subsidies designed to encourage the switch to a low-carbon economy.

In Devon, the issue has been highlighted by a 50-acre solar farm which runs for around a mile alongside the road on Haldon Ridge above Dawlish. The site has been given planning permission for 25 years, and according to one media report will generate £770,000 annual income – £430,000 of which will be from green subsidies.

The development was given permission by Teignbridge council without being discussed by the planning committee. The site is visible from Hay Tor, ten miles away on Dartmoor. And an internal report from the council's heritage and landscape officer warned the development would "detract from its scenic quality".

Of course solar power is contributing to the move towards a low-carbon economy. It provides an alternative to fossil fuels, which produce the carbon dioxide which is blamed for global warming, the trigger behind climate change.

The company behind the development, Solstice Renewables, had a application for a new 25-year solar farm off Oil Mill Lane near Clyst St Mary refused by East Devon council. It has appealed, and meanwhile lodged a revised application.

The proposed solar farm would supply energy to Crealy Park, but there is concern from objectors about its impact on the landscape and the loss of farmland.

The firm has also applied for permission for a smaller solar farm at Kenniford Farm, near Clyst St Mary.

In both cases, the developer says the land would still be farmed, with sheep grazing in winter and wildflower meadows in the summer. And it would set up funds to channel money into community projects.

Combined, the two projects would provide enough electricity to power the equivalent of more than 2,700 homes, and save an estimated 3,900 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.

Whilst the case for developing low-carbon energy is clear, there seems to be a long way to go to persuade people that the green fields of Devon are the best place for these giant farms. But the big financial returns, partly funded by the taxpapers, means we are likely to see many more. Let's hope our planners can properly balance the needs of wildlife and protecting the landscape with the pressure to cut our carbon output. At least the permissions are limited to 25 years, at which point the full impact can be reviewed.

Comment: Are the fields of Devon best place for giant solar farms? | Exeter Express and Echo

See also:
Futures Forum: “There will definitely be a slowdown in the renewable energy sector in the South West. It may, however, drive innovation for new approaches and energy solutions.