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  • Kate Calvert 4:10 pm on April 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Hampstead Heath; mayor; Clean Air London   

    More on London Air Quality 

    Now it’s leafy Hampstead’s turn to discover that the rarified air you breath around the Heath is not so rarified at all. NO2 readings have been reported by the Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum at

    The tests found that pollution at locations with heavy traffic, such as Spaniards Inn and the top of Arkwright Road, were approaching double the legal limit of 40 micrograms per cubic metre. That is perhaps to be expected. But even at Viaduct Pond on Hampstead Heath, away from any roads and surrounded by trees, the NO2 level was half the legal limit.

    It really is time for action on London’s Air Quality and Clean Air London is helping with that. As the mayoral candidates release their policy proposals they are being ranked at

    As of posting this the ratings are:

    Sian Berry              10

    Caroline Pidgeon  8

    Sadiq Khan            6

    Zac Goldsmith       4.5



    • Meg Howarth 10:04 am on April 28, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Re mayoral elections: a reminder for those thinking of voting for Sian Berry that it’s possible to do so twice: once as mayor and once as London-wide Assembly Member (she’s top of the Green Party list for latter).

      Earlier this week, she was nominated top of the National Federation of Housing hustings by the deputy editor of Inside Housing, the influential and respected weekly on social-housing matters. Caroline Pidgeon came second, mirroring Clean Air London’s air-quality placings posted by Kate above. Labour, represented by Islington’s James Murray, executive council member for the borough’s housing, came third.

      Why was Murray speaking – as he’s not a candidate in 5 May elections? Because neither Sadiq Khan nor Zac Goldsmith bothered to attend the hustings despite housing topping the list of Londoners’ concerns (air-quality a close second). Seems Khan said he needed to be in HoC to speak/vote (on unaccompanied refugee children) though an Inside Housing analysis of timings shows he could have attended both events – nor, in the end, did he speak in the parliamentary debate.

      And so to the interesting revelation that James Murray is tipped to become ‘deputy mayor for housing’ in the event of a Labour win. How so, as he’s not standing for election? Because the post is a political appointment, not an election position.

      Political patronage is clearly alive and well…

      The (excellent) GLA booklet ‘Have your say’ – with its short manifestos from all candidates – should have dropped through letter-boxes last week. Let’s all think carefully before we vote. This is only a contest between Labour and Tory if we make it so.

  • Kate Calvert 3:48 pm on April 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: chicken; farming; fertilizer; pesticides; water; antibiotics   

    The Cost of Private Profit from Food 

    Felicity Lawrence in the Observer last weekend laid out the many problems with current poultry farming They include:

    • Cruelty –  the primary sensory organ is clipped, high speed growth leads to brittle bones, and poor hearts and lungs.
    • Drugs – to control parasites and mass doses of antibiotics to maintain the appearance of health among birds with just an A4 space to themselves.
    • Campylobacter – widespread in the flocks and potentially deadly to humans

    The government has proposed to hand regulation of the poultry industry to the very people who think the above is all just fine – the industry. There has been a backlash against that but with cuts everywhere, who knows where that will end.

    Commentary comes from Patrick Holden who is executive director of the Sustainable Food Trust. He points out that the producers using these intensive methods do not carry the actual costs including

    • Pollution of the environment
    • Greenhouse gas emissions
    • Damage to public health

    Quite the reverse, agricultural subsidies actually promote this kind of agriculture, while our taxes cover the cost of cleaning up water pollution. Meanwhile in the NHS, on the one hand there is the cost of the illnesses created by this kind of product, and on the other, the failing effectiveness of antibiotics, caused by this kind of overuse.

    At the very least should we not be taxing chemical fertilizers and pesticides for the costs of dealing with their effects, just like we do tobacco?


  • susan640 10:16 am on April 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bees bee-friendly gardening   


    Archway’s local community garden Sunnyside, in Hazelville Road, Islington N19 3LX, is teaming up with Gothic Valley Women’s Institute for a day of bee-friendly gardening, cakes and fun on Saturday 14th May. This is in support of the WI’s fantastic campaign to promote bee health and well-being. Join Sunnyside for some bee-friendly planting (seeds and plants provided), eat some honey-based baking and get some bee-friendly recipes, and learn more about fun and easy ways to help bees. It should be a great day and everyone is welcome.

    For more infor go to:

  • Kate Calvert 2:08 pm on April 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Development; architecture; design; sustainability; cities   

    Green Sky Thinking 

    Open-City is a London-based architecture education organisation. Its aim is to the value of well-designed places and spaces in making a liveable and vibrant city. It organises the annual Open House events and next week is its Green Sky Thinking programme with events organised by developers, architects and other professionals to discuss how to achieve more sustainable buildings and a more sustainable city.

    Themes for this year are Urban Resilience, Green Tech and Health & Wellbeing. Some events are sold out but there’s still time to book places on the multiple events, most of which are usefully scheduled for the beginning or end of the working day.

    Even if you can’t make it next week, the programme itself offers ideas of organisations and ideas to explore.

  • Kate Calvert 5:29 pm on April 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: sustainability; flying; airports; mobility Norman Foster; Rowan Moore   

    Norman Foster’s Take on Carbon Footprint 

    Rowan Moore, architecture critic of the Observer, interviewed Norman Foster at the end of last year. Foster claims to be big on sustainability, reporting stats like the one that London’s carbon footprint is one seventh that of the city of Atlanta, showing a relationship between density and emissions (ie, a city where you can walk and cycle, is a lot less carbon heavy).

    But he’s also big on infrastructure ‘investing… to anticipate the issues of future generations’. By that he means ideas like the Thames estuary airport instead of Heathrow where he says ‘you can never accommodate long-term needs’.

    In response to the question of whether it’s desirable to facilitate more flying Foster says that the methane from cows means that meat eaters contribute much more to global warming than those who fly, and anyway, ‘the reality is that all society is embedded in mobility.’

    Foster, like most big name architects, has not got where he is by listening to other people’s opinions. However, this does look like thinking which dates back to the 1960s when travel was an aspiration. Since then cheap flights have meant that a whole generation has travelled almost unthinkingly, but are now beginning to question whether it is worth the effort, especially in the face of the dreary queues created by fear of terrorism.

    Foster envisages in his estuary hub an airport driven by tidal power with solar powered flight and planes made of lightweight composites. This could happen, but why should it where petroleum-based aviation fuel remains so remarkably cheap, not least because any tax is subject to a game of international chicken with no no administration yet showing the courage to charge tax on it. It’s a very effective subsidy for the airline industry, estimated as £10bn a year back in 2008

  • Kate Calvert 8:00 am on April 18, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    UK Increases Reliance on Renewables 

    The Observer this weekend had a big business story with the downbeat headline Clouds gather over the solar power sector after golden years of success . The details however included some pretty good news:

    • Last week for a full 24-hour period the UK produced more power from PV panels than coal
    • In December 2015 wind turbines supplied 17% of the country’s electricity
    • For the first quarter of 2016 clean power sources provided almost a quarter of the UK’s electricity.

    What is more, while the government may have withdrawn the domestic feed in tariff, is still subsidising huge offshore projects says the article, and is involved in major solar installations on publicly owned sites like an ex RAF base.

    With a government determined to support big business at the expense of small, they of course prefer nuclear to renewables, and if they pick renewables, it’s only the big, expensive schemes. That means the winners in the renewables industry are now the big boys, but better that than none at all. And we should applaud the report that in two years we have acquired 10GW of those renewables.

  • susan640 11:03 am on April 17, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: NatFedParks publicopenspace Finsbury Park Wireless   

    #NationalParksandOpenSpacesPetition : funding for public open spaces #Finsbury Park 

    At the Friends of Gillespie Park’s AGM earlier this week, Dave Morris, Chair of London’s Green Spaces Group, was the invited speaker.

    He highlighted the strains on the financing of urban public open space, which is highly vulnerable to continuing funding cuts from Central Government as local authority expenditure on parks is “non-statutory”, and therefore, can be reduced or ended. Coming from Haringey, he was able to point out that this financial year Finsbury Park is obliged to raise £900,000 from events to cover running costs (not sure if this is Finsbury Park’s running costs alone, or those of other Haringey Parks) and as a consequence a significant part of Finsbury Park would be fenced off while big music events take place during the summer. There is already local opposition to this year’s “Wireless” Festival which is to take place in Finsbury Park during the hot weather, attracting c 50,000 people per day, squeezing out local residents’ use and damaging the environment of the park. As well as the noise of the music, prison-like fences are to enclose nearly one third of the Park for three weeks, and testing noises take place for the week preceding events. Residents from Islington and Hackney get most of the noise, due to the geography of the Park, but have no ability to hold Haringey Councillors to account.

    The Friends of Finsbury Park are now crowd-funding to mount a legal challenge to Haringey Council’s right to hold this concert: The group’s solicitor, Susan Ring, has identified an article in the Greater London Parks and Open Spaces Act (1967) which states that open park space enclosed for entertainment may not exceed “one acre or one tenth of the open space”.

    The Finsbury Park situation highlights the vulnerability of our urban parks to neglect and exploitation by cash-strapped local authorities, and the National Federation of Parks and Open Spaces have organised a petition to demand, amongst other things, that the government brings in a Statutory Duty to monitor green spaces to Green Flag Award Standard:

    Please take a look at both these campaigns, and give them your support.

  • Adam Hardy 9:26 pm on April 11, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: shopping   

    Fairphones in the shops …. conflict-free minerals, co-operative business model 

    I think the only thing they don’t claim for this phone is that it’s carbon-neutral.

    It’s manufactured by co-operatives all the way through the supply chain from the mining of minerals in Africa to the factories in China and the European sales and marketing in Holland.

    It’s got 2 SIM slots and comes unlocked so you can use it with whatever networks you like – 2 simultaneously.

    It’s parts are designed to be replaceable and you can go to the website to order any number of spare parts from screen glass to CPUs.

    The software is open-source.

    It costs a pretty penny – 500 Euros – but you can get it on a contract for £50 from the Phone Co-op.

    I’ve got one and haven’t found any reason to complain.

  • Kate Calvert 1:25 pm on April 9, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Living wage; carers; caring; planet; destruction   

    The excellent Crossroads Women’s Centre in Kentish Town is promoting a petition to the UK Parliament – Invest in a caring society: A living wage for mothers and other carers.

    This presents as a women’s issue but they note that by demanding resources for caring they are demanding that the economy be redirected away from the market, which is pushing the planet to destruction, and towards caring for humans and living things.

    The petition is at

  • Kate Calvert 12:49 pm on April 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Collapse in Housing Quality 

    We all know we are short of housing. Causes include smaller households, the increase in population, but perhaps most importantly all those purchases made via offshore companies in Panama. The result of those is that London is both the money laundering capital of the world and the preferred spot for speculative property investment.

    Rather than stop this by introducing penalties for leaving properties empty, or for failing to pay council tax (One Hyde Park flats pay zero council tax because the cost of pursuing the offshore owners completely outweighs any sum due), the government claims that the problem is that there too many constraints on the free market are are tearing up pretty much any planning regulations.

    This will mean a rash of nasty building which is bad enough. But it also means that slums are being built as we watch. Building regulations – rules to ensure that housing is safe and of a decent standard – are now no longer enforceable with big developers. Freeing up the market meant that under the Blair government private building regs. inspectors were introduced. Their standards are not at all the same as the local council ones, and they are answerable only to the client who pays their fee, so they do as the client asks.

    However, until a couple of years ago there were still standards that even a private inspector would enforce – but no more. The government said that coversion of offices to private housing would be considered ‘permitted development’ ie no planning permission required. That turns out to mean that building regulations are suspended too.

    There are no longer any lower size limits and flats are being created no more than three metres wide with the kitchen sink against one wall and the bed against the other.

    The government continues happy that these are marketed off plan to places like Singapore. We will have to live with the mental and physical health problems caused by this sudden collapse in housing standards. By that stage, as ever, the developers and their facilitators in government will be long gone. Nothing new there.

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