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Letter: GGG Has a Better Track Record on the Environment than Other Parties

Published on: 17 Apr, 2019
Updated on: 17 Apr, 2019

From Susan Parker

chair of Guildford Greenbelt Group and a candidate for Send in the borough council elections to be held on May 2.

In response to: For A Green Councillor Vote Liberal Democrat

The Lib Dem/Tory coalition is still clearly going strong and, of course, Cllrs Spooner and Cllr Reeves support each other. Cllr Spooner doesn’t sit on the Climate Change working group. I do.

This isn’t a party political matter, but if any party has sought to try to argue that the environment matters locally, I’m sorry, but it isn’t the Lib Dems. Nor is it the Tory Executive.

The Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG) has argued for the importance of climate change as a concern since before any GGG councillors were elected. At the public meeting at the Yvonne Arnaud, before becoming a councillor, I argued for recognition of climate change (to derision from the then Executive).

Environmental concern has always been fundamental to our wish to protect our countryside. How can we, in a rich country, complain about poor countries cutting down rainforest, when we cut down our ancient woodland?

Our countryside gives us clean air, carbon capture, low food miles, flood protection, and allows biodiversity. This council thinks if you put up a bat box on a new housing estate you are enhancing the environment. Sorry, no.

Urban sprawl means more carbon emissions and worse air quality. Sustainable brownfield development has to be the only way forward. When I’ve argued for this, other councillors have turned a deaf ear. What’s the point of a low emission zone when people have no option but to use cars to get to work or get their kids to school? Greenwashing and window-dressing.

GGG has battled to get recognition for the environment and for air quality. It has been an uphill struggle in the council chamber. Air quality initiatives have been resisted by the Executive; low carbon design standards for new housing are still being resisted by the planning team even though the plan is on the verge of being adopted, and as soon as it is adopted, applications will come forward. We should postpone adopting the plan until proper (low carbon) design standards are in place.

There is now some goodwill among councillors towards the environment, although most councillors even if well intentioned, are fairly uninformed and do not have enough ambition. Zero carbon emission targets are not yet in place. Also please note, the proposal to plant slim roadside hedges along roads outside schools was mine (I have to say delighted that this is now being promoted.)

If the other parties are so keen on the environment, then perhaps they will decide to postpone the Local Plan which is due to be considered for adoption on April 25, just a week before the elections. This local plan proposes double the number of homes we need, and to put 70% of new homes on green fields. It ignores our derelict urban sites – these weren’t even considered when councillors voted to approve the plan to go to the examining planning inspector (voted for by both Tories and Lib Dems).

How can this possibly be sustainable? It’s a rotten plan. We should revise it fast.

I’m glad that the other parties have started to realise that the environment matters, but I think voters should be wary of false promises. Remember that the Tories and Lib Dems who promoted the Local Plan and voted it through over the last four years said that the green belt was safe in their hands? Fool me once…

 

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