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Co-ordinator's Report for 2004-5

2004-5 was another busy year for our Group and the General Election enabled us to draw attention to a number of environmental issues. We have gained some new members this year and must extend a special welcome to a second set of 'Hardings' - Jerry and Val whom we hope will take as much of an active role in the group as Tony and Christine, and Lesley Collins who is already proving to be an invaluable contributor to our committee meetings. We were sorry to lose Becca Lush who has 'gone south' to run the anti roads network campaign but her frequent media appearances enable us to chart her progress and it is clear that she remains as active as ever.  Once again, I have to thank all the officers who work so hard in the Group and give me such tremendous support and I am really grateful that, with one exception, they are prepared to continue for yet another year. Judy Hampshire is, sadly, standing down as our membership secretary but we all thank her for the stalwart work she has done in this position over the last few years. Lisa Kopper whom many of you will know as the 'Acton Court' lady is taking her place! We welcome her to the post and hope that, with her drive, we can run an invigorating membership campaign next year.

The main features of our activities can be summarized as follows:

  • The Group held 19 regular committee meetings this year in members' homes with attendance varying from 2 to 16. There were three social meetings during the year: a Christmas Meal at the Globe Inn, Frampton Cotterell; in June, a visit to the Green Centre near Stroud, followed by a pub meal and our usual summer BBQ in August. Our social events continue to be very popular and are an excellent way to meet fellow members in a relaxed, convivial setting. With thanks again to Jon, we published four newsletters in the course of year which were distributed to all our members, South Gloucestershire libraries, other local FoE Groups and local MPs and Councillors. As always, these prove to be a very good way of getting our message out to a wider audience. The website (again, thanks to Jon) also attracts lots of interest and is another really good way of publicizing our activities. As always, we are very happy to receive material from any of our members for either the newsletter or website - just contact Jon.
  • We held three special open events during the year: a biofuels talk by Dr Stuart Shales from the University of The West of England in February which attracted a great deal of interest and lively discussion, a 'Save Our Green Belt' meeting in March when Steve Webb and local councilors were asked to address our concerns about the strategic plan for our area - specifically the potential building of thousands of new homes with the resulting detrimental impact on our environment. This event was held jointly with CPRE and was very well attended - showing the widespread concern from the general public about the potential loss of our green belt. This campaign will continue to be a major focus of our attention in 2005/6. The third event was a more lighthearted and very popular 'Any Environmental Questions' day in April when the South Gloucestershire electoral candidates formed a panel to respond to environmental questions fielded by the audience. Such open meetings provide us with an opportunity to publicise FoE aims and attract more members to our local group and we always try to ensure that we have merchandise and information stalls available. However, it is not always easy to find people willing to man the stalls and we are still hoping to find a local group member who would like to 'step up' and help to run our stalls for us.
  • Members attended numerous environmentally related meetings, either in an individual capacity or representing the Group. These included the LA 21 Forum, the Frome Vale area Forum, the Environmental Link Group, Avon Wildlife Trust, the South Gloucestershire Waste Management Forum, Oldbury Power Station Decommissioning briefings, the Winterbourne Medieval Barn Project and Marinet.  Alan Pinder, as well as being an indefatigable secretary for our Group, now represents us on the West of England Planning Transport and Environment Group, a Committee of the West of England Partnership and the Oldbury Site Stakeholders Group. This represents a significant shift for us, from outsider campaigning towards being closely involved with discussions in decision-making forums.
  • The Group contributed or responded to a number of national and local consultative documents and petitions, including the West of England Planning vision, Community Strategy and the Transport Plan. We took part in the National anti-GM 'Scarecrow' rally at the Houses of Parliament in February, which provided an excellent photo opportunity for members of the group with our MP - Steve Webb - and our own 'scarecrow'.
  • Locally, we started a campaign to get our Council to sign the European petition to give Councils power to declare themselves GM-free areas and have supported Bristol FoE in their campaign to stop further expansion of Bristol airport - another issue that is likely to remain a hot topic this coming year. Edward Courtney has, once again, proved to be a tireless campaigner in favour of wind power and against any further expansion of nuclear power in our area. Several members attended the CoRWM meeting in May on nuclear waste disposal, which turned out to be very well attended and very lively.
  • We ran a couple of stalls, in Chipping Sodbury and in Thornbury in the early part of the year to promote 'green electricity' and to try and fulfill our pledge, as part of the National Campaign, to persuade at least 50 people to switch to a green energy supplier. We managed to achieve our target and the stalls proved to be a great success, helped in no small part because we were able, thanks to the Council, to distribute free, low-energy light bulbs! Unfortunately, we chose the coldest, wettest day of the year for the Thornbury event and discovered, to our cost, that our gazebo was not waterproof.
  • We have continued to support South Gloucestershire Council's 'reduce, reuse and recycle' waste initiatives and have attended several consultation meetings on the SW Regional Waste Strategy and local waste strategies. We were particularly successful in getting the possibility of kerbside plastics collection back on the Council's agenda and remain hopeful that this will soon become a reality for our region, together with batteries and other important categories of waste material.

I believe that the coming year will pose special challenges and opportunities for us. The question of climate change and global warming is now becoming a critical topic and we need to support the National FoE 'Big Ask' campaign which aims to commit the Government to a 3% year on year reduction in CO2 emissions. This is potentially the single biggest environmental issue facing us and we need to get the message across that everyone will be affected but that each of us CAN make a difference. Every other environmental issue, which concerns us here in South Gloucestershire, including sustainable energy, local, housing and transport plans, can be embraced by this major Climate Change initiative.  I really hope that all of you - our members - will embrace this campaign and ensure that our South Gloucestershire branch really makes a difference in the coming year.

Thank you again for all your support in 2004/5 and remember that we cannot exist without you!

Denise Thompson

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