March 15, 2017

Noise, Health and Ecopsychology

An issue that effects us all as with increasing development is the rise in noise levels mainly from additional road networks which impede on our ability to enjoy the noises of nature such as birdsong.  The tranquility that nature provides has been suggested in studies to be important to our mental health and wellbeing. Additional discussion of the content of the video is provided in this accompanying article.

 

March 3, 2017

Community Land Trusts – building the homes we can afford

Could this be the future for building affordable homes in Medway?

March 3, 2017

Development must not be at the expense of local environment #SaveLodgeHill

Lodge Hill in Autumn - Kent Wildlife Trust

Lodge Hill in Autumn – Kent Wildlife Trust

The Green Party notes that in the consultation document for the latest phase of their new Local Plan, Medway Council states that their aim is to ensure Medway grows sustainably while protecting and enhancing our local natural environment.

We hope that they are genuine in their environmental aims and would welcome the creation of a truly green Medway Towns. However it concerns us that the Council seem to wish to press ahead with major development at the SSSI designated site at Lodge Hill, near Hoo, whichever development option on offer in the consultation is eventually chosen. This is despite a policy approach in the Natural Environment section of the consultation that promises “a high level of protection from damaging impacts of development will be given to Sites of Special Scientific Interest” [1].  It is also pre-empting the outcome of the public Inquiry about the site, due to take place next year.

We would also like to know why the updated Strategic Land Availability Assessment (SLAA) 2017, commissioned by the Council to inform the Local Plan, did not include Lodge Hill in a list of sites screened out early in the process, on the basis of having an environmental designation (SSSI), [2] despite this being a clear part of the methodology of determining that sites chosen meet sustainable development criteria.   Is the Council being honest about its sustainability aims?

Lodge Hill is the best and most important site in the UK for nightingales. It also has rare grassland, ancient woodland and is home to many other rare and protected wildlife species and plants. It is also located in a wider environment of national and international importance. What we are talking about is not just the Hoo peninsula, but an area interconnected with the Thames coastline of Essex, the North Kent marshes and more, including many other SSSIs. Taking away Lodge Hill will disrupt or damage an entire local eco-system. Does Medway Council really want to be known as the local authority that did this?

Of course we recognise that the people of Medway Towns need more homes but it is questionable whether development at Lodge Hill would address real housing needs. If the Council continues with its current agenda in relation to approving developers, most, if not all, properties will prove too expensive and inaccessible for those who already live here, especially young people struggling to find an affordable home.

If the projected figures for population growth in the Medway Towns are correct, we will need many more homes. However it is important that these are not built at the expense of ruining our local environment. Future generations will not thank current politicians if the Medway Towns becomes just one large urban sprawl, devoid of plants, trees, green spaces and wildlife.

Details for taking part Medway Council’s Local Plan consultation are here.

[1] http://www.medway.gov.uk/pdf/7.%20Natural%20Environment%20and%20Green%20Belt.pdf p65

[2] http://www.medway.gov.uk/pdf/SLAA%20Report%20&%20Maps%20February%202017.pdf p45

 

March 2, 2017

Lodge Hill and the Nightingales by RSPB

March 2, 2017

Party People article on housing, Lodge Hill and the Local Plan

The article below, written by Medway Green Party Coordinator, Steve Dyke, was recently published in the Medway Messenger Party People column.

Medway residents are encouraged to respond to the The Local Plan consultation.  The deadline for sending comments has been extended to Monday 10th April at 5 pm. Details here.

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In drafting last week’s housing White Paper, the Government had a chance to radically tackle the housing crisis in this country.  Unfortunately, while some positive moves were outlined, there was no real change in direction.  They could have allowed Local Authorities to build their own Council homes by removing the cap on borrowing. They could have introduced measures to shift development from the South East. Instead they are simply tinkering on the margins of the problem.

This comes at a time when Medway Council is consulting on the latest phase of its Local Plan, including its vision for the Medway Towns and four options for the direction which planned development may take.

Whichever option is chosen, the Council seems determined to press ahead with housing at Lodge Hill.  Large scale building there would certainly destroy natural habitats of national importance as well as setting a damaging precedent for other Sites of Special Scientific Interest. It is difficult to reconcile any such development with the Council’s aim stated in its consultation document of protecting and enhancing our natural environment.

It is also uncertain what mix of homes we will end up with.  The Council’s research identified a need for 17,112 ‘affordable’ homes in Medway.  This represents nearly 60% of the 29,463 being planned for.  Yet the Council seem to envisage no more than 25% of the eventual mix being affordable, failing to meet the needs of many residents.

A direction encouraging the wrong type of development would lead to needless expansion of the Medway Towns and could result in over 9,000 homes being built which don’t meet the needs of our local population.

It is good to have a future vision, but also important to think past current political limitations. It doesn’t need to be like this.

February 1, 2017

Please Help Save Lodge Hill and Stop a Damaging Precedent for all of England’s Protected Places

Lovely video of a nightingale singing to show us all what we could lose. Please support this campaign.

Fighting for Hope's Blog

Once again Medway Council is trying to destroy Lodge Hill, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and one of the last strongholds for nightingales in the UK. The nightingale population has dropped by 90% in only 50 years. The decline of the species is so alarming that nightingales are listed amongst our most threatened birds on the UK Red List.

Please help save Lodge Hill, other SSSIs and the nightingales by taking part in the RSPB’s campaign action. Thank you.

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January 25, 2017

Theresa May’s Brexit Gamble

(Published Medway Messenger letters page 20/1/17)

Theresa May’s Brexit speech on Tuesday (January 17) offered a terrifying glimpse into the future. Deserting the Single Market and Customs Union is nothing short of reckless. These changes will damage both the Medway Towns and the entire country. British businesses, small and large, will lose access to a market of 500m customers and we will all be forced to forfeit the environmental and social protections that come with the Single Market.

It’s unclear whether our economy can withstand this level of turmoil. We have no idea what the outcome of the negotiations will be. The Prime Minister appears to be ignoring the long list of risks and chasing a hard Brexit, all because she is desperate to end free movement – something which benefits the UK and EU nationals alike.

This is a monumental gamble to take with our country’s future. No matter how we voted in the EU referendum, all of us have a responsibility to stop Theresa May throwing the UK off the Brexit cliff edge without a proper plan to deal with the consequences.

Steve Dyke, Co-ordinator, Medway Green Party

January 23, 2017

New Year catch-up – Medway Greens call for homelessness prevention plan

Finally, following the sad deaths of two homeless people over the Christmas period.  We sent the following letter to the Medway Messenger urging action from both our councillors and MPs to prevent further tragedies. A shortened version was published on the letters page on 6/1/17. Our campaign to prevent street homelessness is ongoing so there will be more from us on this issue over the coming months.

Medway Greens call for homelessness prevention plan

I write to offer my condolences to those who knew the two homeless individuals who died over the Christmas period and also to call for an urgent action plan to prevent similar tragedies.

Though we do not fully know the circumstances that led to these deaths, and whether they could have been prevented, I think we can all agree that it is unacceptable that they happened on a cold pavement instead of in a warm bed. I would urge a full investigation to identify any shortfalls in local services and for them to be corrected urgently. Indeed, as called for in the Medway Messenger comment (30/12) there should be cross-party co-operation on seeking a solution to street homelessness.

However, it has to be said that it is not good enough for our Conservative councillors to simply blame non-action on lack of resources, as Councillor Doe did on BBC South East, when it is their political party that is directly responsible for Local Authority cuts!  The Conservative Party is also directly responsible for cuts in the living standards of the most vulnerable, such as the planned £30 a week cut to disability support (ESA) which our local Tory MPs voted for. [1] We have been told by one of our members (a volunteer who directly supports the homeless in Medway) that there is a family of three people, all with disabilities, living in a car! Surely a further cut in disability support will make this situation more likely. How can we expect vulnerable people to live on less and less and still manage to pay their rents?

Although there are many reasons why individuals end up homeless, we have been told that deterioration in mental health services is a major contributing factor for local homeless people. The Government must act to ensure this service is adequately resourced.

It is the responsibility of our Councillors to formulate a local plan to prevent street homelessness, and the responsibility of our MPs to raise all of these issues in parliament and reverse the trend that is removing supportive lifelines from the most vulnerable. Otherwise we fear there will be more tragic deaths on the streets of the Medway Towns.

Steve Dyke
Co-ordinator
Medway Green Party

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/esa-wrag-disability-benefit-cut-disabled-mps-vote-tories-iain-duncan-smith-a6918556.html

 

January 23, 2017

New Year catch-up – Party People 2017 Predictions

All those who regularly contribute to Medway Messsenger’s Party People column were asked to make their predictions for 2017 which were subsequently published online.  Here is Steve’s contribution:

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Given how unpredictable events in 2016 turned out to be, it is virtually impossible to make reliable predictions about 2017! However I offer a few thoughts.

The decision to leave the EU will dominate UK political life for the immediate future. I hope that the team charged with negotiating our withdrawal will remember that the leave campaign was won by only a narrow margin, and that nearly half of those who voted actually wanted to stay. I also hope that the Great Repeal Bill, which will transfer existing EU law into domestic law, will be used by our Government as a foundation on which to build even greater protection for nature and the environment, not as an excuse to reduce it.

I believe that the pressure for electoral reform will continue to grow next year. I would like to think that the Government will at last realise how unfair the existing voting system is for both local and national elections. It would be great if progress could be made in 2017 towards the introduction of a system of truly proportional representation.

Most importantly, next year I hope to see our Government take real action to address climate change. Reinstating support for solar energy and other renewables would be a start

On a lighter note, I would like to predict that Gillingham FC will finally gain promotion to the Championship. I also remain hopeful that Medway punk folk legends the Singing Loins will reform and go on to conquer the world of music…

 

January 23, 2017

New Year catch-up – Party People column

Next is a Christmas Party People column written by Steve and published in the Medway Messenger on 23rd December.

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The year 2016 has not been the best for those who believe in progressive politics. As the year ends there are many things that are going wrong and need fixing, locally and nationally: shortfalls in funding for social care and the NHS, welfare cuts, dangerous levels of air pollution, struggling transport infrastructure, lack of affordable homes, growing income inequality, our relationship with Europe, climate change – the list is long and getting longer.

However despite political developments over the year I remain convinced that many people in Medway share the Green Party’s concern for social justice and environmental protection.

It is said that Christmas is a time of hope and so I want to use this last Green Party People column of 2016 to mention just two of my personal hopes for 2017.

First, I would like to see both local and national government taking action to resolve the problem of homelessness. Through focus on the issue by the Medway Messenger and local campaign groups and the amazing work on the ground of selfless groups of volunteers, homelessness in the Medway Towns is now very much on the local agenda. We must keep it there and with much cold weather still to come our Council should act urgently to protect and help these vulnerable people within our community.

Second, while the Referendum did not give the result that many people wanted, it may actually give the UK an opportunity to improve things for nature and the environment. The retention of existing EU legislation in this area should be regarded as the foundation on which to build even greater protection. The Earth is the only planet we have to live on and we must start to truly value and look after it.

I wish everybody a happy, peaceful Christmas.