Banbury Community Action Group

March Newsletter

Welcome to Banbury CAG’s March
Update and News.Here’s an update on the various events and projects we’ve currently got underway Spring 21.  
To get involved in any of them – just drop us an email, or get in touch on Facebook. 
 Seed Swap event, Good to Grow weekendTurn up at our Bridge Street Community Garden (just down from Banbury Station) between 11am and 2pm on 24th to 25th April, and you’ll find free seeds to take away.  If you’re dropping by, why not bring any spare seeds (veg or flower) you might have, to leave as swaps, or just to give away (seedlings and plants welcome too!).  Well, some packets of little gem lettuce seeds, for example, contain approx. 1,000 seeds – quite a task for one alone to eat that many lettuces through the summer, however tasty… 

The ‘Swap’ will be a mini version of our ever-popular ‘Produce and Seed Swap’ events – we’ll scale back up to those just as soon as circumstances permit.   

This mini Swap marks the middle of the National ‘Good to Grow’ long weekend.  ‘Good to Grow’ is all about celebrating Community Gardens as wonderful spaces for community food growing (and the odd flower, too).  Find out more here.

Nice to know: Bridge Street Community Garden is open for gardening.  So, if you’re interested in being part of the growing community this season, why not drop in on the mini Swap.  There are already lots of volunteers involved with the Garden, but it’s a generous space and there’s certainly room for more! Banbury Embraces NatureThe new Banbury Embraces Nature (BEN) – Biodiverse Banbury project is beginning to take shape.  We are building strong links with the acclaimed Wild Banbury initiative, and developing close associations with other interested parties such as the Town and District Councils, BBOWT wildlife trust, Wild Oxfordshire, and Banbury’s Business Improvement District (BID). 

‘BEN’ will bring to the community a range of different ways of helping enhance the town as a place for wildlife. Through it, residents will be able to join practical work sessions engaged in habitat restoration, management and creation, or assist with surveying work and species identification. ‘BEN” considers public engagement and education to be a vital part of the picture, so we will be seeking every opportunity to promote nature conservation and habitat enhancement.

A meeting to discuss priorities for action is scheduled for 31stMarch, 6pm-7pm.  Everyone interested is most welcome to attend.  Contact us by email or via Facebook for the meeting link (contact details in footer below). Banbury Active Travel SupportersBanbury Active Travel Supporters (BATS) are living up to their name by being very active, with an ever-increasing number of residents playing a role.  Mapping work is underway to identify a plan of cycle and pedestrian through-routes for the town.  Volunteers will take on sections of these routes to survey in detail, identifying where improvements are required.  The aim: to develop a well-researched picture of what needs doing and where, in order to improve the infrastructure for those negotiating the town either on foot or on bike.  The information gathered will be used to feed in to the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) currently being drafted by the local authority, ensuring the plan accurately reflects the local needs.  
BATS are keen to gather support for the LCWIP, and to explain the benefits their proposals will have for the people of Banbury in terms of cleaner and healthier streets and more pleasant options for active travel.  To this end, we are seeking to engage local councillors and the wider public in our work.

Interested?  Then drop us a message to find out how to join in (contact details in footer below). Climate actionThere are now over 30 groups working together as the Oxfordshire COP26 Climate Alliance.  Naturally, Banbury CAG is one of them.  

The most recent OCCA event, “Climate Action 2021”, was a day packed with discussions and workshops looking at the importance of the UN COP26 conference coming up in the autumn in Glasgow, and thinking about how we can have an input.  It looked, too, at how to widen engagement in the climate action movement, such that the movement represents all interests in society. There was much more on offer also, including a chance to discover more about the UK Climate arts Festival planned for mid September, the CEE Bill (Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill) and the One Planet Oxfordshire programme.

So you want to know more about the Alliance?  You can find out here.Climate and Ecological Emergencies.  Wondering what to do to help?  
Read on for three things you can action now!Lend your Support
‘State of Nature’ campaignThe last day of February saw the launch of a major new campaign: backed by almost every nature organisation in the country, it calls on the PM to put promises to protect nature, into law.

The PM has called on world leaders to, by 2030, turn around the fortunes of nature, which is being squashed out of existence by pressures mankind is placing on the planet.  Fine words, Boris, but oddly, closer to home, the draft ‘Environment Bill’, as it drags it’s way through the parliamentary process, contains no commitment to do the same.  Unless it includes a legally-binding nature recovery target, it seems highly unlikely that the Bill will do anything to halt, let alone reverse, the alarming decline in numbers of so many of our once-common native species.  

Year on year we lose swathes of habitat and, as it goes, the species associated with it vanish also.  A healthy natural world underpins our own wellbeing as a species. For our own sakes, urgent action is required.  Promises and pledges seem to be made to be forgotten: time after time, deadlines for protection come and go, and the situation is worse not better.  

It’s time to try ambitious targets written into law.  A legally binding target would mean the Government must achieve that target, or risk facing legal action.  It’s unlikely that there will be another such opportunity for a good decade or so.
If you agree, and feel we need a way of holding the government, current and future, to account, to ensure we do give nature the support and space needed to stabilise and bounce back, signing the campaign’s petition is something you can do (if you haven’t done so already), now.
The link is here.Speak up to clean up Dirty WaterLast autumn, the Environment Agency released figures on the health of the rivers, lakes and streams of England.  There’s a target in the 25 Year Environment Plan, launched 2018, for 75% of water bodies in England to be in good condition ‘as soon as possible’, and a target for all waters to be in good health by 2027.

What did the Autumn 2020 figures show?  That not one waterbody monitored – that’s 0% – passed the required chemical standards. Hardly something to be proud of, huh? The European average is a 40% pass – not great, but light years ahead of the UK.
It seems like here is another instance of where we need legal commitments, alongside pollution prevention and funding, to bring water quality up to standard for our own benefit and for the natural world.  What we don’t need is a lowering of the current standards of assessment.

Our MP, Victoria Prentis, does not appear to have yet signed up to support the Sewage Bill, that seeks to make a start on improving water quality.  This Private Members Bill is currently making its way through Parliament.  Why not write to her to ask that she sign up to it? after all, we have the River Cherwell running right through the middle of our town.

To find out more look here and for some additional information from the Wildlife and Countryside Link, look here.And if you’re not already… 
Go peat free2 million cubic metres. That sounds like an awful lot. That’s because it is an awful lot.  Especially if it is a measure of precious, irreplaceable, ecosystem being lost year in a single year.  Peat.  It’s the volume of peat sold in the UK in the last year.   Environmental groups have written to the Environment Secretary calling for a ban on peat in compost by 2025.  Unless there is a legal ban, then there’s little hope of extraction rates falling.
Peatlands are unique habitats providing home for a range of often very specific species. Additionally, they act as massive carbon sinks, trapping carbon – peatlands store more carbon in the UK, than forests.   Mine them for compost, and the carbon is released into the atmosphere and the habitat is lost. However lovely your plants, however fine your garden, it cannot be true that their need for peat is such as to justify this.  

The voluntary target to end the use of peat in the amateur gardener sector by 2020, has been completely missed – go into any garden centre or DIY store for evidence.  The figures?  Sales down from 53.3% of growing medium being peat in 2015, to 44.6% in 2020.  Tragic. The target for use of peat to be ended in the professional sector by 2030 is destined also to be missed.  Data: 63.9% in 2015, 62.9% in 2020.  Equally woeful.  
Conclusion?  Again, we need to look to the strength of law – we need a ban on peat extraction, import, export and sale in all sectors by 2025.  After all, there’s plenty of cost-effective decent quality alternatives. 

The National Trust is already peat-free.  Every reader of this Newsletter should be too.
For more about peatlands, try looking to the Wildlife Trusts here.
Banbury CAG is a volunteer-led group organising community events to raise awareness of, and promote action on, environmental issues such as sustainable transport, climate action, biodiversity protection, waste reduction, food and water issues.   We also run the Bridge Community Garden and the Browning Road Orchard.We meet the 1st Tuesday of every month (currenty online) to plan campaigns and activities – our meetings are open to anyone who would like to be involved. Next meeting: 6th April and this is also our AGM.    Our community projects are always looking for individuals, groups or businesses who may wish to participate or contribute.
Come and join in!Thanks to (in order) Jen Theodore, Vincent van Zalinge, Clem Onojeghuo, Li-An Lim, Jacqueline O’Gara, Jonathan Ridley, Jason Mitrione, for the photos, all on Unsplash.Copyright © 2021 Banbury CAG, All rights reserved.

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