Activism: environmental, feminist…

Various protests and actions:

Re sewage discharge by water companies 2021

As published online in Whitstable Views:

Dear Southern Water/South East Water Ltd,

Re: Account no xxx

Please find enclosed a cheque for payment of £xx, which is the amount specified in your bill dated 5 November 2021, covering the ‘water in’ supply charges as laid out in your bill.

I have always paid my bills to you promptly and in full. However, in this instance, I regret to inform you that I am in all conscience unable to send you the other remuneration you have requested, i.e., for ‘water out’, at a subtotal of £xxx.

This sum purportedly represents ‘waste water returned to the sewer’ from the property, and ‘the cost of treating and recycling.’

It would appear that your company has been in dereliction of its duty with regard to the provision of this service.  Until this duty is fulfilled, it would be absurd and unjust to expect to be paid for it, I suggest.

When Judge Justice Johnson visited a £90 million fine upon you for ‘thousands of illegal discharges of sewage that polluted rivers and coastal waters’ it was noted that these criminal ‘offences are aggravated by … previous persistent pollution of the environment over very many years.” The entire south-eastern coast of England has suffered despoliation by corporate irresponsibility, which has devastating consequences not only for our local environment but for our planet’s ecosystems.

It is well known that since privatisation of the water industry in 1989 most providers are in the hands of private equity consortia, often foreign owned. The industry is not run in the public interest. In 2013’s report by the New Policy Institute, The Water Industry: A Case to Answer, it was suggested that ‘a probity test for all those providing water and sewerage services should set out the standards required in providing services and … an ethical charter around services to the public.  Such changes could ‘refocus the industry back to once again providing a public service, not simply a vehicle for making vast returns on. Without reform the industry will continue to make excessive profits and avoid any real change which would benefit the consumer both today and importantly into the future.’ (1)

Questions asked then remain relevant: ‘Can high profits – and bills that rise go on rising faster than inflation – really be justified?’ and ‘What external pressure is the industry subject to, especially from consumers who cannot boycott water in the way they can multi-national coffee chains?’ 

With regard to the possibility of such a boycott, it seems that public outrage has now reached a level that many people are now no longer willing to pay for a failed service that contributes to the degradation of the environment, knowing that ‘the industry continues to deliver handsome profits and dividends and that as a result, both private equity and overseas investors have significantly increased their ownership within the sector … the industry has become an easy vehicle to make handsome returns at the expense of hard pressed consumers.’ After all, we are aware that if we as individual households were to go to the beach and throw our excrement into the sea, we would rightly meet with public opprobrium; why then should a company assume the right to engage in such disgusting behaviour?

Disregard for public health is staggering; everyone knows sewage contains harmful microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and protozoa. Bacteria in human waste, such as E. coli, contaminates water and results in illnesses such as gastroenteritis, Campylobacteriosis, Cryptosporidiosis, Escherichia coli Diarrhea, Encephalitis, Gastroenteritis, Giardiasis, Hepatitis A, Leptospirosis, and it is also a vector for outbreaks of hepatitis C. Other harmful solids and chemicals in sewage damage water that supports wildlife, e.g. reducing the ability of fish to live.

I note that your bill was accompanied by a leaflet requesting support for the charity Water Aid, to help people elsewhere to ‘access clean water and sanitation.’ This is an admirable cause, which I support. However, the irony and hypocrisy of this leaflet being included in a mail-out from a major environmental polluter and destroyer beggars belief.

As a recent report showed, the nine privatised water company shareholders made more than £6.8 billion in just five years, while 2.4 billion litres of water was wasted through leaks every single day in England. In short, as a GMB National Officer, has said: “Water bosses and shareholders are trousering fortunes, while billions of gallons leak away and raw sewage is dumped into the sea.’ ‘The industry is rotten and needs to be cleaned up. If water barons won’t funnel their monstrous profits into repairing infrastructure and preventing environmental damage, it’s time to take back the tap and bring water back into public hands.’ (2)

Public ownership is where water belongs, because – contrary to the tenets of capitalist ownership – water is part of humanity’s commons, a natural resource provided by the earth’s cycles. It should not be regarded as a commodity for the enrichment of  unaccountable profiteers, CEOs and shareholders.  Those entrusted with the responsibility of treating and providing water and sanitation services should not be callously using the seas and rivers as dumps for effluent. It is self-evident that this is poisoning the very basis of existence, devastating the habitat of the oceans, destroying the delicate balance of ecosystems on which all life depends.

As the water defenders protesting against pollution in indigenous and campaigning organisations say: ‘water is life.’ ‘Rather than treating nature as property under the law, the time has come to recognize that nature and all our natural communities have the right to exist, maintain and regenerate their vital cycles. And we – the people – have the legal authority and responsibility to enforce these rights on behalf of ecosystems … It’s time to protect our water and honour the earth.’ (3)

All this points to an overwhelming need for a paradigm shift away from the dominant view of nature, and a recognition that we as humans are a part of an intricate whole, with no entitlement to exploit or damage it. It seems doubtful that Southern Water will be cognisant of this, as I understand you are a company registered in Jersey and privately owned (through a series of holding companies) by Greensands Holding Limited, which is in turn owned by a series of investment and infrastructure funds, including UBS Asset Management (UK), JP Morgan Asset Management (US), Whitehelm Capital (Australia) and Hermes Infrastructure Funds (UK), amongst others. (4) Citizens and civil society groups must therefore take whatever action we can to demand protection for our world.

I have read recent statements promising overdue infrastructure investment to improve the situation; however, until such time as changes are implemented and the level of service that we are entitled to is provided, it seems that as customers our only recourse is to withhold payment. As many pensioners are among those experiencing unfair financial stress involving the cost of utilities, I am sure it will be apparent to you that we are naturally disinclined to pay for services that are not being delivered.

I look forward to paying my whole bill again at a time when I can do so in the knowledge that my payment is used for the provision of essential services, as it should be.

Yours sincerely. etc




cc Feedback form, Customer Services, South East Water, ME65AH


2022 Parking charges, apps, digital exclusion, ageism. This article was published at


‘When … our ideas have been “marketplaced”, our rights sold, our intelligence sloganised, our strength downsized, our privacy auctioned … when the marketing of life is complete, we will find ourselves living not in a nation but a consortium of industries, and wholly unintelligible to ourselves except for what we see as through a glass darkly.’ – Toni Morrison, A Mouthful of Blood

Anyone struggling to get to grips with cashless parking payments who may be tempted to take up the offer of Brian Coleman, described by Kent Online as ‘a former Barnet councillor at the forefront of bringing in cashless parking 14 years ago,’ to ‘come down to Kent to run a session on how to download the app onto people’s phones’ might want to think again on examining his record. Coleman, a former aide to Boris Johnson, ( who has called on ‘the elderly’ to keep up with the times, was expelled from the Conservative Party after his criminal conviction for attacking a woman, ironically over a parking infringement (his own) after a video of the assault was shown to the court (  In other news, London residents previously won a landmark High Court victory ( over Barnet Council after controversial parking charge increases spearheaded by Cllr Coleman were found to be unlawful. In 2012 Mr Coleman was ousted due to his role in introducing the system which abolished parking meters and replaced them with a pay-by-phone system, involving significant price increases. Mr Coleman is clearly a big fan of parking charges, having while chairing the London Assembly brought ridicule upon himself by claiming that the precious green space, Potters Fields Park, which was being refurbished ( would be better used for a multi-storey car park.  In addition to such environmental non-credentials, Barnet local Tory politics were commented on as featuring ‘a deep-rooted misogyny’, as exemplified by Mr Coleman’s reference to women in the public gallery as ‘sad, mad old hags.’ ( More information on Mr Coleman’s charming behaviour and political career can be found on Wikipedia(

The glaringly obvious question therefore has to be why this man has been called upon by our local media to comment on our situation here, in a way which misleadingly implies useful expertise or authority, when he is clearly unfit to do so.  If he has been recommended for this role, perhaps we should be told by whom, and why?

The controversy caused by Canterbury City Council’s imposition of parking charges on a strip of land at Seasalter beach raises various issues, and has largely focused on the difficulties of using the RingGo app payment method. Resistance to the introduction of parking charges in the previously free spot has been seen in the spray painting of official signs. Though it’s to be hoped private car use will give way to more environmentally-friendly transport methods, unfortunately this seems unlikely at a time when bus services are being cut ( leaving many people with no choice but to drive.

Local people have drawn attention to the problems older people face if they are not familiar with the technology or don’t own a smartphone (although it may have become so normalised as to appear to be compulsory, there is no law against not having, knowing about or wanting one. Not yet, anyway.) The story reached national debate level with the story being taken up widely by media including the Jeremy Vine show.

The RingGo app, which is used in more than 400 towns and cities nationwide, is not as straightforward as it might first seem or as convenient as it likes to claim. In some locations, when you park your vehicle with RingGo, a company doing well ( in this era of new parking technology, there is a 20p convenience charge on top of the normal parking tariff charges. A text message charge of 10p as a ‘confirmation’ that payment has been made for a booking can be followed with a further 10p text ‘reminder’ charge when a session is due to expire. There can also be further ‘convenience’ charges of up to 30p that vary depending on where you park. This has led to reports of these rip-offs ( costing British drivers millions of pounds a year


and numerous accusations of incidents of overcharging (

In Dagenham the RingGo scheme had to be suspended ( when drivers using the previously free car park outside a parade of shops were forced to pay for the privilege, with a local business owner opining that ‘some buffoon at the council had no idea how this would affect people.’

Or perhaps, if they were councillors of the heartless kind typified by Brian Coleman, they just did not care. 

Apps and Downs

As well as some people wishing to resist pressure to allow the incursion of digital gadgets into every area of our lives, many are uncomfortable with entrusting multi-national corporations with their credit card details, hardly surprising when data breaches are frequently in the news ( )

Local councillor and regular Seasalter swimmer Ashley Clark objects to ‘the RingGo method of payment and card meters without the cash alternatives,’ pointing out that ‘the requirement to carry a phone or a bank card is unduly onerous and invites crime ( unless one is locking the items in one’s vehicle.’  

Mr Clark also comments on ‘sinister problems with over reliance on mobile devices and cards. It means that one’s movements are constantly tracked by banks, the phone providers and potentially the state. This smacks of Big Brother and the onset of an Orwellian dystopian world,’ and he draws attention to ‘our increasing vulnerability to cyber attack in a divided world.’ This ominous allusion to an authoritarian, technological dystopia featuring a 1984-like panopticon of social control is not far-fetched. Since the big tech companies realised that our personal information and behaviour constitute vast resources they can capture and mine, it has been advisable to be wary of the power and surveillance smartphones involve. Shoshana Zuboff, author of bestseller The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, ( ) uses metaphors of conquest in her analysis: ’With so little left that could be commodified, the last virgin territory was private human experience.’ 

There are often good reasons for resistance to technological developments. The Luddites (, contrary to popular myth, were not a bunch of fuddy duddies who didn’t like change, but skilled workers forced to protest against the loss of their livelihoods and professions by replacement by machines and lower paid workers during industrialisation. They ‘initially sought to renegotiate terms of working conditions based on the changing circumstances in the workplace’, according to Kent historian Jessica Brain. ‘Some of the ideas and requests included the introduction of a minimum wage, the adherence of companies to abide by minimum labour standards, and taxes which would enable funds to be created for workers’ pensions … the movement emerged when attempts at negotiation failed and their valid concerns were not listened to, let alone addressed.’ Their actions met with a brutal response from the government and military – imprisonment, death, and deportation, though of course their modern day counterparts continue the struggle.

Ageism, Exclusion, Access

The accusation that the insistence on the use of ubiquitous mobile phone technology and the move towards cashless payments generally is ageist needs to be taken seriously. While some people feel it’s condescending to think older generations are not as capable as younger people of being tech-savvy, when clearly many are, it is important to recognise that some are not, and these people matter.  Contemptuous attitudes like those expressed by Brian Coleman make more people feel excluded and devalued, left out of and unable to participate in society. This is patently unfair and discriminatory.  Barriers – physical, attitudinal and technological – need to be dismantled to enable equality of access. Disability rights activism has long affirmed the principle that rather than people having to fit into and adapt to the way society is structured, it should be shaped around our realities and needs. Progress on this human rights issue is patchy when people are seen as revenue streams rather than citizens. 

The National Pensioners Convention ( ) statement on social and digital inclusion reminds us that ‘Government, other statutory bodies and business have a responsibility to ensure that access to information, services and discounts are supplied to older people in whatever form is most suited to their needs. Age discrimination and the negative portrayal of older people in the media should be challenged at every opportunity.’

The recent OFCOM Digital Exclusion Report ( states that even ‘as the proportion of people without internet access declines, the negative impacts of remaining offline become more acute, as an increasing number of services and support networks become digital-only … Those more at risk of digital exclusion included older citizens; the most financially vulnerable; those not working; people living alone; and people impacted by a limiting condition e.g. hearing or vision impairment … User choice, cost issues, and a lack of skills or confidence are all contributory factors in digital exclusion.’

This is echoed by Mind the Digital Gap, AgeUK’s report into digital exclusion (

which showed that although the pandemic ‘pushed people to get online for the first time, build on their skills and embrace new technology’ also created ‘even more barriers for people to access vital support and therefore deepened existing exclusions.’ 

In addition to security worries and lack of access, mobile phones are expensive, both to purchase and to continually recharge. As energy bills rise, when increased costs mean people are forced to choose between heating and eating, this matters. The parking charge in question is relatively small (£1.50 for weekdays and £3 for weekends.) Ashley Clark tends to the view that “in difficult times where the Council is trying to keep the Council tax as low as possible hard choices have to be made,’ and stresses that ‘the parking charges at Seasalter are targeted primarily at summer visitors who contribute nothing towards litter clearance and toilets which are costly. Accordingly there is no charge from October to April and before 1000 or after 1600 and this favours locals including dog walkers who tend to go before or after working hours.” He feels the charges are reasonable. 

However, for some people in these lean times even such low costs may swallow up the risibly small increase in state pensions arising from the current government’s suspension of the triple lock policy. ‘This betrayal of a manifesto promise conveniently ignores the fact that the earnings link with the state pension was lost for thirty years between 1980 and 2011 and the Triple Lock was supposed to gradually rectify the consequent increase in poverty in old age,’ as Silver Voices, the campaigning organisation ( formed to ‘maximize the political impact of senior citizens’, points out.  For some women the situation is worse, as The Women Against State Pension Inequality ( )campaign shows.  The Health Foundation ( recent data analysis reveals that ‘Women are more likely to be poor and have more debt than men. Because of unpaid caring responsibilities often they can work fewer hours, and as a result have fewer savings and smaller pensions. For minoritised and disabled women, the picture is even bleaker. When the social safety net is slashed – as it has been, repeatedly, for more than a decade – it is women who fall first through the cracks.’

Other factors are contributing to the poverty of some older people, e.g. the removal of the over-75s TV licence benefit. Already-struggling pensioners who have found a twice weekly sea dip a lifesaver during the last two years of covid and isolation, must now contend not only with the disgusting levels of sewage pollution, due to the water companies’ failure to properly process waste water, but have to factor in an additional cost if they rely on their cars.  

The cost of living crisis affects not only hard up pensioners of course. When it should be a source of shame that ‘up to 2 million older people across the UK are not receiving the social care support they need and are struggling to survive in their own homes,’ according to Silver Voices, we’re expected to accept shortages of funding and increasing poverty (

at a time when governmental proposals to buffer us against the cost of living crisis are risible ‘non-fiscal’ solutions (cramming more kids into nurseries, having fewer MOTs!) while being told UK military aid to Ukraine could rise to £500mn (

or that £200mn of taxpayer-subsidised funding for post-Brexit border posts ( to check imports may have been wasted.

Landback: privatisation and monetisation

Some comments under the Kent Online article point to larger issues, one objector emphasising that this ‘little oasis of freedom and relative wildness … should not be municipalised.’ Another says that ‘the true disgrace is that it has to be paid for at all.’ This of course puts the question in the wider context of the big business of parking. 

A parking space is perhaps the ultimate example of the profit-maximising exploitation of land: a small rectangle used continuously to extract revenue.  Which leads to the question some Seasalter residents are asking: is there nothing than can’t be monetised? Can’t we even have a scrappy strip of roadside pot-holed shingle where we can stop for a while to swim or sit or walk, where you might spontaneously pull over to stand on the sea wall, listen to a curlew and get a glimpse of the incoming tide, the wide sky and the marshes behind you, a moment of peace, whether you can spare just ten minutes or a few hours? As members of the swimmers’ group point out, this is a beach enjoyed by so many people whose mental and physical health is improved hugely by not only the exercise but the contact with nature and a bit of wild space; it’s the high point of some people’s day. If people are now saying they can’t access this vital resource this is tragic from both a public health point of view and that of personal, recreational and spiritual life. 

Zuboff has written of how places (cities in that instance, but the concept also applies to smaller locations) are now managed by algorithms presided over by digital omniscience, which are ‘recasting our gathering place as a commercial operation in which once-public assets and functions are reborn as the cornered raw materials earmarked for a new marketplace.’ She warns that ‘surveillance capitalism’s expropriation of human experience has not faced’ the same ‘impediments’ of regulatory frameworks in other spheres, intended to ‘defend society from the worst excesses of raw capitalism’s destructive power.’ This realm of lawlessness is mirrored and modelled by a real-world political situation (

where a ludicrous and corrupt Prime Minister and his cronies can abuse power seemingly with impunity, ‘deliberately breaking international law; tearing up the ministerial code; ordaining police stop and search “without any cause for suspicion”; removing British citizenship at whim, while waging war against the civil service and the BBC, those national safeguards.’ 

All these national and international matters may seem a far cry from our local stretches of Kent coastline. But communities to whom the worth of a place means something over and above its financial value share much in common, face the same threats, need the same resources. Corporate power will ride roughshod over neighbourhoods and environments with callous indifference, whether it be in cyberspace or through the physical damage done, e.g., by deforestation, installing industrial infrastructure projects on agricultural land as is planned for swathes of countryside adjacent to Seasalter in Graveney, or private businesses despoiling our foreshore. The special connection we feel to ‘our’ places – not because we own the title deeds but because we experience interacting with them, love them, need them – is a vital part of being alive. 

Potentially this perhaps involves developing the capacity for a kind of radical re-envisioning of the human relationship to land, water and air encouraged by movements such as Landback ( Such worldwide campaigns are not only seeking justice for indigenous people dispossessed by colonialism, who are reclaiming their homelands, but prioritising a different way of being which is possible for everyone. Not a nationalist claiming of territory but a shift toward recognising our place as part of ecologies in ‘a relationship that is symbiotic and just, where we have reclaimed stewardship’ – rather than the currently-prevailing extractive systems which benefit private interests and continue to  enclose the commons, to the detriment of our home planet and us all.


  • 2020 – street protest for the NHS:
outside my house, holding a notice saying too angry to clap - a Thursday night thank you to the NHS


Environmental protection:

In 2012 hundreds of residents in Whitstable, Kent, protested successfully to prevent Network Rail destroying dozens of trackside trees and a vital habitat corridor at our local station. Our poster said:


The campaign to save trees and wildlife on the Cromwell Rd embankment from destruction has followed every democratic route possible to get Network Rail to implement a sustainable approach to maintenance of trackside land. We have petitioned, demonstrated, written, involved our councillors and M.P., commissioned an independent geotechnic report and delivered it to the Dept of Transport. Network Rail remains intransigent and refuses to consider any alternative to its chainsaws returning to fell trees, destroy vegetation and poison land. We call for a balance of safety and proper care of vital wildlife corridors and green space. 


Green drawing of a bird cupped safely in a pair of hands.

Watch a report of the day’s action here: 

Channel 4 news:

3 women chained to a tree smiling and waving to fellow protesters
With Whitstable activists Julie Wassmer and Jean Fraser chained to a tree during protest to save trailside trees

August 2012: Dear Guardian Letters Editor,

Peter North (Letters, 23 August) is right that privatisation of our railways has caused fragmented, poor quality services, and that the latest fare increases will subsidise bonuses for Network Rail’s executives. Public money also subsidises fines incurred by negligence such as caused the Potter’s Bar derailment, the tragedy of which is attested to in Nina Bawden’s obituary. However, equally scandalous is the untrammelled systematic environmental destruction of railside vegetation by this unaccountable company.

         With charge of 75,000 acres of this precious national resource, Network Rail has a public responsibility to balance passenger safety with environmental protection. Yet, rather than implementing professional maintenance practices or properly consulting communities, its contractors are destroying swathes of trees all over the country. While not as dramatic as deforestation of the Amazon, e.g., this devastation of vital wildlife corridors nevertheless has huge implications for our health, future generations and myriad species whose habitat is trackside woodland. Loss of habitat due to farming practices and the paving over of gardens have already been catastrophic for our bird populations, now further damaged by this ecological indifference and financial greed.

         As Caroline Lucas MP asked in a recent parliamentary debate, ‘where is the real oversight of the impact of Network Rail’s policies?’ Urgent action is needed to prevent more of our precious green space being lost to Network Rail’s out-of-control chainsaws, and, unless it halts its destruction forthwith, the company is clearly not fit for purpose.
Frankie Green

Front page of local paper, Whitstable Gazette, headline We shall not be moved', photo showing 3 women chained to tree.

Date: 3 June 2012 To:

Subject: losing trees or losing lives – a false choice!

Dear Whitstable Times,

Kevin W (letters, 31 May) rightly emphasises the importance of efficient track maintenance by Network Rail. However, it is wrong to assume there is a choice between passengers’ safety and safeguarding our environment. Under responsible land ownership both can co-exist. Unfortunately, Network Rail has not demonstrated commitment to or understanding of this principle. 

            Nor is it simply a matter of losing ‘a few trees and animals.’ This is happening on a massive scale nationwide as Network Rail is destroying swathes of woodland in a deforestation process which has huge implications for the whole country. 

            Our railways are generally in a scandalous state in terms of fare costs, reliability and this environmental vandalism, perhaps inevitably as a result of privatisation, fragmentation and being run for profit-making rather than as a public service. Network Rail has a responsibility to the nation and future generations to manage trackside land’s vital networks of wildlife. These should be a respected and treasured resource for the whole country, not simply seen as the private property of a company which assumes the right to destroy them for spurious reasons. If it is fit for purpose, it should be investigating alternative, ecologically-sensitive methods of ensuring railway embankment stability.

            Let’s not forget the company is publicly funded with an annual state grant of nearly £4bn – or that catastrophes such as Potters Bar (for which Network Rail was found culpable after inheriting responsibility from Railtrack) were down to corporate failure to maintain the actual track.  

            Wildlife campaigners are not sentimentalists. They know people’s safety is paramount, and recognise that railside woodland needs to be properly managed and controlled but believe that this should be done by professional experts, not a bunch of blokes with chainsaws. 

Yours sincerely, Frankie

A victory

A submission to the Woodland Trust favourite tree contest:

My favourite tree sits on the embankment next to the trainline approaching my hometown of Whitstable, in Kent. During the bird-breeding season in 2012, together with all the others in a long stretch of railside land, it was threatened with destruction by Network Rail. Our community organised a public meeting against the felling, trying to get Network Rail to see sense. Reason did not prevail, and we were told the land would be cleared. We heard of many other locations where woodland was being devastated by Network Rail, which was unresponsive to our concerns about pollution, wildlife corridors, the loss of beauty for the people whose gardens backed onto the railway and even the Wildlife and Countryside Act. My question as to why they seemed to regard trees as inconvenient inanimate objects went unanswered. 

Their absolute ignorance of ecology, of the interdependence of all forms of life, was depressing. We found the untrammelled systematic environmental destruction of vegetation by this unaccountable company scandalous. With charge of 75,000 acres of this precious national resource, Network Rail has a public responsibility to balance passenger safety with environmental protection. Yet, rather than implementing professional maintenance practices or properly consulting communities, its contractors are destroying swathes of trees all over the country.

Early on the morning of the planned destruction, several hundred people from our local community gathered in protest. My friends Julie, Jean and I felt some non-violent direct action was called for. While our friends delayed the chainsaw-wielding contractors, we crawled onto a safe place on the bank, made ourselves comfortable at the base of a large tree and chained ourselves to it. We spent six hours there, supported by friends passing cups of tea and biscuits over the fence. Others dealt with the press, television crews (see report on Channel 4 news), reporters, police, officials, local councillors, negotiating for our demands as we refused to leave until our demands were met. And they were; we succeeded in saving the trees.

When I pass ‘my’ tree now, I wave at it, appreciating its seasonal changes. I remember the amazing sense of peacefulness I had, sitting leaning against it that day. Through the buzzing crowds and noise, I could hear blackbirds, the rustle of leaves, and tune into a deep stillness. 

I don’t know what kind of tree it is, or how old. I expect it isn’t spectacular, or old, enough to win an award, but it will remain special to me for the rest of my life because of the calm and strength it gave me, and the confirmation that communities who value our natural resources can work together to protect our environment and sometimes we win – we can make a difference; people can protect our planet. The peaceful strength this tree gave me is with me still.

Large tree, in leaf, full of sunlight

and now this …

Save Graveney Marshes campaign poster - no solar power station!

Managing Director, Hive Energy, Freepost Cleve Hill Solar

Dear Mr Brennan,

Thank you for the community consultation leaflet regarding the proposal by Hive Energy and Wirsol to place the country’s largest array of solar panels on rural land between Whitstable and Faversham.

As residents of Seasalter living in close proximity to the area we wish to object most strongly to this plan, in agreement with the view expressed by the Campaign to Protect Rural England Kent that this site is absolutely unsuitable for such a development. 

We are in favour of the development of renewable energy and opposed to fossil fuels. However, consensus amongst environmentalists generally favours the placing of solar panels on rooftops and re-using previously developed or brownfield sites. Micro-generation, serving communities, rather than vast arrays on a massive scale benefiting multi-national corporations, should be a priority. 

The physical and visual impact on the landscape of this industrialisation of the countryside would be devastating. The North Kent Marshes are internationally important for birds and the area in question borders an extensive Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Protection Area (SPA) and Ramsar-designated site. Much of the site is within the Natural England-designated Greater Thames Estuary Natural Area and Character Area, while almost all of it is noted as an Area of Greatest Habitat Opportunity (enhancement) and as a Biodiversity Opportunity Area.The site adjoins the Kent Wildlife Trust reserves at Oare Marshes and South Swale while the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds manages areas in nearby Seasalter Levels. The Saxon Shore Way long distance public footpath runs along the coast and is used by thousands of people who appreciate ‘an unrivalled diversity of scenery from the wide expanses of marshland of the Thames and Medway estuaries,’ as the Ramblers’ Association describes.

The importance of safeguarding countryside against encroachment, preserving the character of ancient towns, and not allowing monstrous projects involving detrimental impact and misuse of farmland cannot be overstated. Your proposed development would change the character of the area and destroy the visual amenity afforded by the open countryside views; it is in effect a major industrial development not in keeping with its surroundings in terms of scale or character.  Policies on developments in the countryside posit that they must not have an adverse effect on the appearance or character of the landscape. Your project would severely impact on the visual amenity of the countryside, which would be destroyed by the ruinous installation of solar panels over nearly 900 acres, associated equipment and security fencing, access road construction, concrete and steel for panel mounting, fuel for vehicles, use of surveillance etc.

 Residents are, naturally, also expressing concern about flooding risks on this plain. We would appreciate being informed of flood risk assessment submitted to the Environment Agency. There are also issues of long-term impacts which need addressing. E.g., once the site has been built upon there is a significant danger that the site could be considered brownfield in the future and so could be a preferred site for houses or some other industrial use.

Moreover, while use of solar power is generally understood as more environmentally friendly, less toxic, cleaner and lower in climate-changing emissions than other energy sources, there remain potential environmental impacts associated with solar power — land use and habitat loss, water use, and the use of hazardous materials in manufacturing – which are significant, such as those outlined by the Union of Concerned Scientists. ‘The PV cell manufacturing process includes a number of hazardous materials, most of which are used to clean and purify the semiconductor surface. These chemicals, similar to those used in the general semiconductor industry, include hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, hydrogen fluoride, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, and acetone. The amount and type of chemicals used depends on the type of cell, the amount of cleaning that is needed, and the size of silicon wafer.  Workers also face risks associated with inhaling silicon dust. Thus, PV manufactures must follow laws to ensure that workers are not harmed by exposure to these chemicals and that manufacturing waste products are disposed of properly. Thin-film PV cells contain a number of more toxic materials than those used in traditional silicon photovoltaic cells, including gallium arsenide, copper-indium-gallium-diselenide, and cadmium-telluride. If not handled and disposed of properly, these materials could pose serious environmental or public health threats’ and ‘while there are no global warming emissions associated with generating electricity from solar energy, there are emissions associated with other stages of the solar life-cycle, including manufacturing, materials transportation, installation, maintenance, and decommissioning and dismantlement.’ ( Local people would therefore appreciate information on both Hive Energy and Wirsol’s policies on these issues.

Additionally, the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition ( has warned that ‘solar panel production creates many of the same toxic byproducts as those found in semiconductor production, including silicon tetrachloride, dusts, and greenhouse gases like sulfur hexafluoride … silicon tetrachloride, for example, makes land unsuitable for growing crops. And for each ton of polysilicon produced, four tons of silicon tetrachloride are generated. There are steps that the solar industry can take to minimize toxic risks, however. The SVTC recommends that manufacturers test materials for toxicity before using them. Additionally, the group asks manufacturers to ramp up takeback programs. But as getting solar panel manufacturers to take back their products after 25 years (the average lifespan of silicon-based panels)’ can be problematic, we would like to know what the longterm plans for Cleve Hill are regarding recycling and anti-toxicity.

As Griff Rhys Jones has said, during a previous protest against Hive Energy’s plans to place a large solar farm in an unsuitable rural environment, ‘it is not elitist or nimbyist  to care about the countryside … it is the proper demand of a citizen.’ Devon MP Dr Sarah Wollaston has noted in her campaign for fairness on solar farms, ‘people are right to feel angry about the impact of industrial scale solar farms.’ There are myriad reasons for opposition on the part of local citizens, residents, visitors, environmental organisations and local politicians to your proposed development. Together with our neighbours and other members of the local community, therefore, we shall strongly object to a Development Consent Order being granted by the Secretary of State, in the interests of protecting from despoliation this cherished landscape.

From: Frankie Green <>
Subject: ‘Britain’s largest solar farm poised to begin development in Kent’, 24 May
Date: 24 May 2020 at 17:41:34 BST

Dear Guardian letters Editor,
Not only did you initially illustrate your article on the proposed devastation of coastal land with a photograph of an entirely different place, (‘Britain’s largest solar farm poised to begin development in Kent’, 24 May), you repeated the claim by a spokesperson for the developers that they have discussed safety considerations with the Kent Fire and Rescue Service. However, KFRS is elsewhere reported to have denied ever signing off on any agreement (ref: 
Nor do you mention that one of the companies involved, Wirsol, is being sued in the High Court “for gross negligence and reckless misconduct” over other solar installations built and sold by them. There is serious doubt whether they are capable of building them safely. The hazardous lithium battery storage facility is a massive disaster in the making, placing huge areas at risk (see This project would set a very dangerous precedent nationally.
The Guardian has a record of environmental journalism that has not been upheld by this article. The ecological and social vandalism inherent in this project is on a vast, industrial scale from which the region, its landscape, people and wildlife will never recover. It would destroy the habitat of over 300 species of wildlife, including protected species. Mitigation proposals are risibly inadequate and simply constitute cynical ‘greenwashing’, while local people and civil society organisations are being overridden by commercial interests. The only beneficiaries of this dangerous scheme will be private interests pursuing short-term private profit. Solar panels need placing in appropriate locations, rather than jeopardising important wildlife sites or human communities. It is ironic that we who support renewable energy generation must oppose such schemes, but the greater irony lies in corporate destruction of the environment while purporting to be on the side of saving it.
Sincerely, Frankie Green

July 2020: an article on the Tory Government’s decision to allow this devastation to go ahead:


2017 Protesting violence against women:

A protest at the Southbank centre, and a following letter

Four generations stand against rape:

Campaigners storm Southbank

15 May 2017 Letter to the Artistic Director, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road London SE1 8XX

I understand that you have offered to meet with people who protested in March at the Southbank Centre at the event organised as part of the book tour undertaken by rapist Tom Stranger and Thordis Elva, the woman he raped. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss this. I took part in the protest but unfortunately won’t be able to come to a meeting in the near future. I thought therefore I would set down some thoughts on the issues involved, as a contribution to the discussion.

Protesters outside South Bank Centre, Frankie with megaphone making angry speech to passersby.
Protesting outside the South Bank Centre

I have no argument with your statement, as quoted by the BBC, that discourse around rape  ‘too often focuses on rape survivors.’ Rapists are the perpetrators, the criminals, the violators, the problem; the responsibility is wholly theirs. That’s precisely why activists have for so long insisted that sexual violence is a serious crime and must be dealt with accordingly. It is no justification for hosting an event such as this, however.

That a rapist acknowledges the enormity of his crime, and is prepared to be held accountable for the harm he does, is positive. However, I believe a truly repentant rapist would work on changing rape culture by appropriate means – working, e.g., in men’s prisons with other criminals, with young offenders, or youth clubs with boys, to challenge the model of masculinity based on sexism and violence against women. I.e., doing the actual work necessary to stop crimes against women and encouraging other men to reject the objectification and exploitation of women in porn and prostitution, challenging men’s assumption of the right of access to use women’s bodies – not by a book tour at prestigious cultural venues, TED talks and media interviews. Stranger escaped prosecution for his crime as the statute of limitations had elapsed – this impunity allows him to travel, write and otherwise benefit from it. Atonement, if truly sought, would surely take a different path.

Each individual woman or man who is raped – if they survive – has to deal with their violation in their own way. But political activism recognises that there is no individual solution to institutionalised oppression. Rape is one of the mechanisms instrumental in the subjugation of women, both by its reality and the fear it causes, practiced on a mass scale. It is not only an act of brutality committed by a youth carried away by his sense of entitlement. Within patriarchal society it is systemic, structural and always occurring. Feminists have analysed and identified this for a very long time. 

Presenting a picture of the personal story of individuals depoliticises the crime, reduces it to individual psychologies, works against any progress we have made and turns the clock back on the process we have laboured over. A small proportion of rapes are reported, a fraction of those go to court, successful prosecutions are too rare. Women are still blamed and shamed for their clothing, drinking habits, or having the temerity to have sexual histories. Men are excused; sexual assault and harassment are legitimised by men in power.  

I presume you know of this horrendous situation, and that individual solutions to it are not possible. But that they are is the impression given by the legitimisation granted by the Southbank talk. With the notion of forgiveness the message to men is that rape can be forgiven, justice can be evaded, impunity can be granted by forgiveness. The message to women – even if unintentional – is that forgiveness is a valid way to deal with your violation. 

I think it was vital not only to picket but to disrupt this event and the normalisation it bestowed. The symbolic act of interruption said that this is unacceptable, must not go unchallenged, that those books cannot rest comfortably on the sales table. This kind of intervention characterised the energy and anger of the early days of the Women’s Liberation Movement that I recall. Irrupting into public spaces and problematizing that which was deemed legitimate, whether it was the Miss World contest, the first Reclaim the Night demos, the taking over of squatted houses, the occupation of Post Offices, abseiling into the House of Lords and countless other direct actions.

Your ‘South of Forgiveness’ event for me epitomises a liberalised ‘feminism’ that has come to dominate discourse – deliberately constructed as part of the backlash to weaken the power of women’s resistance – a depoliticised feminism stripped of the radical feminist consciousness of women as a gender class, the economic class analysis of socialism, and the understanding of racialisation and racism. An idea rowing backward on the development of awareness of the interweaving of all these oppressions in the warp and weft of everyday life. This depoliticisation leads to a ‘feminism’ not worthy of the name, reduced to spurious notions of equality and parity; it works to the benefit of individual women, primarily white or middle-class; it will never transform the world.

This is a travesty, a defanged feminism that presents no threat to male supremacy or challenge to the injustices of neo-liberalism and focuses on the risible ideal of individual choice and careerism. In this instance, it facilitated an ego trip which adds nothing to our understanding of the structural violence of patriarchy – but puts rape back into the category of the personal, puts women back into the role of expressing a nice, forgiving femininity. This ‘choice’ is not available to most of the raped women of the world. As for Thordis and Stranger using South Africa as a space to meet, putting a gloss of ‘truth and reconciliation’ on their project, words fail me – what an act of staggering privilege, colonialism and disrespect for the women of that country and all anti-racist struggles. 

A final thought. I have been thinking about the significance of the Southbank Centre. I am now 68 and like millions of people who live in or visit London this place has meant much to me. My mother told me of going to the Festival of Britain with her father. Innumerable events have enriched people’s lives and educated us, validated us, given us rays of hope in hard times at the centre of a city that has not always been easy to exist in. My memories include the early 70s when a group of us who published and handed out a pirate edition of a poem accusing Ted Hughes of contributing to Sylvia Plath’s suicide picketed a reading by him at the SBC (and were then ridiculed; now I believe are vindicated.) In the GLC days we organised and took part in the women’s, Black, Lesbian, Gay events; generations of our families and friends attended myriad concerts, readings, discussions, exhibitions, festivals – in short, SBC held a special place in our lives and development. I do not mean it should be only within our comfort zones; challenges are positive. But it has felt like our space, a public place, civic and civilised, representing the centrality of culture in society and our right to it. The Clore Ballroom is at the heart of it, and to see it enclosed and curtained off to provide a platform for a rapist to appear and talk was unbelievable.

I went to the protest in solidarity with activists from the Sarah Reed Justice Campaign, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts, Class War women and rape survivors in my family and friends and other long-time campaigners and was proud to stand with them. I talked to many passers-by who expressed incredulity at the scheduling of the talk – both at its original location as part of the Women of the World festival (!) and then in the RFH – and appreciation of the demonstration. We met rape survivors who talked of how the pressure exerted by the concept of forgiveness increases their pain; parents who told us they fear for their daughters or are trying to raise sons who aren’t misogynist; patrons of the SB who were shocked. This confirmed my belief that protesting was the right thing to do. I believe you and anyone else at the SBC responsible for staging this event need to rethink, drop any defensiveness, apologise and promise that such a situation will not recur. Welcoming proposals from the protest organisers would also provide an opportunity to compensate for the damage caused, and I hope the SBC will be open to that.

Sincerely, Frankie Green

Protestering women outside Royal Festival Hall, placards read 'No Justice for women =No peace for rapists', 'Rape = serious crime - arrest not applause'.
With Paddy at South Bank Centre protest, London, 2017
Photo Diane Langford
Thanks to my friend the artist Rachael House who drew this image for the poster zine made by Melanie Maddison, Shape & Situate

  • Lezzers4Jezzer:

@Lezzers4jezzer popped up during the campaigning for the Labour Party leadership, in response to Yvette Cooper’s attempt on September 1st’s Channel 4 News to smear Jeremy Corbyn with accusations of being tainted by association with homophobia. Whether or not we identify with the umbrella term LGBT+, due to campaigning experience we know that Jeremy has consistently supported and voted for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender human rights over decades. He voted against every anti-LGBT bill and for every advance in LGBT equality since he entered parliament in 1983, making him the only candidate who both opposed Section 28 and supported equal marriage.

@L4J at the Burston Strike School rally, Suffolk
Photos Paddy Tanton

‘L4J is a bit of fun but also serious; such nasty, self-serving attempts to smear Jeremy Corbyn are totally unfair. We may not be whole-hearted supporters of the Labour Party, yet still recognise that the policies he represents can be seen to be a ray of hope against the suffering wrought by the cruelty of austerity and neo-liberal attacks on the welfare state, privatisation of public services etc. Having been around the WLM, TUs and various campaigns for decades, we share misgivings about male politicians and bad experiences of male-dominated left groups, and experiences of patriarchal and misogynist behaviour. Our hope is that Jeremy will be open to debate on issues such as prostitution and come to endorse the Nordic Model. And yet, even if this hope is misplaced, the anti-austerity platform he represents would, if effective, reduce the poverty which is a driver of prostitution. The social ills he identifies as foci for campaigning all contribute to fuelling prostitution through the impoverishment of women.’  


Various letters, to papers, MPs etc:

Letter to local paper, 7 Feb 2010
Leeds, 2018, during Trump visit. How lucky am I to have my fabulous cousin, Amanda, doing progressive work in local government in Portland, Oregon
With Amanda Sebestyen at demonstration supporting asylum-seekers outside House of Commons, early 2000s