Cardiff Friends of the Earth Newsletter - Winter 1996

Cut VAT on energy-saving materials

By Phil Pinder

It's that time of year again, with the nights drawing in and the cold creeping in through the holes in your socks. Friends of the Earth are backing the Association for the Conservation of Energy's (ACE) call for the Government to reduce VAT on energy-saving materials to eight percent.

An amendment to the Finance Bill for this was lost by one vote in March. The main reason being that the Government pledged to look at other ways of reducing the VAT to eight percent. This promise now gives us a lever to use during the Budget Debate in November. There are four things you can do in support of this action. If you can do some, or all, of them as soon as possible before your MP goes back to their usual state of winter torpor, we should be able to win this time.

Write to your MP asking that, if the Government does not keep it's promise to reduce VAT on energy saving materials in the Budget, they vote to change the Amendment of the Law Resolution which will do just that.

  • Please write even if your MP is supportive on this issue as a good turnout is needed to win the vote.
  • Ask everyone you know to do the same.
  • Ask your local councillors to put pressure on your MP to vote to reduce VAT on energy saving materials in the budget.
  • Write to Phillip Oppenheim MP saying that you expect him to keep his predecessor's promise on VAT reduction.
  • Write to the Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke MP, reminding him of the Government's promise and telling him that it should be kept.

Cardiff Friends of the Earth AGM

The AGM will take place on Monday, 4 November at 8PM in the Temple of Peace, Cathays Park (opposite the Welsh Office).

The group urgently need new people to become involved in all areas of our activities, whether it is helping with a stall, writing letters, or attending publicity events.

The short AGM will be followed by a discussion about what people want to see the group doing next year. This is your chance to have a say about anything that concerns you. For example, how to improve member participation, and what priority to give the issues facing Cardiff's environment.

We need your ideas on how to get our messages across and generate public debate.

We look forward to seeing you on 4 November.

Government failure to curb pollution

There are 20.5 million cars on the UK's roads and there have been 81,329 roadside pollution emissions tests. Of these, 3,904 motorists were told to cut their emissions, and eight were prosecuted. This means that the odds of a car owner being prosecuted were one chance in 2.5 million. The chance in Britain of being struck by lightning is one in three million, and of winning the National Lottery is one in 269,000 if you buy one ticket a week.

Development threats to the Wentloog Levels

By Julian Langston

The Wentloog/St Mellons Link Road is one of a number of damaging new roads first proposed by South Glamorgan County Council for the Cardiff Area. It is a mile-long duel carriageway from Cyprus Drive, St Mellons crossing the south Wales main railway line and running to the proposed light industrial areas on the Wentloog levels.

Cardiff Friends of the Earth objected to the scheme when it was included in the Cardiff City Local Plan in 1993. The planning inspector recommended the deletion of the road from the plan on the grounds that the County Council hadn't demonstrated the need for the road. Indeed, the council had done very little preparation of their case for the Local Plan Enquiry. The City Council agreed and deleted the scheme, the County Council followed suit by not including the road in their Replacement Structure Plan. The road seemed dead and buried.

In September 1995, proposals were made for an inter-modal freight terminal in south Wales as one of eight initial terminals throughout the UK to service the Channel Tunnel freight trains. These terminals were to be the places where freight was to be transferred from rail to road.

There was competition between a site at Magor in Gwent and Wentloog, just to the east of Cardiff. The Wentloog site covers an area of 31 hectares, of which 15 hectares is greenfield. All of it is part of a site of special scientific interest because of the plant and wild animal life associated with the reens (drainage ditches) that penetrate the levels.

The County Council strongly promoted the Wentloog Site, claiming that it would generate 10,000 jobs. They also resurrected the Wentloog/St Mellons Link, which they claimed would be needed to cope with the extra traffic. Cardiff Friends of the Earth has opposed both schemes:; the road because it is unnecessary and will not help achieve a sustainable transport scheme for Cardiff; and the terminal because it could be located elsewhere with minimal environmental damage.

We informally approached the Railfreight Group to obtain information about the freight traffic that would be generated. This lead to the conclusion that a maximum of one lorry every 12 minutes would be generated. We also highlighted a South Glamorgan County Council document that indicated that fewer than 30 jobs would be directly generated by the terminal. Additional indirect jobs are unlikely to be at a factor of over 300 as predicted by the County Council.

We contacted two other contenders for the terminal in Cardiff: Associated British Ports (ABP), who suggested using a site in Cardiff Docks; and Freightliner, who argued that an extension of their extension of their operation at Pengam would be feasible. ABP subsequently dropped out. Frieghtliner was still interested but their position is complicated by Government attempts to sell of the operation. Cardiff Friends of the Earth support their suggestion because it would achieve the same objectives without environmental damage.

We wrote to the Welsh Development Agency (WDA) to suggest that they shouldn't spend public money on the Wentloog site if another site could be converted without the need for public money. The WDA have told us that they don't believe that the new road is needed to service the terminal. We have used information in our response to the County Council's draft Transport Policies and Programmes 1996/97 document. The County Council has brushed aside our evidence from the WDA without giving any reason.

This matter is confused at the moment. The Secretary of State for Wales has stepped in several times, sometimes apparently supporting the scheme at Wentloog, and at other times apparently against it. Even if the terminal is built at Wentloog, we should be able to stop the road by using the WDA evidence. The Labour Party General Election Manifesto promises to operate a bias against building new roads.

This campaign by Cardiff Friends of the Earth has been carried out on a shoestring. Little time has been available, just enough to write a few letters and make occasional phone calls. Even with this, a lot has been achieved. With more people getting involved in the campaign, the Wentloog Terminal can also be stopped.

Influencing Cardiff County Council

By Phil Ward

The advent of a unitary authority in Cardiff presents local pressure groups with a new challenge, how to influence the councillors now in charge of this member-led authority.

We need to develop new contacts, especially in areas such as Environmental Services, planning, and Transport, because the reorganisation has led to many changes in both personnel and in the authority's overall ethos. While some familiar faces remain, they now have to operate under a new regime.

We must quickly learn the best ways of influencing council policies, and use existing channels of communication, such as the Environmental Forum, and personal contacts, so we get our ideas across in a way that is understandable to our new Councillors.

If there is an issue that concerns you, then tell your Councillors about it. .As your elected representatives is is in their interests to be seen to be doing something about it. The more correspondence they receive about an issue, the more likely it is to remain on their political agenda.

One major area of concern in Cardiff must be transport, and the many issues which it throws up. We would like to create a Transport Forum to channel ideas and concerns to the relevant departments of Cardiff County Council. This could be seen as part of a Local Agenda 21 process, enabling people to decide what they want for Cardiff's transport system in the 21st century.

With the Rugby World Cup and the new millennium on the horizon, Cardiff seriously needs the vision to develop an effective, environmentally-friendly public transport system. What combination of 'alternative' modes of transport this involves, remains to be seen.