OUR MP Mark Jenkinson has hit out at the elderly being robbed of free TV licences for the over-75s (Times & Star, August 20). As usual his memory is either suspect or selective.

Let me take him back to when governments took direct responsibility for the problems of the old and vulnerable. When New Labour took power in 1997, when our MP was probably a wee bairn, it had many faults but looking after the weak was not one of them.

Free TV licences, free bus passes and cold winter payments were introduced. Iraq apart, they were far more competent than this shower Mr Jenkinson represents.

This present situation of the free TV licences is firmly at the door of the Conservatives, who made a pre-election pledge to honour the present situation until 2021. As usual they broke this promise and are now trying to blame the BBC.

So quite apart from our MP’s misplaced outrage, could he please stop such shoddy representation of the facts for the hopefully limited time in which he’ll be representing us.

Finally Boris Johnson states that parents have a moral duty to send their kids to school. Why should parents tolerate a lecture on morals from a man who would shame a tom cat?



Burning issue

I RECEIVED a letter recently from Mark Jenkinson prompted by my recent letter in the Times & Star. Here are details from the response I have sent to him.

The response you received on August 11 from environment minister Rebecca Pow seems clearly to have been authored by a civil servant, so what follows is a challenge to her advisers rather than directed at her personally.

The response starts with a pre-emptive attempt to blind with science by making reference to the fact that the “domestic burning (of solid fuels) is the single largest contributor to our national emissions of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) (which) emits more PM2.5 than industrial combustion and transport combined.”

I have no dispute with either the science or the statistics. My concern has been sidestepped. This was that if the government intends to reduce the level of these fine particulates from the atmosphere, it is not only inconsistent to focus on emissions from domestic sources alone, but is also perverse to simultaneously offer incentives to industries to burn solid fuels – including timber – over and above the quantities they need to meet their primary industrial objectives and instead to provide electrical energy to the National Grid. Thus the response reinforces rather than refutes my allegation that there is no joined-up thinking within government on this matter.

The letter goes on that “industrial facilities, such as the Iggesund site at Workington, are regulated by the Environment Agency, and are already required to have environmental permits, and to meet limits on allowable emissions in order to operate.”

I note the old ‘not my responsibility shuffle’ being played out. The ministerial response you have secured is from Defra, but it is telling both me and you that it is the Environment Agency that is responsible. So why did the Environment Agency not draft the minister’s reply? Because it is an agency and not a government department nominally under ministerial control. Blurred lines invariably lead to no meaningful accountability.

I also note that the effectiveness of the permits system is qualified by its reliance on and accommodation of “best available techniques”. What happens if the best available techniques seeking emissions control are not very effective, or just plain token? The answer is that they are the best available and that the process is therefore permitted, even if it continues to contribute to unhealthy air quality and climate change.

On the unacceptable impact on communities along the A596 of HGVs travelling to Workington when an alternative route via the A595/A66 is available which impacts on far fewer people between Thursby and Workington.

I chaired an action group on this during much of my time as an opposition Allerdale councillor. As a planner by qualification and a researcher by profession I also collated most of the evidences.

The original planning application submitted by Iggesund over 10 years ago was to replace its old power system with one burning a waste bi-product of its fibreboard manufacturing process, which itself relies on timber as its source of material. This required the importation of just over 200,000 tonnes of timber materials every year, with around 35,000 tonnes of waste bi-products being burned for energy.

The Environmental Impact Assessment conducted by Cumbria County Council in support of the application considered by Allerdale Council assumed without meaningful evidence that much of the materials required would be imported via the Port of Workington, with the remainder arriving by HGVs along the A596. Inexplicably, the community and highways impact assessment was scoped only as far north of the site as Maryport, as if the Flimby Forest Fairy would miraculously provide in inexhaustible supply of timber to within just the last few miles of the proposed plant – impacts on the vast majority of the A596 route were thereby simply never considered. The option of bringing supplies in via the A595 and A66 was pre-emptively discounted due to the highway limitations posed at Ramsay Brow.

The senior highways officer at the county council did accept that in hindsight the Environmental Impact Assessment had not been scoped adequately. My contention is that experts are employed precisely because they are supposed to possess foresight, otherwise what added value does their ‘expertise’ bring to the table?

In the event, after planning approval was given the Iggesund plant began to import around 650,000 tonnes of timber and biomass to its site per annum – around 200,000 tonnes to be processed as fibreboard with the overwhelming majority of 450,000 to be burned to provide electricity to the National Grid and thereby provide the company with an additional income stream. And as site storage space was originally scoped to handle just over 200,000 tonnes of materials per annum, it should be no surprise that the vast majority of deliveries now arrive ‘just in time’ on the back of an estimated 40,000 HGV journeys per annum travelling backwards and forwards along a totally unsuitable but ‘permitted’ A596.

I believe that your ambition to improve the junction at Ramsay Brow will come to nothing – I have discussed this with both Sue Hayman and her predecessor Tony Cunningham when they were MPs for Workington. There is not enough space at Ramsay Brow to build a roundabout or other significantly-better junction, and the gradient will continue to present a massive obstacle regardless. To overcome this the only feasible alternative would be to create a bypass in a graded cutting from the A66 Stainburn and Great Clifton Bypass from its junction with Stainburn Road, taking it north through parkland around Workington Hall and joining the A596 either before Workington Bridge/Northside Road if not taking it even further north and directly towards Northside itself.

There is a much simpler overarching solution which also ticks government’s various policy boxes. This is for Government to withdraw subsidies encouraging the burning of wet timber and biomass to produce electricity for the National Grid.

Without those incentives two-thirds of the materials being transported to Iggesund would cease to flow, thereby easing traffic along the A596 between Thursby and Northside, Workington.

There would be less pollution both as a result of reducing the burning of timber and biomass, as well as from the diesel engines of HGVs needed to transport those materials.

And you may find that as MP you avoid needing to argue for a new junction at Ramsay Brow, or even more problematically the building of a new bypass through cherished parkland – imagine the stick you would get in Workington for that.



Thank you for caring

I recently spent time in the NHS Trust West Cumberland Hospital after suffering a TIA attack. I had called 999 and then two paramedics arrived at my home before I was rushed to the WCH.

The staff and nurses work as a team and are so professional, understanding and caring.

It makes you realise that in this time of crisis, the pressure that all hospitals must be going through yet are all working so hard.

I was then transferred to another ward where the staff and nurses worked exactly the same, which was great to see as a patient.

The treatment I received on both wards was terrific, on-going and rewarding, and I would like to say a big thank you to them all.

It just remains for me to remind Boris, as he has also cause to remember his stay in hospital, to please pour money into the NHS. It is worth every penny.