Gazette letters: NHS, Lee Valley, renewable energy and contractors

Street art in Windus Road, Stoke Newington, supporting the NHS. Picture: Andr� Langlois

Street art in Windus Road, Stoke Newington, supporting the NHS. Picture: Andr� Langlois - Credit: Archant

April 9 marked the third Thursday in which people across the country clapped for workers in the NHS and for the other key workers, writes Sasha Simic, Stoke Newington, full address supplied.

In my road people came out of their doors and onto their balconies to clap and cheer.

My partner is an occupational therapist at Homerton Hospital in Hackney.

She is also a shop steward with Unison and has been working with her colleagues and with management there to ensure every worker at the hospital is supplied with PPE. There is a shortage of PPE and the shortage is the fault of Boris Johnson’s government.

After we stopped clapping my partner paid tribute to Dr Abdul Mabud Chowdhury who was a consultant urologist at Homerton Hospital.

She read out the Facebook message which Dr Chowdhury wrote to Boris Johnson on the March 18, 2020:

“Dear and respectable prime minister Mr Boris Johnson, Please ensure urgently PPE for each and every NHS health worker. Remember we may be doctor/nurse/HCA/allied health workers who are in direct contact with patients, but we are also human being to practice human right like others to live in a world free with our family and children. People appreciate us and salute us for our rewarding job which are very inspirational, but I would like to say we have to protect ourselves and our families/kids in this global disaster/crisis by using appropriate PPE and remedies.”

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Five days after posting this message Dr Chowdhury was admitted to Queens Hospital, Romford with coronavirus.

On Thursday, April 9, 2020, while the mainstream media was still obsessing about Boris Johnson’s condition, Dr Chowdhury died of Covid-19. He leaves behind him his wife and two children.

My street clapped for Dr Chowdhury on Thursday.

His loss reminds us of the risks NHS staff face in the front line of tackling the Covid-19 epidemic. Dr Chowdhury’s loss reminds us of the enormous contribution BAME and migrant workers make to the NHS.

A disproportionate number of BAME and migrant workers in the NHS have lost their lives while carrying out their duties. Migrants – who Boris Johnson remorselessly attacks – make the NHS.

The loss of Dr Chowdhury reminds us that clapping is not enough. All key workers – be they in the NHS or transport or distribution or shop-workers or delivery workers – urgently need effective PPE. Now.

Once we are on the other side of this pandemic those in government who ignored the threat of Covid-19 and did not adequately prepare for the threat must answer to the law for their negligence.

They have blood on their hands.

Although, it is very welcome to see the letter from the chiefs of some of our local parks (“A Plea to London Park Users”, Hackney Gazette, April 9), writes Celia Coram, Save Lea Marshes, full address supplied,

regarding the importance of our parks and green spaces, it is somewhat disingenuous of one of the contributors, Shaun Dawson of the Lee Valley Regional Parks Authority, to make such a statement, when the authority is currently involved in two plans to take away and/or restrict use of green space. Firstly, by planning to build an industrial-sized Olympic twin-pad ice rink/leisure centre on Leyton Marsh, and secondly trying to get a licence for land next to the Waterworks Nature Reserve, for a dance music festival to be held each year for up to three years, which will cut off use by other users and affect the local wildlife.

The current coronavirus situation does indeed provide us with an example of how vital having green space is for local people to walk and enjoy what little nature we have left, particularly as more housing blocks with limited or no garden space goes up in Waltham Forest and Hackney.

Ice-skating may have its benefits and fans and music festivals can be very enjoyable, but when the chips are down, as they are at the moment – what do we need more? Judging by the number of people trying to enjoy their daily escape from lock-down, I think we know.

I read the article in this week’s gazette “All Hackney Council electricity supplied by renewable sources” with interest and astonishment, Imran Khan, St Agnes Close, Hackney, wrote to Cllr Jon Burke.

After several re-reads however, it was clear that I read it correctly the first time and that it is now a fact that every unit of electricity consumed by Hackney Council is from, presumably, wind farms and solar panels which quite evidently isn’t the case. At the moment, nationally, only 40 per cent of the entire production of electricity comes from renewables such as biomass, wind and solar power.

Further down the article “eco chief” Cllr Jon Burke was quoted as saying that Hackney was committed to re-directing the current spend of £6.5 million per year. In a wonderful example of eco speak he is essentially saying that he would like everything to be green, it isn’t and can’t be but Hackney will spend a load of our money trying to achieve it anyway and there is nothing we can do about it. There is one safe, cheap and clean source of electricity which isn’t mentioned, nuclear power. I wonder why.

Hackney Council is absolutely acquiring all of its electricity from renewables, Cllr Jon Burke, cabinet member, Energy, Waste, Transport, and Public Realm, replied to Imran Khan.

We do that through purchasing wholesale units under Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates. You can find out more from the cabinet paper.

What’s more, we now aim to take this process a step further by securing a Power Purchase Agreement with specific generating facilities to improve transparency regarding the source of the electricity we procure. We are, of course, merely at the beginning of our journey in terms of the actions we have taken and are very much inspired by local authorities such as Warrington Borough Council, which does merely procure renewable electricity, but generates 60MW of its own power (twice the council’s annual usage) from its own solar arrays. This also enables the council to provide competitively-priced energy for local businesses and residents, whilst at the same time reducing the carbon intensity of grid electricity and improving grid resilience through decentralisation.

While I am by no means hostile to existing nuclear power, which continues to play an important role in decarbonising grid electricity, new nuclear power is failing to come online because, contrary to your claim, it is manifestly not “cheap”. Even a Conservative government hostile to the idea of renewables has been forced, in the fullness of time, to admit this. In his statement on suspension of work on the Wylfa Newydd nuclear project, former Energy Minister Greg Clark noted: “...the economics of the energy market have changed significantly in recent years. The cost of renewable technologies such as offshore wind has fallen dramatically, to the point where they now require very little public subsidy and will soon require none. We have also seen a strengthening in the pipeline of projects coming forward, meaning that renewable energy may now not just be cheap, but also readily available. As a result of these developments over the last eight years we have a well-supplied electricity market. Our electricity margin forecast is currently over 11pc for this winter – having grown for each of the last five years.

“Whilst this is good news for consumers as we strive to reduce carbon emissions at the lowest cost, this positive trend has not been true when it comes to new nuclear. Across the world, a combination of factors including tighter safety regulations, have seen the cost of most new nuclear projects increase, as the cost of alternatives has fallen and the cost of construction has risen. This has made the challenge of attracting private finance into projects more difficult than ever, with investors favouring other technologies that are less capital-intensive upfront, quicker to build, and less exposed to cost overruns.”

As regards the safety of nuclear power, I suggest you ask the people of Fukishima for their thoughts.

On my journey this morning from the shops (April 9), I saw two highway workers doing paving works by Stoke Newington Common, standing no further than a foot apart and wearing no masks just high vis jackets and trousers, writes Simon Bernstein, Leaside Road, Hackney.

The same has happened outside my window in Leaside Road. They get back in their vehicles - no masks and sitting two foot apart, if that? There are no markings on the vehicles so one assumes they are contractors working on behalf of the council.

Do the council not check to see if contractors and alike are complying with most other people and that is to operate at a safe distance and with the correct PPE? Face masks should be worn in public when these people are working. They are sweating and dripping, putting residents at risk.

Come on Hackney Council, practice what you preach and fine the contractors for non-compliance.