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Great British Bee Count app available
Thu 17 May 2018

Join Friends of the Earth's bee survey from 17 May to 30 June 2018, and discover how to help bumblebees and solitary bees this summer.

The free app will help you identify and record different species. You'll also get a handy bee-friendly plant guide, and tips for creating pollinator habitats.

The Great British Bee Count is supported by Buglife and sponsored by Ecotalk, a new mobile service powered by green energy, which uses your money to buy land to give back to nature.

Wed 2 May 2018

this is the text of the press release sent out after the environmental hustings held last friday at RISC. a longer report will be on the resources part of the website later today.


Local Elections 2018 - Environmental Question Time

Greater Reading Environmental Network ran an ‘Environmental Hustings’ on Friday April 27th. Councillors Tony Page (Labour), Clare Grasshoff (Conservative), Ricky Duveen (Liberal Democrat) and Rob White (Green) discussed the topic “How do you propose to deliver substantial improvement to traffic congestion and hence air quality, and what is the timetable?”

Rob White said policies should reduce both the need for journeys and the use of cars. He suggested providing more local facilities to reduce need to travel; promoting home working; a work place parking levy; an ultra-low emission zone; a joined up cycle network; ensuring design of walkways into new developments and cheaper public transport.

Ricky Duveen was in favour of a low emission zone charging vehicles to enter the town centre; a 20 mph speed limit on residential roads to improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians as well as reducing emissions. He said Tilehurst Road was extremely dangerous for cyclists.

Clare Grasshoff wanted bus lane improvements from the North of the Thames. She saw the need to target HGVs travelling through the town and thought a low emission zone would be effective. She wanted better use of smart traffic lights to manage congestion.

Tony Page said central government had cut Reading’s funding and its narrow streets made it hard to increase capacity. Greater Reading is a growth area for the future with major international companies locating in the town as well as new housing. It was important to plan for a non-car system to get people in and out of the town.People will not leave their cars at home or in Park and Ride areas unless good public transport is available. A car parking review will take place next year that will consider the potential of more Park and Ride schemes.

The discussion, and supplementary questions from the floor, centred on the controversial East Reading Mass Rapid Transit scheme (MRT) for public transport, cyclists and pedestrians along the Thames. A new consultation on a revised scheme should start in a few weeks and all residents will be invited to make their comments. It will be considered by Reading’s Planning Committee at the end of May.

Rob White and Ricky Duveen were against this scheme (as were most of the audience) because of the loss of habitat, the impact on the Thameside views and the loss of public open space for the residents of Newtown.

Tony Page and Clare Grasshoff supported the scheme and do not see any alternative. Tony Page said it is not possible to put bus lanes into the eastern approach along the A4 without losing front gardens or a chunk of Palmer Park, church and school, and the rail bridge would be a pinch point.

A heated discussion followed concerning the accuracy of the business plan for the MRT and whether this included an estimate of the value of environmental services. There were also disagreements about the number of trees to be felled and whether one for one replacement was reasonable when many years’ growth was lost.

Other questions from the floor concerning transport and air quality were a request for the council to ring-fence a proportion of the transport budget for cycleway improvements; more actions to take place under the Reading Air Quality Action Plan; and charging points for electric vehicles at home and work.

The Council’s ‘idling campaign’ to reduce the number of vehicles running their engines whilst at a standstill was discussed. The Council will be enforcing an upgrade to taxi engines to current EU emission standards and has the power to issue fines for idling, but has a very small enforcement team and idling is not their priority. Suggestions were made to train traffic wardens to perform this role and erect traffic signs warning that fines could be issued.

Women’s Equality Party candidate Wendy Thomson asked how local consumption of plastic could be reduced. All panellists agreed with increased reuse of plastics and the establishment of water refill stations with Clare Grasshoff saying that Whitbread were already on board for their own premises including Costa and Premier Inn. Discussions were required with Thames Water.

Call for action at local elections
Wed 28 March 2018

At Reading FoE’s ‘local transport issues and options’ meeting last week it was suggested we should try to make local transport an issue in the May 3rd local elections.
This sort of initiative might be better coming from GREN rather than Reading FoE, and it may be good to raise issues other than transport, although need to keep some focus to be effective ... certainly want to avoid duplication of effort and to get wide participation.

  • One idea was to draft a short list of questions to put to candidates(?) or voters (?) – collate responses and then publicise their answers via media. Manchester FoE did a candidate survey last year – see link below – and say that they wouldn’t ask so many questions if they did it again!
  •  Another possibility is to draft questions on environmental issues, and publicise them via usual channels and media, asking supporters to put them to candidates at all opportunities ... and to write to papers etc. ourselves saying ‘this is what candidates need to tell voters’ ... and not bother about trying to collate responses.

Aim not necessarily to influence who is elected but to get politicians thinking, perhaps to change their minds, and get publicity.
Difficulty with collating responses to questions for candidates is to get a large enough response to make it of interest to media, and to impress candidates.
Also difficult to phrase questions to get useful answers .
Possible topic areas for questions:

  • Transport: highlight high levels and costs of congestion ... what can be done to reduce traffic in town very soon?
  • Air Quality: seek support for Low Emission Zone to be introduced soon.
  • Plastics are a current issue – one suggested question is to seek support for a Plastics Pledge such as
  • Pollinator Plan for local authority
  • Reading: progress with review and update of Biodiversity Action Plan 2005-2015
  • Wokingham: progress with review and update of Sustainable Environment Strategy Action Plan 2010 - 2013

Comments please!