Sunday, 20 June 2010

It's Recycle Week!

Apparently, this coming week (21st-27th June) is Recycle Week – and since this blog is evidently well thought-of, I’ve been approached by a PR company to write something about recycling.

This year, they are focussing on recycling electrical goods – working on the premise that we get too attached to toasters and TVs etc to throw them out when they fail: “our modern reliance on electrical goods and the emotional bonds we form with them prevent people from recycling unused items”. Personally, it’s more a combination of laziness and the strictures of the WEEE directive that stops me from getting rid of electrical goods.
I see the County Council will accept electrical goods at their ‘household waste recovery centres’ and there are lots of charities (eg British Heart Foundation) which will take working electrical goods for re-use.

However, I really don’t like the loose way the term ‘recycling’ is used – true recycling, which is breaking something down into its component materials for re-use is (for me) the lowest level acceptable way to dispose of waste. Electrical goods do contain valuable metals and semi-metals that are worth recovering. But, I’d far rather see more use being made of local repair and refurbishment facilities – creating local jobs and keeping money in the local economy, than wholesale scrap work. And I’ve written several times before about the excellent Free Cycle system, which allows people to give away unwanted stuff, while eBay and Amazon have really rehabilitated the secondhand goods market.

So – before we think about recycling: what about re-sale and re-use, then adaptation and refurbishment, then repair and cannibalisation – and only as a last resort scrapping for component materials.
Of course, it does mean that we need to get the designers to work on adaptability, refurbishment and most importantly design for repair – so that you don’t have to throw away eg whole car headlamp units for want of a lightbulb.
Built-in obsolescence is so 20th century, we need to base 21st century economics on re-use and repair.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Supermarket Wars – the Planning Decision

Several interesting byplays at the special County Council Planning Committee on Monday considering the three supermarket applications: John Taylor is a very good Chair, and Peter Rutherford, the planning officer kept the meeting calm with his slow, deliberate presentations. The councillors themselves seemed to be too aware of likely appeals to go into any detailed discussion, so it went entirely by officer recommendations. The applicants were all preparing the ground for appeals too – and an interesting difference in approach between those who addressed the committee and those who addressed the public. Good presentations from objectors too – with Ken Stait and Marcus Hopper both particularly effective IMO.

OK – enough of the Robert Pollard-style punditry, what happens next?

Well – they went with the least worst option – working on the assumption that one supermarket application had to be approved – with evident sacrifice of the views of the Staithes Lane residents for the perceived greater benefit for Morpeth. And there was an implicit heavy dependency on getting another go when the full application comes in.

I guess we can expect appeals against refusal from both Sainsbury and Tesco’s – and the political cynicism is that they will be persuaded to drop their appeals for deals to become the operator for the Dark Lane site and/or to move into the former M&S Food Only store on the Market Place. I’d also say that there’ll be a bit of a race to bring this forward before the public sector recession hits – and it’ll hit Morpeth bad in the next 18-24 months.

So – I’d imagine Mark Dransfield is quite keen to crack on with his development.

Meanwhile – I still do not recognise that even an edge of town supermarket is needed or will not damage town centre trade.