In 1972 I stopped the York Inner Ring Road | Brussels Blog

In 1972 I stopped the York Inner Ring Road

posted by on 13th Aug 2017

The Angry Amateur No. 1

Yes. I stopped the York Inner Ring Road!

Some of my friends think I’m rather self-obsessed. It is a fairly consistent response so there may be some truth in it. Introspection tells me their view is too simple.  However, in the case of the 1970s proposal for a York Inner Ring Road, I’m not even going to pretend to be humble. If anyone stopped it, it was me. I did it.

Que moi? Yes me!

The proposed ring road crosses The Mount

In 1972 I gave evidence to the York Inner Ring Road Inquiry as an individual, having broken from the main protest group York 2000. I felt too many of them just wanted to stop their houses being knocked down.

On the other hand, my motivation was to see traffic kept away from York City Centre, allowing out-of-town development for the motoring classes to use. (Now we know the devastating toll motor cars have on the climate, my views on this have modified somewhat.)

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Benzodiazepine addiction

posted by on 24th Apr 2017

To the Daily Mail: Congratulations

A few days ago the Daily Mail published an article on the prescription of benzodiazepines. It starts

Countless thousands of Britons have become addicted to pills that have been prescribed by their doctors for pain, anxiety, sleeplessness and depression.

Tranquillisers such as benzodiazepines (also used as muscle relaxants for pain) are highly addictive, yet many medics continue to hand them out for longer than they should. (2003-2016)

The  article in the Daily Mail prompts me to re-post an item from an old website,  started in 2003 -but the problem is rather older:  The Independent reported in 2010 in Drugs linked to brain damage 30 years ago. Now that’s 37 years ago.

Anyway, here is something from 2003. It’s a submission that a voluntary organisation made to government when there was even less public awareness of the benzo issue. The document was written as background information which in the late ’90s/early 2000s was still very scarce. It was one of several compiled by grassroots organisations intended to inform Government.  A Hidden Epidemic was submitted to Home Office Minister Caroline Flint in 2003.

Since then nothing much has changed for people suffering harm from drugs they have been prescribed – particularly, the benzodiazepines. A Hidden Epidemic noted that consumption of  benzodiazepines was rising and misuse was widespread. Short term benzodiazepines could be useful but long term effects are horrible:

“It is more difficult to withdraw someone from benzodiazepines than it is heroin” “the withdrawal symptoms are so intolerable that people have a great deal of problem coming off”. Lader M.1999

Cognitive impairment

“Most benzodiazepines impair and compromise a wide range of basic skills which are absolutely necessary for coping with the intellectual and psychological demands of everyday living.” Hindmarch I. 1999


Cognitive and other coping mechanisms are vital for negotiating busy streets etc. With these abilities impaired by BZs, many long-term users find themselves increasingly housebound with agoraphobic-type symptoms.


the benzodiazepine tranquillizers and hypnotics, more than double the risk of injurious accidents/ the use of the most frequently prescribed impairing medication, the benzodiazepine tranquillizers and hypnotics, more than double the risk of injurious accidents 32 De Gier 1998/9.

Benzodiazepine misuse

– Increased drug-related deaths

– Risks to the unborn child

– Crime and criminal behaviour


Next time I get a chance, I will ask Caroline Flint whether A Hidden Epidemic got through the departmental filter and she got a chance to read it.

After 37 years it’s good to see the Daily Mail on the case. The problem hasn’t disappeared.

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A second note for the Commission on the Future of Work

posted by on 18th Apr 2017

Every tool in the box – even Realpolitik

Special Interest Propaganda

This second note has a slightly a perspective than my first note. It has been prompted by the sugar conspiracy as reported in the Guardian, the Telegraph, BBC Radio 4 or the New York Times. The NYT said

The sugar industry paid scientists in the 1960s to play down the link between sugar and heart disease and promote saturated fat as the culprit instead, newly released historical documents show.

The internal sugar industry documents, recently discovered by a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, and published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that five decades of research into the role of nutrition and heart disease, including many of today’s dietary recommendations, may have been largely shaped by the sugar industry.

Special interests hide truth with well funded propaganda campaigns. The most documented is the way the tobacco industry hid the link between smoking and cancer. The US National Library of MedicineNational Institutes of Health in The history of the discovery of the cigarette-lung cancer link: evidentiary traditions, corporate denial, global toll. The NIH reported

Cigarettes were recognised as the cause of the [lung cancer] epidemic in the 1940s and 1950s, with the confluence of studies from epidemiology, animal experiments, cellular pathology and chemical analytics. Cigarette manufacturers disputed this evidence, as part of an orchestrated conspiracy to salvage cigarette sales…

As late as 1960 only one-third of all US doctors believed that the case against cigarettes had been established.

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Plotlands and prefabs on ProgressOnline

posted by on 16th Mar 2017

ProgressOnline were kind enough to publish my The return of plotlands and prefabs?

There wasn’t enough room for more than one image of a prefab so I reproduce some more here by permission of The Prefab Museum and Wolverhampton History & Heritage Website.

Unflattering visual images of prefabs too often fuel misleading prejudices. The prejudice against prefabs may have blinded planners and academics to their success. As PrefabsAreForPeople put it more crudely:

  • People liked prefabs
  • Multistorey mass housing failed
  • The planners didn’t notice
  • They will get it wrong again

Three images from the Prefab Museum

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Prefabs are for People (2004)

posted by on 16th Mar 2017

This is the contents of an old website

Welcome to, started 21st March 2004.

Prefabs are for People.

Here is an initial statement of the objectives of


  • People liked prefabs
  • Multistorey mass housing failed
  • The planners didn’t notice
  • They will get it wrong again

PrefabsAreForPeople – planners ignore happy residents

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Commission on the future of work

posted by on 10th Mar 2017

This is a minor rewording of a submission to Tom Watson’s Commission
on the future of work. It introduces an extra element to discussions

about the robot revolution: Climate change.

The original can be down loaded as a PDF here.

Robot revolution, growth, and global warming

Note for the Commission on the Future of Work

A robot revolution?

Scene from Karel Čapek’s Rossum’s Universal Robots

In Robot wars – Automation and the Labour Market, Adam Corlett asks, ‘Should we be concerned that robots will ‘take all the jobs’?’ He contrdicts Frey and Osborne who, in The Future of Employment, claim that, ‘as many as 47 per cent of jobs in the US are susceptible to automation over the next two decades’. Corlett points to OECD research, which suggests, ‘in the US only 9 per cent of jobs are threatened over the next 20 years’.

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The BBC is a trusted source, says Tony Hall

posted by on 3rd Jan 2017

Oh no it isn’t says George Monbiot.

Prospect Magazine

I don’t always read my copy of Prospect Magazine – the writing in it is top quality but it seems firmly inside one of those bubbles my social betters inhabit – but, on New Year’s Eve, I had an hour to kill in the pub and I had just collected the January edition with my post from my previous address.


It was good to see Tom Watson’s piece Robotisation: time to face the future because we are at a time when labour-saving technologies must cause a fall in the value of labour that cannot be counteracted by economic growth. Now we must decrease consumption to cut carbon emissions. This means we have less production at a time when the labour content of production is reducing. (See Jobs, the AI revolution and climate change and Labour’s Industrial Strategy. A wrong place to start.)

Our profitable universities

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Plotlands again?

posted by on 18th Oct 2016

There are signs that the Government’s White Paper on
Housing will bring in a form of plotland development.
Will it deliver affordability and sustainability?

Can we avoid the motorists?

One of the last plotlands houses to be built

I grew up in Kent in a house built by my father on a plot of land bought as a wedding present. My parents were married just before the World War II so building did not start until 1946.

Under construction in 1946

Its construction was not what you would see today. The “bricks” were very heavy concrete and cinder blocks. They were in a figure of eight. They had two vertical holes. I remember my father showing me the machine that made the blocks. It was rather like the Wizard Block Making Unit described by Preservation in Action. It had other odd features like very hard floors containing sawdust. It was a Magnesium Oxychloride Composition Floor. My father altered the internal walls from time to time. I particularly remember that he mended a bathroom tap through a hole he made in my bedroom wall. He filled the hole in a year later – after moving a wardrobe to hide it – temporally.

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Feeding the geese and robbing the rich

posted by on 15th Sep 2016

Why can’t we just rob the rich?

Moral Sentiments

Back in the 1950s I watched the series “The Adventures of Robin Hood” on TV written by lefty blacklisted Hollywood writers. I liked the fact that TV Robin took from the rich to give to the poor – without too much real-life brutality.

Trying to throw to the newcomer at the top right

I still have a moral sentiment which could be called Robin Hood redistribution – redistribution from haves to have-nots. It guides me when I am feeding the geese: That goose over there has more than enough food so I try and toss other the scraps to the “poorer” ones.

Perhaps this is related to a moral sentiment that wants all geese to be as satisfied as possible – and I guess the food-rich geese don’t need the crusts of old sandwiches as much as the food-poor geese.

Such moral sentiments come naturally to us and can drive us into action. For example, if one day I pass by with no crusts to give the geese, I might follow my moral sentiment for Robin Hood redistribution and jump into the river to take food from the food-rich geese to give to the food-poor geese. (Note to the family, especially to those of you that have tried something similar: This is only a “thought experiment”.)

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Will the new government department sideline climate warnings?

posted by on 5th Aug 2016

A warning about our carbon budget

The RealClimate website (“Climate science from climate scientists”) has a moderated discussion at the end of each article so that readers can ask questions and make comments. These are sometimes answered by the climate scientists that run the site. In the July Unforced variations, which allows any relevant topic to be broached,  I responded to a comment by Bill Henderson, who said

Recent advances in the carbon budget science over the past year have now shrunk this budget to now much less than 1000 Gt, to somewhere closer to 600-800Gt.

The Rogelj et el paper is the main paper quantifying this lower carbon budget but the budget is shrinking because the climate science is also getting much more dire.

It may be even worse

My reply may be of interest, as it contains an interesting quote from a leading climate scientist:

In Climate Change Network Dr Rogelj is quoted as saying

This study shows that, in some cases, we have been overestimating the budget by 50 to more than 200%. At the high end, this is a difference of more than 1,000 billion tons of carbon dioxide.

Differences between carbon budget estimates unravelled by Rogelj et al. in Nature Climate Change considers the effect of other green house gasses (e.g. Methane) as well as CO2. The abstract says

Including all greenhouse gases and using methods based on scenarios that avoid instead of exceed a given temperature limit results in lower carbon budgets.

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