Cardiff Friends of the Earth Newsletter - Winter 2003

Riverside Market goes weekly

After much lobbying - in part by Cardiff Friends of the Earth, Cardiff Council has finally granted Riverside Community Market a weekly licence. The market was set up a couple of years ago to allow the local community to buy affordable organic meat and vegetables and to create job opportunities.

It has proved hugely successful and is constantly expanding. A full-time Manager was appointed in October to handle the development of the market and associated community projects. The exciting weekly launch will be on 7 December. From then on, every Sunday (except for a Christmas break) will be market day. The Market is held between 10am and 2pm on Fitzhammon Embankment, opposite the Millennium Stadium. Cardiff Friends of the Earth will have a Christmas stall at the market on 7 December, to round off a busy year of campaigning.

Many of the stallholders at Riverside Community Market support Cardiff Friends of the Earth's No to GMOs campaign.

Annual General Meeting

Our AGM will take place on 10 February 2004 between 11am and 2pm at the FoE Cymru office at 33 Castle Arcade Balcony. All members are welcome, and indeed encouraged, to attend. We will have an annual review including the financial position of the group, and formally adopt our new constitution. We will also hold elections for the group's officer posts. We always try to keep the 'dry' part as short, informative and motivational as possible, before enjoying a few drinks in the pub, so please come along.

New Cardiff Friends of the Earth website

Last spring we decided to launch a completely new website. This was put together mainly by Will, with some help from Chris. Since Will moved to London, James has taken over the routine maintenance. The site looks very professional, with information about the group, campaigns, a calendar of events, and our latest feature is easy on-line email actions. Plus there's now a fantastic JavaScript GATS game created by Chris.

Group reorganisation

This year the group decided to reorganise the way it works. For example, we are trying to make new members feel more welcome. Our meetings are more structured and therefore streamlined, and we try to minimise the time spent on administration and announcements.

This year we have had to sign a new licence agreement which allows us to use the Friends of the Earth name, logo, and to be insured. We have also drawn up a new group constitution. The new constitution was provisionally accepted at the business meeting in July; however it will be formally adopted at the AGM in January. With the group objectives agreed at the last AGM, we feel we can work more efficiently.

We have attracted many new members this year, our meetings are always packed, our Finances healthy, and we have lots of actions on the go. Keep in touch through our new website.

Waste Campaign

Currently we are putting together a Waste Campaign because Cardiff Council is trying to sort out it's own waste management policies. The Council started their consultation on their waste strategy only a few weeks ago. Rather than asking residents how they thought waste should be minimised (e.g. by avoiding, reducing, reusing, and recycling), the consultation seemed to be heavily biased towards building an incinerator. Cardiff Friends of the Earth strongly opposes incineration because it is an extremely expensive way of dealing with waste, it is very polluting, it doesn't encourage waste minimisation and it would tie the Council into long-term contracts (20+ years) that would be almost impossible to get out of.

Our alternative to the current way of dealing with waste is a concept called Zero Waste. This is a long-term aspiration, and cannot be achieved by the Council on its own. Government legislation needs to be changes to limit packaging on food and other products. However, there is a lot that the Council can do straight away to get on the right track: It could set up swapping centres for unwanted items and recycling exchanges; It could introduce county-wide kerbside recycling (see the Recycling Act article); it could increase publicity to educate people about minimising waste; it could encourage local businesses to adopt a more responsible attitude on a voluntary basis. By the way, it is your right to leave packaging in the shop. You could use this as a statement against over-packaging.

Planning issues

Llanishen Reservoir housing estate

We are still fighting the proposed development of a housing estate at Llanishen Reservoir. The developer applied for planning permission earlier this year, and we formally objected during the public consultation stage. This summer, the Environment Agency found otter droppings at the site, which they took as evidence that otters are now colonising some areas of the city.

The Council's Planning Committee recommended refusing planning permission in November. The developer Western Power Distribution, which is a subsidiary of a US utility company, has now launched a planning appeal to the National Assembly. They want the Assembly to call in the planning application, while at the same time submitting a second planning application to the Council which differs from the first in having less houses, and dedicating the area occupied by the protected wax cap fungi for conservation. The situation is a bit confusing at present. We are staying on the case.

Cardiff City football stadium

Planning permission has been granted to build a new 60,000 football stadium in Leckwith. We had objected to the retail park part of the planning application which would partially fund the stadium. We consider it an unnecessary increase in shopping facilities in Cardiff which would take business away from existing shops. Shopper's cars would also cause more traffic and pollution in the area. A last minute attempt to have the plans called in by the National Assembly for being a significant deviation from the existing local plan failed. We, and the local resident's group with which we cooperated, are disappointed at this outcome.

Energy issues

Scarweather Sands windfarm

During the summer Greenpeace asked us to support a proposed off-shore wind farm in the Bristol Channel near Porthcawl. The windfarm would be sited three miles off the coast near Porthcawl, and would put South Wales at the forefront of renewable energy in the UK. We collected hundreds of letters of support from members of the public in Cardiff City Centre (thank you everyone) and took part in various other awareness-raising events.

Energy efficiency grants

These are available for all residents in Cardiff through the Council's HEAT (Home Energy Action Taskforce) project. People can apply for a range of grants, including up to £275 for wall cavity insulation. Call the free helpline on 0800 0831443.

The great Splott plant swap and other festivals

Summer is the festival season, and Cardiff Friends of the Earth were at most of them.

Drama and painting workshops were a fantastic success at the Ecofun festival at the Museum of Welsh Life in St Fagans. We could barely cope with the number of parents wanting to drop their children off for a while. Our solar powered helicopter stole the show from the big, but way too technical, professional displays of other organisations.

A plant swap at the Splott Festival attracted so much interest from members of the public that we had almost run out of plants at the end of the day. Splott is now the greenest part of Cardiff thanks to us (well almost the greenest).

We held an information stall at the Rhiwbina Festival. Visitors were very interested to see Western Power Distribution's plans for Llanishen Reservoir which isn't far from Rhiwbina.

At the end of September we also helped man the Friends of the Earth Cymru stall at the Fete of the Earth in Cardiff city centre. We collected signatures in support of the Scarweather Sands wind farm proposal, and people signed even more of our paper vegetables in preparation for our participation in the big anti-GM march which will be held in London in October.

Cardiff Social Forum

Following the Stop the War actions earlier in the year, there was a desire to maintain the new momentum and get together to make links with other groups. The CSF is an umbrella organisation, made up of activists, political parties, campaigning organisations and individuals. Cardiff Friends of the Earth felt it should be part of such an important institution of social change in Cardiff and are represented through several group members.

Conferences

Several group members went to the FoE Cymru Conference in Ferryside in June, or to the Friends of the Earth Local Groups Conference in Leicester in September. Both conferences were packed full of workshops and gave plenty of opportunities to meet members of other groups and exchange ideas. The local groups conference included an annual review with films and first-hand reports that showed the many successes of the past year. These included being a strong influence on the anti-GM campaign and the new Recycling Act. These successes were very inspiring and we all returned to Cardiff with the feeling of belonging to one of Britain's largest and most successful environmental organisations.

Spotlight on GATS

GATS is an attempt by the WTO and big business to privatise hospitals, schools and most other public services. This has kept the group very busy this year. GATS is not just about trade, but affects many areas we are interested in, such as environmental health and planning. The agreement would give the WTO the power to prevent anything that is a potential barrier to trade, including legislation to prevent pollution.

Cardiff Friends of the Earth is a member of Cardiff Trade Justice, a local network of the Trade Justice Movement. On 28 June, the group organised a 'weigh in', which highlighted the unfair trade rules. This was part of 'Scale up for Trade Justice', a national 24 hour lobby of MPs in their constituencies. It was the first time this has been attempted and was an great success. At the end of the 24 hours, 500 of the 650 MPs had been lobbied.

After several months spent lobbying behind the scenes. Cardiff County Council has passed a motion expressing concern about the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), a World Trade Organisation (WTO) initiative. This is an international agreement to open up the supply of services to market competition, and has been described as an instrument designed to benefit big businesses. Cardiff Friends of the Earth has been working to raise awareness of GATS among councillors through writing letters to every county councillor asking for their support, and by meeting with them directly.

Cardiff Friends of the Earth is concerned that GATS could remove local council's ability to regulate business activities and give this power to the World Trade Organisation. The group wrote a briefing sheet on how this could directly affect how the council operates, drawing heavily from briefings and seminars given by the Local Government Organisation, the Local Government International Bureau and other organisations.

The motion, and the information that went with it, was prepared by Raoul and was proposed by Councillor Ann Cox. It asked the Government to assess and consider the likely affects on public services before signing up to GATS.

One thing that we are still waiting for is for Sue Essex AM to follow up on the statement she made at our National Assembly Election Hustings earlier in the year. She agreed that the National Assembly should start an investigation into the effect that GATS would have on the Assembly's powers. This hasn't happened yet so we have reminded her, and won't stop until we have an answer.

GM tractors and trolleys demonstration

Members of Cardiff Friends of the Earth joined members of other Friends of the Earth in the south Wales area in travelling to London on 13 October. We met a lively and colourful procession of anti-GM protesters near Bedford Square, and adorned a shopping trolley with organic food and messages of opposition we collected from members of the public during the summer. Five tractors and a samba band led the well-attended parade. The demonstration was the culmination of a year of lobbying and awareness-raising actions. We now feel that we have done our bit to keep GM crops from being commercially grown in the UK - at least for another year.

Get your (Recycling) Act together

The Household Waste Recycling Bill, which was originally drafted by Friends of the Earth and taken through parliament by Joan Ruddock MP, has completed all it's parliamentary stages and has became law. The new Law requires that every household to get a separate collection of at least two recyclable materials by 2010. Thank you to everyone who contacted MPs and local councillors about this. We now need to persuade councils to start recycling as many materials as possible, saving valuable resources, energy, and landfill space.