Newport 21 – Chairman’s Report for the year July 2014 – June 2015
The past year has seen Newport 21 steadily continue to reach more people, strengthen our role in the town, and develop new projects:
1. Green Drinks is our entry point, our open door, our warm welcome, greatly facilitated by all the work Rose Jenks does as co-ordinator. We are also hugely grateful to Paul Quinn and his staff at The Pheasant for use of The Lodge and the legendary chip butties. Our programme this year has ranged as widely as ever – from the strictly local, with Daphne Rogers and Jane Styles of Newport’s energetic Heart of England in Bloom group; Eric Ashcroft’s encyclopaedic knowledge of our water supply and drainage systems; Jane Moore and Simonie Fowler’s invitation to experience the triumphs and trials of small-holding; to the Far East, with Robin and Joanna Spencer’s tales of their trip to China; and Anne Harding bringing us the good news of a project producing fairly traded palm oil in Ghana. Wider issues have stretched our minds with Simon Edwards educating us on pesticides; Michael Heasman taking us through questions of Food Security; and Jim Waterson scaring us on the many threats to Trees. We are grateful to Harper Adams University for such a rich supply of distinguished speakers willing to share their expertise with us – and also to Keele University, from where John Hegarty came to introduce us to the fascinating concept of Eco-Psychology. Anni Kelsey brought pictures, books and enthusiasm for perennial food plants, and Christmas came early in December with another entertaining (and at times completely baffling) Great Green Christmas Quiz. This is an impressively varied, high quality programme which draws between ten and twenty-five people each month, and has an email list of over a hundred contacts.
2. Re-use and Recycling – Pass It On was Newport 21’s first swap shop event, staged in March at the Cosy Hall, ably headed up by Susanne Bearblock with a hard-working team. This was made possible by a grant from Telford and Wrekin Council, obtained by Councillor Peter Scott, to whom we are extremely grateful. The morning was a great success as a pioneering event and two further events are planned for September and January. 58 people attended, over 45 kilograms of goods were re-housed, over 100 items were given new value by new owners, being reused and saved from landfill, and several bags of surplus goods were donated to charity shops in Newport. Some members of our group also visited Veolia’s amazing recycling centre at Four Ashes, which is where our kerbside collections go, and Susanne and Tim Pryce have joined a Newport Town Council working group looking at establishing a sustainable recycling centre in the town.
3. Trees – We now have a small group working on a new Tree Survey for Newport. John Jenks is developing an interactive map (based on information obtained from T&W by Simon Cooper, Newport’s tree warden) on which findings can be recorded. This is soon to be piloted, and we hope gradually to involve other community groups in covering the whole town, making the finished survey available to influence future planning. Newport 21 has also been consulted by the Town Council’s Leisure & Environmental Services Committee for our views on their plans for the Lower Bar flower bed.
4. Planning – Cath Edwards and Charles Worth continue to represent our group on the Newport Neighbourhood Development Planning steering group and the Newport Regeneration Partnership. In the former, progress is slow but our work on walking the town’s green spaces is likely to form a central part of the plan. We continue to support the Save Newport Campaign’s tireless efforts to restrain unlimited and inappropriate development and congratulate them on the withdrawal of the Sainsbury superstore plans. But the struggle continues.
5. Other activities:
· We congratulate Cath on her vigorous campaign as prospective parliamentary candidate for the Green Party for The Wrekin constituency, and Tim Pryce for his co-option on to Newport Town Council
· We are grateful to Tim for taking on the running of our website and managing publicity for our Pass It On events and other activities
· We are sad that those of us who set up Wrekin Community Solar reluctantly wound up the initiative after trying unsuccessfully for two years to set up a local community renewable energy project
· Cath gave a presentation on fracking at a well-received meeting of Newport Civic Society
· We maintain links with other environmental groups in Shropshire and supported an evening in Wellington organised by Green Shropshire Exchange where Richard Priestley spoke on ‘Goodbye Oil – Hello Sunshine!’
· Christmas may have come early for Green Drinks but for the Newport 21 working group it comes a bit later each year – we met at The Lion in Edgmond for an enjoyable gathering arranged by Peter Barlow in April.
Newport 21 is steadily building its base locally – establishing Pass It On as a regular event in the town; strengthening protection of our trees and green spaces; making our voice heard where plans and decisions are made; raising awareness of local and global issues through our monthly Green Drinks discussions. On the wider scene we are increasingly aware of the urgency of addressing our global climate crisis. As individuals many of us are active and committed campaigners – as the crucial UN Paris Climate Meeting in December draws near maybe our challenge is to find ways of taking action as a group locally to press our leaders to put people and planet first.