The sad death of Canterbury’s longest serving city councillor, Hazel McCabe, has precipitated a by-election in Blean Forest on Thursday, 20th September. At the last local council elections in the ward in 2011, Green candidates came a very respectable second to the Conservatives, beating the Lib Dems into third place. We’d love to be able to repeat that result on September 20th, but we know that’s not going to be easy.
Labour didn’t field a candidate in 2011. What’s more, this election has been called, very deliberately, four days before the University term starts. A good portion of our vote last time may well have come from students, many of whom would have voted for us in protest at the Lib Dem tuition fees U-turn. So we face a real challenge.
What remains true is that our candidate represents the only choice for those who seek an alternative to the same old tired policies which have made our city lag behind in protecting key features affecting our quality of life. The Green Party is steadily growing. Greens are now in charge in Brighton and Hove and have a significant number of councillors in towns and cities all over the country.
In Canterbury we regularly welcome new members. Many are recognising that the kinds of policies followed by the three major parties since the eighties lead to disaster, both for the economy and the environment. Locally, the kind of capitalism that was supposed to produce choice and variety has instead produced congested clone towns with poor air and fewer places for kids to play in.
Increasingly, people are waking up to the fact that only the Greens advocate the kind of changes in British politics which will lead to a better, fairer society, able to deal with the challenges of the modern world. If you are one of those people and you want to make a difference, vote differently − vote Green on September 20th.
WHERE WE STAND
By-election – 20th September, 2012
Yes to a smarter travel plan to cut congestion and improve air quality
Yes to the Council funding free energy audits for all households, creating a significant number of jobs in insulation
Yes to the regeneration of Hersden and the development of brownfield sites there
Yes to a 20mph speed limit outside Blean Primary and on all residential roads
Yes to the preservation of open space in the city: Save Chaucer Fields and Kingsmead Field
No to a massive hike in rail fares
No to massive housing estates on greenfield land in south Canterbury
No to a hotel and conference centre on the Chaucer Field site at the University of Kent
No to any development without affordable housing
No to more slip roads and park and rides
Our candidate in Blean Forest is Russell Page. He is 58 years old and Chair of the local Green Party. Here are his priorities as local councillor for the serious challenges Canterbury faces in the coming year.
We all know congestion in and around the city is a major headache. It’s bad for business, air quality, the city’s carbon footprint and general quality of life. Too many of the Council’s solutions, such as more slip roads and park and rides, encourage car use. What’s more, people are deterred from getting onto their bikes by the speed at which cars go. Russell supports the call by Spokes and others for a 20mph speed limit for all residential roads in the area and outside all schools, such as Blean Primary.
We need measures to get people sharing their cars, or out of them altogether and onto public transport – cycling, walking or a combination of these. Sustainable transport initiatives in other UK cities have shown how this can be done. The Canterbury Society has commissioned a sustainable transport blueprint for the city from one of the country’s leading experts in the field. Russell will be urging the Council to embrace its conclusions.
There is a shortage of affordable housing in the area and talk of building on greenfield sites. Russell believes we should be developing brownfield sites in Hersden. Furthermore, all new buildings should conform to the highest energy efficiency standards and have solar panels. Houses for rent should also be required to be band B for energy efficiency rather than the current band C.
The Council recently voted not to limit the number of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in any particular area of Canterbury. Greens don’t consider it anti-student but perfectly sensible to want to ensure that there is a healthy mix in any area between owner-occupied, rented and HMO accommodation.
We also welcome the proposal to scrap the council tax discount to owners of second homes in the area.
Open space in the city is under threat. In Blean Forest there has been a brilliant campaign to try to save Chaucer Fields from development. Russell fully supports this and the campaign to keep Kingsmead Field as the only green strip in the area. Green Party members have been very involved in both campaigns. The Council has already identified development on the University slopes as a threat to the ward. Russell will make sure they follow through on the preservation of this important open space for Blean Forest residents and for all of Canterbury.
The Arctic is a long way from Tyler Hill and Blean, but recent news about the disappearance of Arctic ice is chilling for everyone. Closer to home, we are feeling the effects of climate change in unpredictable weather patterns causing crop/harvest failures and subsequent spikes in the cost of food in the shops. We want more than a green line through Council policies: we want a bold green stamp on all of them.
The future isn’t orange; it’s green or very, very black. If you’re a Blean Forest resident, don’t accept politics as usual in the city – VOTE GREEN on September 20th.