Peter Chowney, head and shoulders, outdoors. out

This blog is by Peter Chowney, former Labour leader of Hastings Council, resident of Maze Hill, St Leonards on Sea, UK, and councillor for Tressell ward on Hastings Council. Also a former microbiologist, a keen gardener, chicken keeper, and classic car owner. It serves no particular purpose, beyond entertainment, debate and constructive comment. You need to be registered and logged in to comment, but if you do, please make sure it is constructive! Click on the post title to comment.

Through a Glass Darkly? Gambles and Barriers in the Vaccination Programme

Scientist holding a vial of the Pfizer vaccine
Photo: U.S. Secretary of Defense, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0,

The vaccination programme is finally being rolled out, which can only be good news. Here in Hastings, we were off to a slow start, with the public vaccination programme not getting underway till January 4th. But although we’re by no means the world’s fastest nation at getting the vaccination into recipients, it’s good to see the UK, for once, pretty quick off the mark. But is the decision to give only one dose and delay the booster dose the right thing to do?  And with this ’one dose’ strategy, can we guarantee anywhere near the two million vaccinations a week that the government has promised?

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The Christmas Tree: How to Keep it Green

Two Christmas trees planted in the garden, a large one in the background smaller in the foreground.
Two generations of Christmas tree: in the foreground, the tree just planted out. Behind it, one planted five years ago.

There’s been a bit of discussion recently about Christmas trees. It’s the season for it.  But this year, the debates have been around sustainability, and whether it’s better to get a real tree, which you’re cutting down and chucking away, or an artificial tree, that’s (probably) made from plastic derived from fossil fuels.

When put on the spot with the ‘what kind of tree do you have’ question, I described what I did. They suggested I put it on the blog.  So here it is.

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The Covid Vaccine: Keep the Champagne on Ice for Just a Little Longer

A Vaccination, a painting by Ann Archer, 1899
‘A Vaccination’ by Ann Archer, 1899

The world’s media have gone into excited overdrive over the last couple of days with the announcement that US drug company Pfizer has developed an effective vaccine against Covid-19.  Should we be celebrating?  Or is our desperation for a vaccine and a ‘return to normal’ clouding our collective judgement?

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The Second Wave: It Didn’t Have To Be Like This

Couple meeting during self-isolation
Self-isolation during the COVID 19 pandemic (www.vperemen.com)

As the second wave of Covid-19 infections breaks tumultuously over our heads, it’s disappointing that there’s still so much misinformation out there, and some of it is originating from places where it really didn’t ought to. But that’s just one factor in a complicated mosaic that has led us to this dismal outcome.

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In the Eye of the Beholder? The Planning White Paper Has Big Risks for Local Democracy.

A shorter version of this post appears on the Sussex Bylines news website

Archery Road housing development - picture shows housing and flats under construction.
The Archery Road housing development resulted from a controversial planning application with many objections. In the future, will such developments not need permission at all?

Earlier this month, the government published ‘Planning for the Future’, a consultation White Paper on the future of the planning system, promising the biggest shake up since 1948 with a ‘fast track for beauty’ through the planning system.  The proposals were immediately criticised by many, with the Royal Institute of British Architects branding them as ‘disgraceful’, and the Royal Town Planning Institute describing the White Paper as a ‘serious error’. So what exactly is proposed in the White Paper and how’s it different from the current planning system?

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Cost of COVID: Councils Can’t Cope

A similar version of this article is also published on the newly launched ‘Sussex Bylines’ news website:

www.sussexbylines.co.uk

Hastings Council street sweeping vehicles
How will councils continue to provide basic services with no money?

Dramatic cuts in income have left councils with big budget shortfalls, and no way to get the money they need to provide day-to-day services. Had the Covid-19 crisis happened back in 2010, there wouldn’t have been such a problem. Ten years of austerity have left councils in no fit state to cope. 

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While The Sun Shines: Can We Avoid an Autumn Covid Outbreak?

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand Prime Minister, head and shoulders in red jacket.
Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand Prime Minister (New Zealand Government, Office of the Governor-General )

Today, New Zealand declared the country to be free of the COVID-19 virus, and scrapped all COVID-related restrictions, apart from quarantine of overseas visitors.  It’s not the first country to announce that it’s COVID-free, nor is it the largest.  But it is significant in that it’s a country that’s broadly comparable to European and North American nations, and took an approach to tackling the virus that was very different from that of UK.

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Stay Alert: Bad News for Hastings?

Sunbathers on Pelham Beach, Hastings under a cloudless sky.
Will we see crowds of sunbathers back in Hastings?

The government has changed their advice from ‘stay at home’ to ‘stay alert’.  The original message was clear and straightforward; the new one is meaningless. Even ‘Get the Pandemic Done’ would have been better, although just as ambiguous as the original vote-winning Brexit slogan.              

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COVID-19: The Start of a New World Order?

Garden vegetable plot, with lettuce, sweet corn and peas.
Will growing vegetables make us better people?

There’s been a lot of talk about how things will be different after lockdown, with various commentators putting their own prognosis on how we’ll all be better people in a better world when all this is over.  I did at first doubt it, whether this Coronavirus pandemic would make any difference at all, or whether we’d all have forgotten about it in a year’s time.  That seems unlikely now – there will I believe be lasting effects, but it’s far from clear what they will be.

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