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Sunday, 28 April 2013


Well, we weren't surprised that it's happened - but we were surprised at who's being got at - and - it also goes a fair way to explaining why press and broadcast stories about The Environment Agency have followed a pattern - they threatened us with libel 2 years ago.

Narrowboat World are made of sterner stuff than our local timorous press release publishers/broadcast professionals - and have been carrying the occasional news piece about Avoncliff. 

Narrowboat World got two libel threats after publishing a piece based in part on a post here - on the serious allegations ( including criminal actions ) made by the Avoncliff North Mill builders which were lodged with the Environment Agency in December 2011 and investigated by a senior EA official in 2012. The article concerned was a synopsis of the post here last week regarding The Baxendale Report - a report, we were told by the report author in the presence of the Environment Agency's operations director - that mostly confirmed our allegations. That was almost 1 year ago - in the intervening time between then and now - the EA have not advised us of any actions as a result of the report's findings and have blocked access to the report - a tactic they adopted with FoI when they lost the first Judicial Review over the Avoncliff water licences.

The lady below who's throwing around libel accusations -  if - she was doing her job competently must have been aware of the original blog post - since we get a sizable proportion of our regular site traffic (blog + web site) from the EA in both London and Bristol - as well as  regional offices. The EA have been subscribing to our Twitter feed since it started. Laura has never contacted us for any reason- let alone to complain or bully us to remove content .

Laura Gottelier | Senior Media Officer, Floods and Water - National Media Team
Environment Agency | 25th Floor, Millbank Tower, 21-24 Millbank, London, SW1P 4XL 
Mobile: 07771 387707  External: 0207 863 8642  Internal: 7 10 8642
Normal working days: Monday – Friday

We have taken down the post here - as this is customary in these cases and shows that we have some vestigial respect for The Environment Agency - if only because they have shown that they have little compunction splurging enormous amounts of public money defending their mistakes and wrongdoing - and £40K to a libel lawyer to achieve a chilling effect  is chicken feed compared to the overall bill for Avoncliff.

Edit - we are so "excercised" by the EA's activity in this matter that we've decided to ask them about how much of this sort of thing they indulge in.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Messing with Hydroelectric Projects 
 The Pershore Debacle

Some people have been saying why are we whining? As I have said before - it's not just us - other people have been cheated and in one case terminally disadvantaged by the actions of "the regulator." (The Small Hydro Company)

SEPEL - a prominent small hydro outfit (Good enough for The Queen) applied for a licence at Pershore in Warwickshire on behalf of the Avon Navigation Trust (ANT Website) and were subjected to the same old game that resulted in us "going legal" at Avoncliff - i.e. they applied first and were subject to delays and a second application was made (by the same agent / company who applied second at Avoncliff and identical EA staff "dealt" with the application)  which was promoted over SEPEL's application by means of delay, arbitrary action and "gaming" the statutory procedures.

I won't comment on the SEPEL scheme in detail beyond saying that not only did the EA cheat SEPEL's client out of a licenece - the licence that the EA awarded was thrown out as inappropriate by the local planning authority! (We understand it was the Kaplan turbine that the planners refused - now where have we seen that before?)

Please judge for yourself and have a read of two documents that lay out some of what happened to SEPEL's application.

The matter went to H.M.  Planning Inspectorate - who were powerless to act since the unlawful awarding of a licence can't be reversed by a Planning Inspector... (It has to go to Judicial Review) and the EA knew that which is why they unlawfully awarded a licence...  See The Evesham Journal 

So - to recap - the EA administratively "gamed", lied, egregiously delayed (the EA even claimed to have "misplaced" the paperwork!) and then finally - the arbitrarily selected "winning" application - which shouldn't have been accepted in the first place -  gets kicked out by local planners? (Who now appear to have given up and gone along with the EA...)

At the risk of boring you all rigid with whining - repeat - there are questions the EA should be forced to answer about the actions of their officials.

And then... there's the matter of The Canal and River Trust and The Small Hydro Company and that scheme.... detailed in a British Waterways press release which has been the subject of an interesting FoI

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

John Sweeney on North Korea Fact Finding Mission

Ushers of 평양
The Democratic People's Republic of West Wiltshire has cultural links to North Korea and especially Pyonyang (평양) where our local beer brewing heritage is now kept alive by the NorKs. Back in the early years of the 21st century, the local Ushers of Trowbridge brewing plant was relocated to Pyonyang - you can now see down it's chimney with a spy satellite (Wiltshire Times article).

Possibly Ushers of Pyongyang - the only beer in North Korea?

Somebody said to us "have you seen that John Sweeney video of North Korea?" - it has to be said - we thought it explained quite a lot and jumped to all the wrong conclusions :-) We were jubilant, imagining a new regime at the EA with morning and evening parades involving lustily delivered patriotic songs and a radically revamped disciplinary regime....but- we discovered somewhat crestfallen, that it wasn't ace EA troubleshooter and corporate sucker-upper  John Sweeney

John Sweeney will be featuring in an important post on this blog later this week.
See later this week which John Sweeney....

On a more serious note - we sincerely hope that the great pudgy leader doesn't press that button - having encountered the poor deluded souls that came to dismantle the brewery a few years ago - I'd say that North Korea is "institutionally insane".  I hope something gets sorted out well short of a conflagration - but they are bonkers and they are desperate..

North Korean Parade - epic medals
The EA Metal Recycling Enforcement Team have been put on alert.

Monday, 8 April 2013

The Wrong Type of Rain (Update) 

We understand and have some sympathy for our regular readers at the Environment Agency who must shudder when their clueless PR department and mendacious activists wind themselves up and catapult yet another deeply foolish press release into the public arena. (Our favourite is still The Snowman actually)

"The Wrong Type of Rain"? - to describe this as a toe-curling falsehood comes close.....  Better luck next time.... maybe,  next time - the PR department can work with the good Lord on some poetic structure? - some rhyming couplets? a bit of da-de -dah rhythm  maybe?   It's depressingly clear though - that some people at The EA need remedial courses in English comprehension. 

Paul Homewood who runs the  "Not a Lot of People Know That" blog FoI'd the Environment Agency about renowned poetry expert Chris Smith's sock-puppeting of the Wrong Type of Rain / Global Weirding press release and after what we see as the usual EA obstructiveness - they revealed the complete lack of evidence for the public pronouncements of the rather well remunerated Chairman of The Environment Agency - that's it - zip, nada , nuffin apart from - it has to be said - an evident desire on the part of some folk at the highest levels of the EA to spread Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt...

Contempt for evidence, obstructiveness, misleading public statements - in all,  a noxious brew and certainly not behaviour that is acceptable from a government department constrained by law/statute to employ  objectivity and transparency (and much else) in their actions.  A five minute puzzle for those of you wondering how many rules have been broken here.  Check out how they're actually obliged to behave (blissfully short PDF) and let us know via the comments what your score is... :-)

  •     Integrity – putting the obligations of public service above personal interests
  •     Honesty – being truthful and open
  •     Objectivity – basing advice and decisions on rigorous analysis of the evidence
  •     Impartiality – acting solely according to the merits of the case  
I don't see lobbing dud FUD bombs in any of the EA's mission statements

I apologise to our readers who are waiting for an update on the skullduggery of the EA in the matter of The EA's misbehaviour at the SEPEL Pershore project and their disasterous involvement in the demise of  The Small Hydro Company - it's coming... but there's something else we're working on that has priority - sorry.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Mr. Benyon gets slapped again

Richard Benyon MP, the Minister responsible for the Environment Agency gets a pasting from George Monbiot in The Guardian today.  On the face of it - one interpretation of Mr. Benyon's activities is that he's contriving to break the law in his own interest and using his position as a Minister to further his personal interest.  Now then... where have we seen something like this before? - couldn't be in The Environment Agency could it?

This isn't an unalloyed endorsement of Geeorge Monbiot's position - but we can certainly see what's got him agitated. Mr. Benyon's lacklustre performance in support of The Environment Agency's toxic doings at Westminster Hall a few weeks back left us distinctly unimpressed

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Environment Agency to call in The Samaritans....?

The Prime Minister - no doubt with Avoncliff in mind has told civil servants to engage The Samaritans for civil servants forced to deal with angry and frustrated members of the public - we admit to both emotions when the EA is mentioned :-)

One really does have to wonder what Mr. Cameron is thinking - or even - if he actually engages in that activity at all? 

According to The Daily Telegraph article (no doubt sanctioned by No. 10) - £600 each for half a day’s training, 20 civil servants at a time will be taught to empathise with callers and make them feel valued."

We can't wait to experience the results of this empathy training - since at the moment The Environment Agency actually won't talk to us...  which it has to be said is a quite bizarre experience.  We never heard of such a thing before. Maybe the refusal to talk is practice for being gagged?

On a more serious note - the stress and anguish inflicted upon "customers"  / "stakeholders"  or simply innocent members of the public by the Environment Agency's delinquent officials isn't trivial and real harm has been done - patting people on the shoulder and fluffing up their self regard is not the answer - the answer is to ensure that the possibility of getting it wrong is reduced by removing those officials who perpetrate clear wrongdoing and damaging  travesties in the discharge of their duties. 

There's quite a lot of debate going on at the moment about civil servants  

I don't know about empathy training above ... I do know about sympathy for victims and it's clear that delinquent civil servants have much to be brought to task over - like THIS .

£14m bill for gagging axed public officials 
Given what we've seen we're wondering if anybody's taken "early retirement" or "extended gardening leave" at The Environment Agency...  looking to see if there's any EA references popping up.