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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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Why do councils support Energy Coast but oppose wind power?

SIR – I am writing in reply to Mr John Vout’s letter in The Whitehaven News on November 1.

I am not anti-nuclear and I do appreciate wind turbines are not to everyone’s liking. The world we live in isn’t perfect by any means.

The first thing that I feel I need to draw to Mr Vout’s attention is the recent report and subsequent news headlines concerning the overspend of billions of pounds of public money that has subsidised Sellafield over the years. Our local economy relies on public money.

The same report concluded Sellafield has had a significant environmental impact, with potential to release radioactive material into the local environment.

The point I was trying to make is Copeland needs to expand its stream of revenues for the future. I was trying to highlight the fact that objectors are using excuses for stopping the development of windfarms in the borough, that equally apply to Sellafield. Some of those objectors work at Sellafield.

Then there are the councillors that support Sellafield and the Energy Coast but are against wind power. Double standards! This area is being promoted as the “ENERGY Coast” and not specifically promoted as the “NUCLEAR Coast”. Sellafield is vital to our local economy, fact, but it is also a weakness because its existence relies on a political will, which can change.

The clawing back of Copeland’s revenue from Sellafield into central government last year highlights that one. Jobs have already been lost and I fear now they might only be the tip of the iceberg. There is a restructuring of the workforce going on, meaning more contractors are being used. If, and I believe it is a big if, the site manages to attract a new-build power plant, how many employees will be needed once the build is complete? I suspect not many. I doubt that new-build will ever come, and I believe the massive overspend at the plant will be a nail in its coffin.

To say jobs there are sustainable, Mr Vout, is questionable in the medium to long-term.

I hope for all our sakes the findings of this report aren’t true. The consequences on our community of the inspection by the parliamentary select committee could have a severe impact on all of us. I fear the conclusion of that inspection will have a bigger impact on housing values locally than six wind turbines.

Added to this a significant number of the existing workforce (50 per cent is what I have been quoted) jump in the cars at night and return to their homes outside the Copeland boundary. Those workers contribute virtually nothing to Copeland coffers.

This recent report puts things into some sort of perspective in relation to your grounds of objection to windfarms, principally the subsidies used to support the industry and the turbines’ environmental impact.

The environmental impact of wind turbines is insignificant, in comparison. If political will changes, or there are advances in energy generation, and wind turbines are superseded or no longer wanted, then within a matter of months they can be dismantled, and they are gone.

Mr Vout quotes this Weddicar Windfarm Development would only generate £1 for every person in Copeland. Based on the 2001 census figures, which are the most recent I could find, that equates to £70,000 per year for the next 25 years, going into the Copeland (£1.75 million in total). In light of the recent council cuts, that could have been a significant source of revenue for the council from six wind turbines.

Despite the fact that the west coast has the country’s favourite view (Wasdale), the development of tourist industry on the west coast has lagged far behind the rest of the Lake District over the last 50 years, and that can’t be blamed on windfarms.

Likewise property values have historically lagged well behind other parts of the Lakes, not to mention the rest of the country. Some would argue this is good for the local community, as property remains affordable. Your comments regarding the devaluation of property values seem farfetched and scaremongering to me.

Mr Vout’s comments about the hen harriers and the proposed hen harrier management scheme through the Weddicar Wind Farm Development are misleading. The birds themselves are protected from physical harm under legislation, but Moresby Moss has no statutory designation of protection. Farmers are able to farm that land however they like, as long as they adhere to the requirements of the Single Farm payment Scheme and/or other environmental schemes, if they have elected to part take in those schemes.

I believe there has been a major opportunity lost here to help protect the Moresby Moss area for these rare birds. Natural England was supporting the windfarm scheme because of the benefits to those birds for a 25-year period.

Considering your Copeland planning officers recommended approval and there are no objections from Natural England and the Lake District National Park and other statutory consultees to Banks Planning Application, I fear this will end up in a planning appeal. If Copeland fails to defend its decision there, then it is going to cost each and every one of us more money, as Copeland runs the risk of costs.

If you and the councillors do have your eyes wide open then you probably need to take off your blinkers, Mr Vout.

John FISHER

Mill Street, Frizington

Sir – Noise from windfarms has a significant effect on sleep and mental health a scientific study has found.

More than a quarter of those living near wind turbines said that they had been diagnosed with depression or anxiety since the windfarms were erected in their area. More than a quarter of the same group said that they had been prescribed sleeping pills.

Dr Lee Moroney, of the Renewable Energy Foundation, said “the guideline permit wind turbines to be built so close to houses that wind turbine noise will not infrequently be clearly audible indoors at night time, so sleep impacts and associated health effects are almost inevitable”.

Ask the residents of Bothel if this is true and you will be given a very positive “yes”.

Despite the eloquent letter of John Vout, describing the major disadvantages of the location of windfarms locally and the consequent devaluation of our homes by 20 per cent, Copeland continues to be a Mecca for subsidy- seeking firms and developers with obscene fees paid to consultants.

Copeland Council turn down local landowners yet approves the development of a wind mast for the future installation of wind turbines from outside contractors and developers with addresses in County Durham, Swindon and solicitors in London EC4!!

Why are Copeland planners collaborating in “trashing” Copeland’s natural beauty with its breathtaking views and “robbing” local residents with the devaluation of our homes whilst approving foreign windfarm proposals (see approval of a wind mast for wind farm proposals at Wreah, near former Keekle Head Mine, from NEW npower renewable Copeland planners, November 4, 2012).

Copeland councillors and planners get a grip!

John WILLIAMS

Millyeat, Frizington

SIR – A young lady was in front of me at a local supermarket check-out. She had three bunches of flowers, two with ‘REDUCED PRICE’ stickers.

The checkout machine would not accept either of the bunches with these stickers. The checkout assistant examined them and found the reason: they were past their sell-by date. She put them to one side for disposal; she could not even GIVE them to the customer, despite the customer paying full price for the third (within date) bunch.

Is this country of ours going absolutely mad? It was flowers – non edible goods. In this case what possible reason could there be for enforcing the sell-by date rule? And what could be wrong with giving them away? Where does common sense come in?

Surely it is this type of ridiculous rule, interpretation of the law, which is absolutely destroying this nation and the spirit of its people – all of us. Something serious must be done to bring us down to earth, back to sensibility and reality. Otherwise, in the words of Frazer from Dad’s Army, “We’re all DOOMED!”.

Douglas McDEVITTE

Kirkbeck Drive, Beckermet

SIR – As the area co-ordinator for Support Our Soldiers, the forces’ charity that send morale-boosting boxes to the lads and lasses in Afghanistan, I’d like to thank everyone who has helped Support Our Soldiers out in 2012, from supermarkets and organisations to individual people dropping items off at the Co-operative Funeralcare branches throughout Cumbria.

I have been collecting vigorously over the last two weeks and this is because our allocation of 50 boxes a month goes up to 300. We are given these numbers by the MoD and, with them, a window of two weeks to fill, wrap, box and send out.

I am delighted to announce that I not only filled my 300 but have taken another 75 from other areas of the country that are struggling to fill theirs, so in total the people of Cumbria have helped me fill 375 boxes. And by the time you read this, ALL the boxes will have been sent a week earlier than needed.

At Christmas the BFPO also opens up free delivery to other bases around the world and I thought it was just right to let you all know that some of the items donated will be getting sent to the Falklands and Cyprus. So, on behalf of Support Our Soldiers, the lads and lasses in Afghanistan, the Falklands and Cyprus, but mainly from me, a massive thanks to Cumbria from all your generosity.

Ryan WINTHROP

Cumbria Area Coordinator Support Our Soldiers/Trustee

SIR – It is, of course, just chest-thumping on my part. But I note that, in his long and repetitive letter, Mr Forwood (Core) is now advocating, and claiming credit for, what I have already suggested some four years ago, ie putting the fission-product waste back where it came from.

As to the waste repository issue itself, I feel that there are a few questions that should be asked – and answered.

First: by whom and by what authority was CoMRWS set up? And who authorised their wholesale squandering of public money?

Then there is the very small matter of that ludicrous MORI poll that Moore and Co got so excited about. Who authorised that so-called population survey, while flatly refusing to even consider a public referendum on the question of a dump?

And how did MORI randomly select the people that they telephoned? With a pin applied to the telephone directory – or from a list supplied by Moore and Co?

As for all of the vague promises of the goodies – the economic benefits that will come our way when we have agreed to accept the repository – I note, with considerable relief, that at least some of our local councillors have recognised the difference between ‘may’ and ‘will’. And are now, very sensibly, insisting on a clearly-stated development programme, backed up by a legally-binding agreement.

However, the councillors should perhaps remember that, with regard to any such promises, the track-record of our present Government is none too impressive, and that any such apparently rock-solid, ‘legally-binding’ agreement will only be as good as the next election. Assuming, of course, that any such agreement comes from Westminster, and not just from Whitehall. Since those, eg the next Government, who have not signed that agreement cannot be bound by it. As Whitehall will swiftly point out!

Incidentally, am I missing something here? I thought that bribing, or trying to bribe, anyone in public office was a criminal offence. Or have those persons who are themselves in public office been guaranteed immunity from any such prosecution?

Attaching to this, the report by Mr Irving (Whitehaven News, page 5, July 19) makes extremely disturbing reading. It seems that, under the terms of the newly- introduced Localism Act, the Waste Repository question will be decided by a caucus, the Executive – of the borough and county councils. Who, if they so choose, can now casually brush aside the majority view of the full council. Which, without question, is absolutely the most gross and blatant abuse of the fundamental principle of democracy that I have ever heard of.

Instigated, I have no doubt, by the clerks of Whitehall – who have long since recognised the fact that it is easier to manipulate the opinions of 10 people, with craftily-worded ‘back-of-the hand’ whispers, than those of 100 (or more). And now successfully foisted upon the entire country, solely and only with the connivance of the so-called Liberal Democrats.

Since, if I understand Mr Irving correctly, this ‘Cabinet’ style of local government applies not just to particular issues such as the waste repository, but to every single item of council business – everywhere. So that, if the various caucuses decide to go down that road, all of the other councillors may as well not even bother to attend the council meetings. While we – those of us who still care enough – may as well join the ranks of those who cannot be bothered to go to the polling station, come election time. We would be better occupied mowing the lawn or washing the car.

I would point out – to Coun Woodburn and all other caucus members everywhere – that while they may now have that authority, they are not obliged to use it. They do have a choice: to go ego-tripping or to display their commitment to the democratic principle by which they were themselves elected. Not just by generously allowing their fellow councillors to express their opinions but by publicly declaring that they will accept the majority opinion of the full council on every item of council business.

While, at the same time, absolutely prohibiting any attempt by their clerks (aka local government officers) to interfere, by improperly seeking to force their opinions upon the councillors or otherwise. Any such behaviour, I suggest, would constitute malfeasance – not merely misfeasance – in public office.

J TAYLOR

Dyke Street, Frizington

SIR – Having read the letters by Bob Burton (The Whitehaven News, November 8) and Professor Colin Haslam (November 22), I agree wholeheartedly.

The high-level waste (HLW) is already encapsulated in glass and stored in silos at the VIT plant, so I believe. These containers could be housed within a thick concrete holder and transported to any suitable site overground or underground without fear of leaking.

There is also another point regarding the radiation levels and the heat given off as a result of the fission products encapsulated – how many kilowatts are produced? (I bet no-one has measured it!) Why can this heat not be utilised to generate electric power instead of the heat all going to waste up a flue?

Also can the radiation not be utilised by using some form of radiation to electric cells and then full use would be made of what is termed radioactive waste.

There appear to be too many EXPERTS travelling down tramlines and not enough EXPERTS capable of a bit of lateral thinking.

I would have a container in a vault in my garden any time and provide heat and hot water for all the surrounding households. Just a thought.

Les HEWITSON

Whitehaven

SIR – Again disappointment at not having one response from a serving Copeland councillor on the question of reduced allowances and expenses – but a crack in the door with information from former councillor Robin Pitt, whom I thank for his words of support together with those of more face-to-face comments and telephone calls received.

Are there not shades of Parliament and Whitehall in Mr Pitt’s revelations concerning the £10,000 “relocation” payment made to the CBC chief executive together with an additional £5,000 per annum “travel expenses” (more than many State pensions) and especially so considering the “work from home arrangement” enjoyed?

Is there another interpretation of “relocate” that I don’t know about?

The question remains – who approved of such an employment contract and payments?

The furore of proposed cuts to Copeland services has perhaps taken attention away from another newsletter that was slipped through the letter box – something called Dispatches – a CBC Partnership newsletter dated November 2012. Pages 2 and 3 advise of a “Comments, Compliments and Complaints” review. It informs that Stage 3 of any complaint will no longer be put to an appeal panel (i.e. elected councillors) but will now be finally resolved by no one other than the CBC Chief Executive. This is a new process to improve effectiveness and efficiency...

I smell yet another dilution of democracy.

Having attended the Beacon public meeting with the few that bothered to turn up (not one Harbour Ward councillor, though) we were told of the enormous cost to CBC of the Civic Hall, the Sports Centre the Beacon and Tourist Information Centre. With Beacon and Tourist Office aside what I cannot understand is why Copeland BC is paying a third party to operate these town assets. Should they not be leased or rented out to operators who should then pay cash to Copeland for the business opportunity – not the other way around?

As for the Beacon, as an important tourist attraction and town museum some subsidy might be necessary – perhaps less with a proper business plan. The Tourist Information Centre is a very important town centre stop-off for residents and visitors alike. They provide timetables, transport tickets, accommodation and a whole miscellany of local knowledge which is vital to Whitehaven in its quest to become a tourist attraction. Again – some subsidy may be required, but less if put on to a proper business like basis, perhaps?

Within Copeland there is a wealth of professional business experience that could be tapped – either free or for a darn sight less cost of consultants that do not have a clue what West Cumbria is about.

Finally, to borough and county councillors – I’m going to keep asking for an explanation as to why you cannot afford to halve your allowances and expenses. By my calculation – at 52p a mile – on fuel you make around £17 a gallon profit, taking the average mileage per gallon – is that not excessive? Are we not all supposed to be in this financial restraint period together? Answers please, through The Whitehaven News, for everyone’s information. County councillors take note – you take even more for this voluntary vocational occupation, and county cuts are even greater.

Rob ROMANO

Ash Grove, Whitehaven

SIR – In response to Heather Swift (The Whitehaven News, letters, October 18), about Arrowthwaite Woods.

The tree that had fallen over the path took 19 days to sort out, from the day it fell and the day I phoned The Woodland Trust. I also mentioned another tree which was in danger of falling over the path leading from Monkwray Cottages, no mention of this in Heather Swift’s letter. If this means taking safety seriously, then I’m a Dutchman.

Can she explain the persistent vandalism? These bricks, as I have pointed out, have been missing for five years. A barrow load of Tarmac and the job’s done.

On to complaints about the condition of the woods (very few). There isn’t a person I meet who doesn’t grumble about the state of the woods. There again we have all grumbled for years, myself included, and done nothing about it.

Tree inspections carried out regularly, the pathways regularly inspected and cleared – is this a joke?

One or two amusing things I find on Arrowthwaite Wood website for visitors: beautiful woods, a number of benches throughout the woods (yes, we have one), and to beat it all, numerous toilets in the town centre. I will leave this one to The News’ readers to ponder over.

Before writing this letter I had another walk around the woods and found three trees which could fall over the pathway, various trees in the wood which have fallen, these are only being kept up by other trees, and a few trees with no life left in them at all.

This is what Woodland Trust is supposed to do four times a year: strim and cut back vegetation from paths, cut back encroaching branches and clear all leaf litter off paths.

I’ve never seen any strimming done since, I think it was when the woods were managed by the council in the early 90s, and the strimming was done, if I’m not mistaken by a council worker called John Gayle, who took a pride in his work. That was a time when you could walk through the woods and enjoy it.

I would like Heather to make arrangements for her, myself and the councillor who represents Kells, also a reporter from The Whitehaven News, to meet in Albion Street, and walk the pathways and woods, and I will show her what a state things are in.

Mr T COCKBAIN

Monkwray Cotts, Kells

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