Category Archives for "Environment"

Environment news

25th December 2019

Environment Freddie Woodman: Gareth Southgate’s godson has England dream

Environment Freddie Woodman: Gareth Southgate’s godson has England dream


environment Freddie Woodman

Freddie Woodman has played in all 17 of Swansea City’s Championship games this season

There are various England shirts on Freddie Woodman’s wall courtesy of his godfather, Gareth Southgate.

Now Swansea City’s goalkeeper wants one of his own.

“That is the ultimate goal,” Woodman tells BBC Sport Wales.

He is not expecting any special treatment because the England boss happens to be his godparent, Woodman quickly adds.

“If you end up playing for England, it means you are a good player and you have done something well,” he continues. “Hopefully I can get there in the end.”

England selection may look a little way off given that Woodman is playing a first full season of second-tier football.

But he is excelling at Swansea after joining on a year-long loan from Newcastle United and has 66 youth caps to his name.

So it is not inconceivable Southgate will be monitoring Woodman’s progress – and not just because he is his godson.

Southgate came through the ranks at Crystal Palace alongside Woodman’s father – and fellow goalkeeper – Andy, with the duo so close they wrote a book about their “football friendship”.

“I think they said whoever has a kid first, the other would be godfather – and then I was born,” Woodman says.

“I have got a few England shirts he (Southgate) gave me for birthdays growing up – they are up in the house. But I haven’t had a present for a few years. As you get older you get a WhatsApp instead.”

There was another message from Southgate when Woodman signed for Swansea in August.

“He was delighted like everyone,” Woodman says.

“I don’t speak to him as much these days but I would see him when I was away with England Under-21s. It was strictly professional – he helped me with my game.

“I think you can see that with all the young players in the England team. They all speak very highly of him and you can see how much he wants to improve players.”

Woodman got a taste of life among the elite when he was asked to train with the senior squad during one of his stints with the under-21s.

“I was working with Joe Hart, Tom Heaton and Jack Butland,” he recalls. “It was a moment I will remember for a long time.”

Woodman was 15 when he first represented England, which was only a couple of years after he had been picked up by Crystal Palace.

Andy Woodman (L) and Gareth Southgate wrote a book about their experiences in football having grown up together at Crystal Palace

“I think me and my dad both thought I had missed the boat but my school teacher got me a trial,” he says. “I hadn’t really seen football as a path to go down, but we realised it was a fantastic opportunity.”

Woodman’s godfather may be the England player-turned-manager, but it is his father – currently head of goalkeeping at Arsenal’s academy – who has been his inspiration.

“I remember a few times going to watch England when he (Southgate) had got us tickets and I remember looking out for him,” Woodman says.

“But if I am being totally honest, my dad was my hero and I remember wanting to go and watch him play instead.

“From the moment I signed for Palace, he has been massive for me.

“To have your father who has played 500 games to bounce ideas off – that’s fantastic. I ring him every day after training and tell him what I have done and what I could do better.

“He rings me after every game – how did it go, what can we improve? That’s the relationship we have.”

Having learned his trade at Selhurst Park, Woodman senior played for the likes of Brentford, Colchester, Oxford and Northampton.

He was part of the Cobblers side who won promotion from Division Three in 1997 courtesy of a Wembley win over Swansea.

“All the Swansea fans remind me of it – telling me my dad ruined their summer,” Woodman says.

“Every time I mention it to him he is laughing. He keeps telling me about a save he made – he says that won the game.”

Woodman chuckles as he tells another tale about his father’s playing days.

“If dad was taking me to primary school, I knew I wasn’t going to school, I was going to training,” he explains.

“We’d drop my sister off and then go to training. I used to love it – the whole environment and the banter.

“My mum only recently found out. She could never understand why my attendance was so low, but that’s the relationship me and my dad have. He is like my best mate.”

Enjoyable it may have been, but skipping lessons had its drawbacks.

“I am into my reading now,” Woodman adds. “I always think I would have known more of these confusing words if I’d been learning at school.

“But it was meant to be. I got lucky with football.”

Freddie Woodman was part of the England side who won the 2017 Under-20 World Cup and landed the Golden Glove award at the tournament

Woodman is aware there is much work to do if he is achieve his ambitions, the first of which is to play in the Premier League.

With Palace facing financial troubles in 2013, Woodman joined Newcastle, where his father was then goalkeeping coach.

He has made four cup appearances for the Magpies and had spells on loan at Hartlepool, Crawley, Kilmarnock and Aberdeen before moving to Swansea.

Woodman was allowed to leave because there are three other keepers at St James’ Park – Martin Dubravka, Karl Darlow and Rob Elliot – but only after extending his contract until 2021.

“In order to get the loan move I signed an extension,” he says.

“I am happy with that. Newcastle are a massive club and they have looked after me.”

It remains to be seen whether Woodman’s future lies on Tyneside.

For the moment, he is thriving on and off the pitch in Wales.

“Swansea is a Premier League club. The set-up, the fan base – it needs to be back in the top league,” he says.

“And the surroundings are beautiful. I have a place on Gower and I am exploring Mumbles and all the beaches. After we lost to Brentford, I went to Rhossili just to clear my head. My mum is big on clearing your head.”

Freddie Woodman celebrates an FA Cup win at Blackburn in January 2019, one of three games he played in for Newcastle last season

Woodman, 22, has not had to do so often. Swansea, who go to Huddersfield on Tuesday night, have made an encouraging start to life under Steve Cooper, and Woodman has been a star performer.

Inexperience has not been an issue for a player who is building on significant success at youth level – he won the Under-17 European Championship and Under-20 World Cup – on the senior club stage.

“I had some really good experiences with England and played with players like Dele Alli, Ben Chilwell, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Tammy Abraham and Marcus Rashford,” Woodman says.

“I see those boys playing at the top level and feel proud to say I have played with them, but I want to play with them again.”

If Woodman’s immediate focus is on the Championship, his next step – whether at Newcastle or elsewhere – should be the Premier League.

And should he shine in the top flight as he has in the second tier, he may get a call from his godfather.

23rd December 2019

Environment Anglesey birds in mystery mass death ‘died from trauma’

Environment Anglesey birds in mystery mass death ‘died from trauma’


Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media caption“It’s as if they just dropped down dead from the sky.”

Hundreds of birds which were found dead on a road died due to trauma from impact with the ground, preliminary findings have indicated.

About 225 starlings were found dead on a lane on Anglesey on 11 December.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is continuing its investigation, but it is unclear why the birds plunged to the ground.

Dafydd Edwards, whose partner found the birds, said it was as if “they had dropped down dead from the sky”.

Defra added it had investigated several incidents of mass mortality in groups of starlings previously. It said testing for bird flu was negative.

North Wales Police said it believed it had an explanation into the deaths on Wednesday.

Starling expert Prof Anne Goodenough from the University of Gloucestershire said one theory was the birds had been taking part in a mass murmuration and had been disorientated by sun reflected from a wet road.

“You could have had quite a lot of glare from that, that could have potentially confused the birds,” she said.

“We know that can happen to birds, so we get swans and geese, for example, crash landing onto solar panels because they look like lakes.

“So that kind of almost visual hallucination can occur – whether that is the case here, we don’t know.”

Environment What are starlings?

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Image caption

Starling murmurations can be seen every year in the UK, from around October to February

  • Smaller than blackbirds, with a short tail, pointed head, triangular wings, starlings look black at a distance but when seen closer they are very glossy with a sheen of purples and greens
  • Noisy birds, starlings spend a lot of the year in flocks
  • They usually lay 4-6 eggs in mid-April
  • Starlings are very tenacious and adaptable birds
  • Over the centuries they have expanded their numbers and range in the wake of farmers, wherever suitable conditions became available. They used to be uncommon birds in the UK
  • Starling numbers have declined markedly across much of northern Europe and the UK. The decline in the UK started during the early 1980s and has continued ever since
  • Long-term monitoring shows starling numbers have fallen by 66% in Britain since the mid-1970s

Source: RSPB

23rd December 2019

Environment England weather: More than 90 flood warnings issued

Environment England weather: More than 90 flood warnings issued


environment Alfriston floodingImage copyright
Eddie Mitchell

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Alfriston, East Sussex, suffered flooding after further heavy rainfall

Dozens of homes have been flooded and villages left under water after parts of England were again deluged by rain.

The Environment Agency has issued 79 flood warnings for the South, Midlands, East and Yorkshire, meaning immediate action is needed.

A mother and her three sons had to be saved after their car got stuck in flood water in Buckinghamshire.

And rivers including the Medway in Kent, Cuckmere in East Sussex and Loddon in Berkshire burst their banks.

The mother and her family were rescued in Edgcott, near Aylesbury, on Saturday night.

Meanwhile, homes and gardens were damaged when a tornado hit Surrey, earlier on Saturday.

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Media captionThis tornado was filmed on the M25 near Chertsey in Surrey, where homes and gardens were damaged

Travellers embarking on the Christmas getaway have been advised to check their routes in advance and drivers have been warned not to move or ignore “road closed” signs.

The Medway has flooded towns and villages including Maidstone, Yalding and Teston. Alfriston, in East Sussex, has been flooded.

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Hawkeye Aerial Media

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Homes in Yalding have been flooded

Cars in the village were swept away and the Environment Agency warns there is more rain forecast for Tuesday.

Police in Bedfordshire said they had received calls from people out walking who had become stuck in rural areas because of the flooding.

They urged people to be aware of weather conditions in secluded locations, with Bedford Borough Council saying several bridges had been closed in its district because they are “no longer safe to use”.

Supermarket workers at Sainsbury’s in Tonbridge continued to push trolleys despite rising levels of rain water.

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A Sainsbury’s worker continued to push trolleys despite the rising water levels

Residents of Little Venice Caravan Park in Yalding, Kent, had to be rescued by motorboat.

On Friday night, one officer had to strip down to his boxer shorts to check on a car stuck in Kingsey.

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Connor Passey

The tornado struck a number of houses in the Chertsey area on Saturday, according to firefighters.

Resident Verity Boultwood said it blew the roof off her conservatory.

Philip Passey said he “froze” when he saw the tornado, which he thought lasted about 40 seconds.

“A trampoline lifted up in the air, like it weighed nothing, and was thrown across the garden,” he said.

“My daughter came downstairs and said the shed roof had gone.”

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Connor Passey/PA

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The tornado caused damage across Chertsey

The tornado struck after roads were flooded and rail lines blocked on Friday.

The M23 was closed between junctions 10 and 11 in both directions in West Sussex, but was later reopened.

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PA Media

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Young people had to be ferried across a car park at Leicester Outdoor Pursuits Centre, next to the River Soar

A tractor was used to carry guests to and from the Hilton Doubletree hotel at Sindlesham near Reading, where the car park has been inundated by overflow from the River Loddon.

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A hotel car park at Sindlesham near Reading was inundated when the River Loddon burst its banks

Highways England has urged motorists to adapt their driving for wet weather by slowing down, keeping well back from the vehicle in front and easing off the accelerator if steering becomes unresponsive.

Have you been affected by flooding? Email

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23rd December 2019

Environment Men held and women rescued in Luton suspected brothel raids

Environment Men held and women rescued in Luton suspected brothel raids


environment Luton raids

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Police said they had seen a recent “dramatic rise” in the off-street sex trade in the area

Nine people have been arrested and 11 women rescued during raids at suspected brothels.

Police raided 15 places on Tuesday night where they found Romanian and Hungarian women, in their 20s, believed to be victims of sexual exploitation.

The searches, in Luton, were part of an investigation into human trafficking, exploitation and modern day slavery.

The five men and four women are suspected of managing and controlling brothels, among other charges.

They include six Romanians, one Hungarian and one Briton and are in custody at Luton police station.

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Five men and four women were arrested in the raids

The raids were part of Operation Thame and the latest intelligence-led operation involved 150 police officers and specialist staff.

Officers seized substantial amounts of cash and at one property three officers were attacked with pepper spray.

The rescued women spoke little or no English and were taken to a place of safety.

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Police carried out simultaneous raids on 15 suspected brothels

Insp Jim Goldsmith said some women are offered contracts to come to the UK to work in a proper job but “unfortunately that’s not the case” and the raids were the “tip of the iceberg”.

“We’ve seen quite a dramatic rise over the last eight to nine months in the off-street sex trade in Luton which has seen numerous brothels open and as such, has prompted the action we’ve taken.

“We try to keep these woman as safe as we can and that was the purpose of [these raids] to take the women out of that environment, give them the opportunity to exit that life and get them back to their families.”

Environment Those arrested:

  • Man, aged in his 50s, held on suspicion of human trafficking
  • One man and two women, aged in their 30s, arrested on suspicion of keeping a brothel
  • One man and two women, aged in their 20s, held on suspicion of keeping a brothel
  • One of the women aged in her 20s, is also held on suspicion of money laundering
  • Man, aged in his 40s, arrested on suspicion of money laundering, possession of a firearm and assaulting an emergency worker
  • Man, aged in his 40s, held on suspicion of possession of a firearm

23rd December 2019

Environment Lauren Hemp: Manchester City & England forward making amends for sister’s heartbreak

Environment Lauren Hemp: Manchester City & England forward making amends for sister’s heartbreak


environment Lauren Hemp

Lauren Hemp has scored nine times in 32 appearances in all competitions for Manchester City
Barclays FA Women’s Super League – Manchester City v Brighton
Date: Sunday, 15 December Kick-off: 12:30 GMT Venue: The Academy Stadium
Coverage: Watch live on the BBC Red Button and online, listen live on BBC Radio Manchester and follow live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.

Ever since her sister Amy seriously injured both knees and was forced to stop playing when they were at Norwich’s centre of excellence together, Lauren Hemp has strived to reach the top – not just for herself, but for her sister too.

After lifting two domestic cups, making her senior England debut and now signing a new contract with Manchester City, the 19-year-old has certainly done her older sibling proud in a breakthrough 2019.

The former Bristol City star has earned her first three Lionesses caps and ex-England forward and pundit Sue Smith believes Hemp can become “a mainstay” for the national team.

But the teenager’s early successes haven’t come without sacrifice, leaving home in Norfolk at 16 to move to Bristol City, before uprooting again to join Man City in 2018 before her 18th birthday.

“Making these big jumps has definitely helped me become more independent,” Hemp told BBC Sport.

“It’s a massive deal for me and my family because I’ve always been a home girl and I’ve always liked spending time with my family, so that was hard for me, being away from them.

“Now, living on my own and doing things for myself, it’s a massive step for me, but as soon as I moved I realised this is what I love doing. I’m getting to play with some of the top players in the world.”

Hemp, who came on as a substitute to score in May’s Women’s FA Cup final, may not have ever taken up the sport if it had not been for her older sister, Amy.

“I didn’t play until a few years after she [started]. I was normally watching her on the sides. After a while I realised I might as well give it a go,” she said.

“My sister was a big inspiration for me, but she tore both her ACLs and then had to quit. [A football career] was something she wanted so I’m trying not only for me, but also for her.

“At a young age, and where we were in the country, at that level, it was hard for her to get the right treatment to come back from that and risk it. She’s still involved in sport but she’s just not playing football.”

Lauren Hemp was part of the England side watched by 77,768 at Wembley in November

Hemp impressed at Norwich enough to earn a move to the Women’s Super League and Bristol City, where her performances secured her the 2018 PFA Young Player of the Year award.

That summer, she was snapped up by title-chasing Manchester City. “It was something I couldn’t turn down. I’ve loved being here,” she continued.

“Coming here with the facilities and environment, and the people I’d be playing with, it’s not something everybody gets the opportunity to do.”

Her displays for the Citizens have earned her a new “multi-year” contract, which manager Nick Cushing described as an “imperative” deal for the club.

They have also led to senior England action for the Lionesses’ former Under-17 captain, with her debut coming in a friendly away at Portugal in October.

“I was shaking as I was about to go on,” she recalled. “I was really nervous. I was getting ready to make sure that, if I got an opportunity, I took it with both hands.”

Hemp has indeed grabbed her opportunities in the big moments, according to a former star for England in the same position in Smith.

“She seems to turn up and play with no fear, stepping up and showing what she’s about. She gets an opportunity and takes it with both hands,” former Leeds and Doncaster Belles star Smith told BBC Sport.

Sue Smith helped England reach the final of Women’s Euro 2009

“She’s quick, strong, powerful and can glide past players with ease. She’s got all of the attributes to be a top-quality wide player or forward player.

“Going to Manchester City, a big club with big expectation, she’s only young, and yet she’s managed to live up to that pressure.

“Everybody that you speak to about her says she’s got the right attitude. She made all of those sacrifices, moving away from home at a young age.

“That’s because she’s got this desire to be the best. She can only continue in the right direction and, at some point, she will be a mainstay for England, in my opinion.

“If she keeps continuing at that level and keeps performing in these big-pressure games, the world’s her oyster. She gets you off your seat. She’s got a real bright future.”

Man City host Brighton & Hove Albion in the WSL on Sunday, in the final round of fixtures before the division’s winter break.

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Hemp puts gloss on Man City victory

BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame to showcase female athletes in a way they never have been before. Through more live women’s sport available to watch across the BBC in 2019, complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women’s sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.

23rd December 2019

Environment General election 2019: Last day of campaigning before poll

Environment General election 2019: Last day of campaigning before poll


environment Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn, Adam Price, Nigel Farage and Jo SwinsonImage copyright
Getty Images

Political parties in Wales are making a final push for general election votes before the polls open on Thursday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited a business in south Wales to rally Conservative support.

Welsh Labour leader Mark Drakeford has also been campaigning in the south.

Plaid Cymru called for lying in politics to be made a criminal offence, while the Liberal Democrats claimed halting Brexit would mean a £50bn “remain bonus” for public services.

The Conservatives and Labour are the only parties fighting all 40 Welsh constituencies.

Plaid Cymru is standing in 36 seats, the Liberal Democrats in 32 and the Greens in 18, after they formed a pro-remain alliance, which means they have agreed to stand aside for one of the other parties in some constituencies.

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Media captionWhy can’t I vote for who I want?

Mr Johnson visited a wrapping paper company in Hengoed, Rhymney Valley, in the Caerphilly constituency on Wednesday afternoon.

The company, Tom Smith, supplies Christmas crackers and Christmas wrapping paper to the Royal Household.

Mr Johnson claimed the country “is at a crossroads”.

“It’s the most important election I can remember for a long time. We can go forward, get Brexit done, with a one nation Conservative government,” he said.

He said the alternative was “another year, two years, maybe more of drift and dither, with Corbyn and Sturgeon… in a coalition that would I think be absolutely catastrophic for the economics and politics of this country”.

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Getty Images

Image caption

Boris Johnson pulled Christmas crackers with factory staff in Hengoed

Mr Drakeford was campaigning in the Labour target seat of Vale of Glamorgan.

Speaking to BBC Wales in Barry, he said opinion polls had demonstrated a “narrowing of the gap between the parties, absolutely consistently throughout the campaign”.

“What today is about for the Labour Party is that final push, that final message on the doorstep [that] we can do it here in Wales, across the United Kingdom,” he said.

“And we’ll be out on the doorstep telling people that, asking for their support, getting those Labour MPs that we need.”

Labour has promised more money for Wales to invest in the NHS, education, local government and police, and called for a green “industrial revolution”.

It has also pledged a real living wage of at least £10 an hour and thrown support behind a Swansea Tidal Lagoon and a new nuclear power station on Anglesey.

Plaid Cymru has been campaigning for a second EU referendum and a £20bn Welsh “green jobs revolution” with investment in such areas as renewable energy and transport infrastructure.

It also used Wednesday to promote its leader Adam Price’s plan to outlaw lying by elected politicians.

Image caption

Mark Drakeford on the campaign trail in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan

Mr Price, who has drawn up the Elected Representatives (Prohibition of Deception) Bill, said it would restore faith in an era of “fake news, fake views and fake figures”.

On his general message to voters, Mr Price said: “Plaid Cymru is Wales’ leading party of Remain and we have been clear throughout this election.

“We want to see the back of Brexit once and for all and the way to do that is to have a people’s vote at the earliest opportunity.”

Jane Dodds, leader of the pro-Remain Welsh Liberal Democrats, said she thought her party’s message was getting through.

“There’s a clear message here that we’ve giving, not just about Brexit and the EU but how we’re going to be fighting for local communities and making sure we protect our local services,” she said.

“And that is coming through on the doorsteps when I talk to people.”

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Getty Images

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Adam Price says the law should stop politicians deliberately misleading the public

The Green Party said it would make Wales a leader in tackling climate change and would support projects such as the proposed Swansea Tidal Lagoon.

Wales Green Party leader Anthony Slaughter said he was “firmly committed to defending our rights as citizens of Europe by continuing to campaign for a people’s vote on the final Brexit deal and fighting for us to Remain and transform the EU”.

“Voters can trust us to take the decisive and necessary actions needed to tackle the climate emergency, protect our environment and let nature flourish,” he said.

Image caption

Jane Dodds says she believes the Liberal Democrat message is getting through

The Brexit Party has pledged to invest £12bn in Wales over five years after Britain leaves the EU, as part of a £200bn spending programme across the UK, on infrastructure, wi-fi and services for young people.

The party’s Julie Price said its message was going down “quite well because people in Wales, the majority, voted for Brexit”.

“Many people think that, however the voted that Brexit does need to happen,” she said.

“And also there are so many people that will never vote Tory, ever, and can’t vote for Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, we hear that a lot on the doorstep.”

21st December 2019

Environment Lostwithiel 18th Century manor hit by major blaze

Environment Lostwithiel 18th Century manor hit by major blaze


environment Milltown manor house fireImage copyright
Lostwithiel Community Fire Station/Twitter

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Firefighters were withdrawn from the building in Milltown “due to risk” to them

An 18th Century manor house has been damaged by fire which left crews fearing it might collapse.

The blaze was spotted in the three-storey building in Milltown, Cornwall, at about 08:50 GMT.

Initially, three fire crews were called but nine more were sent to the scene, near Lostwithiel, at about 11:45.

After nearly nine hours it was brought under under control and there were no reports of injuries. It is understood the house was empty at the time.

Experts from the Environment Agency were called in to carry out an environmental risk assessment.

Staff from Western Power Distribution and Cornwall Council emergency management officers were also called to the scene.

The blaze spread from the first floor of the house to a roof space before it was brought under control.

Firefighters in breathing apparatus had gone into the building to try and stop that spread but had to pull back building “due to risk” to them, Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service said.

Terry Nottle, of Bodmin Fire Station, said it was a “significant fire” and “we don’t get many 12-appliance fires in the county”.

Although the fire is under control, crews are due to remain at the scene until Sunday.

An investigation is to be carried out into the cause.

21st December 2019

Environment ‘Abuse on the campaign trail doesn’t shock me any more’

Environment ‘Abuse on the campaign trail doesn’t shock me any more’


environment Luke Pollard painting over graffiti outside his office

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Luke Pollard painting over graffiti outside his office

Racist slurs, rape threats, being chased with a sledgehammer – abuse of political candidates and their teams is on the rise. How do those running to be an MP cope in this toxic environment?

“I’ve been told that I’m not English enough, that I should go back to where I came from. I’ve been told that, because of the way my surname sounds, I’m a nobody.”

Before she put her name forward as the Liberal Democrat candidate in Camberwell and Peckham, south London, 33-year-old Julia Ogiehor had a difficult decision to make. Was standing up for what she believed in worth the toll on her mental health?

And sure enough, she says, she faced a torrent of abuse, some of it racist. She was told that she didn’t deserve to represent the seat, and should go and work in McDonald’s.

“I’m human too, I’ve got feelings. I don’t always have to be the strong black woman,” she says.

“I have cried on this campaign. I’ve had moments when I just couldn’t get out of bed. I just didn’t want to speak to anybody.

“I was prepared for the abuse on the right but I was dismayed, disappointed, hurt and then frightened by the abuse from Labour supporters.”

For candidates running for election across the UK, the general election wasn’t just a succession of 18-hour days, it also meant enduring an unprecedented level of personal attacks.

According to a study by the University of Sheffield, the number of abusive tweets sent to candidates – racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic or in other ways offensive – was up dramatically in 2019.

Environment Find out more

The Next Episode podcast followed seven people standing for election, all of whom kept a record of the abuse they received. Download the episode here.

The researchers registered 158,000 abusive tweets, compared with 31,000 during the election period in 2017. This year 4.5% of replies to the candidates’ tweets were abusive, compared to 3.3% at the last election.

“The abuse has become normalised and it doesn’t shock me any more,” says Andrea Jenkyns, who was re-elected as Conservative MP for Morley and Outwood in West Yorkshire.

She says she has received rape and death threats since she was first elected in 2015. She came off social media for three months after a man rang her office and threatened to rip her face off.

But she says the level of abuse in the most recent general election was worse than in 2015 or 2017. This year, she says, every piece of outdoor signage put up by her campaign was defaced. One of her canvassers was even threatened with a sledgehammer.

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Julia Ogiehor campaigning in south London

The murder of Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox in 2016 has left many candidates feeling understandably fearful. For the first time, police advised candidates not to engage with abuse online or in person, to block abusers online and to report any intimidation. This was for their own safety, they said.

Some candidates have their own rules, too – they might not go out alone, or after dark, and some carry personal alarms.

Labour’s Luke Pollard, the first openly gay MP to represent Plymouth, has his office in the centre of his constituency so it can be easily accessible to constituents. Twice during the election campaign it was vandalised with homophobic graffiti.

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Graffiti targeting Andrea Jenkyns

Pollard says that although he was keen for the building “not to look like Fort Knox”, he took security advice and had bomb-proof windows installed. The abuse, he says, “kind of eats away at you”. Like Andrea Jenkyns, he has a “file of hate” – a collection of all the abusive correspondence received in case it needs to be taken to the police.

But he tries not to let the abusers get to him as “that’s what they want.”

Charlotte Nichols, 28, who was elected for the first time in Warrington North for Labour, was so frightened by some of the messages she was sent that she called the police.

“I’ve been called things like ‘another southern Labour slag’, I’ve had stuff about how I’m a vile sewer rat, that I’m a traitor,” she says. “Probably the most sinister and hurtful one for me personally was someone who sent an anonymous letter to the local Catholic churches to let them know I’ve had an abortion.”

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Charlotte Nichols

Nichols, who converted to Judaism in 2014, also faced abuse connected with her religion. “There’s a lot of stuff saying how could I be Jewish if I was campaigning on a Saturday? And how can I be Jewish if I’m a Labour Party candidate, when the party has got issues with anti-Semitism?” One person accused of her being a “kapo” – a term that was used for Jewish people who became concentration camp guards.

Sometimes, however, it is the candidates themselves who are accused of contributing to the toxic environment. Nichols was criticised during the campaign when old tweets came to light in which she swore and told one antagonist that she hoped “you lose your virginity”.

Nichols acknowledges that, as someone who now holds public office, “I will have to react differently.”

But she refuses to apologise for tweeting that a group of Italian football fans pictured giving fascist salutes in Glasgow should “get their heads kicked in”. Her Conservative opponent in Warrington North accused her of inciting violence. She responded: “I believe fascism should be physically confronted.”

After the 2017 general election, the independent Committee on Standards in Public Life conducted an investigation into abuse of candidates. Its chairman, Lord Jonathan Evans, says that two years later some of its recommendations have yet to be implemented. He’s particularly disappointed that the parties have yet to agree to a joint code of conduct.

The current situation is deterring people from entering politics, he believes.

“This is really important to the future of our democracy,” he says. “Because if people don’t feel confident to stand, or if, as we have seen, some people stand down, then that means we are going to have a less representative and less effective democracy.” MPs have told him that they have changed their votes in parliament as a result of “intimidation”.

According to the Sheffield University researchers, first-time candidates running in areas they aren’t likely to win tend to experience more online abuse than others.

Neva Novaky, 32, says she was taken aback by the vitriol she was subjected to in her first parliamentary campaign for the Conservatives in Garston and Halewood, a safe Labour seat in Merseyside.

“What I was not expecting was the level of animosity and the way that you get a lot of anger and hate directed at you as an individual,” she says. People swore at her and told her she was a liar. One of her canvassers was threatened with a shovel, another with a hammer, she says.

But no matter how much abuse they’ve suffered, candidates still want to go out and campaign.

Julia Ogiehor says the moments when she didn’t want to get out of bed or speak to anyone always passed. They “revived me to then get back out there”, she says. “I will not stop fighting.”

The reporter on the Next Episode podcast was Molly Lynch

20th December 2019

Environment Welsh Assembly facing £4m bill to replace Tŷ Hywel windows

Environment Welsh Assembly facing £4m bill to replace Tŷ Hywel windows


environment Tŷ HywelImage copyright

Image caption

Tŷ Hywel is rented, unlike the assembly-owned Senedd building next door

The body that runs the Welsh Assembly is considering replacing the windows at its rented offices at a cost of £4m.

The Assembly Commission said the windows in Tŷ Hywel, next to the Senedd in Cardiff Bay, have “an increasing level of faults and failures”.

The building’s “coastal environment” has led to “a reduced operational life” for the 28-year-old windows, it added.

Tŷ Hywel is rented while the Senedd building, containing the debating chamber, is owned by the assembly.

The Tŷ Hywel building, which houses offices and committee rooms, is owned by London-based Equitix Tiger English LP, a limited partnership registered with Companies House in December 2018.

According to the commission’s budget report, the windows of the type in Tŷ Hywel have an expected operational life of 25 to 35 years but “the building’s location in a coastal environment has led to a reduced operational life”.

Independent surveys have identified that the windows are in “poor physical condition and that thermal performance is likewise poor”, the report said.

“An increasing number of windows have faults and replacement parts can no longer be obtained to carry out repairs.”

Explaining why the commission as tenants, rather than the landlord, is responsible for the expenditure, the commission said that “as part of a full repairing and insuring lease agreement for Tŷ Hywel, the commission is required to maintain the building in a good state of repair, including replacing any end of life items such as boilers, doors and windows”.

Image caption

The Assembly Commission was set up to manage the institution in 2007

During a debate on the commission’s budget in the Senedd last month, the commissioner responsible for budget and governance, Conservative AM Suzy Davies, acknowledged “the windows project… has come as something of a surprise, perhaps, to some assembly members, but it was never going to be cheap”.

A spokeswoman for the Assembly Commission said: “The decision regarding the work will be taken by the new commission in the 6th Senedd [which begins after the 2021 election] and this will include a decision around expenditure and phasing of the project in order to get the best value for money and address sustainability concerns.”

Environment What is Tŷ Hywel?

  • It was originally named Crickhowell House after the former Conservative Welsh Secretary Lord Crickhowell but has since been renamed after medieval Welsh ruler Hywel Dda
  • It was built in the 1990s by Grosvenor Waterside, the property arm of Associated British Ports, which owned large areas of land around the newly reclaimed Cardiff Bay
  • The Welsh Office took out a lease on the building and it was transferred to the assembly when it was established in 1999
  • It housed the assembly’s Siambr – debating chamber – until the Senedd was completed in 2006
  • The commission says it “remains a long-term objective of the commission to secure ownership of Tŷ Hywel at some stage in the future”

20th December 2019

Environment Muckamore Abbey Hospital: 39 patients still in hospital

Environment Muckamore Abbey Hospital: 39 patients still in hospital


environment A sign outside Muckamore Abbey Hospital

Image caption

The County Antrim hospital is at the centre of a police investigation

Thirty-nine patients in Muckamore Abbey Hospital who should have been discharged will have to stay as there are no suitable places for them in the community, BBC News NI can reveal.

In January, the permanent health secretary said no one should call the hospital home “when there are better options for their care”.

Thirty patients have been discharged.

The County Antrim hospital is at the centre of a police investigation into allegations that staff abused patients.

Richard Pengelly said he expected the resettlement process to be completed by the end of the year.

That has not happened and many men and women will continue to live in a hospital environment despite assessments that say under the right circumstances they could live in the community.

In a statement to the BBC, the Department of Health said that as of 31 October there were 39 patients in Muckamore Abbey Hospital who should be living in the community.

Sinn Féin’s Pat Sheehan said it was very disappointing.

“This time last year the permanent secretary told us that they had a plan in place to ensure that no patient would ever have to call Muckamore their home within one year,” he said.

“That year is up. No plan has been published and having spoken to experts within the sector, they said at the time that plan was a fantasy.

“It was more about spin than any serious proposal to make sure that these patients were resettled in the community.”

Environment Muckamore improvements

Earlier on Friday, Northern Ireland’s health regulator said “significant improvements” have been made at the hospital.

The improvements were see during an unannounced inspection.

The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) said the improvements included physical checks on every patient and extra support for staff.

But it found outstanding issues with financial governance and safeguarding.

The County Antrim hospital is at the centre of a police investigation into allegations that staff abused patients.

Muckamore Abbey Hospital provides treatment for people with severe learning disabilities and mental health needs.

Police investigating the abuse are continuing to examine thousands of hours of CCTV footage from Muckamore and have already identified 1,500 crimes on one ward alone.

About 40 staff have been suspended by health trusts during the investigation and four people have been arrested and released on bail pending further inquiries.

The latest RQIA report was the first piece of positive news about Muckamore in two years.

Following a three-day and overnight inspection, its regulators said they had found considerable improvements which are contributing positively to the care of patients.

Environment ‘Welcoming atmosphere’

Dr Lourda Geoghegan, RQIA’s medical director and director of improvement said “we are pleased to report significant improvement at the hospital in addressing the concerns highlighted in our enforcement notices issued in August.

“As a result of this very welcome progress, RQIA has lifted all elements of its improvements notice relating to staffing.

“We have seen an open and welcoming atmosphere, with staff feeling supported and listened to a part of the improvement.”

Image caption

Dr Lourda Geoghegan said Muckamore had addressed some of the RQIA’s previous concerns

The improvements include more staffing – however these additional nurses have been removed from other health trusts in order to ensure Muckamore’s wards are properly staffed.

The report also said that patients are in a much brighter and more positive environment and all have recently received a physical health care review.

Earlier this year, a number of enforcement notices were placed on the hospital – some still remain around financial governance of patients and one issue remains outstanding relating to safeguarding.

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