Monday, 21 April 2008

Fly Tipping in Yorkshire

>> Fly Tipping - Is it still a blot on our landscape?
By Paul Bolton

Fly-tipping - is it still a blot on our landscape?

In this day and age, we are all told to cut our carbon footprints and not to waste energy, our industry is told to cut its emissions and the government looks at new, environmentally friendly ways of powering the nation. All these measures are essentially there to help slow down the threat of global warming.

But an old problem still remains, and it’s getting worse. Due to lazy or even criminal actions, serious and fly tipping still blights our countryside, towns and cities – and the situation is five times worse than it was in the 1960’s.

According to Flycapture, a fly tipping database set up by DEFRA, The Environment Agency and The Local Government Agency, Yorkshire and the Humberside accounted for 163,480 of the 1.3 million fly tipping incidents in the UK in 2006-2007(discounting Liverpool County Council’s 1.3 million incidents).

Although these figures were down 25% in the region from last year, fly tipping was still expected to cost the region over £6.5 million and Yorkshire and the Humberside still accounts for the most recorded incidents of fly tipping behind the North West and London.

Fly tipping occurs generally because people want to avoid paying a disposal fee called the landfill tax. This charge generally comes into force when non household waste is removed or even having to pay to dispose of these types of waste in the local tip.

However, there is a more sinister element involved with fly tipping, as Ian Cowie, the Environment Agency’s Environmental Crime Team Leader for Yorkshire explains:
“We deal with the more serious ‘big, bad and nasty’ of organised crime etc, rather than a guy tipping a mattress onto wasteland as a one off. These incidents are within the local council’s remits, and the Flycapture database was set up to allow us to collate national data” he said.

The problem of fly tipping has been met with a tough response from the authorities, which has led to 194 of 195 successful prosecutions by Yorkshire and Humberside councils. The Flycapture database has been key to this, allowing local authorities to record incidents and helping them to improve intelligence on fly-tipping and focus resources on fly-tip hot spots.

Other measures like, which was set up by the Ministry of Justice, allow the public to report instances of fly tipping and other local problems by locating the instances on an interactive map. Education for small businesses is also on the increase by the Environment Agency.

But for the more sinister elements, a tougher approach is needed, as Ian Cowie explains:
“My team deals more with people who think they can make a bob or two out of buying a skip, getting paid for filling it up with people’s waste, and then dumping it in the countryside. Last year we prosecuted 53 people in various incidents of serious organised tipping”.

Local initiatives are also in force, for example, Sheffield City Council, whose area has the worst statistics for fly tipping in Yorkshire (108,000+ incidents), has set up sting operations in co operation with South Yorkshire Police to catch un-licensed waste collectors who account for a high percentage of fly tipping incidents.

Despite fly tipping still being a major issue in the country and our region, Ian Cowie believes that’s there’s more to it than meets the eye, and is hopeful for the future in Yorkshire, especially with the recent impressive drop in incidents in the region.

“I believe fly tipping and serious tipping are at the levels they are because of the economic background of the South, Western Yorkshire areas and the sheer weight of the population there.

“But it’s clear to see we’re improving the situation, you can see for yourself how much we’ve cleaned up some of the rivers for example. If we continue hitting our targets, we’ll continue to make our region a nicer place to live and work.”

>>Menstoners punished for helping the environment?
>> Fly Tipping In Yorkshire

By Paul Bolton
Image: iwouldntstay

Menstoners punished for helping the environment?

Residents of a West Yorkshire village denied from doing the right thing when it comes to the environment are continuing to effectively break the law to reduce their carbon footprint.

The Ellar Ghyll tip, which is situated on the outskirts of Menston in Bradford, but lies just inside the Leeds metropolitan district border, has been at the centre of a long running feud over waste disposal.

Leeds City Council, who runs the site, has been turning away non-Leeds residents since 2006, despite the tip being on the majority of Menston residents’ doorsteps and the site having being originally set up in the 1970’s specifically for residents of the village and neighbouring Burley-in-Wharfedale.

Now, if Bradford residents are caught using the site, rules dictate that is it classed as fly-tipping and they could face a £50,000 fine or up to 12 months in prison.

Mr Ashley France, who lived in Menston for six years, but now lives in nearby Baildon, was threatened with arrest in February after attempting to use the site for a family member from the village:

“I went down there and they asked me where I lived. I said I was moving stuff for my father in law who lives in Menston. They told me it was a Leeds tip and the guy said I would basically be arrested if I was planning to tip there. I was obviously angry, but I turned around, I didn’t want to get into any trouble,” he said.

However, he still believes that the rules are worth breaking and knows plenty of people who are:

“But everybody in Menston still goes to Ellar Ghyll."

“Obviously they can’t man the gate 24 hours a day, but even if they do, I know people who will drive past and check. If there isn’t, they’ll use the site. If there is staff there, they’ll go to Rawdon or Guiseley, even though they’re in Leeds. There’s ways around it.”

The nearest legal alternative for residents is of Menston is the recycling centre in Ilkley, a 12 mile round trip compared to the short run to Ellar Ghyll or the neighbouring Guiseley and Rawdon sites.

Mr France believes this is ridiculous:
“My main point with this whole thing is that it’s hypocritical of Leeds City Council. It’s hardly environmentally friendly having to go further to dump your rubbish, and it leaves much more of a carbon footprint. Plus it’s just inconvenient.”

Residents in neighbouring Otley, in Leeds, have been given permits by their council to try and combat Menston residents providing false details to staff to gain access to the tip.

Campaigns from various local councillors and residents to change Leeds City Council’s stance have so far yielded few results and, after two and half years of conflict, there are still no plans to allow Menston residents to officially use the tip.

>> Fly-tipping - is it still a blot on our landscape?

By Paul Bolton
Image: richardpluck

Monday, 3 March 2008

War in Europe?

The government has today dismissed calls for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, despite 88% of British locals unofficially polled in 10 constituencies wanting one. The bill, signed in December by Gordon Brown, was designed as a replacement to the EU constitution, which was dismissed by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

A row has broken out due to the fact that the government promised a referendum on the original European constitution, but has not promised one on this treaty. Government ministers argue that the bill amends existing treaties and is not needed.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, who called for a debate, and groups such as the Conservatives and UKIP see it as virtually the same as the scrapped constitution, so should also cleary require a referendum. The only way a referendum could happen is if MP's vote in favour of holding one in a couple of days time.

More protests like the one pictured at the top have continued outside the Houses of Parliament, today for example, protesters scaled a crane in Parliament Square to get their message across.

Across the blogosphere, the ongoing European referendum debate has produced some interesting coverage. Wonko's world, a blog written by a man who sees himself as a "foreigner in my own country", comments on today's protest and on a government he clearly doesn't trust:

What kind of a sham of democracy do we live in when people with a legitimate protest feel that they need to break the law in order to get noticed?

A Very British Dude goes further, believing he is speaking for everyone when he says:

Listen, politicos: We, the peoples of Europe, do not want the constitution or its bastard offspring, and have demonstrated this at every turn.

The Devil's Kitchen, who quoted the British Dude in his post on the EU row agrees, and, in very colourful language, goes on to say that those who don't see a need for a referendum, are, well.. let's just say wrong:

As I have pointed out, innumerable times, those who claim that we should not have a referendum because we live in a representative democracy are total c***s.

It is because we live in a representative democracy that we should have a referendum. Because, when 98% of those MPs represented themselves to the voters, they promised a referendum.

An arguement for the EU treaty are few and far between, in fact, Daniel Hannan of The Telegraph asks in his blog for:

Some decent, well-sourced, specific arguments in favour of EU membership. No airy generalizations, please. No fibs about how the EU is “coming our way”. What I want is a simple case for why we should be part of the EU that actually exists. Over to you.

There was plenty of responses to Hannan's article who disagreed with, but the main point on the other side appeared to be that the referendum is misunderstood. Ed Clarke, argues that:

Unless I have misunderstood this process entirely, it is merely a formalisation of the process already in existence. There are plenty of points along the line at which countries can say "no" to any changes.

However, he agrees with a referendum, but more on the issue that:

I think we should have a referendum based on voters being informed of the actual content of the treaty. Far too much of the debate (on both sides of the argument) has been based on half-truths and inaccuracies. Why doesn't the EU or the UK government put a consolidated version of the treaties up on its website so that we can all have a proper read of it?

Personally, I believe that is it the government's democractic responsobility to hold a referendum. The reason they aren't is clear: they are scared that they will be defeated; but surely this is all part of the democractic process. Maybe if the government did a better job of telling people exactly what was going on, they'd come round to the idea. But if after proper education the public really didn't want it, the people have spoken and their decision should be valid.

Hopefully if a referendum is voted for by ministers, the contents of the treaty will be presented to the public in a simple way.

Before I leave it there, here's a campaign video for the "I Want A Referendum" group, who are spearheading the campaign for a referendum.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Conservative Cock Up?

The Conservatives have put their foot in it today, after a briefing note for a David Cameron speech was criticised. In the note, one of the points was criticising trips for sixth formers to Auschwitz as "a gimmick". The party's main point appears to have been the fact that Labour promised free trips to the former concentration camp, yet failed to deliver, making schools fork out £100 for each trip per pupil. It is among a list of "gimmicks" the Conservatives accused Gordon Brown of, and on the surface seems to be simple party politics.

However, due to the touchy subject matter, a great deal of offence is likely to be caused to the Jewish community. Many blogs are seeing this as a terrible misjudgement.

Guido Faulkes Blog thinks that:
Whatever the substance of the matter, somebody is going to get a bollocking for the original press release...

However, some see it as a another move to slice down the Conservatives by Labour. "The Red Box"'s Sam Coates updated his blog throughout the day, gauging the comebacks from both Labour and Conservative sides. At the end of the day, he saw it as:
The charge of Tory flipancy and judgement error certainly still stands, but perhaps Labour - suddenly emboldened by recent polls - charged in too hard and have done enough politicking with the issue to muddy the waters and lessen the impact.

To back this up, Adam Boulton's Sky News blog makes a valid point about the release:
But he did not single out the notorious death camp. Reference to it came in the Conservative Campaign Headquarters blurb that accompanied the speech.

There is no doubting that calling trips to Auschwitz a "gimmick" was a mistake and is likely to offend a great many people. A few people in my History A level class went there and for them, it was a very valuable experience and there is no denying what went on there was a tragedy and should never happen again. But maybe this is all being blown a bit out of proportion?

The Conservative's point seemed to have been more about Brown failing to deliver, not the fact that the trip is a waste of time.

Monday, 18 February 2008


We were asked to produce a short slideshow about walking from Avenham Park to UCLan's Foster Building, to publish on our blog. This is to demonstrate we'd got the grasp of Flickr and Windows Movie maker, both vital in publishing multimedia items on your blog. Here is my effort, using pictures from Flickr and a rather nice instrumental from viking metal band Tyr.