Topics of Interest

In Progress

Reform of the planning regulations

In May and again in August our member Colin Marriot wrote to Andrew Mitchell expressing clear and strong views which, judging by his reply, our MP would seem to agree with. Among the important points Colin made are the following:

– The act of establishing a zonal planning system at a time when we need greater certainty, not upheaval, risks our planning system descending into chaos.

– Under the reforms, the community’s ability to comment on and influence development proposals and councils’ powers to decide applications would be restricted, allowing automatic planning permission for substantial development in certain areas. The loss tof democratic scrutiny of proposals and public participation in decisions is especially concerning because decisions will come to depend far more on the lobbying clout in Westminster of large developers and an increase in unhealthy ‘cosiness’ between corporate developers and ministers, at least one instance of which has been signalled in the national press to no avail.

– There is a risk that forthcoming reforms to Environmental Impact Assessments and Strategic Environmental Assessment will water them down, or abolish them completely -resulting in less protection for our environment.

– The reforms do not require developers to build their fair share of affordable housing, and could well result in more people living in unacceptable housing and unliveable environments. To solve the climate crisis we need to get serious about building good quality, zero-carbon, homes and creating sustainable communities.

If the government is as serious as it says about tackling the climate crisis and protecting the environment, then it needs to scrap or fundamentally rethink these plans, which only make it easier for developers to ignore local concerns.

Herewith the gist of Andrew Mitchell’s response

The Government has announced an overhaul of the country’s planning system to help deliver high-quality, sustainable homes. They will transform a system that has been criticised for being too slow in providing housing for families, key workers and young people and too ineffectual in obligating developers to properly fund necessary local infrastructure – such as schools, roads and GP surgeries…..
I will be following these plans very closely to ensure that our valued green spaces and precious green belt are not further eroded but are protected for future generations, with the reforms allowing more building on brownfield land.

He wants to see planning issues increasingly dealt with by our Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council. At the least he wants their views to form a compelling part in decisions made by Birmingham City Council and by regional and national government. Our Royal Town councillors are the element of local government closest to the local community and their say is of critical importance.
He urges us to take part in the government consultation referred to on our HOME Page.

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The Sutton Coldfield Observer.
There is deep concern at the loss of the Sutton Coldfield News.

Now we must rely only on sporadic information from online sources. To receive local Sutton news in the national press and the “Sun” of all papers from correspondents in Somerset seems a very roundabout & haphazard way of learning of things lurking in Sutton Park.

We’re talking about the male “Flasher”said to be wearing see-through, home-made, clingfilm trousers who leaps from behind bushes! One theorist poses the question as to whether when caught, the “Flasher’s” cladding of clingfilm should be entered in mitigation of his offence as token respect of Covid-19 precautions!

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What is air pollution and where does it come from?  By Roger Low  of Eco Sutton (17/04/2020)

Air pollution is an umbrella term for lots of different types of pollution in the air around us. All these pollutants can be inhaled and absorbed into your body. Different types of pollution are caused by different things and can affect your body in different ways. For the most part, air pollution is invisible to the naked eye, so just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Particle pollution – Some pollution, often called PM10, PM2.5 or PM1, is made up of little bits of material, which can be from all sorts of places including smoke from fires, exhaust fumes, smoking or the dust from brake pads on cars. These particles are smaller than the width of a human hair (and PM2.5 is four times smaller even than PM10: the numbers refer to particles up to 10 or 2.5 micrometres in width) and we can breathe them in without noticing.

Even worse are PM1, normally these particles are too small to see, but on some days with especially high pollution levels they can mix with other types of pollution to make the sky look a little hazy. If the reading for particulates, especially PM2.5 goes above 15 parts per million, then long exposure to this is bad for you.

Gases – As well as particles, there are also gases. Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOX) come mostly from burning fuels or other materials, so levels are especially high around roads. But you also get them from home gas boilers, bonfires and other sources as well.
These gases also mix with the air we breathe and get absorbed into our bodies.

Impact – While lots of pollution can have long term health impacts on people, some pollution can be dangerous straight away when there is enough of it. Carbon Monoxide (CO) is made when things are burned without enough oxygen around them and it stops your blood from being able to transport oxygen around your body. A lot of Carbon Monoxide is produced by vehicles, but it is most dangerous in enclosed areas, like your home, where the amount can build up to high levels.

Chemicals – There are many chemicals which can create air pollution including those known as Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs. This is the name for a group of chemicals that start as liquids or solids but disperse into the air very easily. You can often tell when things contain a lot of these chemicals because they can have a very strong smell after you have used them, like lots of paints and varnishes. They also come from products like air fresheners, hair sprays and cleaning products. Once the chemicals mix with the air, they become very easy for us to breathe in and can have harmful effects.

Formaldehyde – Formaldehyde can be given off by furniture made from combined materials like MDF, as well as furnishings, fabrics, glues and insulation materials. It can cause irritation of the lungs. It is also given off by vehicles using petrol or diesel, especially when sitting still with their engines idling.

Air pollution concentrates around the areas where it is formed. So places that have lots of traffic, industry or farming can have higher levels of pollution.

How do we know? – First of all, we need to measure what the pollution level is, so we can target our actions. There are some immediate actions we can take, based on these readings.

Closing roads to traffic can reduce air pollution on those roads almost straightaway. This year air pollution on a major road in London was 97% lower when the roads were closed for the London Marathon than on a normal Sunday. This means that the more traffic there is, the more pollution there usually is, so rush hour can be particularly bad.

It’s a big problem. It is thought that up to 36,000 deaths each year in the UK are caused by air pollution.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) sets maximum limits for air pollution, limits that shouldn’t be passed. Almost 2,000 locations in the UK are above these limits and there are places in the UK where the air pollution is three times as high as the WHO limits.

Air pollution is in the air that we breathe in. The particles and chemicals enter our bodies and can damage our cells in different ways. Any amount of pollution can be damaging to our health, but the more that you are exposed to, the bigger the risk and the larger the impact it can have on you and your family.

Exposure to air pollution can increase cough and phlegm symptoms for adults and it can increase the risk of getting bacterial pneumonia. Over the longer term, your exposure to air pollution can increase your risk of lung cancer. It has also been linked to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease (heart and blood vessels), including furring of the arteries.

How it affects you – First of all, the only safe level of particulates is zero, prolonged exposure to even small amounts causes damage to lungs, heart and vascular systems. Children are especially at risk.

Children are still developing their organs and immune systems and their smaller bodies and airways make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water.

Because of their size, children are also often closer to sources of air pollution, like car exhausts, than adults. Air pollution can play a part in causing asthma for some children. For children who already have asthma, being exposed to more air pollution can increase how bad their symptoms are and how often they have chronic symptoms.

Being exposed to air pollution can also affect children’s lung function development. In areas with high air pollution, it could be setting some children up for health problems throughout their lives. Research is beginning to point towards effects of air pollution on children’s developing brains, but more research is needed in this area.

What can you do? – Walk, cycle or scoot whenever you can, rather than driving. Being stuck in traffic can expose you to lots of pollution. Polluted air from the exhaust of the vehicles in front can get sucked into your car, and often stays trapped there, meaning you breathe in lots of the pollution.

An experiment found that a car driver was exposed to twice as much pollution as a pedestrian and nine times as much pollution as a cyclist travelling the same journey at the same time of day. When you can, avoid walking along the busiest roads. Choose ways to get to your destination that use quieter streets, trips through parks and other green spaces or pedestrianised areas.

Air pollution concentrates around the busiest roads and getting even a short distance away from them can make a big difference. Quieter roads have been shown to reduce your exposure to pollution by 20%. You can also think about when you travel. If it is possible, avoid travelling at rush hour when the pollution levels are often much higher.

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CAT is an educational charity dedicated to researching and communicatng positive solutions for environmental change. Find out more about what we do and how you can get involved.

Situated near Machynlleth it’s well worth a visit.  Take the Birmingham- Aberystwyth train. But learn more here:-

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An answer to Brexit! Why didn’t they tell us?
97 Reasons for Remaining in the EU: Membership of the world’s largest trading bloc with over 500 million consumers, representing 23% of global GDP – but it’s not just about economics!

  1. The UK has greater global influence as a member of the EU 
  2. The EU provides a counterweight to the global power of the US, Russia and China
  3. With Trump in the White House the UK’s strongest natural allies are France, Germany and our other West European neighbours
  4. Tariff-free trade within the EU
  5. The abolition of non-tariff barriers (quotas, subsidies, administrative rules etc.) among members
  6. Participation in free trade agreements with Japan and Canada as an EU member
  7. The EU accounts for 44% of all UK exports of goods and services
  8. The EU accounts for 53% of all UK imports of goods and services
  9. Cheaper food and alcohol imports from continental Europe
  10. As a member of the EU the UK maintains a say in the shaping of the rules governing its trade with its European partners
  11. 3.1 million jobs in the UK are directly linked to exports to the EU
  12. Free movement of labour has helped UK firms plug skills gaps (translators, doctors, plumbers)
  13. Free movement of labour has helped address shortages of unskilled workers (fruit picking, catering)
  14. The Single Market has brought the best continental footballers to the Premier League
  15. The EU accounts for 47% of the UK’s stock of inward Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), worth over $1.2 trillion
  16. Access to the EU Single Market has helped attract investment into the UK from outside the EU
  17. No paperwork or customs for UK exports throughout the single market
  18. Price transparency and removal of commissions on currency transactions across the Eurozone
  19. FDI into the UK has effectively doubled since the creation of the EU Single Market
  20. The UK’s net contribution to the EU budget is around €7.3bn, or 0.4% of GDP (less than an eighth of the UK’s defence spending)
  21. No time consuming border checks for travellers (apart from in the UK)
  22. The City of London, as a global financial hub, has acted as a bridge between foreign business and the EU
  23. British banks and insurance companies have been able to operate freely across the EU 
  24. Cornwall receives up to £750 million per year from the EU Social Fund (ESF)
  25. Structural funding for areas of the UK hit by industrial decline (South Wales, Yorkshire)
  26. Support for rural areas under the European Agricultural Fund for Regional Development (EAFRD)
  27. EU funding for infrastructure projects in the UK including £122 million for the “Midlands engine” project
  28. Financial support from the EU for over 3,000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the UK
  29. EU funding for the British film industry
  30. EU funding for British theatre, music and dance
  31. EU funding for British sport, including football apprenticeships, tennis and rugby league
  32. Glasgow (1990) and Liverpool (2008) benefitted from being European capitals of culture, stimulating their local economies
  33. EU competition laws protect consumers by combatting monopolistic business practices
  34. Strict controls on the operations of Multinational Corporations (MNCs) in the EU
  35. Human Rights protected under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights
  36. The death penalty can never be reintroduced as it is incompatible with EU membership
  37. Minority languages such as Welsh and Irish are recognized and protected under EU law
  38. The right to reside in any EU member state
  39. The freedom to work in 28 countries without visa and immigration restrictions
  40. The mutual recognition of professional qualifications has facilitated the free movement of engineers, teachers and doctors across the EU
  41. The mutual recognition of educational diplomas
  42. The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) has standardized assessment of language proficiency across the EU
  43. The freedom to study in 28 countries (many EU universities teach courses in English and charge lower fees than in the UK) 
  44. The Erasmus programme of university exchanges (benefitting 16000 UK students a year)
  45. The freedom to set up a business in 28 countries
  46. The ability to retire in any member state
  47. Pension transferability
  48. The right to vote in local and European Parliamentary elections if resident in any member state
  49. EU laws making it easier for British people to buy property on the continent
  50. The right to receive emergency healthcare in any member state (EHIC card)
  51. Consular protection from any EU embassy outside the EU
  52. The EU has played a leading role in combatting global warming (Paris 2015 climate change conference)
  53. Common EU greenhouse gas emissions targets (19% reduction from 1990 to 2015)
  54. Improvements in air quality (significant reductions in sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides) as a result of EU legislation
  55. Reductions in sewage emissions
  56. Improvements in the quality of beaches and bathing water
  57. EU standards on the quality of drinking water
  58. Restrictions on landfill dumping
  59. EU targets for recycling
  60. Common EU regulations on the transportation and disposal of toxic waste
  61. The implementation of EU policies to reduce noise pollution in urban areas
  62. EU policies have stimulated offshore wind farms
  63. Strict safety standards for cars, buses and trucks
  64. Protection of endangered species and habitats (EU Natura 2000 network)
  65. Strict ban on animal testing in the cosmetics industry
  66. Membership of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) which monitors the quality and safety of medicines (until recently located in London)
  67. 13% of EU budget earmarked for scientific research and innovation
  68. The UK receives £730 million a year in EU funding for research
  69. EU funding for UK universities
  70. Cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy as a member of Euratom
  71. Minimum paid annual leave and time off work (Working Time Directive)
  72. Equal pay between men and women enshrined in European law since 1957
  73. The right to work no more than 48 hours a week without paid overtime 
  74. Minimum guaranteed maternity leave of 14 weeks for pregnant women
  75. Rights to a minimum 18 weeks of parental leave after child birth
  76. EU anti-discrimination laws governing age, religion and sexual orientation
  77. EU rules governing health and safety at work
  78. The rights to collective bargaining and trade union membership are enshrined in EU employment law
  79. The UK enjoys an opt out from the single currency and maintains full control of its borders as a non-member of the Schengen area
  80. Since 1985 the UK has received a budget rebate equivalent to 66% of its net contribution to the EU budget
  81. EU cross-country coordination offers greater protection from terrorists, pedophiles, people traffickers and cyber-crime
  82. The European common arrest warrant
  83. Europe-wide patent and copyright protection
  84. EU consumer protection laws concerning transparency and product guarantees of quality and safety
  85. Improved food labeling 
  86. A ban on growth hormones and other harmful food additives
  87. Cheaper air travel due to EU competition laws
  88. Common EU air passenger rights
  89. Deregulation of the European energy market has increased consumer choice and lowered prices
  90. Mutual recognition of the common European driving license
  91. The introduction of the European pet passport
  92. The abolition of mobile telephone roaming charges
  93. The EU acts as a guarantor of the Irish Good Friday Agreement
  94. A frictionless Irish border
  95. The EU acts as a guarantor of the special status of Gibraltar
  96. The EU helped support and maintain democracy in Spain, Portugal and Greece from the 1970s and these countries have become major destinations for British tourists
  97. EU membership has helped facilitate intercultural dialogue
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On Nov. 30 thirty folk turned up to the Tree Planting organised by the young sixth form student, Nimi, as NUS Tree person & Woodland Trust, plus Matt – Sutton Park ranger. There were quite a few Green and local Amnesty International  folk also there. Three of the SC candidates turned up to dig & plant – tho’ not Andrew Mitchell.  We learned that he was in Mere Green with a load of blue rosetted beings.
— – A Good job done!  More are scheduled!!

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The Observer didn’t publish this letter from Ben.  But it deserved publication – so here it is.

Dear editor,
I am dismayed by your choice this week’s Sutton Coldfield Observer (11th Oct 2019) to allow the Conservatives to buy your ‘wrap around and write’ pretend articles. This paper has given the Conservatives a free pass on many things before but when you literally allow them to write your headlines then you have sold the paper’s credibility far short.

Having jewellers or double glazing adverts is one thing, most people know what to expect and can ignore it but this native advertising for a political party is wrong. This is nakedly biased before an election and puts all your local news integrity into question. When you next want to scrutinise a local policy or publish stories embarrassing to politicians, you become much easier to dismiss.
Will you now be producing wrap arounds for Labour and the Greens for balance?   Yours etc.”