Making up a number

I have recently discovered an old Express and Star clipping from 1997, as well as a letter from Sandwell council at the time concerning a letter that I wrote back then when it was intimated that the council were thinking of culling geese.

The upshot of all this is that the council did not do this at this time, but instead drew up a policy of controlled egg pricking based on a report carried out by officers.

Following the controversial cull in 2013/14 where several Sandwell council officers lied, (as well as lying in a freedom of information request to another individual about not lying!) I had asked for the original report from 1997 under a freedom of information act request, yet the then Head of Neighbourhoods, Adrian Scarrott, claimed that no copies remained. I always believed this to be another pack of lies and very convenient, as this report would no doubt have given an estimate of numbers of geese in Sandwell’s parks and open spaces as they then stood, which would have informed opinion or not of how their numbers had supposedly increased as the council claimed in their defence in 2014- or at least that would be a basis for a theory.

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This reply from Scarrott of 26th August 2015

What we have from the claimed 2013 report by the liar John Satchwell, is a number of 700 Canada geese in Sandwell’s parks, yet this figure appeared to vary between different letters and statements made and received at different times by numerous Sandwell council sources– i.e they were all invention. The fact that this alleged report was never minuted at any meeting nor apparently ever minuted as being discussed, and only became available after the infamous FOI that I put in always made me doubt whether any report had ever been written or approved at all, and the action of culling was entirely down to one officer’s own actions. We of course cannot believe anything that the fat odious and now thankfully deceased former leader of Sadwell council Darren Cooper said to be the truth as he was as wide with the truth as he was in girth.

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The report which went to the so called “scrutiny committee”, compiles by Scarrott

But this article from 1997 gives a clear reference to the number that Sandwell council were claiming to be present in 1997 at the time of their policy- and that number is “more than 700 Canada geese”!

This then provides clear evidence that in the intervening 16 year period between a policy that the council officers had appeared to have forgotten, and the ludicrous and heavily Natural England plagiarised Satchwell report, that Sandwell council’s own estimates of geese had in fact not gone up at all, but were the same or had gone down.

 

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From Express and Star 14/1/1997

We do not get which officers drew up this report or the verification of the cogence of evidence about the claims about footpaths and lakes being fouled. Of course they attempted the same thing after culling in 2013/14 and it didn’t stack up then.

Two former councillors are quoted in this article, Bill Archer and Jim Mckenzie. I have never heard of the latter, though it was not uncommon for Bill Archer to be quoted on just about anything at this time given the lack of Conservatives in this Labour dominated council. Mckenzie’s claims are garbage and unsubstantiated. I have no idea how he does not agree with the council officer figure, though like most amateur politicians, pet theories trump any scientific evidence- “the Satchwell way” it appears was rife back then too it seems. Of course, if this ex councillor was right, which he wasn’t, then that would make the situation even worse for this Labour controlled authority which culled on the basis of figures that were their own invention.

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The key figure about Canada goose numbers in Sandwell- from Sandwell council’s own report

I am aware that I made numerous points in a letter following this article, and another that had appeared on the front page of this paper. The letter from Stuart Gallacher, then director of Education and Community services states that the article in the paper was misinformed and that the council in fact would not be culling any birds but undertaking egg pricking. We have to take his claims at face value.

He did however enclose a copy of a Defra report on the subject of Canada goose control at the time, and I will look at this in an upcoming post in more depth as it is quite interesting.

 

 

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polluted thinking

Two recent press releases from The Environment agency offer a very contradictory response to issues of water pollution and subsequent prosecution of those responsible.

My dealings and experiences with this government quango, have shall we say over a considerable period of time been less than impressive to put it very politely. In fact you could say I find them about as useful and popular as a hard backed copy of The Da Vinci Code in an Oxfam shop.

Previous gems relating to the notorious chemical dump at rattlechain lagoon involved one “pollution/prevention control” officer telling me that phosphorus wasn’t toxic- as “I’m a scientist, I did A level chemistry” – (not appearing to know the difference between elemental white phosphorus and total phosphorus!) His line manager added that phosphine was “marsh gas” ,whilst adding that his major at university had been zoology. 😯

Time and time again as a wildfowl bird rescuer I have dutifully rang the 0800 807060 incident number to report chemical pollution of watercourses, in an effort to try to prevent and save birds from being affected by the contaminants, whereby you would hope that timely intervention would prevent such incidents, and also save volunteers and charities the task of having to deal with a situation of rescuing them at a later date. Time and time again, I have been let down, and so have the birds.

One example concerned the firm Masefield Epson Limited in Tipton. Their environmental release onto a canal was one of the few that I have reported that the EA actually traced, but the recording of the fact that a family of swans apart from the surviving female was wiped out by their chemicals was not in the prosecution.

The EA really only appear to care about fish deaths- it’s where they make their money from rod licence sales, but you’d hope that their thinking wouldn’t be so shallow. Unfortunately it is.

The first press report quotes chair of the EA, Emma Howard Boyd and details the annual state of water report from the EA which they published at the same time. I will look at this in more detail below, but the quote from Ms Boyd is what you would want to see from an organisation claiming to want to be “creating a better place”. You would hope that this place would be one where polluting companies- especially multi million pound for profit water companies were punished every time for environmental pollution that they caused.

“Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, said:

“Water quality is better than at any time since the Industrial Revolution thanks to tougher regulation and years of hard work by the Environment Agency and others.

But there are still far too many serious pollution incidents which damage the local environment, threaten wildlife and, in the worst cases, put the public at risk.

I would like to see fines made proportionate to the turnover of the company and for the courts to apply these penalties consistently. Anything less is no deterrent.” “

The second press release therefore comes across as being rather odd in relation to the above line. This concerns the Environment agency effectively removing themselves and the polluter from the court system, and instead introducing an “Environmental undertaking” scheme, whereby the polluter can offer up some cash to restore the environmental damage which they created.

Personally I have great problems with this, particularly when the polluter has a dire environmental record, and can be seen to be somehow getting good PR for themselves by bunging gratefully receiving “charities” with a few quid. “The polluter pays principle” may be being met, but the way in which it is decided , and by whom in the EA gives cause for concern. Who decides to prosecute, and on what basis? Who decides which charities benefit, and are the top table charities the only ones likely to ever receive any money?

This article reports that  the polluter United utilities, a water company paying “£155,000 in charitable donations”. The EUs were offered to the Environment Agency after the company admitted causing sewage to pollute two watercourses in the summer of 2016.

I have no idea how the ramblers association connect themselves with water pollution , or how they make the EA approved charitable list, if there even is one. It concerns me that some charities here will be more equal than others in terms of receiving cash- particularly the more established well known ones, or how are we to know what connections the polluters have with these charities, or even the EA officials making the decisions?

United Utilities to put it mildly and if you’ll excuse the pun have a shit record for water pollution and being fined and prosecuted by the environment agency.

This story reveals how they pumped seven million litres of raw sewage into the Duddon estuary and were fined £750,000 in 2015 by the EA.

This story deals with how they were fined £666,000 in September of last year , by The EA for polluting the River Medlock in Manchester with raw sewage.

Just a month later they were pumping out their shit from tap water causing a cryptosporidium issue. On this occasion they were fined £300,000.

They are also culpable to failing environmental permitting regulations resulting in hefty fines.

TheEA officer in this last case is quoted “The case illustrates that the Environment Agency will not hesitate to take action where companies pollute the environment, especially where measures could have been put in place to avoid it.” 

In short this company who have also engaged in goose murder are a grubby shambles of an operation and persistent serial polluter of the environment and of water. Why should they get good PR for stumping up a miserly £150k when they are a £1.5 billion profit company?

The latest EA state of water report makes interesting reading, particularly on some themes which I have gone into before about the manner in which geese have at certain times been scapegoated for causing “environmental damage”.

DOWNLOAD THIS REPORT HERE.

The main findings are revealed below.

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 Thus we learn that agricultural and farming practices and the water industry are the main polluters and reason why river pollution is so bad- and nothing to do with wild birds and animals like geese.

One of the most interesting parts of the report concerns phosphorus. “The main cause of phosphorus in rivers are sewage effluent and run-off from agricultural land. “

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In context the ludicrous Defra report outlining why geese can be culled contains the following misnomer. Like the author of this report, “Dr” John Allen, it is a fucking joke.

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Perhaps Defra then, on the pure “scientific evidence”  should be issuing general licences in how farmers can be “humanely culled” to prevent such incidents from occurring. 😆 Unfortunately scientists are bought and paid to make up lies on behalf of economic interest lobby groups like the agricultural/farming industry.

The report also mentions chemicals entering rivers- from of course more economic interest lobbies like the pharmaceuticals industry- to which farming is heavily linked- particularly in the form of antibiotics.

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The pharmaceuticals industry along with fake “doctor” psychiatry is intent on hooking people on drugs and false hope.  They invent a so called mental health “illness” , then encourage people to “talk about stigmas” etc which no doubt has boosted sales of their human body malware enormously, especially with copious pious celebrity/political endorsements. But all of these happy pills are eventually going down the shitter, into the water and poisoning the environment- so before you are “depressed”, perhaps try getting something that others before the snowflake quack science of the late 2oth Century came along  and grasped, and that is

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Between the lines

Overhead power lines are ghastly things. Designed by man, there is ongoing and frequent debate about their links with cancer and human health and  incidents where they have killed people when falling down in high winds, as well as fatal accidents involving youngsters . But to wildfowl they are snares in the sky- particularly perilous when they cross nature reserves and bodies of open water that entice the wild birds to gather there.

My experience of power lines and birds started quite by accident when I saw a swan collide with some at Sheepwash Nature Reserve in Tipton. But for that I would probably never have become interested or involved in bird rescue or any other animal related activities- and there are some people that would wish that had happened. 😆

I knew this female swan by ring number- LBV and she had been nesting with her mate on a nearby canal. The worst thing about the collision was the horrendous snapping noise of the collision- amplified by a rising shhhhhhh sound of generation. But because of the landing she was still alive and had splashed into the water falling several metres.

Unfortunately it was three days before I found any contact details for any rescue organisation and by this time on rescue the injuries were too severe and the swan died.

It would turn out to be the first of many such similar events and the start of trying to get something done to stop it.

Firstly I need to explain about power lines and “towers” as those in the industry refer to them- electric pylons to the layman.

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Most towers have a unique number plate such as this one VT 24

The National Grid Company control the major towers in the UK- and they own the ones that cross Sheepwash. At the top of each tower runs the single conductor wire known as “the earthwire”. Underneath this are three arms on each side known as cross arms. These arms support three sets of conductors making up the circuit. Insulators hang from the cross arms and are circular.

Running from the conductors are the phase conductors– three lines referred to as bottom , middle and top phase conductors. The diagram below explains this set up, and if you look up at your nearest set of power lines you can identify the terms referred to here. Two types of National Grid tower “suspension towers” and “tension towers” exist- A suspension tower has the insulators hanging vertically whereas a tension tower will have the insulators hanging horizontally from the cross arm.

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The other factor in this post is the importance of the location of the incidents at Sheepwash. There are three pylons that cross the reserve, and all three spans have produced collisions for the birds.

Sheepwash was created as a nature reserve in the early 1980’s from a former refuse tip. This tip had a water feature, and along side it ran the River Tame. The power lines and the positions of the towers at this point were well established. Unfortunately there wasn’t much thought in that the power lines crossed two of the created pools- so basically wildfowl attracted to the site- especially flying from the South in a North West direction would be faced with a ghastly hazard on attempting to land. The choice being either go over the power lines- i.e the top earthwire and curve around to land, or attempt to fly underneath them- the bottom phase conductor.

Added to this menace is the central position of VT24- known as an angle tower on account that it links two spans of powerlines together. So two whole sides of the main lake at Sheepwash are surrounded by these two spans hanging from the two towers. A third span connects from another tower (VT 25) across the Birmingham mainline canal and the West Coast railway line between Birmingham and Wolverhampton. This produces a further hazard in that the train electrified lines create another obstacle which force the birds to fly upward on route towards the national grid lines.

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Pic bing maps. Lines crossing River Tame and Western side of site

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pic bing maps power lines crossing the main pool

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View of the angle tower VT24

The powerline carnage continued at the site and it was a short time later that I made contact with the National grid, coming across their wayleave officer Ted Yates. It was clear that national grid wanted “evidence” of collisions, and I had also seen some articles on bird diverters being fitted and so began this campaign.

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A young swan witnessed to have collided with overhead lines and landing in the shallow River.

Dead birds were collected that had hit or were suspected to have hit powerlines. Ted yates then arranged for them to be taken to the WWT at Slimbridge for independent post mortem.

It was also the case that some birds had horrific wing breaks but had survived the fall by landing in the water- as I had witnessed myself. It was clear that birds could survive the impact of the collision, but if they fell to ground or landed on the islands they would die from associated “ground impact” injuries. The post mortems mainly conducted by highly experienced and published avian vet Martin Brown confirmed many of these ground impact injuries associated with overhead collision. Typical injuries were broken ribs, clavicle and sternum with bone fragments puncturing the heart and liver of falling birds causing massive haemorrhage.

Below are some examples of post mortems carried out, and the picture which began to emerge.

 

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The highest number of known casualties appeared to be swans, though Canada geese and pigeons were also victims of the metal wires. Some were inexperienced juveniles, but others were adult birds. Wind conditions were no doubt a factor, but collisions occurred throughout the year- apart from the main moulting period when the birds were flightless. October would always be a worrying time however when they started to fly again. Some birds collided flying alone, but others collided flying in groups. It was apparent that group flyers in formation may panic when another bird saw the lines and took evasive action, but those flying behind were too late and unable to take a similar course.

Eventually Ted Yates and others in the company managed to get the high ups in National Grid to fit diverters on the bottom phase conductor on one side of the span crossing the main lake. The picture below shows the cable car used by National Grid crossing the power lines and fitting the bird diverters to this span. It was stated that the top earthwire was unable to be fitted with diverters for technical reasons.

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The diverters themselves were bright orange steering wheel sized disks. In all twelve were evenly spaced across the lengthy span.

A few years later and with a reduced number of collisions, National Grid were undertaking  major works along the network which included the complete rebuild of tower VT 25 on Sheepwash. The opportunity was taken to fit additional diverters on the middle and top phase conductors on the same side as those already there. This would obviously provide additional surveillance for the birds and make the lines stand out more in darker conditions.

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Other types of bird diverters exist and have been trialled at other sites, but I am not sure of the success rate achieved.

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Picture national Grid

There are other electricity providers such as the former MEB- now known as Western power who had lines marked at such locations as Chasewater , Forge Mill lake and Fens pool Nature reserve. Unfortunately these wire coils were of extremely poor quality and the orange paint on them has completely faded making them totally useless. They resemble more metal additional ornaments on the hazard than highlighting the hazard to the birds in the air. These sites, particularly Chasewater get high fatality rates among wildfowl. This company do not have a very good record regards environmental responsibility.

Western Power Suspension tower with useless “bird diverters” that are practically now indistinguishable from the hazard.

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Not only are these rubbish they are also far too small

Smaller wooden poled power lines can also be fitted with snap on devices, such as the ones made by Clydesdale below. These lower voltage type of lines have the advantage of not having to be turned off. There are therefore no excuses from power companies that are made aware of overhead power line strikes involving these type of apparatus.

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Reporting bird strikes.

If you are aware of any set of lines where bird strikes are occurring, please make all efforts to find out who owns the apparatus- which should be marked on the towers- and contact them with specific information. As a guide, here are the type of question that these companies will need- this was the type of question national grid were looing for.

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Monitoring at sheepwash has continued , and though the rate of collisions has decreased, they still occur. I am committed to getting all the phases crossing the main pool and others currently unmarked across this site marked with diverters, and it is a worthwhile exercise given the many dozens of birds I have known to have died as a result of this overhead apparatus. We obviously live in a world where electricity is essential to modern life, but I’m not sure that nature reserves have to be stuck in places where these lines exist without putting in serious mitigation factors or even laws compelling companies to mark ALL power lines near All nature reserves/SSSI sites where their apparatus exists. Of course it would be better if these things were not in the sky, though it is clear they probably will be for many years to come. Environmental responsibility should go hand in hand with corporate profit there is no doubt that power companies are making plenty of that.

 

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2017 in pictures

A few of the highlights of 2017 and some favourite pictures.

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HAPPY 2018

LOVE WILDLIFE

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Council talks- “if it isn’t broke let’s not fix it.”

This is a long overdue but necessary follow up and update on what has been happening with regards to Sandwell council and Canada geese. It is perhaps best to read this post from last December as a starting point.

After handing in the petition last year, and also the culmination of the upheld Ombudsman complaint regarding park officer lies, a small group of us did indeed meet with new parks manager Max Cookson and new Cabinet member for Environment Dave Hossell.

From this initial meeting Councillor Hossell confirmed that “a lot of people weren’t happy about it either”– this in relation to his  predecessor and also Max Cookson’s predecessor’s goose cull.

  • We talked about potential strategies for reducing conflicts in certain areas and this resulted in a site visit where suggestions were put forward in this regard.
  • We also asked for increased sweeping at Victoria Park Tipton, and it was stated that the sweeper could be deployed around the circumference of the lake, and would be on a regular basis. A small area was also in fact redesigned so that this could happen.
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Easily done

  • There was some suggestion of fencing off part of the pool from the football pitch- though it was later revealed that no one leases the pitch for this activity.
  • It was agreed to look at vegetation management on the countryside sites to make them more attractive to geese- in an attempt to encourage them to remain at these areas.
  • Egg pricking was a grey area and we queried whether the serious questions surrounding Pestex and their actions would see them continue to be employed by Sandwell council.
  • It was agreed that number of eggs pricked by the contractor could not be confirmed by the council, and concern was also expressed as to why this company had been used to “round up” a feral cat on one of the Sandwell farms!
  • It appeared that the council were looking at doing the egg pricking  task themselves and it was stated that officers would be looking into this.
  • A minibus tour of certain areas was suggested.
  • Overall it appeared that the council were keen to draw a line under the previous regime and to inform rather than dictate what they would potentially be doing going forward. A joined up strategy of management of parks and open spaces, was it was agreed the correct way to reduce conflicts of interest between certain park users and geese.

But this is unfortunately I am afraid where the positive comments end, as most of what was agreed, or stated would happen, has to date either not or appears to have petered out.

I was unhappy about comments that Dave Hossell was making in contrast to those being spouted by Richard Marshall in this Express and Star article– now currently ex Leisure cabinet member with responsibility of Parks. Marshall’s public comments  were at odds with Hossell’s in private. (Perhaps it’s wise not to “inadvertently swallow” all natural arisings that SMBC councillors produce). 😆

“Councillor Richard Marshall, cabinet member for leisure, said: “The council is not anti-geese but the mess they leave on paths and pavements is a cause for complaints from residents, especially when people stand in one place to feed them and that in turn attracts vermin and all of those associated issues.”

This E/S story seized upon a freedom of information request that had been submitted about egg pricking and the external pest controller that the council were using. Quite frankly I am not stupid enough to fall for good cop/bad cop for the sake of pacification- so in this regard I copied both into an email to Max Cookson.

I was not happy about the council’s lack of statement as to what their actual position was, and also if Marshall had even been party to any of the comments and suggestions that we had discussed at meetings. It is clear that historically these “complaints” were highly suspect from vested interest parties, and it has also become clear that one ex councillor was writing anti goose letters to the express and star in a fake name.

This therefore is Sandwell council’s official statement regarding geese.

“Dear Mr Carroll,

 

Thank you for your recent e mail. Please find below my responses to your questions/comments in red.

Having had three meetings now , and having set out our position I would be grateful if you could put in writing Sandwell council’s in terms of what it believes to be “measurable success” in attempting non-lethal methods of site management?

Just to be clear we are not and do not wish to

*attempt to eradicate geese from Sandwell’s formal parks

Agreed, it is not the intention of SMBC to eradicate geese from Sandwell’s formal parks

*destroy all goose eggs so that no goslings ever hatch

It is not the intention of SMBC to “destroy” all goose eggs to ensure that no goslings ever hatch. We will continue to undertake a programme of oiling and pricking eggs, ensuring that some eggs remain and are allowed to hatch. In future the numbers of eggs pricked/oiled will be recorded against the total number of eggs present.

*against all feeding of birds in formal parks where this is usually the only mechanism where ill or sick birds can be observed, monitored and rescued

SMBC will continue to discourage the feeding of birds within its formal parks, particularly the practice of feeding bread to geese/swans/waterfowl. Seed based feed is acceptable, however, it should be noted that this type of feeding is not discriminate and can also encourage vermin within the parks, and this situation will need to be monitored and managed accordingly.

*fence off all pools and prevent wildfowl accessing their natural food source- i.e grass

Certain areas of pools will be fenced off to encourage wildfowl to access selected areas of feeding/access to grass. Access points to and from the water  

will be maintained to allow geese/wildfowl to feed as required.

We do wish to

*reduce complaints from park visitors concerning goose excrement- by methods we have discussed- i.e increased sweeping around paths (preferably towards the end of the week, before the weekend when most visitors will be in the parks), and also trials of fencing in certain areas.

Agreed. Increased Sweeper visits are already in place at Victoria Park as is a plan to fence certain areas of the pool. This practice will continue throughout our formal parks where necessary and where budgets allow. Further meetings of the “Goose Group” will help to identify areas of concern and propose remedial action.

*Attempt to allay people’s misguided fears about geese and the very low human health risk associated with droppings.

This is primarily a matter of education. However, it is my sincere hope that some of the measures proposed above, will reduce the concerns that some people have regarding goose droppings, mainly by ensuring that the droppings are swept frequently, and areas where geese feed are, wherever possible, remote from areas of the park which are utilised frequently for sporting events.

*encourage the birds to graze on areas away from sports provision, but also realising that these areas are not in constant use are not desired by all park users.

See previous answers

*introduce natural food sources to pools/islands such as the formal park pools which enhance the visual amenity and encourage environmental improvements

Agreed.  We have already agreed to try “Reed Beds” in pools and we will explore this measure further.  

*There is a scenario which I foresee, and which I am not prepared to enter into whereby the council will be seen to do or agree to all of these things, yet maintain the notion that they will somehow “fail” because people keep making complaints. I am not sure what “fail” means to SMBC, so I would be grateful if you could clarify this. What would constitute a “failure”  having undertaken non-lethal methods?

I am of the opinion that in order to constitute a “failure” of non-lethal measures to control geese numbers, the geese on site would have to present a clear and present nuisance/threat/danger to those persons using the park. In this case the use of the term “Failure is entirely subjective, what one person may consider a failure may be entirely different to another individuals view on the matter. I will state however, that as long as I remain in the post of Service Manager my primary goal will be to manage bird numbers within the park in a balanced and humane manner. SMBC have no plans to undertake culling at the present time and nor do we foresee planning to cull in the next three years at least. I can further assure you that no future culls will take place without consultation with yourself and other interested parties.

I would remind you, if you are not aware, that complaints alone are NOT a valid reason for culling birds under Natural England’s current guidance or general licences.

Please see above

We have noted that there are numerous individuals who will attempt to make spiteful and vexatious complaints in a deliberate attempt to get the council to destroy all the birds, before moving on to something else. I would be grateful therefore if you could set out clearly what the council’s position is.

As a local authority we are bound to investigate and wherever possible respond to complaints, wherever and whomever they may come from. If a vexatious claimant is identified, measures will be taken to deal with their complaints in a prescribed manner. We will continue to investigate all complaints and respond to them in the appropriate manner.

(redacted question and answer)

I would also wish that for future meetings that both Councillors Hossell and Marshall could be present, just to ensure that we are all working on the same page and are aware of the direction that we at heading in is one shared.

I shall invite both Councillors to our next meeting.

Regards

 

Max Cookson

Waste & Transport Manager

 

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Unfortunately after this Councillor Marshall and Councillor Hossell appear to have disengaged with this issue altogether- I wonder why?

But this is Sandwell council’s position. I have ALL meetings recorded- including all site visits made by officers.

Sweeping around Victoria Park was for some unexplained reason stopped before the summer- when it was of course most needed. WHY? Just to be clear at a recent meeting 10/10/17 we attended I asked if this was about a cost issue.

Max Cookson stated   “no,no,no,no,no ..because Serco on a small area like that , and it is a small area in the grand scheme of things , you know when you look at the whole borough erm it’s not a problem for them, even if we have to send one off route technically, you know if he’s driving off to go somewhere else. He if has to scoot round there.  “  and said that he would be fixing this issue and having the area jet washed. To be fair to him sweeping has resumed- and so it should remain as had been agreed. SO COST IS NOT AN ISSUE HERE TO REDUCE ANY FAECES AROUND THE POOL- IT IS IN THE HANDS OF MANAGEMENT AND SERCO STAFF TO DO THIS.

All talk of fencing appears to have been dropped, as has any plans concerning vegetation planting for now.

It is possible to acquire machines such as the one below for clearing football pitches of any goose or other animal excrement. Just remember to put some oil and water in it so it doesn’t blow up, and not crash it into a shed. 😛 (Though if you have family connections in SMBC this tends to be overlooked. ) :roll:

So what are we to make then of current Sandwell leader Steve Eling’s comments in another recent Express and Star article– again concerning a freedom of information request about the council and goose egg pricking– something which is and always has been their existing policy since 1997 and as stated above by their current park manager:

“It is not the intention of SMBC to “destroy” all goose eggs to ensure that no goslings ever hatch. We will continue to undertake a programme of oiling and pricking eggs, ensuring that some eggs remain and are allowed to hatch. In future the numbers of eggs pricked/oiled will be recorded against the total number of eggs present.”

To start with this headline and tone of article is fake news and very poorly informed. I am not sure to what extent Eling has been briefed by his staff or cabinet members, or if like the vile gangster Darren Cooper deceased (ex SMBC leader who claimed to have made the decision to cull himself but without any paper trail to confirm this), he just makes shit up as he goes along. No one at the Express and Star contacted me for comment- they would see from this article and the content that some positive progress has been made with officers, but Eling’s comments appear to knock these back.

We have never as a campaign called for eggs not to be pricked- as can be seen above! Egg pricking is a non-lethal method put forward by groups such as animal aid and is vastly preferable to breaking necks. It is also clear from personal experience that natural predation of both eggs and goslings reduces numbers significantly without need for all eggs to be pricked.

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A gull and goose egg dinner at Victoria park Tipton

This headline is therefore false. The reason that the council did not prick as many eggs in 2017 are-

  • Pestex figures were lies from the year before- the council admit they could not verify them
  • The council did not get around to egg pricking till late in the season- they have admitted this.
  • They did not appear to enter any of the formal parks to prick eggs- just some of the nature reserves.
  • This therefore is entirely an internal SMBC matter and policy matter- and not as the article misleads anything to do with outside pressure and there has not been any “storm” over the practice. Utter made up bullshit.

Steve Eling is quoted

“People who love them think nothing should be done to control the population.

“It is about the size of the population rather than having none at all. We actually get more complaints about geese than complaints that nothing should be done about them.”

Eling’s claims about “complaints” can be assessed by a direct question which I asked Max Cookson at the recent meeting on 10/10/17 , before the publication of this news story.

 “I also think we have to look at this from the point of view of complaints …. I’ve not been made aware of any large number of complaints regarding wildlife” 

There was also agreement at this meeting to look at the figures of hatching geese/eggs nest year and that “if it isn’t broke let’s not fix it.”

QUITE!

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Wildlife on the cards

It is with great pleasure that this blog features the work of talented card maker Jo Adams. Jo has been a long time friend of the campaign and has a passion for wildlife/pagan interests which she uses in her card designs.

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We’ve featured some of Jo’s cards at Vegan and wildlife events where she kindly agreed to donate a share of the proceeds to buying corn for Sandwell’s feathered friends.

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I’m not being biased, but of course I’m rather fond of the Canada geese cards.

 

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Jo writes

Christmas is coming & it’s time for the usual perfect card for your mum/dad/best mate, or like- minded animal lover.
All my cards are homemade by myself & from every card sold a donation of money is given to Our Wonderful Swanwatch Group/Friends of Sheepwash to help funding for winter supplies of food for the birds.
I can personalise, customise & bring a little feathered magic to your Christmas mantelpiece.
Better than any mass produced card & made with love.
My cards start at £1.50 9small) up to £4 for 8×8. I can also do any size upon request. My FB page is Silly Sausage Bespoke Cards.”

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All her cards are hand inked/embossed, stamped & decorated by herself. Check out Jo’s facebook page HERE.

 

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Egg pricking- Delays and discrepancies

Following conclusion of the 2017 nesting season, we once again asked Sandwell council for information concerning their egg pricking arrangements in their parks and open spaces  via a freedom of information request. There was some delay in answering this but the figures are now in.

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Of course, we all know that this was not being done historically, and that in 2013-16 Sandwell had hired the services of the vile murderers “Pestex” to do their dirty work for them, which also included the killing of an alleged 220 adult birds in 2013-14.

Having had some site meetings with Sandwell council staff and new cabinet member earlier in the year, it was apparent that they stated that they were considering dropping the external contractor altogether this year. Concerns had been expressed about what value they were actually offering, as well as our concerns that no one from Sandwell council was actually checking on the figures they claimed to be pricking and oiling.

It is worth at this stage offering their figures of claimed work between 2013-16 in order to draw a comparison with the now released 2017 council figures. Click tables below.

 

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WHAT DID WE ASK AND WHAT DID THEY KNOW?

1) In 2017 how many Canada goose nests were identified, how many eggs did each of these nests contain, and at which Sandwell sites were these nests located?

1) We did not record the total number of nests or eggs at each site as a large amount of the nests were empty and the eggs had hatched. We only recorded the number of eggs pricked as listed in response 2 below. Sites included Sheepwash Local Nature Reserve, Swan Pool, Priory Woods Local Nature Reserve, Forge Mill Lake, Dartmouth Park.

2) In 2017 how many Canada goose eggs were pricked and at which sites did this take place?

2) The following sites have been egg pricked to control geese numbers, egg numbers in brackets. Sheepwash (5 eggs), Swan Pool (5 eggs), Priory Woods LNR (6 eggs) and Forge Mill Lake (8 eggs) Dartmouth Park (3 eggs)

3) In 2017 how many Canada goose eggs were oiled and at which sites did this take place?

3) No eggs were oiled.

4) In 2017 how many Canada goose eggs were removed from nests and at which sites did this take place?

4) No eggs were removed from nests.

5) Please state which company was used for this operation and also the cost. Please also confirm whether any of your own staff were involved in this work.

5) We did not engage with any company. The work was completed by our own staff as part of their normal duties.

DISCUSSION.

The first thing to be noted is that the council claim to have discovered “empty nests” which suggests that goslings had already hatched. We would like to state that the pestex earlier figures may suggest that no egg pricking would produce large numbers of goslings, if they did not prick the eggs. Their claimed figures of 22 nests and 144 eggs at Forge Mill in 2015 may suggest that numbers of goslings would be massive here without control.

It can only be concluded this year that the numbers of goslings were not high at all at this site and certainly not anywhere near these claimed figures.

At Victoria Park Tipton and Redhouse park, all hatched goslings counted numbering 7 and 4 respectively were lost- due to attack by the swans and or predation.

At Sheepwash around 40 goslings were noted, and as usual this figure declined to around 1 quarter left after predation from the usual crows, foxes and dogs and swan attacks.

The other park figures did not produce numbers of more than a handful of survivors. West Smethwick park saw all geese chased off by the swans with none attempting to nest. Hydes Road also had none, though a family arrived presumably off the river.

Taken together our knowledge of the number of goslings hatched, and the fact that the council do not have figures of nests suggest the hatched gosling population to be sustainable without having to undertake mass egg pricking. It is certain that culling adult birds is definitely NOT a proportionate action that could be justified on this basis, not that we would agree with this under any circumstances.

We would also advise that the goslings hatched and the geese did not have any adverse impact on any other species at these sites. Breeding success at some sites was raised this year- particularly swans.

Whatever the council decide to do going forward with egg pricking , negative environmental impacts continue to be poor natural vegetation at some formal parks and poor maintenance of them- even at the so called “green flag” sites. We have attempted to get the council to undertake an integrated approach to managing certain areas and discouraging geese from others, but to date can only report negative actions having been undertaken. There will be more discussion about this in upcoming posts.

We therefore have to look at the figures that Pestex were offering, and as far as I am concerned they were just not truthful figures. Increasing or exaggerating the figures is I am afraid typical pest control industry fare. The idea that all eggs on all nests would hatch is disingenuous to start with, but the presented figures do not tell that story, they just give the impression of large numbers. It is the “pest” controllers intention  to secure future demand for their services.

Hopefully, the council can reflect on this year and realise that they are saving money by not hiring external companies to do what their staff are perfectly capable of doing. This is after all the original 1997 council policy, which for whatever reason, those in control of the parks department in those subsequent years were obviously incapable of accepting or managing.

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Money from nothin and they fish for free

I don’t think it should come as any surprise that I have no time for fishing. I have dealt first hand like many other rescuers of wildfowl with the aftermath of this activity and what could have been reasonably prevented. For the last twenty years myself and other rescuers in Sandwell have rescued many geese and swans across the West Midlands that have been tackled, caught up in line or have been suffering from lead poisoning. Though the source of this lead can be argued, the source of the tackle problem cannot. It comes from angling, FACT, no argument.

One should perhaps clarify that serious match anglers may well take their litter home , but casual floating day anglers are a different story.

There are some basic rules which the Environment Agency who govern rod fishing licences in the UK have published. You need a licence to fish, and this includes home made “rods” as well as professional apparatus. In addition to this you also need the permission of the land owner.

The Environment agency whilst promoting this “sport” have also in the past published a “golden rules” leaflet aimed at trying to reduce incidents of wildfowl becoming caught in tackle. It is difficult to gauge if this has had any real success, and historically  wildfowl/ angling make for awkward shared space conflict.

In March 2002, a large study undertaken in partnership with the Environment Agency , National swan convention  and the Angling trades association was published : “The impact of lost and discarded fishing line and tackle on mute swans  Research and development technical record W1-051/TR,  Perrins, Martin, Broughton”

It produced the following major observation in that it

  • “…highlighted the magnitude of the danger which angling poses for mute swans. Rescue groups and the RSPCA attend over 8,000 swans in trouble each year and it is estimated that approximately 3,000 are due to angling -related incidents, either directly hooked or entangled with fishing tackle.”

Also that year, Sandwell council announced that they were going to undertake “an angling policy”. At the time we were suspicious, as the officer in compiling this, as well as his boss and a prominent councillor  who had chaired The Leisure committee were all anglers. They also largely tried to dispute and refute incidents that we were reporting about the damage that fishing in Sandwell was causing. I was challenged to produce “evidence” by Councillor Geoff Lewis. Big mistake, for anyone who knows me.

A report looking at all areas where fishing was allowed in the borough, “An assessment of Sandwell Council’s fisheries management and its effects on wildlife and the environment” , together with recommendations was produced. We collected large amounts of tackle and fishing line from many sites across the borough and combined this with rescue statistics of birds that were injured as a direct result of angling activity- i.e that which could not be refuted.  As a matter of course, all of our rescue statistics were sent to The National Swan Convention ( an umbrella group for rescue organisations),  who collated figures for the Environment agency study and campaigning. The conclusions drawn from our report were

  • 1633 yards of fishing line was collected in just 9 months from Sandwell sites, with 1007 yards of it from Victoria Park Tipton alone!
  • multiple instances of illegal sized lead shot were collected as well as barbed and treble hooks which were supposedly “banned” on Sandwell’s pools
  • 36 birds had tackle related injuries, 14 of them pigeons
  • Little regulation and enforcement by Sandwell council with free fishing and alcohol consumption being rife
  • Fishing on non designated pools was occurring threatening wildfowl that shouldn’t have been

Above all it was noted that free fishing was a serious issue related to anti- social behaviour and litter issues and that this was a problem across Sandwell- because the council did not charge and allowed free unregulated fishing.

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Discarded Line and fishing tackle from a Sandwell park

The angling policy in its first draft had to be  largely rewritten by the then parks facilities manager because it wasn’t up to scratch. Though he incorporated some of our recommendations into the policy, it was I am afraid to say a largely theoretical paper exercise. It is practice and enforcement which make the policy.

Fast forward to 2017 and it appears inevitable that I along with others are still engaged in catching birds affected by anglers. Below are a couple of examples from Sandwell this year, where free fishing continues to be allowed.

 

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…and this was a fish someone had left behind.

 

Officially Sandwell council claim that people should pay for fishing on their pools, as with any other “sporting” activity, why shouldn’t they to use the facilities? The known truth however is somewhat different. This is what is claimed on their website.

“Sandwell Council issues tickets which allows fishing at the following pools:
Dartmouth Park, West Bromwich
Swan Pool, Sandwell Valley Country Park, West Bromwich
Sheepwash Nature Reserve, Tipton
Hydes Pool, Woden Road South, Wednesbury
West Smethwick Park, Smethwick
Victoria Park, Tipton.
Fishing Fees and Charges for Sandwell Pools
Type of ticket
Price
Adult Season Ticket
£50
Under 16s / Over 60s Season Ticket
£25
Adult per day (maximum 2 rods)  
£6
Under 16s / Over 60s per day (maximum 2 rods)
£3.50
You can buy fishing season tickets from Sandwell Park Farm, please ask in the shop. Bring a passport size photo so we can issue you with your season ticket.”

A Freedom of information request has revealed that this theory is rather fishy to say the least. I asked

“Please provide information for the last 5 years period 1st April 2012- 1st April 2017.
(I) Number of adult season tickets sold for each year
(ii) Number of under 16s/over 60’s season tickets sold for each year
(iii)Number of adult day tickets sold for each year
(iv) Number of under 16’s/over 60s day tickets sold for each year

Please provide the total revenue earned by the council from fishing between 1st April 2012 -1st April 2017.”

The council answered in a rather messy way, but here are their official figures for each question.

(I) Number of adult season tickets sold for each year

2012 = 1

2013 = 0

2014 = 2 

2015 = 2

2016 = 0

2017 =3
(ii) Number of under 16s/over 60’s season tickets sold for each year

2012 = 0

2013 = 2

2014 = 0

2015 = 0

2016 = 0

2017 = 0
(iii)Number of adult day tickets sold for each year

2012 = 0

2013 = 0

2014 = 0

2015 = 0

2016 = 0

2017 = 0
(iv) Number of under 16’s/over 60s day tickets sold for each year

2012 = 0

2013 = 0

2014 = 0

2015 = 0

2016 = 0

2017 = 2

Please provide the total revenue earned by the council from fishing between 1st April 2012 -1st April 2017.”

The total  revenue is £303.

DISCUSSION.

I think it is fairly obvious to draw some instant conclusions from these figures, these being

  • The council are making next to nothing from this activity, (£303 in five years),and one has to conclude with the costs associated with litter picking by council staff and volunteers and anti -social behaviour, this is not sustainable.
  • Some people have paid a fee to fish, whereas the majority have paid nothing.
  • There appears to be no charge for day ticket fishing (not a single ticket sold in five years!)
  • There cannot be any checks being made by anyone , rangers, street wardens or anyone else to enforce these charges.
  • People are fishing for free in Sandwell , and this appears to be endorsed by the lack of interest by the executive in enforcement procedures.
  • Anti-social behaviour is clearly linked to free fishing, not only nationally, (as expressed to senior EA fisheries officers that I have spoken to at  swan convention meetings ), but in Sandwell as well.
  • Litter is clearly linked to free fishing, and by association tackled birds affected by this.
  • These poor figures, and failure of the angling scheme impact on policy for Sandwell council including sustainability and  crime and disorder implications.

On top of this, where are Sandwell’s Street wardens being deployed when they visit parks? One hears stories of people being fined for their dogs bowel movements by this uniformed praetorian guard, and even famously how they were tasked with the suspect counting of Canada geese by the former parks manager which preceded their abhorrent murder. But why are they not being tasked to earn their money- i.e collecting and enforcing fishing fees (particulalrly day tickets, as well as netting any drinking going on in tents and bivvys?

I will look at the dire impact that Eastern European migration has had to this issue and poaching in a separate blog post. The Environment agency bailiffs appear conspicuous by their absence, despite publishing their rules as described at the link earlier in this post.

Unfortunately Sandwell’s angling policy recommended responsibility for its pools be doled out to “clubs” , yet the professional conduct of such “organisations” was found to be woefully inadequate in some locations , and a poor passing of a poisoned chalice to unprofessional ill equipped amateurs. The council need to take some care in their parks and open spaces.

We have witnessed illegal fishing, criminal damage by cutting down trees to create fishing spaces and drunken anti-social behaviour- as well of as course the ever linked litter with this activity. All of this is an issue of enforcement and stopping those responsible.

There is no economic argument for free fishing in Sandwell’s pools and open spaces to continue- especially when these sites are claimed to be being challenged by Government cuts. We have proven the effects and damage to wildlife and the environment that free fishing causes, and also with this FOI request how some people are unfairly being ripped off where others pay nothing. If someone was to visit a commercial fishery they would have to pay to use the facilities, and for that one could expect that charge to pay for the upkeep of those facilities. The current fees and charges for fishing in Sandwell are not unreasonable, they just need to be collected.

One can only conclude that if free fishing is unsustainably allowed to continue in Sandwell’s parks and open spaces, to their detriment and undesirability,  it can only be a “political decision” made not by the weight of evidence against it, but because it might put some people’s friends out of pocket. That is no way to conduct policy.

 

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Foxes and geese

Geese have their natural predators- several of them. Goslings are taken by crows, magpies, gulls and herons from the air. But without doubt the biggest enemy comes from the ground attackers.

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Serial liar and former parks manager John Satchwell makes false claims in 2013

 

Geese have voracious natural predators, who have a far lower mortality rate than the numbers of geese on which they predate.  The birds are watched constantly from the waterside and within the reeds. Adult geese are certainly also vulnerable to being killed, stalked from the shadows as they graze on the bankside. Their predator and mortal enemy – Vulpes vulpes, otherwise known as “the red fox”.

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Beware the cuteness

Over the years I have been fully aware of the danger posed to wildfowl from the land. Unfortunately they have put pay to several rescues I have attempted of previously injured birds by getting to the bird first, leaving them with no heads. Power line casualties are very often finished off by foxes, removing all trace of the real cause of death. It is also unfortunate that though persecuted themselves, the fox appears to have very much in common with those humans who hunt them in the manner in which they stalk, poach and hunt mercilessly themselves. It is however “nature” that determines both the destiny of the fox and the goose, a necessity and not perverted self gratification.

I recently had an interesting first hand encounter with some foxes that were clearly out to grab a goose or two for dinner. I suddenly heard loud honking which I recognised as the goose distress call- particularly used when the geese spot a predator and are in the presence of their goslings. The mallards on the pool were also quick to usher a collective braying quack. They were not alone on the pool, and they were being watched from the reeds.

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As one fox remained at the bankside, another entered the water where the level was shallow. It is the first time I have seen this, though foxes themselves are very good swimmers, like other domestic dogs.

It was clear that this fox had on its mind the 19 geese in front of it.

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As it got deeper into the water, paying some causal attention to its human watcher, the geese began to coral themselves into a circle, as the chief gander began to defiantly honk away at the intruder.

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Standoff!

This was not a friendly encounter, it was a matter of life and death. Had the geese been at the reed side there would have been a different outcome. The fox then started to lower its body and head, almost like the geese do when in a threatening posture, or to try to hide themselves.

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It was trying to get behind the geese and send them into the reeds, where no doubt the second fox was poised to strike. But the geese stood strong, and it was obvious to the dog that it was not going to get a meal. A strange thing then happened when the fox decided to pick up a stray goose feather in its mouth and then spit it out when retreating back towards the reeds. It is also fair to say that at this point of the year, post moult, that the fox is at a disadvantage given the geese can now fly again. Perhaps prompting the fox into taking a bold attempt at waterside hunting.

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Not by the feather of my goosey goose chin!

But don’t be in any doubt about this voracious predator of geese. Of the 40 plus goslings on this site, currently less than a quarter remain, with 5 adult protectors which would indicate that one adult has also been lost. I have no doubt that the watchers in the reeds take their chances- but that’s natural predation for you.

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Save wildlife from the “garden city”

 

DANGER TO YOU, YOUR HOMES & FUTURE GENERATIONS!

Dubious plans have been announced concerning the development of The Dudley Port area– in effect most of which is not in this area but in Tividale in Sandwell. This local issue is one which will affect the wildlife in this area irrecoverably if more houses are built on the margins  of a designated local nature reserve and canal wildlife corridor.

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Worse than this, the site of a former tip proposed for more housing in the Temple Way area lies next to a poisonous hazardous waste pool known as “Rattlechain lagoon” which has been responsible for killing dozens of birds through ingestion of white phosphorus- a banned rat poison.

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We will not stand by to see this area destroyed by planners who have little to no knowledge of this area and its wildlife, or the long history of how this area has been polluted by insidious and rotten businesses lining their pockets through avarice.

There comes a tipping point when you have to say NO MORE HOUSING HERE! So called “Brownfield land” is an easy target for developers and people are being conned into believing that such reclamation schemes will bring long term advantages over so called “short term inconveniences”.

The nonsense scheme at Rattlechain is one that has been seen before in the 1990’s which came to little but foundry sand dumping- an unstable and dirty material that blighted people’s homes, and cannot be said to be “safe” to human health when dumped in such large quantities with other materials blowing in the wind.

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It brought “misery” for over a decade, and the letter below confirms how the then Black Country Development Corporation road roughshod over people’s concerns and objections in the area.

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Unfortunately Sandwell council (aka the goose killers), are once again behind these proposals and continue to make a mockery of the concept of “consultation”.

Now 3 weeks into a six week “consultation” they have announced that officers will be available to speak to people about this scheme at an event held at Victoria Park Tipton- the scene of their goose snatching relocation lies, as well as an event that is hosted by The Deputy leader of Sandwell council. Deception appears to be their speciality.

This is over a mile away from Tividale, and so there can be little doubt that this local authority want to see no objections from the people whom it will affect most- IE THE RESIDENTS OF TIVIDALE AND THE TEMPLE WAY ESTATE.

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What a total CON job!

In the interests of democracy and the protection of the area that it will affect, we are therefore proposing our own consultation event IN THE AREA, where people can learn more about the shocking history of waste disposal in this area, and how the HOPE of nature can recover the scarred landscapes of selfish manmade tipping operations.

We want to see this area left to nature and kept green, not foundry sand black. We want to see the nature reserve at Sheepwash thrive and not become further threatened and marginalised by inappropriate development.

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Of course people on this estate and the local area are free to bury their heads in the sand and do nothing, but don’t say we didn’t warn you about what you will loose. “Garden Cities” are a PR conjob created by the political and business class to line their scheming pockets.

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PLEASE OBJECT TO SMBC’S PROPOSALS BY CONTACTING

ldf_planning@sandwell.gov.uk

COME AND JOIN OUR CAMPAIGN TO STOP THE GARDEN CITY AND PROTECT SHEEPWASH LOCAL NATURE RESERVE AND THE SURROUNDING AREA FOR WILDLIFE AND FOR PEOPLE.

Tipton Road Methodist Church 
Saturday 22nd July between 11am -3pm

#SAVEDUDLEYPORT- STOPTHEGARDENCITY

 

 

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