Newsletter 21 – September 2001
What is needed is a rethink about our priorities and what is the best use of land – in economic, environmental and social terms. Then we should think carefully about the way that rural land is regulated. The RSPB, for example, have broken cover on the issue of environmental assessment, lobbying DEFRA to extend planning controls into this area. The same organization recently published the report Future Scapes arguing that large areas of land currently used for agricultural purposes should be turned over to wilderness – in order to take up slack in terms of food production needs and to promote wildlife. At least they are prepared to go out on a limb. However the debate needs widening; what about housing needs? What about access to land for small-holders or others. I certainly think it is about time the planning system, itself under scrutiny for a reorganization, should be extended to help regulate rural change – at the very least this would make decisions about rural land and environmental change more transparent. These thoughts have been around for quite some time. Come on Labour. You are trying to deliver an urban renaissance using planning and land policy, what about the rural? Gavin Parker is a lecturer in Planning at the University of Reading.
Vision 2020, as the American consultants who have drawn up the plan call it, aims to modernise and mechanise agriculture, through the use of GM crops and intensive monocultural farming systems, including intensive dairy and poultry production. Much of the production will be carried out on a contract-farming basis and most of the produce will be exported. As many as 20 million farmers will be moved off the land as farm size is increased and mechanisation takes place. Vision 2020 is funded by a number of aid agencies, including the UK Government through DFID
To a farmer like myself, it all sounds rather familiar. We too have been told that the demands of an increasingly globalized market require a drive for efficiency, more mechanization and larger farms. We too have been told that every year yet more of us will have to leave the land. The main difference is that the scale of displacement is far greater in India than in the UK. What exactly the 20 million displaced farmers are going to do instead is not addressed, other than through vague references to “employment in the service sector”.
When I began to listen and talk to the Andhra Pradesh farmers I found that they face much the same everyday problems as I and my neighbours in Cornwall. There is the weather and pests of course. But like us they also receive prices for produce which are often below the cost of production, and which place power in a few hands at the other end of the food chain. Like us they are facing a mounting burden of debt as they try to prop ailing businesses. And as in the English farming community, there is a increasing problem of “rural stress”: farmers leaving the land for an unknown future with a feeling of having no value in the eyes of society, farmers committing suicide.
A further complaint from the Indian farmers, which again resonated with my own situation, was that they were not being listened to. Several of them complained about a linked scheme to bring electricity to the villages. This, they said, was not what they most needed to be able to earn a living; far more useful to them would be advice about irrigation techniques, or help restoring local seed banks. If I could pick up these reactions in a visit of ten days, how is it that the US consultants, not to mention the numerous Aid Agencies, are failing to? Could it be because they are not farmers?
Listening to these farmers, I became increasingly suspicious that decision s were being made about how they should farm by people who had no grass roots contact with agriculture. In Britain, where the majority of people come from families which left the land generations ago, we have become so remote from the process of food production that we have failed to make any of necessary connections between the food we buy in the supermarkets, the way we farm and the state of the environment and the countryside – a failure has driven the UK agricultural industry to the state of crisis which it is in today. In Andrha Pradesh most people still make their living from the land. But a similar lack of understanding on the part of the decision-makers is now threatening to steer farming in Andrha Pradesh towards the very methods of production that we now claim we don’t want: intensive monocultures, factory farming of animals and damage to people, the environment, wildlife and the landscape.
In fact there is a more than a note of hypocrisy in the Northern aid agency’s funding of Vision 2O2O. In the UK, we are starting to move in the opposite direction: the environment and the health of the countryside are now judged to be more important than food production, not least because as a rich nation we can import food from poorer countries. We can have the best of both worlds – cheap food and a fine environment and wonderful landscape to look at. We can ignore the collective environmental consequences of transporting that food around the globe; and we can ignore the environmental and social costs of increasing production in the countries from who we buy that food. Looking at the vision proposed for Andrha Pradesh I got the impression that the UK government, having finally grasped that there is a problem with the industrial model of agriculture in England, has decided to export the problem to India.
During my visit, I saw abundant evidence that the farmers in India have the skills and ability to feed the country. There are undoubtedly problems, in particular with regard to food storage, processing and distribution. But none of these problems are insoluble and they can be solved without GM crops, without excessive use of pesticides and fertilisers and without massive changes to the culture of rural people.
The final point made by the citizens jury in their verdict was that ” foreign aid should respect our vision and benefit the poorest.”. I have no doubt that DFID and the other aid agencies will claim that this is their aim, but I wonder whether they have really consulted the people who will be affected by Vision 2020. F rom what I saw, it looked more like a case of “we know best and our very expensive consultants agree with us”.
First published at www.ruralfutures.org
The principle issue that was foremost in discussion was the imminent Scottish Land Reform Bill, which is due to come before the Scottish Parliament this year. Speakers agreed that the essential principles of land reform have been lost in the bill as it stands. All were critical of it’s limited effect, merely extending (slightly) the capacity for community purchase of land, and only 8 of 40 proposed schemes would result in actual land purchase.
Speakers included Dr Dmitry Lvov (on land reform in Russia), Donald Gorrie MSP, Mark Ballard (Scottish Green Party), Andy Whiteman (land rights activist) and Eurig Scandrett (environmen tal activist). The conference considered the Scottish situation in both political and civil aspects, highlighting the significance of Scottish land reform for England & Wales.
The wider context of land use as a basis for all activity, including economic, in rural/urban locations, was set out by Mark Ballard, emphasising the need for a new land tenure system to link with sustainable land use. He cited the negative impact of the “dead hand of landlordism in current use patterns which, for both people and the environment, are ecologically non-productive”. He also mentioned a necessary change in the planning system to render it democratised and devolved to local areas/regions. “Land value taxation was an important element in the spectrum of green taxation, helping to change land tenure”, he said.
Andy Whiteman gave a sharp critique of the disproportionate power of landowners. Though impatient with LVT theorists, he acknowledged the tensions between different approaches to land reform, and the need for wider understanding in regard to differences between ‘taxers’ and those working on the ground. Unsurprisingly, implementation of land values as a source of public revenue was a constant underlying theme of the conference.
If land access, sustainable communities and an end to the distributional abuse of land rent are to unfold, the precise nature of a land tenure system that is fair to all citizens is a foundational question. It needs clear thinking and open discussion, both of which were manifest features of this conference. B.MacKenzie (29/08/01)
Broad Alliance Calls For Big Changes In UK Farming
In June, Jose Bove, the leader of small farmers in France and Francois Dufour, General Secretary of French Farmers’ Confederation came to the UK to promote the publicaton of their book ‘The World is Not for Sale’ in English. The Land is Ours, Small and Family Farms Alliance, Friends of the Earth and the International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC) took this opportunity to lobby Tony Blair and the new Rural Affairs Minister Margaret Beckett to call for Britain’s small and family farmers be given priority in any post foot and mouth review of farming.
A delegation from the organisations handed in a joint letter to the Prime Minister and Mrs Beckett calling for:
- A Shift of Economic Incentives, Investments in Research and Development and Direct Subsidies away from production for export toward farm-diversification (of both crop s and livestock) for regional and local markets.
- The Maintainance and Restoration of Local Food Processing Capacity by ensuring that the costs of implementing and monitoring health and safety regulations are proportionate to throughputs.
- A Cutting of Investment in the infrastructure of global trade.
- A Reduction of Cross-Border Trade in identical agricultural products.
- Support initiatives for local production for local consumption.
A press conference followed which highlighted the problems of farming in the UK and the rest of the world.
No Gathering Again!
Unfortunately, due to a combination of factors, the TLIO network was again unable to organise a gathering this summer (foot & mouth being one consideration). So, don’t worry if you thought it had gone ahead while you’dd been unable to find out when and where it was happening! This issue of the newsletter was due to come out sooner than it did, for this reason. However, the EF! gathering, held this year in the Peak District, was another roaring success (except for issues around driving vehicles….!).
Travellers’ School Charity
The twelve year old Travellers’ School Charity is currently relaunching after an especially quiet transition phase, during which some long standing embers have moved on to other projects. The T.S.C is now re-emerging as an active user-led organisation. The T.S.C provides educational advice and support to the dynamic and diverse “new” traveller community. This involves researching what is already available in terms of resources and services; collating then networking this information; and by identifying and responding to need, initiating and/or assisting relevant projects, eg: new publications, mobile I.T unit, caravan classrooms, and the compilation of a skillshare database.
The most urgent priority facing the T.S.C is lack of funding . As a result, the charitys’ finance committee has undertaken a programme of grant applications, but until these come to fruition, we continue to rely on donations and subscriptions to our newsletter (new edition available now), and welcome contributions of any kind..
Chapter 7 News
Issue No.7 (Summer 2001) is out now, featuring articles on PPG7, an editorial on DEFRA – the new government department that is looking at agriculture and environment (hinting that both are inextricably interwoven whereas infact one is infinitely more wide-ranging than the other), and the latest news on low impact communities around the British Isles. Also comes complete with an 8-page supplement on the Plotlands entitled “Arcadia Revisted”. Latest issues of Ch-7 News are also available on the web, at: http://www.oneworld.org/tlio/chapter7
It’s been a busy summer for GM campaigners. Across the UK, actions both covert and overt have kept the pressure on GM multinationals. The Genetic Engineering Network (GEN) reports 40 trials in the UK either destroyed/severely damaged by protesters, withdrawn, or failed. These include: 21 farm scale trials: (5 spring oil seed rape (OSR), 4 winter OSR, and 12 maize); 2 winter OSR research trials, all 13 OSR National Seed List trials, 1 barley research trial and 3 potato trials. 25 of these were deliberately decontaminated, including a crop at Wivenh oe in Essex, the scene of a rally involving over 100 people in June, which was severely damaged by two covert actions in the following weeks.
Meanwhile, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has just released its annual report, claiming biotechnology is the way to feed the world. NGOs across the South are condemning the report by what used to be seen as a neutral organisation. Pesticides Action Network Asia-Pacific (PAN-AP) have described it as ‘a PR dossier full of pro-corporate technology propaganda’, while in India, the Karnataka State Farmers’ Association is threatening a ‘Burn UNDP 2001’ campaign to follow up its ‘Cremate Monsanto’ actions.
The Genetic Engineering Network has moved and is now at: Archway Resource Centre, 1a Waterlow Road, Archway, London, N19 5NJ (0207 272 1586) email@example.com
Fast track for planning laws
(adapted from an original article by Chris Maile – Campaign for Planning Sanity).
New Labour is proposing to make changes to the planning process which will effectively prevent any public input into the decision making process of major inquiries. Full details of the proposed changes have not yet been announced, but a Green Paper is expected in the autumn.
The principle behind the proposals is to cut the length of time taken in making planning decisions. Major infrastructure proposals include, for example, certain roads, rail links, new or extended airports, power stations, reservoirs and the largest waste incinerators, minerals sites, landfill & waste disposal sites. Such projects are ‘major’ in the sense that their economic and environmental implications are regional or national, and their size means that it is being deemed unsatisfactory for a single local planning authority to give a planning approval since the impact of the proposal extends beyond the boundary of the local authority.
Prompted by Treasury concerns that the present system puts Britain at a disadvantage to competition from other countries, Ministers want to create a fast track for projects of ‘national interest’, to prevent them being mired in long legal wrangles. The Heathrow Terminal 5 inquiry, for instance, took nearly a decade. However, most of these delays are not caused by the public, who do not have the resources to mount serious challenges, but the vested interests who throw millions into getting the result that will make them the most profit.
In the capital, the Corporation of London, the City’s local authority, is seething at English Heritage’s insistence that a public inquiry must be held into a plan by property tycoon Gerald Ronson to build the tallest building in the Square Mile.
A Green Alliance spokesman said: ‘Plans to fast-track projects is just bulldozing by another name. If this plan is true, the Government is removing a legitimate lever of protest and removing everyday people from the heart of the political process.’
If, as expected, the new decision-making process will be on the basis of a select committee inquiry/report with limited debate in the Commons/Lords before being approved on the nod, then the third parties (the public) will be prevented from making any comment. The process will most likely include a provision for making representations through MP’s, which will be totally ineffective, especially if the MP supports the proposed development. The public will retain the right to have input into the process on environmental issues (required by EC Directive 337/88), the design and other gloss considerations. But that does not help, for example, in the case of incinerators where the Court of appeal has ruled that the fear by the local community of an adverse health effect is only a material planning consideration.
The Campaign for Planning Sanity has started the fight against these proposals by writing to all MP’s. A copy of this letter is on the CfPS’s website. Ref. www.onlincam.freeserve.co.uk This article is a shorter version of one written by Chris Maile that was featured in the Spring 2000 issue of Chapter-7 News. See also an article entitled “New Labour, New Planning” by Paul Mobbs, published in Corporate Watch, Issue 10, Spring 2000 (Ref. www.corporatewatch.org )
SAVE SPITALFIELDS MARKET
FROM IMMINENT DEMOLITION AND REDEVELOPMENT INTO OFFICES
Whose fields are these? The Spitalfields Development Group, a property consortium that wants to replace Old Spitalfields Market with offices, sees the area as “London’s New Financial Quarter”. On the other hand, the business community along Brick Lane champions Spitalfields as the capital’s Bangla Town, whereas the old East End street traders along Petticoat Lane say it is the home of the Cockney. The occupants of the fine Georgian houses in the conservation area, however, remind us of the district’s beginning as one of London’s first residential suburbs. If nothing else Spitalfields is a contested space. Yet, historically speaking, whose fields are these? Spitalfields has always been open to people passing through, thos e wanting to get a toehold in society: immigrant communities, religious and political refugees, small traders and skilled artisans, street pedlars and costermongers, marginal groups on the move and on the make. More recently it has played host to an energetic community of young artists and designers. It is what the sociologists call a “zone of transition”. It is where generations of disparate people have come to turn their dreams to reality. Some would say it is urban life at its best, a “melting pot” of sorts (the Jewish writer Israel Zangwill, who first coined this expression to describe America in the 1880s, lived in Fashion Street). And since its earliest days, probably since 1683 when Charles II granted a royal charter to sell “fish, fowl and roots” to John Blanch, Spitalfields Market has been at the symbolic heart of this hospitable community.
Spitalfields Market Under Threat (SMUT) Members of SMUT are angry that the City Corporation is seeking to impose a singular, invasive and one-sided version of corporate-led regeneration onto the Spitalfields community, which already possesses a very strong neighbourhood and that their plans for regeneration involve demolition of the market. The starting point of the City’s regeneration programme is to expand into Tower Hamlets, knocking down two-thirds of the market in the process. As the market constitutes a valuable community asset, campaigners are outraged that the Corporation plans to destroy a site which has already regenerated itself and which works in terms of sustainable small businesses.
The Crystal Palace Campaign in South London has just won a victory against Bromley Council, who tried to gain consent for a luxury hotel development on the famous Crystal Palace park. Local people clubbed together and raised money, collected thousands of signatures and marched on Downing Street. They fought a legal battle behind the scenes, which SMUT is also doing (SMUT managed to push for a judicial review over the lack of an environmental impact assessment having been completed in the original application for outline planning permission). If we combine direct action with political pressure, we can succeed in this fight, but we need your help.
The Save Spitalfields campaign has succeeded in preventing development of the market for fourteen years. It can run another fourteen if necessary! We are committed as a campaign group to long-term sustainable preservation of the whole market building, the space it incorporates and the character of the surrounding conservation area.
We have over 25,000 signatures on our petition so far. For background information and access to an online petition, please refer to the campaign website: www.smut.org.uk Many thanks, Jemima Broadbridge, Press Officer, on behalf of SMUT, (020 7503 1965)
What you can do to help Check out old Spitalfields Market on Lamb Street, a short stroll from Liverpool Street tube station and a great place to spend a Sunday. Write to:
- Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, Greater London Authority, Romney House, Marsham Street, London SW1P 3PY Mr Livingstone enjoys strategic powers to intervene in city wide planning matters.
- Judith Mayhew, Head of Policy and Resources Committee, Corporation of London, Guildhall, London EC2P 2EJ The Corporation of London owns the site and needs to recognise there is widespread, thoughtful and heartfelt opposition to what it intends to do with old Spitalfields Market.
The points you need to make are as follows:
- We need a new planning brief for the new Millennium. Since the original brief was prepared in 1986, the needs of this area of London are very different. They should be recognised in a new planning brief for the site.
- The Environmental impact of this proposed development could be disastrous. When put alongside all the other development in the Ci ty, the addition of over half a million square feet of office accommodation in Spitalfields would increase pressure on the transport infrastructure of the City in a way which was hazardous.
- The City Corporation could be a real force for good in Tower Hamlets. Is this massive office redevelopment proposal in the interest of urban regeneration, as the City Corporation claims?
- The political machinery is in place to effect a compromise. With the setting up of the GLA, it would be possible to set up a Task Force to bring together the interested parties to explore an alternative vision in the interests of a more sustainable city.
Email: Send the reasons why you want English Heritage to identify this place as a “heritage site” to: firstname.lastname@example.org
‘THE SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY GUIDE – A Practical Guide’ – An A4 colour guide to planning and establishing sustainable projects. Written by Hockerton Housing Project (HHP), an experienced community group who live in an ecologically designed earth sheltered settlement, this guide identifies key issues, including finance, planning, legalities, design and community living. I t provides plenty of advice and tips from HHP’s experience and includes comprehensive directories of contacts & sources of information. HHP has also recently launched a Match-Making Service, putting people in contact with others interested in setting up sustainable communities. Alternatively join one of their workshops or guided tours. For more details contact Nick White on 01636 816902 or email@example.com
HOCKERTON HOUSING PROJECT- Vision statement – “By practical example, act as a catalyst for change towards ecologically sound and sustainable ways of living” Why not check out our website – www.hockerton.demon.co.uk
“I’m Talking About Jerusalem” is the title of a one-day conference on political “prophecy” and pragmatism, with Tony Benn, Leslie Griffiths and others, on Saturday October 27th at the Abbey Centre, Great Smith Street, Westminster (opposite Church House). The conference is sponsored by the Sea of Faith Network (“exploring and promoting religious faith as a human creation”) and “Political Theology”, the Christian Socialist journal. Day tickets £12 (£10 concessions) but TLIO supporters can claim two for the price of one by marking application ‘TLIO’ to SoF, Hobsons Farm, Dent, Cumbria LA10 5RF.
The new Green Dragon Energy website is up and running now. It’s at WWW.GREENDRAGONENERGY.CO.UK Green Dragon Energy are based in mid-Wales and have designed and installed renewable energy systems in Wales, England, Kenya, Tanzania and Somalia. Our aim is to make renewable energy accessible to as many people as possible because we believe that this is the way towards sustainability. We design and assemble small to medium-sized solar and wind systems which are user friendly, easy to install and operate, and are custom-made for your particular energy requirements. We also design and install large solar and wind systems and supply components. These can be stand-alone i.e. using a battery bank, or connected directly to the electricity grid which enable the owner to sell excess electricity to the grid. We offer a design and consultancy service and are available to run training courses. GREEN DRAGON ENERGY, Ceredigion, Wales Tel: + 44 (0)1974 821 564 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sat, 20th October – Conference/gathering all about Ecological Design /Sustainable Design. In part it’s intended to be a celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Ecological Design Associat ion. The next edition of the Association’s magazine Eco-Design will be about aesthetics and sustainability. Contact: Jim Mullins via e-mail at: email@example.com
Community Land Trust Conference Tuesday 23rd October 2001 Venue: The SPACE, Lansdown, Stroud, GL5 1BN 5 minutes from Merrywalks NCP, main line train/ bus stations, Cost: £ 35 for individuals, charities, community enterprises and non-profits; (£25 concessions). Tel. Contact: Martin Large 01453 7570400 e-mail: Mhclarge@aol.com
- Developing Community Land Trusts for Social enterprise, housing and community-supported farming: Pat Conaty and Steve Bendle
- Widening Mutuality for financial inclusion: Richard Newcombe
- Developing Conservation Land Trusts: Caroline Aistrop
- Stroud Cohousing Project: David Michael
Land for People will present the latest research into Community Land Trusts, working solutions and practical examples of financial inclusion. This will enable you to consider how CLT’s can benefit your work, assist community renewal, housing solutions, food growing and conservation. We will also consider alternatives to Credit Unions for promoting financial inclus ion and how financial institutions can set up community investment accounts for local investors.
What is a Community Land Trust? CLTs are mechanisms for placing land under community ownership.
Why Community Land Trusts? Current land use is determined by those who pay the most, regardless of how well such property is stewarded. The result can be empty properties, waste and lack of access to land by people with needs, projects and skills. CLTs are an alternative to both private and public ownership.
What are the benefits?
- Vehicle for community ownership of farms, conservation areas, managed workspace, social enterprise
- Supports co-op housing and affordable home ownership
- Builds socially inclusive communities through local mutuality
- Communities can take preventative action against the distorting effects of the property market by securing a “commons”.
Organised by: Stroud Common Wealth Ltd, Hawthorn House, 1 Lansdown Lane , Stroud GL5 1BJ in association with Social Futures Network, Biodynamic Farming Association, Stroud and Swindon Building Society
STOP PRESS: Latest on Foot & Mouth (05/09/01) Contrary to what the NFU say, there is a growing mass of farmers who now s upport vaccination. While the government seeks approval from supermarkets about selling vaccinated meat, there will be a conference on 15th September involving leading global specialists in Foot and Mouth Disease who will be addressing the issues of vaccination and it’s implementation.
FORUM ON FMD CONTROL Kindly sponsored by Compassion in World Farming Trust Saturday 15th September 2001 – 2.00 – 6.00pm The University of Bristol School of Chemistry Off Woodland Road Bristol BS8 1TS With no end to the epidemic in sight this will be a unique opportunity to hear and discuss the science of: RAPID DIAGNOSIS & USE OF VACCINATION IN FUTURE DISEASE CONTROL Speakers will include: PROFESSOR FRED BROWN OBE FRS DR SIMON BARTELING MSC VET MED DR PAUL SUTMOLLER PhD DVM For more details, contact the Soil Association Tel: 0117 914 2400 firstname.lastname@example.org www.soilassociation.org
Corporate colonisation in Chiapas stalls peace process:
(written by Sophie from ChiapasLink) Only six weeks after the Zapatistas historic March for Indigenous Dignity which mobilised hundreds of thousands across Mexico, federal legislators threw a spanner into the peace process by approving a revised version of the San Andres Accords, which waters-down key aspects of indigenous autonomy.
At the heart of the debate is the question of who will control the abundant natural resources found in indigenous territories, above all in the Zapatista autonomous municipalities in Chiapas. The original accord, signed in 1996 between the EZLN and the Mexican government, grants indigenous communities collective control of resources found on their lands. These include oil, water, minerals and massive biodiversity.
In almost diametric opposition to this agreement is the infamous “Plan Puebla-Panama” (PPP) which fits in nicely with the revised constitutional reforms promoted by President Fox and his pro-business party the PAN. The thrust of this multi-million dollar development plan is what we are seeing all over the world: the new corporate colonialism. From Mexico’s central state, Puebla, through six central American countries down to Panama – with a specific focus on Chiapas – the project includes the expansion of motorways, ports, airports and railway systems to increase trade flows in and out the region; the construction of ‘maquiladoras’ or sweat-shops in the region; the fu rther encroachment of the private sector in agriculture; increased access for transnational pharmaceuticals to the “genetic resources” of Mesoamerican rainforests which can then be patented; and “energy projects” involving gas and oil production and the building of hydroelectric dams. Resistance to the PPP is growing rapidly as more information about its content is being shared. In June, for example, at the “First Week for Cultural and Biological Diversity”, representatives from 184 organisations from 15 countries expressed their complete rejection of the PPP calling it “a new type of colonialism allowing transnational businesses to benefit while the underclass suffers.” If approved in their original form, the San Andre’s Accords would create a formidable obstacle to corporate designs on Mexico’s Indian lands. But above and beyond this legislation, corporations have a long battle ahead of them, facing some of the most radical and organised communities in the world. For more information, see www.chiapaslink.ukgateway.net or contact us at email@example.com
Legacy of Colonialism Forum:
The Legacy of Colonialism e-mail forum (LegacyofColonialism@Yahoogroups.com ) is now up & running, on which subscribers from around the world are sharing information and perspectives.
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