How we can save birds, bees and sycamore trees

North Devon Gazette

They arrive each day as regular as clockwork, cluttering up not just my inbox, but surely yours, too. Â

If it’s not a petition to prevent the deportation of someone who has lived and worked in Britain for 47 years, but had forgotten to register with the Home Office in 1975, then it’s another, either to rescue from annihilation the Lear’s Macaws in Brazil, or the Parrots of Troy, in Ohio. Â

‘Save the threatened Barn Owls’, begs the Wildlife Fund, drawing our attention to a species endangered by habitat loss. Meanwhile, 38 Degrees implores we protect Britain’s bees, once again endangered by farmers reintroducing neonicotinoid, a formerly banned (by the EU) chemical which interferes with their navigation. Â

We learn from that a sycamore tree at the Inkerman playing fields, in Chesterfield, is being sacrificed to a housing development, and the local council there is being petitioned to halt the outrage. Apparently, someone in Uruguay has signed it. Â

Yet in Hounslow, your signature may help to persuade its borough council to actually get rid of a tree, a huge oak that is damaging a street’s pavement and has become a trip-hazard to pedestrians, as well as causing ‘heave’ to nearby house foundations. Â

This week, Tax Justice demands I add my name to their petition that’s made me think twice about ever sprinkling Parmesan cheese on my spaghetti Bolognese again. Â

More seriously, a plea from Avaaz should concern anyone anxious about the plight of children in Kabul. Local petitions include those organised by SOHS, (Save Our Hospital Services) to retain Ilfracombe’s beloved Tyrrell Hospital, and extend facilities at North Devon. Â

The magnificent team behind the successful ‘Save Mannings Pit’ campaign was boosted by petitions containing thousands of signatures, all of which formed part of a body of people anxious not to lose beautiful green parkland to more bricks and concrete.  Â

Our consciences are stirred at ever decreasing intervals, resulting in a multitude of petitions for widely differing causes, all of them worthy. They may be an irritation for many, but behind them are individuals identifying injustice, unfairness, cruelty and the questionable tactics of large corporations to impact upon our lives. It’s not much of an effort to click on the ‘Sign Here’ box – you’re just lifting your finger to help someone.Â


Cyclists may now occupy the crown of a road and ride two abreast, and they no doubt will. Motorists must give them priority at junctions and roundabouts following the insane rewriting of regulations that will certainly imperil bike riders, and lead to more deaths and injuries among the cycling fraternity. Â

Some 89 died on Britain’s rural roads in 2021, almost double the previous year’s number, and that was in spite of a huge reduction in motoring during lockdowns. Meanwhile, fatalities linked to car accidents reduce year on year thanks to vehicle safety features built into new models. Â

It is debatable whether bicycles should even be allowed on ‘A’ roads at all: they are no place for a pastime. Cyclists are not registered with the DVLA, making them unidentifiable, and those who don’t own a taxable vehicle contribute nothing to road maintenance costs. Â

Unlike drivers, they escape any legal requirement to undergo eyesight examinations or declare their physical fitness to ride on our roads. Cyclists need not undertake rudimentary training to improve proficiency before placing themselves on busy highways, or even demonstrate an adequate knowledge of the Highway Code. That publication merely advises on protective dress and headgear, but there’s no legal obligation to comply. Â

Bicycles are not inspected for roadworthiness, yet anybody may hop on one and join heavy, fast-moving traffic. This is like permitting mobility scooters to use Heathrow’s Runway 2. Goodness! Â

Even members of the Institute of Advanced Motorists cannot take their cars on to Brands Hatch. Perhaps a compulsory insurance scheme might impose more restrictions on bike users than does government, which encourages cycling, but fails to make it safer. Long queues of traffic in second gear tailing a lone bicycler travelling at 15mph is going to create anger, frustration, and monstrous pollution.Â