Image for What went right this week: former rubbish dump becomes shining solar exemplar

What went right this week: former rubbish dump becomes shining solar exemplar

Producing pants in the Welsh valleys again, mindful MPs and new spin-offs for old wind turbines, plus more good news

Producing pants in the Welsh valleys again, mindful MPs and new spin-offs for old wind turbines, plus more good news

This week’s good news roundup

good news
A former rubbish dump site got the chance to shine

A bright future beckons for a former landfill site in Essex, England, following its transformation into a solar farm with the capacity to power 15,000 homes.

Waste company Veolia began operations on a new 59MW array in Ockenden this week. 

Made up of more than 100,000 solar modules, it is the third largest solar farm in the UK, and the biggest in Europe to be built on a disused landfill site. 

Veolia chief operational officer Donald Macphail explained that there were otherwise limited redevelopment options for the plot. The array’s ‘minimal ground-level impact’ means that wildlife that has repopulated the former dump “can continue to coexist with the technology” he said.

Gareth Simkins, spokesperson for trade body Solar Energy UK, told Positive News that it was a “great use of land”. Experts have suggested that hundreds of hectares of closed landfill sites across the UK could play host to solar arrays.

Image: Veolia

Stripping down to reinstate Welsh pants

More news in brief, this time from the valleys of south Wales, where fashion entrepreneur Patrick Grant is bidding to revive a once thriving underwear industry.

Grant has been championing British manufacturing through his Community Clothing social enterprise since 2016, and now aims to restore production to Wales by securing pre-orders for 10,000 pieces of underwear. 

The effort is backed by a Hello Boyos! photoshoot featuring Welsh stars snapped in their pants – a nod to one of the most iconic ads of 90s, Wonderbra’s Hello Boys campaign. Gossard once made the famous undergarment in Pontllanfraith, but factories declined across the valleys into the early 2000s as manufacturing shifted overseas. 

Grant, who is best known for being a judge on the BBC’s The Great British Sewing Bee, hopes the reboot will create a need for as many as 50 skilled jobs.

“There is a strong heritage of manufacturing the finest underwear in the south Welsh valleys: we want to see that tradition continue,” he said. “Supporting our campaign means supporting the growth of good jobs in a corner of the UK that really needs them.”

Image: Community Clothing

A report revealed a hidden benefit of rapid green growth

Deprived areas of the UK stand to gain the most from ramping up the net zero transition, according to a new report from Energy UK. 

The trade body partnered with economic forecasting body Oxford Economics to model the likely benefits of an ambitious push for clean energy. 

The study revealed how the West Midlands and south-west England, both of which have a below-par Gross Domestic Product per capita, could be the biggest beneficiaries of a rapid transition to net zero, thanks to their manufacturing expertise.

Areas close to depleted fossil fuel fields are well placed to lead on carbon capture and hydrogen projects, while the east coasts of Scotland and England are already benefitting from offshore wind development.

Overall, a more ambitious trajectory than that modelled under the current rate of transition adds up to a £141bn boost by 2050 for regions outside of London and the south-east.

“Those benefits can reach all corners of the country if we commit fully to the energy transition – especially areas whose traditional industrial and manufacturing bases have declined but also make them well-equipped to lead the way in this next clean industrial revolution,” said Energy UK’s deputy chief executive Dhara Vyas.

Image: Peter Cade/Getty

The UK’s work-life balance looks to be shifting for the better

It’s time to put the kettle on – again – as a new study reveals how the UK public are among the least work-orientated in the world

Fewer than one in four people – 22 per cent – believe their career should take priority in life, according to research by the World Values Survey, one of the largest academic social surveys undertaken.

Since the survey began in 1981, the share of people in the UK who agree there should be less importance placed on work has risen from 26 to 43 per cent, with the pandemic a likely factor in crystallising opinion. 

Of 24 countries surveyed, the UK also had some of the most favourable views of people who don’t work: 40 per cent (admittedly still a high proportion) said that not working equates to laziness, trumped only by Sweden with 32 per cent. 

“What comes through in this data is more of a steady drift towards a greater focus on getting work-life balance right, rather than any big change in attitudes, which is not necessarily bad for productivity,” said Prof Bobby Duffy, director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London and a principal investigator on the study.

Image: Gustavo Fring

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good news
A believed-extinct butterfly flitted back to the Scottish hills

A butterfly that vanished from the Stirling area a century ago has made a remarkable return. 

The northern brown argus (pictured) was once abundant across the abruptly sided, round topped Ochill hills. Habitat loss caused in part by overgrazing caused the species to retreat to steep crags above Alva in neighbouring Clackmannanshire, where common rock-rose – the only plant eaten by the butterfly’s caterpillars – enjoys relative safety from grazing sheep.

However, a volunteer from the charity Butterfly Conservation spotted a northern brown argus in her garden in Blairlogie, just inside the Stirlingshire border, after planting common rock-rose.

It led to the discovery in turn of a handful of small colonies on hillsides nearby. 

David Hill, conservation manager at Butterfly Conservation, described the re-emergence as a “once in a lifetime event”.

“We hope that it will spread across its former home and stretch right across the Ochill hills once again,” he said.

Image: Andrew Curtis

good news
IVF could be the latest medical frontier to get an AI boost

British women are to be offered a fertility treatment that claims to boost pregnancy rates by as much as 30 per cent – by drawing on a little help from artificial intelligence. 

Israeli startup AIVF has developed AI software that analyses in vitro embryos before implanting in the womb.

The firm says the tool is 30 times faster and 38 times more accurate than an embryologist alone. It detects tiny flaws that are imperceptible to the human eye, and selects an embryo with the best chance of progressing to pregnancy.

It’s already operating in the EU, US, Australia, India, Brazil and Ireland. Britain could be next after the tool was registered as a medical device with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

UK watchdog The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) advised caution, however, warning against paying for treatment ‘add-ons’ that claim to improve success rates.

HFEA director of strategy and corporate affairs Clare Ettinghausen told Positive News the body plans to publish an add-ons ‘rating system’ next month, which will cover AI techniques.  

“The ratings system will offer information for defined patient groups, and outcomes other than just live birth. For example [it will explain] whether an add-on reduces the miscarriage rate in older women,” said Ettinghausen.

Image: Kelly Sikkema

A ‘nuclear’ treatment brought hope to people with prostate cancer

A revolutionary ‘search and destroy’ drug for treating advanced prostate cancer could improve quality of life for thousands of men a year, a new study has revealed. 

Lu-PSMA acts like a guided missile by homing in on cancerous cells and delivering a targeted dose of radiation, leaving healthy tissue untouched. 

A total of 617 patients took part in a trial led by The Institute of Cancer Research, London. It found that men treated with the drug lived for longer before their pain levels increased. For patients taking Lu-PSMA, it took 9.7 months for quality of life to worsen, compared to 2.4 months among men who were receiving standard care.

Duran Duran guitarist Andy Taylor has also been involved in drug trials and appeared on TV this week to reveal he is now “asymptomatic” after being told in 2018 that he had just a few years to live. 

It’s hoped that Lu-PSMA could pave the way for a new era of ‘nuclear’ treatments for other cancers. UK health watchdog The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is expected to decide in November whether it will be made available on the NHS. 

“PSMA is a cutting-edge, search-and-destroy medicine that not only extends patients’ lives, but also grants them precious extra months of living well, even with advanced cancer,” said trial leader Prof Johann de Bono. 

Image: Elizeu Dias

MPs got mindful

Could we soon hear the meditative chant of ‘om’ rise above the despatch box hubbub? 

A new report shows how 300 MPs serving over the last decade have had meditation and mindfulness training delivered by parliamentary authorities. It has led to calls for a meditation room to be included in multibillion-pound makeover of the Palace of Westminster. 

The review has been compiled by The Mindfulness Initiative, a project that grew out of a mindfulness teaching programme for MPs. 

One former senior government minister told the report that practising mindfulness made them more relaxed and boosted work output. Minister for sport Tracey Crouch reported feeling more focused in meetings, while Scott Mann MP said he felt better equipped to deal with the concerns of constituents. 

The report has been backed by the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group. Introducing the research, co-chairs Jessica Morden MP and Tim Loughton MP, wrote: “In an era of increasing polarisation, these insights serve as a reminder that underneath our differences, many of us yearn for a deeper level of connection – with ourselves, those around us, and with the wider world.”

A genuine attempt to cultivate calm and compassion, or political gloss via a trendy concept? Make up your own mind.

Image: James Newcombe

The Committee on Climate Change has published its recommendations to the UK government for initiating a green Covid-19 recovery
Researchers put a fresh spin on depleted turbines

Upcycled wind turbines could be turned into bridges, street furniture and telecoms towers, say researchers from Queen’s University Belfast. 

Turbine blades, which are made of glass fibre reinforced polymer material, have a 20 to 25-year lifespan and as they are not currently recyclable they have to be landfilled or incinerated.

Queen’s has partnered with fellow academics from Ireland and the US on the Re-Wind project to find new purpose for decommissioned blades. It estimates that in the next two decades, a global 8.6m tonnes will need to be upcycled. 

Angie Nagle, who co-founded BladeBridge – a company that repurposes unwanted wind turbine blades into pedestrian bridges and outdoor furniture – told BBC News the potential for repurposing turbine blades was “huge”. 

“It’s very expensive material, it’s incredibly durable, it’s incredibly strong,” she said. 

“They have been basically cyclically loaded for 20 to 30 years, but when put in static applications, such as using them as girders for pedestrian bridges, they can last for another 60 years.”

Image: Rawfilm

Peers sunk a government plan to tear up pollution rules

Government plans to relax rules on river pollution are dead in the water after a Lords rebellion voted down the move. 

Levelling up secretary of state Michael Gove aimed to scrap EU nutrient neutrality measures in an effort to reinvigorate the house-building industry.

The rules mean that developers have to show how they will prevent or offset nutrient pollution affecting sensitive waterways before getting the green light to build. 

Gove’s plan was widely condemned by conservation groups, and on Wednesday peers voted against it. 

Charles Watson, chair and founder of River Action, hailed the result on social media, saying it was the first sign of silver lining in an uphill fight.

“The best news our long suffering rivers have had for many years,” he posted on X (formerly known as Twitter).

Image: Dan Smedley

Main image: Community Clothing

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