BOOK REVIEW World of Geology by Tony Waltham


World of Geology: Travels to Rocky Places by Tony Waltham

This review should have been written in the early autumn of 2019 in the run up to dark winter evenings and the thought of stocking fillers.  The author and I spent a long leisurely afternoon drinking tea and discussing the book and its genesis – a treat and a privilege.  Instead it is written in early spring during a time of enforced lockdown as the country stays at home to reduce community spread of COVID19 infections.

This is a book to savour or to dip in and out of, to refer to when recalling trips of the past or even seeking inspiration for ones to come.

At first glance, it looks like a collection of Tony’s ‘holiday snaps’, and in a way they are, complete with a familial figure for scale.  Many of the 110 photographs have graced the back cover of Geology Today.  The book can be enjoyed for them alone.  My personal favourite is entitled “How close can you get to a lava flow?”  About two metres – perhaps this is some kind of universal constant for separation distances – seems to be the answer if it is a pahoehoe flow from Pu’u O’o as it covers a Hawaiian beach.

However the reader who pays as much attention to the text accompanying each photograph will be richly rewarded.  Not only do the words highlight aspects of the photographs that may have been missed; they provide context, background and history.  In other words, the text brings the photos to life.

Whether in splendid isolation or on a dark winter’s night, a mug of tea or hot cocoa (or even something seasonally stronger as the fancy takes), this book will take the reader to far away places. Enjoy!


Paul Nathanail
Bramcote, Nottingham


World of Geology: Travels to Rocky Places is available from Whittles Publishing:


Broxtowe Borough Council elections 2019

This morning at 0830 I had an appointment with the council’s electoral admin staff to submit my forms to stand as a candidate for the local elections on 2 May 2019. At just after 8AM I rang to cancel that appointment.

Having stood in both 2015 and the County elections in 2017 I enjoyed the opportunity to air some key topics close to my heart and as it turns out those of many who live in Bramcote.

In 2015 it was the need to stop the rot of green belt being given up for housing following the loss of the Field Farm site in adjacent Stapleford.

In 2017 it was to point out the flaws in the County Council’s plans for development on the Coventry Lane playing fields.

The County changed trajectory about how replacement school buildings will be funded and the borough has drastically reduced the area they’d like to take out of the green belt.

Pyrrhic victories perhaps?

Given the enormous pressure from central government to build houses AND the importance of maintaining a five year supply of Land Bramcote could have been in a much worse situation were it not for… the enormous number of residents who faithfully turned out to meetings and responded to consultations.

The work of the Bramcote Neighbourhood Forum has been a key part of bringing these voices together and making them count and I propose to continue to support the Forum as it continues to do this over the coming months and beyond.

As I write this, the outcome of the 2016 Referendum result is still to be determined. However it is clear that numbers matter. They may not carry the day but they will be heard, considered and … ignored by elected representatives at their peril.

So as the deadline for nominations has just passed, may I wish all the candidates for Bramcote every best wish and a sound, active listening attitude over the coming weeks.

More on the elections later.

Remembering the late Andrew Gilbart

The Hon. Mr Justice Gilbart holds a special place in my career. While he was still a planning barrister, I was an expert witness for him on a case involving land contamination.

He worked all his experts hard, expected detailed, meticulous evidence and supported us while we prepared for and gave oral evidence.

He took time to explain the procedures and the significance of events as the appeal proceeded.

It was a privilege to gain my first experience as an expert witness under his direction.

RIP Andrew

Response to NPPF consultation: brownfield definition

Definition of ‘brownfield land’:
In the NPPF consultation draft issued earlier in 2018, this definition is used as a synonym with ‘previously developed land’.
Previously developed land: Land which is or was occupied by a permanent structure, including the curtilage of the developed land (although it should not be assumed that the whole of the curtilage should be developed) and any associated fixed surface infrastructure. This excludes: land that is or has been occupied by agricultural or forestry buildings; land that has been developed for minerals extraction or waste disposal by landfill, where provision for restoration has been made through development control procedures; land in built-up areas such as residential gardens, parks, recreation grounds and allotments; and land that was previously-developed but where the remains of the permanent structure or fixed surface structure have blended into the landscape.
The definition given for ‘previously developed land’ with its exclusions leads to sites some of our members routinely deal with, for example former coal mining sites that are being re-developed for mixed use schemes and/or sites where the permanent structure has blended into the landscape, falling outside the definition of previously developed land and thus for the purposes of the NPPF, brownfield land also. Furthermore it confusingly captures currently occupied by permanent structures, such as the office building you are currently in,  as PDL, and hence brownfield.  This definition is confusing given the strong encouragement – both via the brownfield registers and financial incentives – to reuse post industrial, under-used, derelict or abandoned land.
There is another definition for brownfield land proposed by the European Brownfield Regeneration Network (CABERNET, 2006) that better reflects the public and indeed the sector’s understanding of the term: 
Brownfields are sites that have been affected by the former uses of the site and surrounding land; are derelict or underused; may have real or perceived contamination problems; are mainly in developed urban areas and require intervention to bring them back to beneficial use.
We would suggest that the above definition is added in the Glossary and used in the main body of the text.

“The above was submitted to the NPPF consultation that closed on 10 May 2018.”

GE17 manifesto musings: Forward together, Conservatives

A few years ago, HM Treasury documents made detailed reference to ‘brownfield’ sites. Forward Together makes none.

Green Belt merits a single mention, in the context of the ‘strong protection’ such designated areas are supposed to enjoy, unless it is in Broxtowe it seems.

Other ‘pointless’ terms are: waste, renewable, previously developed land, surplus, unwanted.

So our green and pleasant land doesn’t really get much of a look in…

GE2017 Liberal Democrat manifesto

Sorry this is so short! (and late). ‘Changing Britain’s future’ it seems does not include saying anything about the green belt (or even ‘greenbelt’) nor about brownfields.

But there is talk of enforcing house building on unwanted public sector land. No details on who decides whether or not it is unwanted or if the proposal allows for different types of public land owner.

There is talk of a land tax, and mention of a potential Tory landslide.

There is also a lot of rubbish. Well, waste to be more precise. A 70% target for recycling and also extending the landfill tax to an incineration tax.

There is also talk of a Zero-Waste Act, including legally binding targets for reducing net consumption of key natural resources, and introducing incentives for businesses to improve resource efficiency – something very high on the EU agenda too.

GE2017: Musings on the Green Party Manifesto

The Green Party Manifesto ( has the byline of being for a “Confident and Caring Britain”. It seems we are no longer Great nor a United Kingdom.

In fact “the environment is top of the political agenda” according to the Greens.

As usual I will focus on planning and related environmental matters rather than delve into foreign, health, care etc. policies – plenty of places where those topics are discussed. So this will not take too long.

The Manifesto makes no mention of brownfields.

It makes a single reference to Green Belt – with a promise of “Strong Protection”. However there are no details of what form this strong protection will take nor how it will be stronger than the current strong protections in the National Planning Policy Framework.

One policy that may well strike a chord with residents of Bramcote is “Equality of access to nature and green spaces…”.  

In terms of energy – ‘fracking’, coal and nuclear are out and ” clean green efficient renewable energy of the future” is in. The Greens will also be “investing in community owned energy.”  No mention of either oil or gas – perhaps that is in the Scottish Green Party manifesto.  Devolution also features in a disclaimer on the back page that any policies relevant to areas that have been devolved to the Welsh Assembly would only apply to devolution-free England. The question to the answer about life the universe and everything has been known for decade. Perhaps it is high time the West Lothian question was answered.

Those of us frustrated at the long delays between land being granted planning permission and the first brick being laid would welcome “a trial of a Land Value Tax to encourage the use of vacant land and reduce speculation”.

More homes are needed. The Greens would “significantly increase the numbers of homes built to lifetime home and mobility standards over the next 5 years.”  This is important for Bramcote’s ageing population and could well help alleviate the pressure for family homes in the area.

Sadly neighbourhood plans do not feature.

But “ecologically sustainable development” does – even if the phrase is not defined.  So I looked it up. In Australia the phrase means ” ‘using, conserving and enhancing the community’s resources so that ecological processes, on which life depends, are maintained, and the total quality of life, now and in the future, can be increased’.” ( Oh and by the way, that is the only time the prefix “ecolog-” is used in the entire Green Party manifesto.

Finally traffic. HS2 would be scrapped and so would the  national major roads programme. There would be investment in regional railways, especially in the South West and Northern England. Trains would be renationalised, buses re-regulated and walking/ cycling be promoted as the modes of transport of choice.

PS Hope you liked the green text!




GE17 manifesto musings: Labour’s ‘For the Many, Not the Few’

The Labour Party manifesto ‘For the Many, Not the Few’ ( was leaked and then published in the last few days.

It makes but one mention each of brownfield, greenbelt (sic) and green belt.

“We will prioritise brownfield sites and protect the greenbelt. We will start work on a new generation of New Towns to build the homes we need and avoid urban sprawl.”

“The balance needs resetting: our air is killing us, our farms face an uncertain future, our fish stocks are collapsing, our oceans are used as dumping grounds, and our forests, green belt, national parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest are all under threat.”

While seas, bees and plastic bottles will be addressed there is nothing on how threats to green belt will be neutralised.

There is no mention of neighbourhood plans but there is a promise of more neighbourhood police.

In terms of planning, there are promises to strengthen planning authorities but no mention of neighbourhood forums. The assumption is these authorities know and act in accordance with community interests. Extra funds for local authorities are promised, paid for perhaps by a ‘land tax’.

The reasons behind so many pub closures will be reviewed to see what can be done.

Drinkers are promised ‘first class’ bus services by re regulating buses and getting councils to run them. Nottingham of course is blessed with excellent bus services, independently run, supported by ever improving council funded infrastructure: bus lanes, bus stops, robin hood cards. Retrofitting diesel buses, rather than more ‘poo buses’, is the way Labour will keep buses moving.

HS2 will be built… and extended to Scotland and perhaps elsewhere too. London’s Cross Rail 2 tunnels will also see the ‘light of day’.

The University towns of Oxford, Cambridge and… Milton Keynes will be linked by the rail Science Vale route.

Recognising the demographic time bomb, “we will ensure that local plans address the need for older people’s housing, ensuring that choice and downsizing options are readily available.”

Depending on how this pans out, it could release under occupied family homes and create communities that rescue our elderly out of loneliness. At least any raging against the dying of the light can be done in choirs not as unheard solos.

There will be investment for new school buildings and a promise to remove asbestos from existing buildings. Sadly no specific return to the Schools for the Future programme is mentioned.

Nuclear deterrence will be maintained but the nuclear power industry is mainly spoken of in terms of its potential for worldwide decommissioning work. Staying in Euratom suggest an interest in generation too. So does references to ‘no carbon’, as opposed to renewable, energy sources. Tidal lagoons get a special mention among a general warmth for renewables.

No mention of soil, shale gas, minerals or, parochially, geology.

I suspect the above won’t get prominence in reporting the manifesto contents. Thank goodness for PDFs and search functions.