I was intrigued to receive a Press Release from Reading Borough Council reminding people that Reading has a number of Smoke Control Areas around the town. I will be honest and say that I had no idea such zones existed. They date mainly from the 1950’s and 60′s when Reading, like many other towns, suffered from smog as a result of all the coal and wood that was being burned for heating.
According to the press release the 21 zones in Reading cover 62% of the Borough and within them people can be fined up to £1,000 for burning any “unauthorised smoky fuel like coal, coke or wood”. However, some wood-burning stoves are exempt.
With the increase in the cost of gas and electricity, as well as the recent cold snap, an increased number of people in Reading’s Victorian houses have reverted to burning wood and coal to heat their homes. However, even though these fuel sources are seen as more “sustainable” they can have a negative impact on air quality and the Borough’s Environmental Health team was concerned at the cumulative impact.
A list of Reading’s Smoke Control Areas is here with links to a map. I do not live in one of the areas but then my house and those around me have no chimneys or fireplaces.
Once again this morning I set off to try to get into work through the snow and traffic. However, having got through Henley everything ground to a halt. There is a steep hill just through Henley on the London side of the A4130 and it was treacherous. One vehicle was on its roof and the rest of that lane of traffic (from London to Reading direction) was static, not wanting to take the risk of driving down the hill. I managed to get up the hill, carefully following in the tracks of others but it was a tricky bit of driving.
When I got to the top I pulled over and rang into work to see what the situation was like in West London. Having been told that there was heavy snow there as well we agreed that I should come home again. I managed to make my way home via the A4 and Sonning but once again the roads were slippery in places.
I can fully understand that local authorities may be running low on grit and salt, and I do not expect every side road and pavement to be gritted but I amazed that A roads appear not to have been touched this morning. I used the A4155, A4130 and A4 and none of them had any indication of having been gritted. Only the weight of traffic on the A4 had ploughed furrows in the snow that made it safer to drive and the impact of some rain this morning had helped.
I know that we don’t often have repeated snow falls in the south but we really do need as a nation to get our act together to ensure that we can cope with winter. After all, we are talking about a couple of inches of snow, not 2 feet!
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has revelled in his image as a bit of a hard man. As an ex-KGB head that is not something that is hard to cultivate but the image may take something of a knock with the revelation that he is a big fan of ABBA and recently booked Australian tribute band Bjorn Again to perform for him in Russia.
Photos of Putin and friends at the private concert would no doubt be worth a lot of money but sadly I suspect we will never see any. I remember seeing Bjorn Again perform some years ago and they really are an excellent copy of the original and I have no shame in admitting that I am an ABBA fan as well. Fortunately I did not have to pay £20,000 to see them perform.
What next? John Prescott dancing to Steps?