Saltford Environment Group
Recent News (click on links or scroll down this page)
You can find more news in our News Archive.
Climate change data dashboard
If you ever want to see or use a visualisation of climate data, have a look at the Carbon Brief's data dashboard. Interactive graphs based on information from a group of global datasets include temperature, carbon dioxide, sea ice and sea level rise. Here's an example:
Click here for the: Data Dashboard from Carbon Brief.
Wake up & smell the coffee! Chatham House report on food security
The following is from the Chatham House Report "Chokepoints and Vulnerabilities in Global Food Trade" (Rob Bailey and Laura Wellesley, June 2017):-
"Global food security rests upon international trade in a handful of crops. Maize, wheat, rice and soybean together provide around two-thirds of the world's harvested crop calories. While production of these crops is concentrated in a few 'breadbasket' regions, demand is ubiquitous and reliance on imports is rising."
"Population growth, shifting dietary preferences and growing demand for biofuels are driving up demand for grain - for food, animal feed and fuel. Global crop production will need to double by 2050 to keep pace with this demand. But a combination of biophysical and socioeconomic factors - including heat stress, water scarcity, declining soil fertility, soil erosion, intensive cultivation practices and poor nutrient management - is slowing global growth in crop yields. These supply challenges are heightened by the fact that opportunities for the expansion of cropland are limited: agriculture already uses 12 per cent of the world's ice-free land; should this share surpass 15 per cent, we risk triggering abrupt, potentially catastrophic environmental change."
Whilst the report looks at chokepoints, critical junctures on transport routes through which exceptional volumes of trade pass, it also highlights the fact that "climate change is increasing the threat of disruption. It will increase the frequency and severity of extreme weather, leading to more regular closures of chokepoints and greater wear and tear on infrastructure. Rising sea levels will threaten the integrity of port operations and coastal storage infrastructure, and will increase their vulnerability to storm surges. Climate change is expected to aggravate drivers of conflict and instability. It will also lead to more frequent harvest failures, increasing the risk of governments imposing ad hoc export controls."
It is reports like this that remind us of the fundamental importance of protecting our Green Belt from the short term economic gain but long term economic loss of development on land of such increasing value (that is value in its widest sense). Who can accurately predict when reduced food security, food scarcity and rising food prices will start to impact on the nation's social and economic well-being?
Our Green Belt does much more than support our quality of life, so important for good mental health whether we live close by it or gain recreational access to it from our towns and cities. At a more basic level it supports our food security as the rest of the world will struggle to feed itself let alone supply food to meet our needs, currently approximately 40% (net) of the food we in the UK consume (source Defra). It follows that in addition to its current purpose its future role will become ever more important for future generations.
In addition to helping to absorb heavy rainfall and reducing soil erosion during flash floods (an increasing occurrence as a result of climate change), it would appear from the lack of attention from our politicians that its key role for supporting the UK's food security is still underestimated. Whether Green Belt land itself is or can be used for food production, it has an equally important role of supporting food production on neighbouring farmland that relies on surrounding natural habitats that support pollinating insects and the wider ecosystem necessary for a healthy environment that sustains all life forms.
It is that important ecological purpose of supporting food security in an uncertain future that organisations like SEG need to communicate as the dangers posed by climate change to our food security become ever more apparent.
2nd August is 2017's Earth Overshoot Day
The "Blue Marble" full Earth image photographed by the Apollo 17 space mission (7.12.1972). Released during a surge of interest in environmental issues, this was the first complete image ever seen of our planet and was widely seen as a depiction of Earth's frailty, vulnerability, and humanity's need to live within the planet's 'carrying capacity'.
Earth Overshoot Day this year is calculated to be Wednesday 2nd August. Earth Overshoot Day is the day on which humanity's resource consumption for the year exceeds the Earth's capacity to regenerate those resources that year. The day creeps up the calendar year after year, as our global Ecological Footprint expands further beyond what the planet can renew and the world's human population continues to grow unhindered.
Just as a bank statement tracks income against expenditures, Global Footprint Network measures a (growing) population's demand for and ecosystems' supply of resources and services. These calculations then serve as the foundation for calculating Earth Overshoot Day.
Each city, state or nation's Ecological Footprint can be compared to its biocapacity. If a population's demand for ecological assets exceeds the supply, that region runs an ecological deficit. A region in ecological deficit meets demand by importing, liquidating its own ecological assets (such as overfishing), and/or emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
At the global level, ecological deficit and overshoot are the same, since there is no net import of resources to the planet.
We maintain this deficit by liquidating stocks of ecological resources and accumulating waste, primarily carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Earth Overshoot Day is hosted and calculated by Global Footprint Network, an international think tank that coordinates research, develops methodological standards and provides decision-makers with a menu of tools to help the human economy operate within Earth's ecological limits.
The concept of Earth Overshoot Day was first conceived by Andrew Simms of the UK think tank New Economics Foundation, which partnered with Global Footprint Network in 2006 to launch the first global Earth Overshoot Day campaign. At that time, Earth Overshoot Day fell in October. WWF, the world's largest conservation organisation, has participated in Earth Overshoot Day since 2007.
Further information can be found from www.overshootday.org (the information source for this article).
The Rose-ringed Parakeet in Saltford
The number of species not native to Britain which are at large in the wild is increasing. Some introduced species seem a natural fit to Britain, such as the Little Owl Athene noctua, but others are obviously alien. Perhaps the most extreme bird in the latter category is the Rose-ringed (or Ring-necked) Parakeet Psittacula krameri: no native species looks or sounds at all similar to a parrot. The last few years have seen annual occurrences of the Rose-ringed Parakeet in Saltford and neighbouring towns. For example, in 2016 a single young bird roamed widely around Saltford's residential area during August - October. The species' UK population is increasing dramatically, so such visits might become more frequent. The species may even settle here.
Recent visitors to London's parks are likely to have seen, or at least heard, flocks of parakeets, but it is only 50 years ago that the species began breeding regularly in the wild in Britain. Only the 1980s was the species accepted onto the British List of Birds (which, for introduced species, includes only those with self-sustaining populations). Roosts of thousands now occur in some areas in and around London. In the British Trust for Ornithology's Bird Atlas 2007-2011 the Rose-ringed Parakeet has one of the most distinctive maps: its main range neatly outlines the London urban area, and small areas of some other cities are also occupied. Most of the rest of the country has few or no records - the Atlas recorded no colony closer to Avon than west London.
The Avon Ornithological Group's annual Avon Bird Report shows a small number of records of free-flying Rose-ringed Parakeets in Avon in most years over the last two decades (1996 - 2 sites; 1997 - 2; 1998 - 4; 1999 - 0; 2000 - 1; 2001 - 0; 2002 - 0; 2003 - 3; 2004 - 4; 2005 - 2; 2006 - 4; 2007 - 1; 2008 - 6; 2009 - 0; 2010 - 6; 2011 - 3; 2012 - 2; 2013 - 4; 2014 - 3; 2015 - 6). It is usually impossible to tell for any given individual whether it is a direct escape (including an intentional release) from captivity, or a bird bred in the wild. However, the lack of any large increase in the species's prevalence in Avon over the last 20 years suggests that most of the Rose-ringed Parakeets in Avon in this period are direct escapes.
Were they from the wild population, a dramatic increase would have been expected. The small, though distinct, upturn in number of sightings since 2009 might suggest that some wild-born birds may now be occurring, as it is implausible that the numbers escaping would rise in this way. However, with the species' increasing appearance in the national news (including a number of horror stories of its possible effect on various crop yields), perhaps people are simply more likely to report those they find, than formerly.
The Rose-ringed Parakeet's establishment in Britain is probably not good news for the native bird and other wildlife species. It is unlikely that a species that lives at such high density will not have severe effects on some other species. The parakeet might drive declines in some hole-nesting species (tree-holes for birds of this size are typically in fairly short supply) and possibly in some of the species which depend upon garden bird feeding (bird-tables are the factor above all other that has allowed the parakeet to colonise the UK, an area in such climatic contrast to its native range of tropical and subtropical Asia and Africa). It is therefore particularly important to monitor the Rose-ringed Parakeet's distribution (and, presumably, spread) across England.
SEG would be grateful to hear of any observations in and around Saltford, and would be particularly thankful to hear immediately upon sighting in the hope that the species can be confirmed (various other parrot species escape from time to time). Unlike most unusual bird visitors, among the most likely places to see a parakeet is in your garden or street.
Author: Will Duckworth (SEG's Wildlife Adviser)
Saltford School needs your green fingers
Do you have GREEN Fingers?
If the answer is yes to any of those questions then Saltford School's GREEN TEAM needs YOU!! They are desperately seeking a team of volunteers who will either support and guide their new, enthusiastic Green Team during assembly times/lunch times or will potter happily by themselves to help maintain the school's Secret Garden. It could be by planting new shrubs, cutting overgrown plants or just giving a general spruce.
Any time that you can spare would be greatly appreciated. If you, grandparents, relatives, volunteer groups, businesses or anybody could help please contact Mr Jenkins or Mrs Newark via the school office Tel: 01225 872185 or email: email@example.com.
The big butterfly count (14 July to 6 August)
The big butterfly count is a nationwide survey aimed at helping us assess the health of our environment. It was launched in 2010 and has rapidly become the world's biggest survey of butterflies. Over 36,000 people took part in 2016, counting almost 400,000 individual butterflies and day-flying moths across the UK.
This year's big butterfly count is from 14 July to 6 August and could be something to also get younger members of the family engaged in over the summer holidays. There's even a free smartphone app for the big butterfly count so that you can carry out and submit your count all in one go while out and about watching butterflies. Details at www.bigbutterflycount.org.
B&NES Council's Placemaking Plan adopted - Saltford's Green Belt safe but for how long?
The Placemaking Plan was formally adopted by the Full B&NES Council on 13th July 2017. The Placemaking Plan complements the strategic framework in the adopted Core Strategy by setting out detailed development and design principles for identified and allocated development sites, as well as a range of policies for managing development and protecting valued assets across Bath and North East Somerset.
The Council is in the initial stages of reviewing the Core Strategy which will then formally incorporate the Placemaking Plan to form a single Local Plan. This review is being undertaken alongside the emerging Joint Spatial Plan which covers the four West of England Unitary Authority areas. The Joint Spatial Plan will provide the strategic planning context for the new Bath and North East Somerset Local Plan to 2036.
The following extract from the plan (Volume 5. Rural Areas) refers to Saltford and shows that "there are currently no exceptional circumstances to change the Green Belt boundary to enable housing to come forward":-
133. Saltford village meets the criteria of a Policy RA1 settlement. Housing development can come forward within the housing development boundary (HDB). However, opportunities outside the HDB are limited and will be considered in the context of Green Belt policy. There are currently no exceptional circumstances to change the Green Belt boundary to enable housing to come forward.
134. There are no site allocations in Saltford. Any potential site would be considered on its individual merits against national and local planning policy.
However, consideration of the options for a Saltford bypass is included as part of a review of the A4 corridor where in paragraph 582 of Volume 1 (District-wide Strategy and Policies) the plan states that "the Council will also review the A4 corridor and, in particular, consider how best to improve the environment within Saltford and improve journey times and reliability between Bristol and Bath. This will include the options for a bypass of the village".
In paragraph 607 the "Council recognises the need for further studies to assess the A4 Saltford bypass, and an east of Bath link designed to remove through traffic."
The following extract, also from Volume 1, deals with re-opening a railway station at Saltford:-
Rail Station at Saltford
612. The opportunity for re-opening a station at Saltford has arisen from work undertaken by the West of England on the MetroWest Project. This will provide an additional train service between Bath and Bristol each hour (in both directions) and the potential for an additional station as well.
613. A public consultation on the three potential options for the proposed station was completed in 2013 and the results considered by Cabinet in 2014 when it was agreed that, before deciding to progress to the next stage of Network Rail's Governance for Railway Investment Projects (GRIP) process, further work should be undertaken to see if there were a location for a station which would have additional parking and better access from the A4. In addition confirmation that the new rail timetable could accommodate the station at Saltford is still needed. No timescale has currently been set for the delivery of the project; however progress is dependent on the successful completion of Phase 1 of the MetroWest project which is due for completion in 2019.
614. The next step will be to consider and identify a preferred option/site for the new station, which will require an estimated 200 parking spaces in order to be viable. However, it may need to be addressed as part of any future Local Plan review.
SEG's position on the Green Belt and re-opening our station
SEG will, alongside Saltford Parish Council, continue to lobby to protect our Green Belt from development and remains convinced that the existing station site offers the best option* for a re-opened station at Saltford whereas other options, e.g. to the west of Saltford, would entail a significant loss of Green Belt land, increase not reduce local traffic as commuters drive rather than walk to the station, and threaten the existing station at Keynsham which is ideally located for the new housing at Somerdale.
*In January 2016 Saltford Parish Council at its monthly meeting noted "that while alternatives need to be considered as part of the Department for Transport's TAG (Transport Analysis Guidance) process and also to fulfil a past resolution of B&NES Council, there remains a consensus that the existing site is the preferred site option." That position has not changed.
NOTE: The Placemaking Plan can be viewed at all the public libraries in B&NES including the mobile library and on the Council's website at www.bathnes.gov.uk/placemakingplan.
Saltford Primary School receives Active Travel Award
Saltford Church of England Primary School has become the first in the B&NES area to achieve a Modeshift STARS Silver Award.
The School has introduced a number of measures to encourage cycling, walking and other forms of sustainable travel. These include free active travel breakfasts for those who walk, scoot or cycle to school; 'active ambassadors' to represent pupils and develop ideas to improve travel to school and poster competitions. New bike racks and scooter pods have been installed along with bikeability training for year 5 and 6 pupils.
Modeshift STARS is a national scheme which recognises and encourages schools to increase levels of sustainable and active travel to improve the health and well-being of children and young people.
Melissa Brook, has been leading on School Travel Plan work at Saltford Primary School, with support from School Travel Plan Officer at B&NES Council, Hannah Brittain.
Melissa was delighted at the school's achievement. She said: "Working with the Council's School Travel Plan Officer has been a huge support to me and has helped us to implement lots of new initiatives at our school and record the evidence for these activities on the Modeshift STARS website. This has enabled us to achieve a Silver Award this year, for which we are truly thankful. To be the first school in B&NES to achieve this Silver Award made the recognition even more special. We are now planning to go for Gold! Indeed work is already underway!"
This is great news for Saltford - our school deserves our support and congratulations with this achievement. Encouraging more of our children to walk or scoot/cycle to school can improve their health whilst also helping to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution in the village.
Massive increase in homes approved for green belt
A total of 425,000 homes are now due to be built on the green belt, a jump of 54 per cent since March 2016, the biggest year-on-year increase in building proposed in the green belt for two decades.
An analysis of local authority and city regional plans by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) reveals that more than 70 per cent of the homes are unaffordable to the people who need them.
The CPRE warned that government funds are handsomely rewarding the development of green belt land that ministers promised to protect without delivering the much-needed affordable homes the cash was designed to encourage.
CPRE director of campaigns and policy Tom Fyans said "Green belt is being lost at an ever faster rate, yet the type of housing being built now or in the future will do very little to address the affordable housing crisis faced by many families and young people."
"We must not be the generation that sells off our precious green belt in the mistaken belief it will help improve the affordability of housing. The only ones set to benefit from future green belt development will be landowners and the big house builders, not communities in need of decent, affordable housing."
Source: Huw Morris, The Planner, www.planningportal.co.uk (3.7.2017)
Proposed enhancement of Keynsham Leisure Centre
Saltford residents seeking local leisure centre/sports facilities will wish to be aware that B&NES Council is holding a series of information sessions where they can find out more about the plans to refurbish Keynsham Leisure Centre at a cost of £10M.
The proposed enhancement of Keynsham Leisure Centre includes:
The information sessions will take place at Keynsham Leisure Centre on: Wednesday 12 July, 2pm - 4pm; Thursday 13 July, 5pm - 7pm; and Friday 14 July, 9.30am - 11.30am.
The refurbishment is expected to get underway this autumn with work carried out in phases so that the centre can remain open wherever possible with completion by early 2019.
Older news stories from SEG
Our 'Newsletter' archive page features most of our past and recently published news stories (click on image):-
Current areas of local volunteer assistance sought by SEG
In addition to volunteer assistance with projects such as Saltford Wombles (tackling litter), Fairtrade Group, and our Railway path habitat restoration project we sometimes have specific roles or posts that need filling.
Here are the current vacancies:-
Future SEG website development - can you help?
Our website has become a very popular resource for our members and others, with over 2,000 unique visitors per month, typically opening over 5,000 pages. Using a relatively simple design and basic html approach, it has grown organically since 2011 into an extensive library of articles, themes, links etc.
Thinking of our ongoing ability to maintain and develop our website we are looking for someone who could give some time to support our Chairman Phil Harding with the html website in the short term, and potentially help us to transfer the site across to a new system such as WordPress in the future, as well as maintaining and developing our presence on social media. Do you have the relevant experience, interest and time to get involved? If so, please get in touch with our Secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org to talk further. You'll be at the heart of SEG's activities and a valued member of our team of volunteers.
First published March 2017
Opportunity to coordinate local habitat project
Just a reminder that Saltford Environment Group is looking for a new volunteer to be our railway path habitat restoration project coordinator as our existing coordinator, who did a great job getting things organised, has had to step down due to other commitments. This local project has seen some notable successes:
The area needs some concerted effort over the next 2-3 years to prevent the area from reverting back to scrub and trees: obscuring views and shading some of the rare sun-loving plants that have so recently returned. This work is likely to involve:
This is a great opportunity for someone with good organisational skills to help deliver a really exciting project: restoring a rare and beautiful habitat and bringing members of the community together through fun, practical activities.
No prior experience of wildlife conservation projects is required and there will be plenty of opportunities to learn more about the rare and beautiful plants and animals which would otherwise disappear from our area, to make new friends and learn new skills along the way. We are looking for someone with a can-do attitude and the enthusiasm to engage with volunteers and provide more of a social side to this worthwhile activity.
If this opportunity to manage and develop a small yet interesting and local outdoor project appeals to you, to express an interest please contact our Vice-Chairman Chris Warren (email email@example.com).
The project has its own webpage: link >>
First published February 2017
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