FOREST OF DEAN ADVOCATE REPORT: 1/5/16 – 15/6/16

[As well as publishing this on my blog I’ve also sent it as an email to subscribers and also my general email list. Everyone’s welcome to forward this email and/or blog link… Some may be thinking, Forest of Dean Advocate, what is this about? See the 2-minute-long video here  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqWxrVDq8C8 and/or read more here https://forestadvocate.wordpress.com/

In short I have set myself up as an advocate for maintaining and protecting our public Forest land in the Forest of Dean, and am asking if people can afford to and think it’s a worthy cause, if they will fund me either by monthly direct debit Sort code: 80-46-35
Account number: 01356521
or a £5 Paypal button (I get £4.63, Paypal gets 37p) on the above blog page. I will cap subscriptions at the Living Wage rate, should I reach that amount]

 

 

For those who have already got involved….

Thanks to everyone who has subscribed to give me an ongoing income for Fthe constant campaigning work I do (some of it with other people/ groups) to keep our Forest of Dean public and frack-free. Since I launched this initiative in early May – with massive thanks to Andy Squiff for making the video – I have now raised a total of £272.14 per month from 20 direct debit subscribers and 24 via Paypal (total of 44 people).

ACTIVITIES UNDERTAKEN MAY/JUNE

General research as well as keeping up with the national and international news regarding fracking and land privatisation is a constant, and this I do daily – as well as social media work and corresponding via email, letter and phone, and having face-to-face discussions and meetings.

Here’s a summary of the more important campaign activities for this period:

  • MEETING THE GASMEN: Four of us were invited by Gloucestershire Police to meet with would-be gas explorers South Western Energy at the county police HQ. It was a valuable meeting, but it also showed us they mean business – if the Government actually issues the Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences they were offered in December 2015. A full report of that meeting can be read here: https://owenadamssubjectobject.wordpress.com/report-meeting-between-frack-off-our-forest-and-south-western-energy/
  • NATIONAL DEMONSTRATION: I travelled up with fellow south-west anti-fracking campaigners on a minibus organised by Frack Free Somerset to a national demonstration at Northallerton in North Yorkshire. It was useful to network with other campaigners, including those facing the same company (South Western Energy) as well as being able to send out a message of solidarity from Frack Off Our Forest, and see the range of people out there actively opposing fracking – from every walk of life. Unfortunately the 0.8% who backed the fracking planning application by Third Energy (which is 97% owned by Barclays Bank) in Ryedale got their way a few days after the demo (itself like a cross between a tea party, rally and carnival) which unless stopped will fire the starting gun for fracking in the UK since the first, abortive, attempt in Lancashire in 2011 (which was suspended after causing earthquakes). Legal challenges are currently being pursued by Friends of the Earth and others against this planning decision.
  • ORGANISING WITH FOREST ANTI-FRACKING ACTIVISTS: I set up an organising meeting at the Fountain Inn in Parkend to discuss with fellow activists, including those who’d done the social survey in Parkend, ideas for events and campaigning. The one definite thing to come out of the meeting was an event for all the community to celebrate and confirm the survey result, also at the Fountain, set up on the afternoon of July 2nd. Posters/ flyers are currently being put around the village.
  • FLYING THE FLAG AND HIKING AGAINST FRACKING: I set out with a Frack Off Our Forest flag (made by my daughter and partner) on a series of awareness-raising daily walks from Cinderford to Chepstow, Monmouth and Gloucester… estimated about 7 to 10 miles a day. Five of us set out from Cinderford to Parkend on the Gloucestershire Way, and the second day two of us walked from Parkend to Woolaston. I missed the third day (Woolaston to Chepstow), but then walked the Chepstow-Monmouth stretch Offa’s Dyke Path – on two days solo, but met with supporters en route, and did Sedbury to Tintern with Sid Phelps. Following the most gruelling – but still fantastic – walk, from Monmouth to Speculation (nr Cannop) undertaken by four of us (two who finished, we reckon we ended up doing over 10 miles as lack of signage  in Highmeadow Wood and the bit between Bicknor and Edge End meant we went wrong a few times)…
    Sid continued the next 2 days of scheduled walks, from Speculation to Taynton along the Wysis Way (with the flag on the second day), but some of us will be walking the route on Thursday and Friday, with the last day heading from Taynton into the centre of Gloucester.
    Even when walking solo and hardly meeting anyone, it’s still been valuable to chat to all sorts of people about fracking, pass them leaflets and comics etc, and did not meet a single person who expressed support FOR fracking… the main downside for me has been getting bitten and stung by all sorts of flora and insects… but now the swelling in my left hand has abated, time to get back on the trail.
    The Woolaston to Chepstow stage I also missed I will also do one day soon.
  • HANDS OFF OUR FOREST MEETING: With other members of the HOOF (Hands Off Our Forest) steering group we had an off-the-record meeting with Forestry Commission England’s main man, and quizzed him about progress in achieving the aims of both HOOF and the Independent Panel on Forestry. It seems there has not been any progress but also no regress into attempted privatisation. A fellow FOOF campaigner contacted the Forestry Commission to ask about the FC’s potential role in allocating sites within our public forest for gas exploration (as we have been informed would be the case from the Government and South Western Energy). The Deputy Surveyor (the Forestry head in the Forest of Dean), Kevin Stannard, informed us no approaches have (yet?) been made by any gas explorers.

 

NEXT ACTIVITIES

Subject to there not being developments which require my urgent attention, these are the tasks I need to do as Forest Advocate in the next month and beyond…

  • WEBSITE: To sort out the Frack Off Our Forest website (www.frackoffourforest.org.uk) with the help of a local service provider and webmaster who wishes to remain anonymous, which includes transferring all relevant research materials from where they’ve currently been placed, by own blogsite (https://owenadamssubjectobject.wordpress.com/)
  • LEAFLET: To produce a new leaflet reflecting the latest situation
  • CAKE: To help organise and make a cake for the July 2nd Parkend afternoon event
  • PETITION: To do a full count of how many have signed the paper petition so far registering their objection to gas exploration (definitely more than 3,000) and also get more petition sheets printed and distributed to different outlets around the Forest and Wye Valley
  • WALKING: To complete the major anti-fracking walks and maybe organise others (perhaps shorter, more family-friendly circular walks, easier for more to join in)
  • SOLIDARITY: To try and support Lancashire campaigner Tina Rothery in Blackpool Law Courts on June 24, who is being charged spurious “eviction” fees by frackers Cuadrilla… which she/we will not pay!
  •  COUNCIL: To continue communicating with members of Forest of Dean District Council to aid the scrutiny committee’s Fracking Task Group, and also with planning experts on ideas on how to get precautionary measures and local policies on fracking/ gas exploration contained in the Local Plan.
  • FOLLOW UP OTHER IDEAS: In order to keep the anti-fracking campaign’s momentum going until the threat is removed (which could be tomorrow, could be more than five years), we both need to keep people on board for when/if mass help and support will be crucial and also communicate developments and have fun too with creative events. One idea, for instance – does anyone have the means/ contacts/ creative ability to dress up a carnival float? Another thing we need is a legal expert to help us interpret some old laws.
  • HOOF: To consider with fellow HOOF steering group members our response to the apparent stagnation regarding reforming the management of the Public Forest Station so it is more publicly accountable and the land legally protected against further erosion by privatisation.

 

 

 

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