2018 In Focus





Bim Afolami MP held a debate in Westminster Hall on Luton Airport expansion, in response to the airport’s announcement last month that it plans to more than double its passenger numbers to 38 million per annum.

Mr Afolami explained to the Minister and others present that the number of passengers per year has increased by 70% over the last seven years, and that noise complaints have increase 22-fold over the last two years alone. Night flights have increased by 25% in the last two years, and traffic through neighbouring villages is a worsening problem. He described how Luton is an unsuitable and unsustainable airport for expansion of such magnitude.


Mr Afolami highlighted the conflict of interest that exists as the airport is owned by London Luton Airport Ltd on behalf of Luton Borough Council, which is currently the authority responsible for setting passenger limits.


Mr Afolami said in his speech: “Luton Borough Council’s ownership of Luton airport, which generated a net profit of roughly £47 million in the last financial year, coupled with the huge increase in flight noise for many thousands of my constituents and across Hertfordshire, as I have already demonstrated, as well as with the huge increase in passenger numbers, leaves many of my constituents feeling that Luton Borough Council has one real interest: growing passenger numbers and therefore revenue for its airport. That interest has been pursued without any real consideration for the significant negative impacts on the people of Hertfordshire that I have outlined here today. As one of my constituents put it to me, Bedfordshire gets the gain, and Hertfordshire gets the pain.”

Anne Main MP (below) reiterated many of the same points on behalf of her St Albans constituents but added that the average noise levels used to record  flights over homes masked the real problem as at peak times the decibel levels were very high. Additionally LBC had failed to address many other issues raised by residents.

Paul Maynard MP(above), a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department for Transport responded with a box ticking exercise justifying the current situation and the policies in force. He suggested that local groups and resident should consult with LBC on future actions AND then confirmed on behalf of the Government that the proposed expansion will be a decision taken by the Planning Inspectorate with reference back to the Secretary of State, and therefore that it will not fall to Luton Borough Council to approve the decision.

After the debate, Mr Afolami said: “I am very pleased to have had such a considered and helpful response from the Government on this important issue. I have written to the Minister to ask for clarity on exactly how matters will proceed and will continue to monitor the issue closely.”


Click on this link:  : http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/e08f0ef8-7a1e-4f0f-8eb7-03162020d676?in=11:00:03


HARPENDEN TOWN COUNCIL are delighted to announce they have bagged £3485 from a Tesco funding scheme raised from carrier bag sales being awarded to thousands of local community projects every year.

Shoppers voted in stores up and down the district for the project they wished to fund and it can now be revealed that the Town Council has been awarded nearly THREE AND A HALF THOUSAND POUNDS. Work will now begin on bringing the project to life, which is due to launch in Spring 2018.

The grant will be used to fund equipment for EDUCATIONAL WILDLIFE ACTIVITIES including pond dipping and bat hunts, allowing larger groups of young people to engage in the sessions run by Harpenden Town Council in its parks and green spaces.

Town Mayor Cllr. Rosemary Farmer said:

“We are delighted that the people of Harpenden have voted for our project in the Tesco Bags of Help Scheme. The sessions we run for children in the Town offer invaluable and exciting lessons about local wildlife and help to INSPIRE A NEW GENERATION to get involved in nature conservation.”

Alec Brown, Tesco’s Head of Community, said:

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the response from our customers. The great thing about Bags of Help is that local people are invited to decide how the money will be spent in their community. We can’t wait to see the projects come to life.”




The Harpenden Trust’s 2017 Christmas Appeal for its Care Fund raised more than £53,000, including Gift Aid.

The Trust is grateful to the people of Harpenden for their magnificent support when we all know that times are difficult.

By digging deep into your pockets you have given us more than half the funds we need annually to help local people in need. The Care Fund budget for this year is more than £80,000.

But those needs are not always financial needs; loneliness is an increasing problem as our population ages. We are always keen to welcome volunteers who, for example, might become befrienders and bring some company for those who may be elderly and alone. Or who could help at the twice-weekly coffee mornings. Or support in many other ways.

Meanwhile thank you also to all our area organisers, collectors and everyone who helps with the Appeal. Without your hard work we would not be able to raise this money.

A piece of history: when the Christmas Appeal was first held in 1952 it raised the princely sum of £302.16.10!

The Trust also has a Community Fund which supports local bodies – youth, sport school and environmental organisations for instance. The Community Fund spending is sourced from other Trust investments and is operated at separately and at arms length from the Care Fund.

Check the website – and you can follow us on Facebook!

Clearing the air - A report by Alan Bunting, editor of The Harpenden Society Newsletter

The Harpenden Society’s public meeting on Feb 8 was all about the degree of freshness of the air we breathe. The guest speaker Professor Ranjeet Sokhi ( below with Society chair Philip Waters) is director of the University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Atmospheric Research at Hatfield. The rhetorical title of his talk, ‘Air Pollution – How Fresh is our Fresh Air’ served to highlight the growing concerns throughout the world, especially in urban areas, about poor air quality and its inevitably harmful effects, most obviously on human health.


He was keen to emphasise that contamination of the air in a particular location such as Harpenden High Street could not be blamed wholly on pollutants emitted from vehicle exhausts or smoking chimneys in the immediate area. Satellite observations had shown that concentrations of pollution could be moved vast distances across the globe, often affected by climate interactions.

    Instrumentation, including for example the use of lasers, for measuring pollutants, especially the tiny particles capable of penetration deep into the lungs, was continuing to advance.  It provided an ever greater understanding of cause and effect, when set against available health statistics.

    A World Health Organisation report in 2014 concluded that ‘air pollution is the world’s largest single environmental health risk’ and it was estimated that seven million, or one in eight, premature deaths were attributable to air pollution. Meanwhile the numerous non-fatal effects included increased stroke, heart disease and respiratory disease problems.  In the UK, according to the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), polluted air shortened average life expectancy by about six months, the associated financial costs of which were estimated at some £16 billion.

    Particular mention was made by Ranjeet of the pollutants associated with diesel exhaust, namely nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM), though he acknowledged, during the meeting’s subsequent Q&A session, that today’s car and truck diesels, compliant with legislated ‘Euro 6’ emission standards, were among the ‘cleanest’ of road vehicle engines.  He added however ‘that there is no threshold below which health effects do not occur’.

    Agreed EU atmospheric quality standards were already in place in the UK, based on limits for PM, NO2 and Ozone (O3) per cubic metre of air, with a further limit for ultra-fine particles due for implementation in 2020. But, said Ranjeet, in reality they were targets rather than enforceable limits. The NO2 standard in particular was regularly exceeded in many places, especially in towns and cities, where it exacerbated breathing problems, most seriously for asthmatics.

    On a relatively positive note for Harpenden residents, although there were no monitoring points in the town, measurements taken across the county, including St Albans, showed a typical ‘low’ pollution level. On the day of the Harpenden Society meeting, a level 2 pollution – on a scale of 1 to 10 – was measured in towns within about a 10 mile radius.

    In contrast, a maximum level 10 had been recorded in the traffic-choked streets of Camden, north London, on a day in February.  It had been shown however that around two-thirds of London’s airborne pollution originated elsewhere, and was then carried in by climatic activity, most obviously wind. 


    Monitoring of average air quality in the St Albans area over the past seven years had shown a downward trend in NO2 concentrations.  Ranjeet pointed out however that it was greatly influenced by the weather. Rain cleaned the air, while cold dry conditions allowed pollutants to remain airborne.


    Tests undertaken by the University of Hertfordshire team in the tunnel underneath the Galleria at Hatfield had shown that fewer airborne particles came from vehicle exhausts than was often supposed – only about a third.  The remainder came from road surface and brake wear detritus and ‘resuspended’ matter, thrown-up by vehicle movement turbulence.

    One conclusion drawn from those results was that adoption of electric cars in place of diesel or petrol would not reduce real-life PM levels in the air very significantly.  Another conclusion from the team’s researches was that ultra-fine particle concentrations in the air were heavily affected by the distance of the site from a road travelled by motor vehicles and of course the density of traffic along that road.

    Global warming, although a largely separate issue from air quality, was touched on in Ranjeet’s presentation.  He pointed out that carbon dioxide (CO2) was not the only potentially harmful emission.  Others included most notably methane, widely generated by agriculture, albeit with a shorter-term effect than CO2. Black carbon, a key constituent of exhaust particulate matter, had also come to be recognised as a contributor to global warming and, as such, doubly undesirable, especially as, together with ozone, it can inhibit plant growth and therefore agricultural productivity.

    What can be done, at a practical level, to cut air pollution and also combat climate change?  Ranjeet put forward a number of measures, in approximate order of value: 1) Move from private car use to public transport (ie bus and train); 2)  Promote healthier diets by moving away from meat towards more plant-based foods; 3)  Reduce solid fuel (eg coal) burning; 4) Tighten vehicle emission and fuel efficiency standards.

    Though it is no excuse for complacency, Ranjeet pointed out that while ultra-fine particle air pollution in London was much worse than in Harpenden, the concentration measured in Karachi, Pakistan, was more than six times greater than London’s!




Farming's brighter future. Rothamsted Research comments on today's speech from Environment Secretary Michael Gove who set out his views on the direction of travel for the farming industry at the NFU Conference 2018.

Director and Chief Executive, Achim Dobermann

"Environment Secretary Michael Gove sets out a compelling vision for a future in which we protect the health, beauty and permanence of our countryside. At Rothamsted Research, we have developed rigorous, science-based systems that can help to evaluate how best to preserve natural capital whilst producing healthy food. Our work comparing grazing systems for livestock production and for a new Long-Term Experiment to explore crop rotation in the landscape are just two examples that can help to underpin the thoughtful approach Mr Gove sets out."

Michael Lee, Livestock Scientist, Head of Sustainable Agricultural Sciences at North Wyke Farm Platform, and Leader of the Institute Strategic Programme, Soil To Nutrition, at Rothamsted Research

"The support for UK Agriculture exemplified in Environment Secretary Michael Gove's speech is timely and reassuring, as our farmers face unprecedented challenges in the face of Brexit. We need to value and support our farming community to produce the high-quality food and landscape that we, "the consumer", sometimes take for granted. Our ruminant livestock industry is at the heart of rural life in the UK, providing high quality food in a world-leading animal welfare setting. The industry also provides jobs for rural communities and for a blossoming UK food sector, and protects our countryside, which we can all enjoy. Without support now, we run the risk of losing this vital industry that is the heart of the UK. I look forward to working with my colleagues at Rothamsted Research and the wider scientific and farming community to help realise Mr Gove's ambition of FEB 20."

Soil cannot halt climate change

Unique soils data from long-term experiments, stretching back to the middle of the nineteenth century, confirm the practical implausibility of burying carbon in the ground to halt climate change, an option once heralded as a breakthrough.


The findings come from an analysis of the rates of change of carbon in soil by scientists at Rothamsted Research where samples have been collected from fields since 1843. They are published today in Global Change Biology.


The idea of using crops to collect more atmospheric carbon and locking it into soil’s organic matter to offset fossil fuel emissions was launched at COP21, the 21st annual Conference of Parties to review the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris in 2015.


The aim was to increase carbon sequestration by “four parts per 1000 (4P1000)” per year for 20 years. “The initiative was generally welcomed as laudable,” says David Powlson, a soils specialist and Lawes Trust Senior Fellow at Rothamsted.


“Any contribution to climate change mitigation is to be welcomed and, perhaps more significantly, any increases in soil organic carbon will improve the quality and functioning of soil,” he adds. “The initiative has been adopted by many governments, including the UK.”


But there have been serious criticisms of the initiative. Many scientists argue that this rate of soil carbon sequestration is unrealistic over large areas of the planet, notes Powlson: “Also, increases in soil carbon do not continue indefinitely: they move towards a new equilibrium value and then cease.”


The Rothamsted scientists used data from 16 experiments on three different soil types, giving over 110 treatment comparisons. “The results showed that the “4 per 1000” rate of increase in soil carbon can be achieved in some cases but usually only with extreme measures that would mainly be impractical or unacceptable,” says Paul Poulton, lead author and an emeritus soils specialist.


“For example, large annual applications of animal manure led to increases in soil carbon that continued over many years but the amounts of manure required far exceeded acceptable limits under EU regulations and would cause massive nitrate pollution,” notes Poulton.


Removing land from agriculture led to large rates of soil carbon increase in the Rothamsted experiments but doing this over large areas would be highly damaging to global food security, record the researchers.


Similarly, they add, returning crop residues to soil was effective at increasing carbon sequestration but, in some countries, this is already done so cannot be regarded as a totally new practice.


“For example, in the UK about 50% of cereal straw is currently returned to soil and much of the remainder is used for animal feed or bedding, at least some of which is later returned to soil as manure,” says Poulton. “In many other countries, however, crop residues are often used as a source of fuel for cooking.”


Moving from continuous arable cropping to a long-term rotation of arable crops interspersed with pasture led to significant soil carbon increases, but only where there was at least 3 years of pasture in every 5 or 6 years, record the researchers.


“Although there can be environmental benefits from such a system, most farmers find that it is uneconomic under present circumstances,” says Powlson. “To make this change on a large scale would require policy decisions regarding changes to subsidy and farm support. Such a change would also have impacts on total food production.”


The authors of this study conclude that promoting the “4 per 1000” initiative as a major contribution to climate change mitigation is unrealistic and potentially misleading.


They suggest that a more logical rationale for promoting practices that increase soil organic carbon is the urgent need to preserve and improve the functioning of soils, both for sustainable food security and wider ecosystem services.


For climate change mitigation through changes in agricultural practices, they point out that measures to decrease emission of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas almost 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, may be more effective.


Loss of funding for

Community Meeting Point

Community Meeting Point (CMP) is facing an uncertain future following the withdrawal of local authority funding, its main source of income.

CMP is Harpenden’s local mental health day centre, offering support for adults whose lives have been affected by mental illness. The service hosts social and therapeutic activities and has an associated charity shop, all run by a small team of onsite staff and a very loyal and dedicated group of volunteers, who have understandably found this news very upsetting.


Hightown Housing Association has run CMP for several years, which agreed with the previous trustees that it would take on the lease for the CMP premises and employ the staff. Hightown has been able to support CMP through many challenges; however, the recent funding loss means that Hightown cannot continue to manage the service.

Hightown is keen to talk to any organisations or individuals who can offer CMP leadership and help it to find a sustainable model for the future.

Hightown remains optimistic that CMP will be able to continue providing its much-needed services in a new format. We have had several meetings with volunteers and stakeholders to discuss the options; including the possibility of establishing CMP as an independent charity if new trustees were to come forward.

If you would like to discuss ways to support CMP’s future, please contact:

Daniel Revell-Wiseman

Head of Care & Supported Housing


01442 292290