Protecting Devon from Development

I haven’t written anything in far too long… I have a backlog of posts to finish writing and frankly I’m ashamed of myself.

Anyway.

This is a bit of a depressing post (but with a small hint of positivity and a big dollop of importance) I’m afraid so strap in and make a cup of tea. Let’s get cracking.

I recently returned home to Devon to spend Christmas with my family. But driving around some of my favourite local places (Dartmouth, Totnes and Dartington) highlighted the current mass of development of unaffordable houses around the areas. I hate this. Every time I’ve been home across the last 6 months, I return to see more trees cut down, more hedgerows out of action and more green land being prepared for vast new housing estates. I believe we need the right quality homes in the right locations at the right price points, genuinely affordable to young people and low income families, but after completing comprehensive research on the matter, it’s obvious that a majority of the development on local Devon greenfield sites is inappropriate; not priced affordably for local people.

The frustrating fact is that Campaign to Protect Rural England’s (CPRE) annual State of Brownfield report shows that there is enough suitable brownfield land available in England for more than 1 million homes across over 18,000 sites. Yet developers choose the lush green sites because it’s cheaper.

As an environmentalist, I am seriously concerned about the threat of such development to wildlife and the lack of regulations surrounding this. The farmland I played in as a child (situated behind my grandmothers house in Totnes), has now been converted into luxury dwellings and during my walk around the new estate, I noticed that there is a considerable lack of greenery to support the biodiversity that once thrived on the land previous to the building.

I just don’t understand why it’s not a top priority for councils to make these estates (if we have to have them..) green! After all, we are currently in a mass extinction. I’m talking about planting up the areas in-between houses with insect friendly flowers, shrubs and trees. Using the small green triangles of land that separate areas of the estate to benefit nature and the environment. It would cost next to nothing (literally) and could be used to educate the new community on the importance of these spaces for the local wildlife. But no.. instead they’ll plant some tranquil looking, non-native species, grass that does bugger all for wildlife and will look shabby and bleak in a couple of years.

This all climaxed in my mind about a month ago, when I decided I had to do something about it. I’m sick of seeing precious greenspace developed for profit with no regard to the wildlife that inhabits there.

Subsequently, I contacted my local MP (and managed to keep my language grandma friendly!) to ask if they could lobby their fellow members of parliament to make a change and tighten the surrounding laws. After I received a pretty beat-around-the-bush reply (however I did appreciate the reply), I then decided to email the Minister of State for Housing, The Rt Hon. Esther McVey MP. I then proceeded to pester the local Councillor for Totnes, and the South Hams Council general enquiry service. Have I exhausted my efforts? Absol-bloody not. I’ve only just started.

Do I think that my emails will make any sort of difference at all? No. But it makes me feel a lot better sending them and feeling like I’m doing something about it. After all, they can’t concrete over the whole of Devon… Can they?!

For more information visit: https://www.cpredevon.org.uk/campaigns/right-homes-right-place/

Plastic Free City London

Next to my job as the Estuary Edges Officer, I also go along to the City of London ‘Plastic Free City’ steering group committee meetings. Plastic Free City is an initiative where businesses, workers and residents based in the City of London can pledge (through Plastic Free City) to become plastic free and zero waste. It’s a fantastic group that has achieved a lot of good things, including installing refillable water stations across the city.

This morning I was up bright and early for a Plastic Free City London networking event at the incredible Rothschild & Co sky lounge. The pictures below are of the view! It was brilliant to see the new Lord Mayor of London, William Russell there.

I heard some truly inspirational talks by Greg Ritt, Group Environment Manager, Rothschild & Co, Grace Rawnsley, Head of Responsible Business, City of London Corporation, Carl Pratt, Founder, FuturePlanetRocks, Mel Fisher, Founderzerowastegoods.com and Alex Furey, Founder, zerowastemindset.com.

As I sat there hearing all these top speeches on how companies, including small start-ups, are waging to go plastic free (great news!), one thing I couldn’t help but notice was the sheer lack of diversity in the room.. But what really got to me was that the need for more diversity in the environmental sector was not mentioned once, not even in the panel Q&A. I found this somewhat disappointing in a room full of amazing people, with successful businesses, driving and promoting zero waste and low waste sustainable business models.

Still, a brilliant morning. It’s really great and to hear the energy behind making the City of London plastic free! Huge congratulations to all the wonderful businesses that turned up and are doing some top quality work on sustainability.

A quote by Mel Fisher this morning which I thought was particularly sad: “There are more pieces of plastic in the ocean than there are stars in the sky..”

Find out more here: https://www.plasticfreecity.london/

Estuary Edges Boat Trip

Over the past few weeks I have been busy organising a boat trip down the Tidal Thames to showcase Estuary Edges sites to waterside developers. We boarded the boat at Westminster and disembarked at Greenwich.

“What are the Estuary Edges sites?” I hear you cry.. Well strap in. You’re about to find out.

Replacing the harsh concrete, brick and metal tidal walls with lush green reed beds and a variety of habitats is what the Estuary Edges project is all about. Estuary Edges is a ‘how to’ guide on ecological design for softening these ‘edges’ to encourage wildlife into urban estuaries (fish, plants, invertebrates, birds – the list goes on). Sadly, within the Thames, only around 2% of the edges are natural. Increasing the habitat along the edges will have a significant positive ecological impact on plants, invertebrates, fish and birds.

The boat trip, I’m happy to announce, was a complete success! We had 50 people attend and the boat itself was gurt lush. We were even lucky enough to see a Grey Seal! I have a few upcoming meetings with developers who now have an interest in implementing these awesome habitats – yaaaaay! Blimey I love my job…

 

 

 

The Perfect ‘Hyde’ Away…

#LondonWildlifeChallenge

Picture this; You’ve finished work at the office. You’re tired. You’re in London and you need fresh air and a jolly good ‘earthing’. By which I mean ground yourself back to nature…. Nothing cheeky…. Naughty.

Well I may have your solution here; Hyde Park I truly believe is not hyped about enough. This is an utterly gorgeous spot, splat bang in the centre of London and a space where wildlife flocks to!

Within half an hour I had spotted Canada geese, Shag (cheeky..), Moorhen and Coot in the bird department (otherwise known as the lake). But the real head turner for me was seeing hundreds (maybe thousands, but you know… Didn’t stop to count!) of honey bees (Apis) busy buzzing around the lambs ear plant (Stachys byzantina) IN CENTRAL LONDON! I was so excited I had to sit down with a cup of tea…

The Royal Parks certainly look after this space and the wildlife appears to be extremely well catered for – which I just love and is so important with a third of all species currently in critical decline.

The walled garden is particularly lovely too, if scented flowers float your boat.

So go and check it out for yourself, if you haven’t already. I’m now beginning to see why London is this month becoming the first ever National Park City.

There we go! A positive post. B.E.A.Utiful.

Always Check One’s Surroundings…

Having recently returned from Tanzania; I was reminded of a situation I somehow got myself into during my first trip to Tanzania (2008) when I was just eleven. We were on safari in the Serengeti and I was in urgent need to disperse of my urine… Yes, I was in desperate need for a toilet. The nice man driving the Land rover pulled over next to a hippo pool, so I could hop out and scamper behind a bush. Now, going for a wee behind a bush is hard enough when you’re female – let alone trying it in Africa’s wilderness.. Trying to avoid all the African thorns (which for reference are fucking huge!), I went for wee. Half way through this much needed wee, I heard a loud gasp coming from the Land rover which was parked in the near distance. “Girls hurry up!! Quickly, quickly!!” Running back to the truck, still pulling up my trousers, I turned around to realise that I was peeing a few meters away from a rough 4m long crocodile!! Yup.. a flipping 500kg animal that could kill in one smooth, swing of a bite. I’ve since learnt to check my surroundings when peeing in the great outdoors.. You know, just in case there’s a pervert crocodile lurking nearby…

Nurture by Nature: What is Rewilding?

Rewilding. A hot term currently being thrown about a lot. But what does it mean? Read on to get clued up on the ‘hot’ topic of the year. And yes, global warming is very much a part of it.

Rewilding means restoring and encouraging more of, our depleted natural spaces.

Carbon dixoide will have to be removed from the atmosphere for us to avoid the worst impacts of global warming. It is already causing problems on a vast scale; Animal populations have decreased by 60% since 1970 alone! And if that isn’t truly terrifying enough, this statistic suggests that a sixth mass extinction of life on Earth is under way.

Not only do trees and plants provide vital habitat for animals, these clever clogs also suck carbon dioxide from the air as they grow – pretty amazing stuff, aye?

Can you guess where this is going?…

There are two increasingly big existential crises that threaten the world. First is the climate breakdown and second is ecological breakdown. Neither of these frightening occurrences are being dealt with with the urgency needed to prevent our life-support systems from collapsing.

“We are championing a thrilling but neglected approach to averting climate chaos while defending the living world: natural climate solutions. Defending the living world and defending the climate are, in many cases, one and the same.”

A decade of ecosystem restoration was announced at the start of March by the United Nations.

“The degradation of our ecosystems has had a devastating impact on both people and the environment,” said Joyce Msuya, the head of the UN Environment Programme. “Nature is our best bet to tackle climate change and secure the future.”

Recently published research indicates that about a third of the greenhouse gas reductions needed by 2030 can be provided by the restoration of natural habitats (rewilding). Blooming marvelous if you ask me – BUT such positive solutions have only attracted just 2.5% of the funding for tackling emissions. Come on now….. Let nature help us. Let us help nature.

Tooby x

Information source: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/03/let-nature-heal-climate-and-biodiversity-crises-say-campaigners