The last couple of days I've spent an hour or three outside the local shops with clipboard and a petition. The idea is to get enough signatures to force a council debate about their plans to sell off public open spaces, including several local ones (I could see two from the shops, with children making good use of them in the sunshine). What's more, I could tell the shoppers that it's a joint project by the Labour, Conservative, and Green Parties. That's a first! People are very keen to sign. People power in action.
Meanwhile, in Whitehall, Community Secretary Eric Pickles was doing his own bit to promote the small government, pro-localism agenda. Except he didn't. Instead he gave his blessing to plans to burn food (palm oil) grown in Asia as fuel in an Avonmouth power station to provide electricity in Britain - overriding a decision by our own city council a year ago.
Hidden in that bad news for localism and for global food supplies, though, there's a crumb of comfort. The inspector who heard the appeal from would be plant-builders W4B had already rejected the city council's contention that wider issues of sustainability are a material planning consideration. In short, if it does no damage to Bristol's rainforests, only to those in S.E. Asia, we shouldn't let it worry us.
Maybe the inspectorate - or even Eric - had a change of heart. There are conditions in the final permission that 'any bioliquids burnt in the main boiler shall satisfy the sustainability criteria' . That means compliance with the EU's 'Renewable Directive' on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources, particularly those sections relating to the sustainability of bioliquids. There's a requirement that the company report to the council annually on how it complies.
All of which suggests that the council was right to raise global sustainability as a legitimate reason for turning the original application down.
There's lots more, plus plenty of well-informed comment, in a Guardian piece by George Monbiot . Neil Harrison's been blogging about it too - on much the same lines as this piece.