Wednesday, 18 October 2017

First look at the new Mount Pleasant Primary School at Lockwood

Pupils from Mount Pleasant School in Lockwood will be moving into their new School  on the Thursday after half term. It has been built adjacent to the old school which will be demolished over the coming year. The old school  was a 'mish mash' of Victorian buildings with 70's and 80s extensions. The roof leaked badly and frequently despite several patching up attempts. I've seen the new school grow in my role as one of the School Governors. Today myself and Cllr Julie Stewart Turner got a good look round and it is impressive and will be a much improved teaching environment for a school which is performing well.
The new Mount Pleasant Primary School
The School Hall with Headteacher Naeem Nazir on the right
All classrooms equipped with smart boards

Artists impression

New School  on the left old School on the right

New classroom looking out on the old school

Friday, 13 October 2017

Speech to the EU Committee of the Regions on Locally Determined Contributions to address Climate Change

After a lengthy process my Opinion to the EU Committee of the Regions on the EU Environmental Implementation Review was dealt with in a few minutes. The clause on establishing Locally and Regionally Determined Contributions to tackle Climate Change was opposed by a minority of groups but people within both those groups worked on my behalf to argue for them for which I am very  grateful. The votes on 3 amendments to the report ( 2 of which sought to remove LDCs/RDCs) were defeated. Now LDCs/RDCs will be a key message of the EU Committee of the Regions as we work towards the COP23 Climate Summit in Bonn in November. Onwards.

Lockwood footpath cleared of vegetation

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Councillors Julie Stewart Turner and Karen Allison's visit to Newsome Junior School

Councillors Julie Stewart-Turner and Karen Allison visited Newsome Junior School to answer questions from pupils today as part of Local Democracy Week.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

EU Committee of the Regions backs Local Targets on Climate Change

The EU Committee of the Regions, (the body that represents the views of Local and Regional Government in the European Union) today backed an innovative new way of giving Local and Regional Government the ability to contribute directly towards the Paris Climate Goals that were agreed 2 years ago.

The Carbon Savings agreed as part of the COP23 Paris Climate Agreement were made up of Nationally Determined Contributions where national Governments decided what level of carbon savings they could commit to. It has become clear that the emission reductions agreed are not sufficient to limit the rise in global temperatures rise to 1.5 to 2 degrees risking runaway climate change on a global scale.

The proposal by Green Party Councillor Andrew Cooper is to establish Locally Determined Contributions which will enable Councils and Regional bodies around the world the ability to produce their own carbon reduction plans to contribute directly into the Paris Climate goals. This could help bridge the gap between the carbon savings so far identified and those that we need to limit climate change to survivable.

Councillor Cooper said,

“I am really pleased that the EU Committee of the Regions has got behind this proposal today. We can now take this forward to the COP23 Climate Change Summit in November and see if we can get it accepted as a global proposal empowering Local and Regional Governments around the world to take action on climate change.

 As a UK member of the EU Committee of the Regions if we can get Locally Determined Contributions adopted as a global concept then it will be applicable to the UK, Brexit or no Brexit

Another benefit of this proposal is that it enables Individual States in the USA the ability to act on climate change despite the Trump Presidency’s decision not to ratify the Paris Climate Agreement. 

The EU Committee of the Regions will use its contacts with the US Conference of Mayors to ensure local action works for global benefit happens regardless of the opinions of the US National Government”.

Briefing Note on Locally Determined Contributions

Monday, 9 October 2017

PRESS RELEASE Eagle eyed Parish Councillors save Kirklees Library Service £12,000

Kirkburton Parish Councillors Steve Beresford and Robert Barraclough have saved Kirklees Library Services £12,000 by spotting on omission on Kirkburton Library’s finances.

 Parish Councillor Steve Beresford noticed that Kirklees had not claimed Rural Rate Relief on Kirkburton Library for the last 2 years and asked fellow Parish Councillor Robert Barraclough to take it up with Kirklees. Robert raised the issue with Kirklees Councillor Andrew Cooper and the error was quickly rectified and the money claimed back by Kirklees officers.

Robert Barraclough said “Credit to Steve Beresford. As a former Kirklees Senior Finance officer he has the background and the knowledge to spot these sort of errors. The rural rate relief is vital to ensure we have a strong business case for retaining Kirkburton Library as a viable and valued local facility. We now need to get on with ensuring its future is secured for our local communities”

Kirklees Councillor Andrew Cooper said, “I’m glad this issue has now been rectified and I am told systems are now in place to ensure this issue doesn’t arise again. These mistakes will happen with large Government cuts to Kirklees budgets and experienced staff disappearing on an almost daily basis. I’m glad that there are Parish Councillors like Steve and Robert doing positive thing like this to keep money in rural areas in difficult financial times.”

Public Use Piano for Huddersfield Railway Station

Really pleased my idea to get a public use piano for Huddersfield Railway Station has become a reality.

The piano has been donated by Chas Ball who chairs the Board of Marsden Jazz Festival and was the Green Party Candidate for Colne Valley in the 2015 General Election. It was a conversation with him and the Huddersfield Station Manager Andrew Croughan of Transpennine that made this happen.

I've seen pianos for use by commuters being played at Sheffield, Leeds and London St Pancras Stations and I was impressed by how they gave a showcase for local talent and entertained people on thier way to and from work. Huddersfield is a musical town with the Contemporary Music Festival, the Mrs Sunderland Music Competition and a plethora of music groups from a thriving Youth Music culture to well established groups such as Huddersfield Choral Society. Having a piano in one of the busiest railway stations in Yorkshire will provide entertainment  to thousands of travellers and be a new element to the musical culture of our Town.

Talking to the Station staff it really adds something to their day. They see a commuter walk towards the piano and wonder what tune might appear. One morning during the busy commute to work someone sat down and played the theme to 'The Walking Dead'. I guess there was some irony there.

I'm now thinking about other places in Huddersfield we might have public use pianos. Any ideas?

Huddersfield Station Piano being played to help launch Marsden Jazz Festival

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Return to Kirby Misperton

Feeling a bit nostalgic today as I headed back to Kirby Misperton for the first time since beginning the 120 mile No Fracking Way trek there in March. Going along the same roads we walked when we began the walk and when I was quietly wondering what I'd let myself in for.

Today was a positive day. Green Party Co-Leader Jonathan Bartley was doing a visit to the Fracking site to lend his support the dedicated band of anti fracking Protectors (not just Protestors). What was very apparent was the excessive police presence on site. They lined up outside the gated entrance to the Fracking site and we lined up alongside them for a photocall with Jonathan. On a whim I suggested a Mexican Wave and said once the wave had got to the end of the protectors then the Police might want to join in once it reached them. We tried it a couple of times but they weren't playing and stubbonly stood there with their arms folded. "Boo! You're no fun!" To be fair I guess they were just trying to be 'professional' but they could have lightened up a bit.

Despite the lack of Mexican Wave participation today was not a day when relations between the Police and protestors were at a particularly low point. We've seen some real lows at the Preston New Road fracking site near Blackpool and also with the first arrests at Kirby Misperton. Some of the policing has been videoed and has been, lets say, 'heavy handed' and definitely out of proportion to, what have been predominantly peaceful protests. This Policing has to be expensive and is being bankrolled by central government in these times of limited public funding. I asked one of the Police what he would be doing if he wasn't here today and he told me he would be dealing with day to day issues such as domestic violence, attending burgalry scenes etc.

The Scottish Government  successfully voted to ban Fracking today further demonstrating that the United Kingdom is far from united on yet another issue. This further fuels my, admittedly unrealistic, fantasy of Yorkshire becoming annexed to an Independent Scotland free of dominance by largely southern based, public school educated Tories. We are having to fight our London based Government here while the Scottish people are supported in their opposition to Fracking by their Government. Just doesn't feel right.

There is real opposition to Fracking from people across the political spectrum. The Conservative Government is out of touch even with its own electoral base on this issue. A large number of the people there today were retired and some had definitely not been active campaigners before. Fracking is producing a new form of useful productive energy, but it is not what was intended. It is people power and it will grow.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

LDCs - Still Determined

Today was hard.

I was at a meeting organised by the Greens in the European Parliament on Climate and Energy Policy. I (but of course) raised the issue of Locally Determined Contributions as a way of boosting our chances of acheiving the the COP21 Paris Climate Goals. The reception to the issue seemed warm enough, and no particular negativity towards the idea. I have already followed up by providing more information for MEPs in the Green Group and I'll do more follow up later.

 So why was it hard?

I've been 'on the road' with this for much of the last month and pushing Locally Determined Contributions as concept for nearly a year now. I like travel but the going back and forth to Brussels, and other places, has been pretty much weekly. I have also got a bit weary talking about the subject. I know it is very worthwhile. I know it is the right thing to do. I know the world will be a much better place with it. It is the lack of tangibility of the subject matter that can be tricky for some people. If you're saving a whale, or a tree, or erecting a wind turbine, or insulating 1000s of houses, or planting 1000s of trees then it feels very practical, real and doable. Introducing a new way of addressing climate change using the sleeping giant powers of Local and Regional Governments around the world doesn't float everybody's Rainbow Warrior. But it has to be done!

The 'Cooper Law of Monomanias' is that they are completely fine while you're making some progress and so it is with LDCs (I much prefer the initials, 'btw', than saying the whole thing out loud). I've seen people with monomanias spend a lifetime on them and maybe there is a value in that for the concepts and for the people that promote them. Personally I need to map a subject from idea to implementation with some sort of idea of timescales. Those timescales are now beginning to become more apparent to me.

There is the EU Committee of the Regions (CoR) Plenary meeting in October which hopefully will adopt my Opinion on the EU Environmental Implementation Review. This includes the concept of LDCs and also Mr Marco Dus's Opinion on Climate Finance does as well. There is only one amendment opposing LDC's  and it is from the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR). ECR want to delete all reference to LDCs on the basis that this is duplication of  local action already recorded at a national level. ECR contains UK Conservative Councillors and one look at their own Councils would tell them this is simply not the case. Knowing the political make up of the CoR the ECR are unlikely to get this amendment passed. Fortunately for me!

In November is COP23 the UNFCC Climate Summit in Bonn, Germany. I will be there for the Climate Summit of Local and Regional Leaders where I will do my best to get get LDCs adopted there. If it does then comes the real work of how LDCs are implemented in practice which is the really exciting stuff. I would envisage some early adopters in each continent and a big initial focus on the EU and the United States. Getting US Mayors on board with LDCs is vital if we are going to 'trump' Trump in his bizarre illogical opposition to the Paris Climate Agreement. Getting even the smallest Councils and municipalties on board with LDCs in the US, or anywhere really, is going to bring the realities and benefits of addressing Climate Change closer to people and that's got to be good.

Well back to Brexit bound Britain now. I'll run another 5k tomorrow. That'll help. Here's Transeurope Express by Kraftwerk.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Locally Determined Contributions – A new tool to address Climate Change.

A briefing note on Locally Determined Contributuion by Councillor Andrew Cooper – Green Party Councillor on Kirklees Council , Member of the UK Delegation to the EU Committee of the Regions and Green Party of England Wales Energy Spokesperson.

There is an opportunity at the COP23 Climate Talks in November to bring action on climate change closer to Local and Regional Governments around the world and closer to the communities that they serve.
At COP21 in Paris 2 years ago National Governments expressed their efforts to achieve carbon emission reduction targets as ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ - NDCs. In the case of the UK our NDC made no reference to the work being undertaken by Local Authorities to reduce emissions. Efforts at the local level to improve building standards beyond building regulation, install LED street lights, plant trees to sequester carbon etc were simply not measured or taken into account in those national contributions.
At the International level it is acknowledged that there is a shortfall between the agreed NDCs and the savings required to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C. This reality requires fresh ideas to address this gap.

The growing momentum for Locally Determined Contributions to address Climate Change
There is a growing momentum behind the concept of Locally Determined Contributions where Local and Regional Government can set out their own plans to reduce carbon emissions. The idea was originally conceived by Cllr Andrew Cooper from the UK in his role as a member of the UK Delegation to the EU Committee of the Regions. There is a strong reference in the Opinion he is Rapporteur for on the EU’s Environmental Implementation Review. Another Opinion on Climate Finance by Italian member Marco Dus also makes reference to LDC’s. Both these Opinions will be going forward for approval at the EU Committee of the Regions Session on the 10th and 11th of October. In addition LDC’s are now included in a European Parliament Opinion being led by the Rapporteur French MEP Gilles Pargeneaux on ‘The Role of Regions and Cities in the implementation of the Climate Change Agreement’. His Opinion calls for,

"the creation of a system of Locally Determined Contributions to be implemented in direct and complementary to Nationally Determined Contributions"

Valuing action on Climate Change at the local level
Establishing a system of Locally Determined Contributions, to complement those that are determined by National Governments, could spur action at a local level. We are often asked to ‘Think Global and Act Local’ and by mirroring the terminology of ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ this helps stress the importance of action at the local level.
It is said of many things that if something isn’t measured it isn’t valued. An International system of Locally Determined Contributions would provide a platform for the valuable and vital action by Local and Regional actors to reduce carbon emissions and thereby be a spur to greater action to reduce carbon emissions.

Fostering International Cooperation on Climate Change at the local level
Locally Determined Contributions could help foster international cooperation between Local and Regional Authorities whereby best practice could be shared and peer support provided to those areas needing assistance where it may not be available within their country or from their National Government.

Ensuring the additionality of local action on Climate Change is recognised
Ensuring additionality should be a key feature of Locally Determined Contributions. Some countries are good at linking their NDCs with local action others are not. Being clear about which LDCs are additional and which are contributing to NDCs is important. Both should be measured to ensure local action is valued but it is important to be clear about what is additional, and what is not.
Existing mechanisms such as the Global Covenant of Mayors should be recognised as approved methods of demonstrating compliance as a Locally Determined Contribution. Robust existing methods of demonstrating carbon reductions should not have to go through additional hoops.

Providing a valid platform for local and State Government involvement in climate action in the USA
With the announcement by the current US President of their intention to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement this puts greater emphasis on action in the US at the level of individual State and lower levels of Governments. The US Conference of Mayors has indicated its intention to honour the COP21 Paris Agreement and LDC’s can provide a new structure that enables this involvement on action at the state level.

Accessibility for both large and small municipalities
Local and Regional Government can range from areas representing millions of people to just a few hundred. It is important that Locally Determined Contributions enable participation from Local and Regional Governments from the very small to the those Regional bodies that are larger than some nation states

Bringing COP and Climate Change action closer to local people and communities
The introduction of LDCs/RDCs at the lowest tier of Government will give a new opportunity for engagement with communities and non-governmental organisations. The strong links Local and Regional Authorities have with Community Leaders and key local agencies makes them ideally placed to drive local action on climate change. Establishing Local Partnerships to deliver LDCs and RDCs could provide a new impetus and focus for climate mitigation actions on the ground. LDC’s could provide the same basis for global community involvement at a local level that Local Agenda 21 provided.

Locally Determined Contributions and Brexit
The UK has stated that it will honour its current Nationally Determined Contributions which were part of the EU negotiated total. Though LDCs/RDCs have come out of EU Institutions if they are agreed at COP23 they will become part of an International Agreement and the UK will still be able to engage with them when/if Brexit finally comes into effect.

Councillor Andrew Cooper
Moble - + 44  (0) 7721 348619
Twitter @clrandrewcooper

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Be Afraid! Be Very Afraid!

I  boarded a Transpennine train from Huddersfield to Leeds today. As the train came into the station the guard beckoned us all to the front 3 carraiges. We got on the train and were informed that as there was only one guard on the train that to ensure passengers could be properly monitored only half the train would be in use. We were then informed that the threat level was 'critical'. People on the train started looking around, checking each other out. Playing 'Spot the Terrorist' I guess. I tried to avoid looking at the young Asian man opposite me. He was probably going shopping, seeing a relative, going to play football. It didn't matter really but I felt for him and anyone who might be assumed to be a Muslim on that train.

MI5 Threat levels on the likelihood of a Terrorist Attack are as follows

  • LOW means an attack is unlikely.
  • MODERATE means an attack is possible, but not likely
  • SUBSTANTIAL means an attack is a strong possibility
  • SEVERE means an attack is highly likely
  • CRITICAL means an attack is expected imminently
So right now 'something horrific' somewhere could happen. To me substantial, severe, critical all just tell us all to be scared, To watch out, to stay at home and to look at other people a bit more closely than you would normally. Of course the likelihood of being bombed compared with being knocked down on the road in a traffic accident, having a medical emergency etc are not easily comaparble. If they were we could perhaps make some sort of meaningful comparison about how shit scared we should be, but then that just feeds all the paranoia that is out there anyway. The threat level alerts seem to be the very antithesis of the stoic, revived (and much revised) WW2 'Keep Calm and Carry On' motto that now graces many a coffee mug and tea towel. Are threat levels consistent with British culture and values. Well maybe not. They don't feel very 'stiff upper lip' at all really.

We are not given any information about why the threat of a terrorist attack is 'critical' rather than 'severe' or 'substantial' or where it might occur. Its not like a weather forecast but you can imagine someone standing up pointing at a map of the UK saying "the likelihood of a terrorist attack in Cornwall or the Outer Hebrides is quite low but if you're in a major conurbation like London or Manchester perhaps you should stay at home and watch a movie or the entire box set of ' Game of Thrones' from beginning to end. When we move down from 'Critical' to 'Severe' or a more comforting 'Substantial'. then you shoudl feel safer to venture outside into the sunshine (or more likely rain)

Of course there's a real danger writing something like this that an atrocity happens 30 seconds after I upload this blogpost and someone says "I told you so" but that would miss the point I am making. The threat levels are so similar to each other that all that most of them mean is to be wary, be vigilant,be very afraid.

"Alright Cooper what do you suggest we do then?" - There should be tailored announcements when MI5 knows something, with a Spokesperson making a statement. Obviously not compromising anybody or anything but giving more of a narrative than the all encompassing ' Be Afraid' threat levels. The danger is that people become unfazed by them and ignore them 

Has anyone even considered that some of the very few maniacs who are sitting in their sad flats waiting to commit these sort of atrocities may consider that one of their objectives may have been acheived if we are at a 'critical' state of alert. No bombs need to go off now, no vehicle needs to plough into a shopping centre today as 'terror' has already been acheived and has the Government approved label authenticating that fact. They can bide their time to when we are in the comfort of a 'substantial' level of threat before they act. All Government has really acheived is a delay.

I want to live in an optimistic country, where we are not told to be afraid. Where life, love and the pursuit of happiness makes us look with hope to the future. We need to regain innocence, expectation and positivity. So here's 'Sunny' by Boney M from a less complicated time. "What about the IRA?" - Sigh!

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Lockwood Path Clearance

Me, Cllrs Karen Allison and Julie Stewart-Turner joined Lockwood residents to clear the path between Victoria Rd and Rashcliffe Hill Road of Vegetation, rubbish and a heavy builders bag of sand. Rewarding to see the difference we made in just a couple of hours. A hard work out!

Kirklees Question Time - Thursday 12th October 2017

Saturday, 9 September 2017

COP23 - Bonn - Growing support for Locally Determined Contributions to tackle Climate Change

My initiative to get the concept of Locally Determined Contributions adopted as a new global tool to address climate change has taken some important steps forward.

To recap briefly. The targets established in the COP21 Paris Climate Agreement were agreed by National Governments and so were described as Nationally Determined Contributions. We know they fell well short of what was required to keep global temperature rises below 2 degrees C (and a stretch target of 1.5 degrees C). The idea behind Locally Determined Contributions (and Regionally Determoned Contributions) is to record and encourage action by Local and Regional Authorities that may not otherwise be taken into account when assessing progress on reducing carbon emissions. The idea is that if we measure it then we encourage carbon mitigation plans and action. To this end in my role as a member of the EU Committee of the Regions I have promoted the concept of LDCs/RDCs in an Opinion I am leading on the EUs Environmental Implementation Review. The idea being that if it as adopted by an EU institution then the idea gains more credibility and traction.

There have been 2 important developments. Another Committee of the Regions Opinion on Climate Finance and Governance being led by Italian Member Marco Dus has adopted the principle of Locally Determined Contributions and now for the first time the concept has been taken up in the European Parliament. French MEP Gilles Pargeneaux has included in his Opinion on 'The Role of Regions and Cities in the implementation of the Climate Change Agreement' a call for,

"the creation of a system of Locally Determined Contributions to be implemented in direct and complementary to Nationally Determined Contributions"

So now 2 EU Institutions have this idea on their agendas. I am keen that this becomes a key outcome of the International Climate Change Talks, COP23 in Bonn in November. If it is adopted there then Locally Determined Contributions goes global and everywhere from Kirklees to Kamkatcha will have a framework to act locally to reduce emissons. If this occurs then Brexit or no Brexit, Councils in the UK will have an international treaty empowering them to produce plans to address climate change. Exciting times!

Previous posts on Locally Determined Contributions

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

No reduction to the Council Tax Reduction scheme

Kirklees is currently contemplating reducing the Council Tax subsidy for vulnerable groups to save just over £1million each year. The proposals would see lone parents with young children and people in receipt of a range of Disability benefits and war pensions having to pay around an additional £1.50 to £2.00 per week. To people who are on low incomes already this is not an insignificant amount.

It is important to recognise why the Council is even considering this drastic move. Huge cuts by central government have limited Kirklees ability to properly fund services people expect of their local council. The additional £14million cut Kirklees received last year when  government failed to honour the level of funding we secured from the Council Tax freeze grant was particularly difficult for Kirklees.

Understanding why Kirklees is proposing such cuts is not the same as agreeing with them however. I don't believe our local Council should be in the business of making poor people poorer. Kirklees Council should operate according to a set of values and principles rather than simply being an organisation which manages an ever dwindling amount of resources. We need to find other ways to make the books balance. Always easier said than done but if regard this as acceptable it opens the door to further cuts for this same group of people in future years. The genie would be well and truly out of the bottle. So I am opposing this proposal and I would be disappointed if a Council that is led by the Labour Party somehow found this acceptable.

The Consultation on the proposal runs till October 15th I urge as many people as possible to respond on the link attached

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Press Statement - Green Councillor condemns undemocratic Mill Ponds decision

Green Party Councillor Andrew Cooper condemned the decision by the Governments Planning Inspector to approve development on the land adjacent to Newsome Mill Ponds

The land is bordered by Newsome Road, Hart Street and Naomi Road and the Mill Ponds served the now fire ravaged nearby  Newsome Mills Approval was sought for 22 houses on the site.

“ This decision by an unelected Government official from the Planning Inspectorate overrules the democratic decision refusing development made by the Council’s Planning Committee and ignores numerous refusals for development on the land. My concern now is that the loss of the Mill Ponds will mean a serious disruption to culverts and drainage running across the land. This could have an adverse impact on local residents homes and gardens. Many local people have long felt the former allotment site at the heart of Newsome would make an ideal park area. This is now not an option. Though the land is now approved for development this is not the end of the  matter and the developer will have to demonstrate how they will manage the significant drainage issues and respect the Tree Preservation Orders that exist on the site. This is yet another case of landowners doing what is best for their pocket and not what provides the most benefit to the community. I applaud the long campaign by local people and Diane Sims in particular to protect the site from rapacious development. The clear, articulate and informed way the case against development has been made has fought off development for over 30 years. A Government Official with no democratic mandate has made this decision. If we need to ‘take back control’ anywhere it is about decisions that directly affect our local communities ”

Link to Newsome Mills Campaign website

Monday, 21 August 2017

No Fracking Way - Day 5 - Onwards to Preston New Road and the end of our quest

Start of Day 5 at Longridge
Arriving at PNR
Breakfast at Jai and Andy's followed by washing down a couple of paracetamol. Preston New Road today! This was to be a shorter 19 miles from Longridge but a more complex route with miles of it going on country footpaths off the roads. Navigation was going to be tricky. At short notice Jai ran off 20+ A4 sheets off our online plotaroute map which were hastily put together in a long line, folded together and handed to Nigel as the 'responsible adult'. The cars were loaded and we set off for Longridge.With so much of our route being off road we were going to be hard for the Police to keep an eye on. Relations between the Police and the Anti Fracking Activists at Preston New Road had taken a bit of a nosedive following some heavy handed and fractious encounters. So we were keen to finish our walk and not have any unnecessary hold ups.

At Longridge about a dozen people joined us for our final day. A cameraman was on hand from Lancashire TV after a short walk out of Longridge we were walking across fields, got lost in the wrong field for a bit then carried on till we came to a footbridge over the M6. Very soon we were on the muddiest canal bank you can possibly imagine. Almost impossible to walk on in some parts but we did. We were greeted to the sight of a heron tackling an eel on the canal bank which held us up for a bit of a natural history display, then we carried on. Leaving the canal we headed towards the penultimate village before our destination: Kirkham.

In Kirkham we met at the pre arranged Pub with up to a hundred people there to walk with us for the last 5 miles to Preston New Road. Among them was Natalie Bennett, former Green Party Leader who had come to join us on the last leg. We set off and the drumming and chanting from our long line of fellow walkers. I just felt carried over those last few miles. The Core Group were subsumed within the mass of walkers as we headed by road to our destination. Then we arrived. As destinations go it was not in itself particularly inspiring. A Heras security fence with a row of dayglo guards behind it The chanting continued from us all on the opposite side of road "No Fracking in Yorkshire, No Fracking in Lancashire, No Fracking Anywhere". The 8 of us from the Core Group crossed the road  with a banner standing in front of the fence for the photo opportunity. It was a lovely moment. To have actually made it the whole 120 miles and to be there with those who had shared the experience, the joy and the pain of walking all those miles.

We left the site and walked a short distance to a nearby Garden Centre that had allowed the local Anti Fracking Activists to use a huge polytunnel as their HQ. Lined up in a row at one end were 8 chairs with bowls of warm soapy water in front of them. we were handed red and white roses to hold to symbolise our 2 historic counties unity in the campaign against fracking. I addressed the crowd while standing in a bowl of water. I've got to say that is a first for me. The things I remember talking about was that the struggle we face against fracking being as much a global as well as a local issue. When I talked about the kindness shown to us on our journey I did start to feel a bit emotional as I it had really touched me but held it together as any repressed 52 year old Yorkshireman would. Then I reached into my rucksack and pulled out the Harrogate toffee tin filled with 'holy Yorkshire soil' from Kirby Misperton Protection Camp and we went outside and planted a Yorkshire Oak tree in Lancashire soil and symbolically mixed the soils of our 2 counties around it. Duncan from Blackpool Green Party said a few words and a poem. There were hand shakes and hugs and it was over.  Simon Duffy from Huddersfield Green Party was on hand to take me and Louise home to Huddersfield and back to what passes for normal every day life for me. Some time to heal, sit on the sofa and watch crap telly. Heaven!

"So did you save the world from the Frackers then?" was one mildly sarcastic question I have been asked. No unfortunately we didn't that day. If anything it is the people who go to Preston New Road and Kirby Misperton nearly every day to protest who deserve the most credit and will hopefully save the UK from the Frackers I believe. The aim of the No Fracking Way walk was to show that Fracking is not simply a NIMBY issue but that an attack on the environment in one place was an attack on us all. A sort of NATO pact for the Environment. For those places to be in Lancashire and in Yorkshire with all the historical connotations of supposed rivalry gave it additional significance. Walking a 120 miles in 5 days on roads is hard  but then we know that if it had been easy it wouldn't have been newsworthy or drawn as much attention and support from people across the North of England as it did. Division is everywhere in the UK. North and South, Lancashire and Yorkshire, Leavers and Remainers and so all actions which reach out and bring people together across divides are intrinsically a good thing to do. So as a proud Yorkshireman I'm also now the proud owner of a Frack Free Lancashire t-shirt. I hope to be wearing it at Preston New Road again very soon.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

No Fracking Way - Day 4 - Colne to Longridge

The Core Group assembled in the Black Lane  Ends Pub car park, just over the Lancashire border, that we had left from the previous night. Today was going to be a manageable 25 miles but because we had fell short yesterday we had to add another couple of miles to take us into Colne. It was a nice morning and the walk into Colne was an easy start down country roads. Psychologicaly we were in the home straight now. One more sleep before Preston New Road Fracking site near Blackpool, tomorrow was a theoretically easier 19 miles.We were well past half way. This morning it felt possible

As we reached Colne we were joined by Diane Green from Marsden who was to be with us for the rest of the day. Then it was a long trog towards Barrowford along the side of a busy A road. I was just glad it wasn't going to be like this all the way. Then we turned off  to a deserted back road with hardly any traffic with a great view of Pendle Hill. It was eerily quiet and for no apparent reason as I was wandering along I saw a small tree done up with baubles. All quite magical really.

In Whalley we stopped for lunch and met up as pre-arranged with 3 Lancashire Greens who were going to be joining us for the rest of the day to Longridge and act as our native guides. As we left Whalley in the far distance  a long ridge of land was pointed out to me. At the top of the ridge was the aptly named village of  Longridge. It became clear that our day was going to end with a very steep climb. Oh joy! Colin was now comfortably positioned in the passenger seat of Ann's car. Comfort for Colin I guess was anything that didn't involve standing up and walking.

By the bridge at Ribchester
As we came to the bridge at Ribchester to pose for a photo a Police van stopped to 'have a word'. All very pleasant but I could hear over the radio someone in another vehicle or a control centre somewhere saying the words 'Fracking' and 'Green Party'. clearly we were being kept an eye on and this was not necessarily a chance encounter. I wondered whether as we got closer to the Preston New Road site tomorrow that we might have our way impeded. Still we had got a plan for that! Some more locals joined us at Ribchester for the last haul up to Longridge and it really was a haul just like the previous day. Another hill that rose for several miles. Our group was stretched out again as we each plowed on at paces we were each 'comfortable' with. In retrospect we should have stuck more together as it wasn't always clear to us all which roads we should take.

Chatting with locals in Ribchester (courtesy of Louise Galvin)
The light was fading as we reached the Longridge pub where we had agreed to met a great crowd of Lancashire Anti frackers and Green Party members. We sat down exhausted and were gratefully to be plied with sandwiches, chips and beer. From there we were whisked off quite a way to Burnley for a Public meeting at the Methodist Church in the Town Centre. We had a good Lancashire audience and I explained the thinking behind our walk, showed the audience the 'holy soil of Yorkshire' in my Harrogate toffee tin. I could sense other members of the Core Group had heard the same 'jokes' now for 4 nights on the trot. Well I say 'sense' they had actually told me.

What was really lovely was that on our last evening all the Core Group were going to be all together.  Burnley Green Party members Jai Redman and Andy Fewster had a huge Victorian house and served us a beautiful meal as we talked about the last few days and looked forward to tomorrow. They really looked after us.

One thing I was acutely aware of was that I was now sore, very sore! It was a great house that we were in and I was on a comfortable blow up bed on the very top floor. I made my way up the stairs gingerly and wondered about tomorrow. The idea of walking 19 miles in this sort of pain was not appealing yet it had to be done. Following a bit of research for reassurance on the web, Compeed was boldly carefully applied to places it may never have been applied before. Feeling a bit more confident and patched up a bit I fell into a deep sleep. Preston New Road and the end of our quest tomorrow.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

No Fracking Way - Day 3 - Onwards to Lancashire

We reconvened on Day 3 ready for the walk across country. To recap, when we were planning the walk, the route we had intended to take (as per googlemaps) took us on a dual carraigeway with no footpath. Our only alternative route took us south across country for a few miles then catching country roads to Ilkley then Silsden and over the Lancashire border to Colne.

My (and probably everyone elses) confidence in my navigation skills following the end of Day 2 had taken a dip after I had taken us through the boggy woods of doom. Then came Ed Carne to join us at the starting point that day. Ed told us how he was always walking round here and knew the paths really well. Ed talked to Nigel Corser (ex Army) and they nodded in agreement a lot while looking and pointing at the map. Ed knew what he was doing. Ed wore a bushmans hat! I had been usurped as the Fellowship of the Frack's navigator and felt pretty good about it! Colin Noble on the other hand did not feel good. He had applied 'Compeed' to his blisters the previous day and then removed them in the evening. Compeed acts like a second skin and isn't supposed to be removed like a plaster. Consequently Colin's feet had gushed blood rather spectacularly. He decided to soldier on and recompeed at the earliest opportunity.

We set off and soon our footpath entered a muddy farmyard as I passed the farmer I asked him "Is this the way to Blackpool?" and smiled. Then we were crossing boggy fields, went over a river and started working our way up the hill and foumd our way onto another farm driveway which became a country lane and at the top of the lane we met up with a group of about half a dozen Greens from Ilkley and surrounds. They were going to be with us all the way to Lancashire.  We were back on country roads again and had saved ourselves a huge detour.

It was now a tale of hills. Down we went into Ilkley around lunchtime and we went into Boots to buy up all their Compeed, pain killers, cushioned insoles, that sort of thing.  As we got to the main street we were greeted by a big crowd of new walkers plus a table with tea, coffee and cake. My feet were tired. I didn't know before this walk that feet could get tired but they undoubtedly were and we had another half of the day to go. So after posing with a huge banner our much enlarged group set off towards Silsden and back
Clive Lord - No Way Fracking!
up country roads up one of those never ending hills. Eventually we reached the top and a few of us took a break to allow others to catch up. I took off my walking shoes and socks and enjoyed the cool air on them. Then we were off again down the hill into Silsden. Hospitality in spectacular cake form was on offer to us travellers at the home of Caroline Whitaker. We also had an offer of tea and cake at the HQ of the Ecology Building Society that was also based in Sildsen so a few of us whizzed round there to say hello. In total we probably had about an hour and a half in Silsden. It was a good break and good cake eating but eating into our walking time and daylight hours. We set off again. No rest now till Lancashire. We had been joined at this point by Green Party legend Clive Lord he had joined shortly after the Party first formed in 1973 and can talk to you in the minutest of detail about all aspect's of the Green Party's Citizens Income scheme. He is in his 80s and had decided he was going to walk with us for the next 3 days. Don't get me wrong Clive is in good shape but the pace we were putting on was a bit of a challenge even for this sprightly Octagearian. We kept a watchful eye on him and he kept with us for many a mile but was retreived before the more punishing stretches to come. As I was walking behind Clive I noticed something different about his fluorescent tabard. All ours said 'No Fracking Way' but his said 'No Way Fracking'.

Heading out of Silsden along a canal was a novelty and a nice break from the traffic, not that we had seen that much on the roads we had taken for most of the day. Then we were heading up another long deserted road. I remember this from the recce I had done with Ann Forsaith in January and of course it seemed much shorter in the car but I knew that near the top of the hill was a sign saying 'Welcome to Pendle'  and therefore Lancashire and shortly beyond that a nice looking Pub. When one of the people who joined us that day pointed out a footpath we might take that might be a little shorter and take us all the way into Colne I could see us losing the picture of us entering Lancashire. I decidedfor good or ill we would plough on. It was a very long way and the group must have spread out over a mile. By the time we all reached the 'Welcome to Pendle' sign people in the Core Group , now at the end of Day 3 were exhausted and some us were very clearly in considerable discomfort.

Lancashire border - no checkpoint!
After a short break in the pub our hosts for the evening whisked us off. Me Nigel, Colin and Brian were taken off by Andy Brown to his home in Cononley near Skipton. To say we felt cared for was an understatement. Andy allocated us rooms, showed us where the bathooms were. I pretty much collapsed in a heap in one bedroom. Across the hall I could hear Colin, "Ah! Ah! Ah!" If I didn't know better I would have thought he was having a very pleasurable experience in there. What he was doing was slowly taking his socks off and inspecting his poor feet. We all gradually made our way down to Andy's dining kitchen where he and his wife had prepared a lovely meal for us and out came the bottles of beer. After the day we had had this was really welcome and lifted my spirits immensely. The day wasn't over and we were taken into Skipton for a
Janet Russell
Folk Evening held to mark our walk above a pub in the Town Centre. This again involved the torturous activity of walking up some stairs. I sat down and vowed not to get up for a good while. It was a good crowd of about 50 or so folks and there were a number of good turns that went on including Andy on his guitar. For me I'll always remember Janet Russell and her beautiful scottish voice singing. There was one line where she said something about a long hard road and I felt myself beginning to well up a bit but held it together. Being an unreconstructed Yorkshireman I never felt blubbing was a particulalrly good look. It had been a hard day.

Time to take stock. It had been tough and the Core Group were clearly not all in the best of shape. My chafing required a wee bit of attention. Colin's feet were shot and he clearly wouldn't be walking tomorrow and was assigned to help Ann in the support vehicle. Otherwise we were all up for it. Getting into Lancashire, going past half way and the warmth and care we'd had at the end of the day were all good reasons to carry on. Back to Andy Brown's, topping up the Compeed, the careful application of soothing creams, on with the compression tights and sleep. Onward to deepest Lancashire tomorrow.

A Levels - Your grades don't define you.

Shortly after the dawn of time, as primitive life made its way onto the shores of the virgin Earth I received my A Level results. Pretty fair to say that they were embarrassingly rubbish and reflected the time and effort I put into achieving those grades. Me and my mate Jim Griffiths often arrived late back at Greenhead College following a heavy drinking and pool session at The Grove Pub. The Grove then wasn't the real ale emporium of today but had chemical Stones bitter on tap (not hand pulled) at 50p/pint and a pool table. We'd arrive back for History or English late and end up having to skip out for an emergency pee after half an hour or so. So the results shouldn't have been a surprise. I was offered North Staffs Polytechnic to study Politics and International Relations or North London. I opted for Stafford. In Stafford I discovered the beer was an amazing 45p/pint. Fortunately half way through my degree I took 3 years out to work for the old Liberal Party as a Political Agent. I went back as someone with more knowledge of life and with a greater appreciation of the value of education. I still went to the bar but I spent a lot more time in the library and put much more effort and thought into my work. I ended up with a 2.1 and a First in my dissertation. So A level grades didn't define me, nor do they necessarily dictate your path in life. It is just important that young people are given many routes to achieve their personal goals and have a good chance of a happy and fulfilling life be that through education or work or vocational training or whatever and at different points in their young lives. 

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

No Fracking Way - Day 2 - From Brafferton to Harrogate and Beyond!

Day 2 start in Brafferton
I awoke on Day 2 not feeling too bad thanks to my compression tights. Got showered, had breakfast, thanked my host for his hospitalisty and got my lift back to Brafferton to meet with the rest of the Core Group in the same Pub Car Park we had been picked up in the previous night. Tom, our Gandalf, was looking uncomfortable and came with 2 of those nordic walking sticks. Our walk today was not supposed to be as long as the first days 30 miles but was still a challenging 25 miles. I'd noticed via Facebook that today was Tina Rothery's birthday. Now Tina is a formidable dedicated anti-fracking campaigner from Blackpool who has been pursued through the courts by Cuadrilla for legitimate protest at our destination the Preston New Road site. A classic case of big business taking on the individual and fortunately losing. The judge threw out the case against her but not after a lot of  angst for Tina personally. I successfully recommended that the Green Party give her a life membership in recognition of her dedication and tenacity. So before we set off we sang her Happy Birthday, filmed it and put it out on Twitter.


Then we set off. 4 Days to go. We were joined by a woman who'd been searching around for us. More the merrier on our rolling band of folk. Next stop Boroughbridge. The way to Boroughbridge was long stretches of busier straight roads with rather flat featureless fields. It was clear that Tom was suffering and as we got to Boroughbridge he sensibly bowed out. We'd lost our Gandalf and his nifty satnav GPS gizmo. He would make his way back to York but not on foot! Not to be defeated Tom did later did make the 120 mile journey a few months later but this time by on the bike with a group with the inspired title  'Tour de Frack'.

As we entered Boroughbridge, in fact just over the bridge at Boroughbridge we were met by about a dozen folk from Harrogate Green Party all resplendent in their ' No Fracking Way' vests provided by Ann from the support vehicle. It was great to see so many of them particularly after the disappointment of losing Tom. They were to join us on the rest of the trek all the way to Harrogate. We posed for pictues in the village square and set off. Pretty soon with a bigger group we were stretched out and formed into smaller groups and as a consequence we lost some folks on a big roundabout as we headed out of Boroughbridge. We probably lost at least half an hour of walking time. With us were Shan Oakes and Bill Rigby from Harrogate Greens. Bill was Mayor of 
No Fracking Way enters Knaresborough

Knaresborough which we were about to go though. The political nature of our walk meant that he couldn't offer us a Civic Reception, wear his chains of office or offer us the Freedom of Knaresborough but he could walk with us and welcome us to his Town. From what I have heard of Freedom's of the Borough this honour usually gives you the right to let your flock of sheep go through the Town Centre unimpeded or you can march your battalion through with bayonets fixed. We definitely weren't sheep neither did we own any and there was probably more than enough pacifists in our group to ensure that we would never have need of bayonets. There was a particular pleasure however of shaking the hand of a Green Party Mayor by the 'Welcome to Knaresborough' sign.

After a tasty lunch in Knaresborough at a great cafe called Henshaws staffed by people with learning difficulties we headed off towards Harrogate. I got a garbled, difficult to hear, phone call from someone called Brian who said he'd come from Darlington to join our walk. We caught up with him, a white haired pensioner and it appeared he wanted to come along for the whole thing and join our Core Group. OK this required a bit of logistics regarding where to sleep. It got sorted by Ann in the support vehicle. Thanks Ann!

Harrogate Centre was where I wanted to stop but we still had about five miles to go to the end of our walk. I was very conscious that every mile we didn't do one day would be added on to the following day. So the Core Group started making our way out of Harrogate leaving our friends from Harrogate Green Party behind on a constantly rising path by a very long busy road which seemed to be unending. Surely it was shorter than this when me and Ann recce'd this back in January in the car? I wondered why the path was there anyway much as I'm in favour of facilities for pedestrians. Who used it? Who would want to use it? I was glad it was there but I reckoned we were the most pedestrian traffic it had seen all day. Mercifully we got off this main road to a still rising country road heading towards a National Trust car park rendezvous out in the countryside. Eventually we got there with a great view of Fylingdales 'Golf Balls' across the Moors. It was beautiful, the sun was low in the sky but it was still light. This was to be the beginning of a cross country section across footpaths and little used country roads but most of that was for tomorrow.

We decided to finish by going across a short section of woodland that took us to another road and another car park rendezvous. I had the map and I lead the way! It didn't look too far on the map. The
path we started walking on became muddy, then boggy, then it was clear that it was getting darker, then I started doubting I was leading us on the right path. I was quietly 'crapping it'. The small hut we passed in the forest had the look in the fading light of the sort of place your average axe murderer might hang out in. I ploughed on walking along something which only vaguely resembled a path. Then I heard cars, a road, was that a gate? Thank f*ck! I was relieved and my attempts to style it out with the rest of the Core Group when we reached the Car Park of course didn't wash.

We were picked up by Harrogate Green Party folks and taken back to a bar for another evening bash in town. I got my bag out of Ann's car and found that you entered the bar by walking up some stairs. It hurt! We got beer and pizza and I said a few words. We all looked pretty knackered. There were blisters on feet, some of were hobbling a bit having stiffened up. Compeed had been applied to feet. We weren't yet half way and I was worried. I knew tomorrow was another tough day. Then the pro fracking Conservative Leader of Harrogate Borough Council arrived bought me a beer and gave me a bed for the night. He is my brother after all.