Gorse Hill Labour

A regular blog and updates from Mike Cordingley, Councillor for Gorse Hill Ward in Trafford – Gtr Manchester.

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The Myth-makers

….Or How I lost Confidence in the Enviroment Agency following Pickles’ Decision allowing Barton Incinerator

BBC North West tonight screened an item on Blackpool’s seawater quality on Friday. A young woman was filmed dressed in wetsuit paddling in the waves under grey skies on a miserable drizzly day taking samples of seawater. She’s interviewed, she works for the Environment Agency and she admits she’s the only person paddling that day, but it’s just another day’s work to keep our environment safe and clean.

This worthy image of the Environment Agency is one I’ve always previously subscribed to, and it’s easy to see how their marketing team could collar the Labour and Conservative MPs for Blackpool in the photograph above.

Over recent months though, my view of the Environment Agency has completely changed. No longer have I confidence in the Agency’s moral purpose or its accountability; and most importantly I no longer have confidence in its guardianship of the environment.

I’m sure there are many staff within EA working tirelessly and honourably. It certainly has one of the best marketing departments of any Govt Agency. But our experience suggests the agency has constructed a myth.

On Thursday Eric Pickles announced his decision to give the go-ahead to the Barton Renewable Energy Plant following Peel Energy’s appeal to the planning inspectorate. The Inspectorate’s report to Mr Pickles is riddled with references to the Environment Agency as an authority. The inspector defers time and time again to the Environment Agency.

So Pickles passes the buck to the Inspector and the Inspector passes the buck to the EA

But as Friends of the Earth (South Hams) have pointed out, the Environment Agency has never refused an Environmental Permit to an incinerator application. And campaigners here have voiced  so many criticisms of their report on Barton that it casts doubt on the whole process.

  • The Breath Clean Air Group point out that the Environment Agency has allowed Tindall Street to be used by Peel to measure impact rather than the much nearer Wilfred Street.
  • It’s been well publicised the planned stack at Barton will be half the height of similar plants because of the nearby aerodrome.
  • We’ve had resident drop-ins with no notes taken of concerns.

Eric Pickles proudly heralded a ground-breaking shift in power to councils and communities overturning decades of central government control. Instead we got a stitch-up and more distrust than ever.