An organisation connected to the English Defence League, known as ‘The UK Freedom Movement,” is planning events across the country to protest against the Covid-19 restrictions. On Thursday, Jayda Fransen, a former leader of the anti-Muslim group Britain First, publicised a month old YouTube channel called “The British Freedom Movement.” Fransen is the sole director of a company created on the 30th April called Freedom Movement Ltd.
As part of the nationwide protest, events are planned to begin at 12 noon tomorrow Saturday 16th May on Woodhouse Moor and Middleton Park. Posters invite people to bring a picnic and music, and to say “no” to the Coronavirus Bill.
The police have said that they will break up the anti-lockdown protests amidst warnings that the events could be exploited by the far right.
The gatherings would contravene the government’s advice on social distancing to limit the spread of coronavirus. The Coronavirus Bill, officially known as the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020, states that the police have the power to fine people £100 for refusing to follow the regulations. The fine doubles to £200 for a second and subsequent offences, to a maximum of £3,200.
You can read more about the people behind the protests in this Guardian article.
Blocked drains, drains covered in tarmac, and damaged drains have all contributed to the marshy conditions which have become standard on Woodhouse Moor. Beneath the Moor are five springs which used to make the park very wet. Drains were laid in the 1860s to take away this spring water and to leave the Moor dry. All went well for over a hundred years. Then the council started to allow heavy lorries onto the park. These damaged the fragile clay drains laid by the Victorians. Contractors laid tarmac on top of the original concrete paths, at the same time, covering over many of the original drains. As a result of these mistakes, a large pond appeared for the first time about fifteen years ago at the end of the flat area of the main Moor nearest to the former Grammar School. Then two years ago, a second pond appeared very close to the one that appeared fifteen years ago. The latest pond is adjacent to the grass verge that borders Woodhouse Lane.
This year, because of work taking place at Elland Road, the huge St Valentine’s Fair, which normally takes place at Elland Road, was relocated to Woodhouse Moor. Whilst Cinder Moor was being used to stage this year’s St Valentine’s Fair, the lower half of Monument Moor was being used to house the stall holders’ caravans. This was labelled “Car Park A.” Meanwhile, the upper half of Monument Moor was used by car borne visitors to the fair. Their car park was labelled “Car Park B.” Cinder Moor was scalped in preparation for the arrival of the fair. This means that soil and grass was removed from its flat surface. It appears that the upper half of Monument Moor was also scalped. The fair without its lights, was not pretty to behold. I felt sorry for the stall holders. The weather has not been kind to them. The entire area was a sea of mud.
The government has announced that the burning of wet wood in England is to be phased out by 2023. Whilst this will mostly affect people who use wood burning stoves, it is also likely to put an end to Leeds City Council’s practice of staging huge public bonfires on public parks every 5th November. Currently, these bonfires are put together using damp pallet wood and other waste wood. When such wood is burnt, it creates a great deal of smoke and harmful PM2.5 particulate matter. John Maingay of the British Heart Foundation said: “Wood and coal burning accounts for 40% of harmful levels of background PM2.5 in the UK, and our research has shown that toxic PM2.5 can enter the bloodstream and damage our heart and circulatory system. Phasing out sales of coal and wet wood is a vital first step towards protecting the nation’s health from toxic air … however, we must not stop there. Air pollution is a major public health challenge, and it requires an urgent and bold response.”
The details of the government’s plans are contained in this Guardian article.
Contrary to what you might expect, the fact that the former Hyde Park and Woodhouse ward has a death rate from respiratory disease three times the Leeds average, does not make Councillor Mulherin want to do something to improve the health of the residents of the former ward. The annual bonfire on Woodhouse Moor, the scalping of Cinder Moor to double its car parking capacity, and the cutting down of mature trees bordering Woodhouse Lane that would be necessitated by Connecting Leeds, are not acts of God. They are acts of Leeds City Council employees and they could be stopped if Councillor Mulherin had the will and determination to stop them.
As well as emailing the three Headingley and Hyde Park councillors to ask their approval for scalping Cinder Moor, officers at Parks and Countryside will have obtained the approval of Councillor Mohammed Rafique. Councillor Rafique is the Executive Member with responsibility for the Environment and Active Lifestyles. This portfolio includes Parks and Countryside. Even though Councillor Rafique is responsible for protecting the environment, this does not extend to protecting the environment on Woodhouse Moor. In addition to allowing the scalping of Cinder Moor, he is quite content to allow the annual bonfire to go ahead, despite the appalling air quality and much higher than average death rate in the surrounding area. The reasons he gives for his sanguine attitude to the bonfire are (1) it’s popular, and (2) it helps to prevent anti social behaviour elsewhere.
Whilst the main Moor is in Little London and Woodhouse ward, Cinder Moor and Monument Moor are in Headingley and Hyde Park ward. This is why responsibility for the scalping of Cinder Moor rests with the Headingley councillors pictured above. All three of them will have been emailed by officers at Parks and Countryside about the proposal, prior to giving it their approval. In making their decision, it’s unlikely they took into account the council’s own figures which show that the former Hyde Park and Woodhouse ward, which comprised the Moor and the areas surrounding the Moor, had a death rate from respiratory disease three times the Leeds average. But then how can we expect councillors whose primary interest is Headingley, to know details such as this about neighbouring Hyde Park and Woodhouse.
Three years ago, Headingley and Hyde Park councillor Jonathan Pryor was keen to restore Cinder Moor to grass so that the youth of the surrounding area could have somewhere to play sport on. He calculated that there was £400k available to spend on the Moor and that in addition to restoring Cinder Moor, the money could be used to replace missing trees, repair tarmac paths etc. Three years on and nothing has been done. What’s changed? Why has Councillor Pryor lost interest in a project that once seemed so dear to his heart? What’s changed is that Councillor Pryor was promoted to the council’s Executive Board, and now has much bigger fish to fry. His title is, “Executive Member for Learning, Skills and Employment.” And what about the £400k? Isn’t that still available to be spent on the Moor? Maybe some of it is. A good chunk though is likely to have been spent “scalping” Cinder Moor just before Christmas, so as to double its car parking capacity. Cinder Moor is in Cllr Pryor’s ward of Headingley and Hyde Park. When he and his fellow councillors Neil Walshaw and Al Garthwaite agreed to the scalping of Cinder Moor, were they aware that the council’s own figures show that the death rate from respiratory disease in the surrounding area is three times the Leeds average? Were they also aware that the area is chronically short of sports fields, and that Cinder Moor was used as a sports field until 1953? I don’t know about the other two, but Cllr Pryor was aware. I know, because I told him more than three years ago.
According to an article published in today’s Guardian newspaper, almost a quarter of people in the UK are being exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution with potentially devastating health consequences. This finding comes from a study by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) which found that about 15 million people in the UK live in areas where average levels of PM2.5 – a tiny toxic particle that predominantly comes from vehicle emissions, wood burning and construction – exceeds guidelines set by the World Health Foundation. Exposure to PM2.5 has serious health implications, especially for children, increasing the likelihood of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Jacob West of the BHF said everyone has a role to play in demanding a healthier environment. “We are urging people to write to their MP to demand a change to the law. The more pressure we put on decision makers, the better our chances of cleaning up our air.” Perhaps we should pass this information on to Leeds City Council. Perhaps then, they would stop building car parks on public parks in deprived inner city areas.
An article in today’s Guardian newspaper refers to a study published yesterday which found that species which have evolved in tropical regions such Australia’s wet tropics, the Guinean forests of Western Africa and the Andes Mountains will come under increasing stress as the planet warms. Published in the journal Nature Climate Change, the study modelled global land and ocean temperatures and rainfall for the past 21,000 years.