Posts tagged ‘Environment’

December 4, 2017

Chatham residents battle to save trees

CrestwayLocal residents have mounted a campaign to protect a parcel of land behind Crestway, Chatham which has been sold to a private developer.  The land which provides habitats for wildlife is under threat as the new owner has opted to clear the site, cutting down a number of trees.

Medway Green Party has been contacted by a Crestway resident who said:

“This land has been untouched for at least 50 years and is made up of a number of trees and bushes and is home to numerous animals. Among those supported by these habitats are bats, which have been here for a number of years, slow worms, hedgehogs, foxes, squirrels and birds to name but a few.

“The landowner is aware of this but has chosen to clear the site.  It is devastating to the whole community. It will affect the community centre which is adjacent to the land, where a well established playgroup has had nature walks alongside this land looking at the wildlife and foliage”.

Marilyn Stone, spokesperson for Medway Green Party commented:

“We would strongly urge Medway Council to introduce a Tree Preservation Order (at least in the short term) so that this matter can be fully investigated.  Bats in particular are a protected species and no one should have the right to threaten their habitats.

“It is also of concern that land which has been such an asset to the local community and has been used to introduce young children to nature for so many years is now under threat”.

“We also understand that there are possible safety issues to excavating the land as removal of trees could affect the stability of the site as well as potentially exposing asbestos and other contaminants.  It is imperative that the Council acts in the interests of the whole community”.

A petition is being organised by residents in preparation for a meeting with Medway Council Officers, including the Council’s Tree Officer, which is due to take place on Thursday 7th December.  The two Labour Councillors are also providing active support to residents.

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September 23, 2017

Medway Council could be forced to increase its housing targets even further

According to KentOnLine (1), Kent Councils could be forced by the Government to accept thousands more new homes each year to make up affordable housing shortages.  This could mean Medway Council being pushed to find land for 1680 new builds a year in comparison to the Council’s current target of between 730 and 1410.

Steve Dyke, Medway Green Party coordinator, says:
“Our already stressed infrastructure in Medway will be stretched to breaking point by these proposed new targets for house building. The area already faces huge pressures from developers to build on its countryside and it now looks like our Council will have even less scope for rejecting any development, even if it is unsustainable or destructive to the local environment.

People need access to green space and clean air for their own mental and physical health and wellbeing. Our local MPs and Medway Council should stand up for all their constituents against the Government’s plans.”

Mary Smith, Medway Green Party officer says:
“If it was likely to vastly improve the proportion of truly affordable homes, it might not be too bad but we should question the whole premise that the South-East needs this many new homes.

“If the Government was really serious about providing affordable housing they would enable Councils to build social housing instead of sacrificing our green spaces to an additional expansion of overpriced private housing we don’t need. Our housing market is broken and no longer fit for purpose”.

Medway Green Party spokesperson, Clive Gregory adds:
“The Government’s targets for housing seem to have more to do with the Tory national policy of using house building as a means of kick starting the economy – a tactic that works briefly and then needs repeating – again… and again.

“We need to recognise this Government tactic and call it out for what it is.  Sadly we have a government that thinks future prosperity for the country is based on arms sales and house building and this has to be rejected by all decent people regardless of their political bias”.

ENDS

NOTES:

(1)    http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kent/news/kent-councils-could-be-forced-132203/

September 8, 2017

Medway Greens welcome Lodge Hill reprieve #SaveLodgeHill

lh_autumn_01_banner-kent-wildlife-trust

Kent Wildlife Trust – Lodge Hill in Autumn

Good news was received on Wednesday that the planning application for up to 5000 houses on the Lodge Hill site at Chattenden has been withdrawn.  Here is our response (by Clive Gregory)

It’s great news that the Ministry of Defence has withdrawn its latest proposal to build thousands of homes at Lodge Hill, Chattenden, although Medway Greens remain wary of what the future plans may be for the site instead.

With the predictable howls of outrage from the Tory Leader of Medway Council – and from the Labour group – it is easy to forget the recognised environmental significance of Lodge Hill. The majority of our Councillors appear to have total disregard and lack of understanding of the value of this SSSI designated environment for wildlife and ecosystems, local people, and the heritage of the entire country.

Despite claims, the proposed development would have done little to reduce Medway’s housing waiting list as, like all the others, this was to be a private development where a small two bedroom flat tends to sell at the lofty sum of £250,000 plus.  The Council appears to be chasing a shifting goal post whereby new homes are likely to be filled by those outside Medway who can afford them, increasing the pressure rather than reducing it.

We need to establish how we can really respond to local housing need while also protecting our equally important green spaces.

The MoD decision is a relief for the time being but we can never become complacent – some will keep trying to destroy our natural environment and we must match them every step of the way.

 

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June 5, 2017

Where do local parties stand on Local Plan? #SaveLodgeHill

A recent edition of Medway Messenger (Thursday 25th May) helpfully included an article (“We must prevent Medway turning grey” by Michelle Guinness) on the Local Plan public consultation and encouraged readers to respond to it.  However the only political views included about the Plan were from Conservative politicians.

The consultation has now finished, but as the changes to come from building nearly 30,000 extra homes in Medway will impact on everyone locally, it would certainly help local voters to know where all of the parties stand on this. Particularly since Cllr Howard Doe thinks the way forward is being imposed by Central Government, who will insist on having their way anyway “usually to the behest of developers”.

In fact, although the Tory Government’s growth agenda certainly favours private developers, closer examination of the evidence suggests that the numbers are nevertheless challengeable. A different approach by both Government and Council could both shift development away from the Medway Towns and ensure that a lot more of the homes are affordable to local people which would in turn lessen the impact.

The ‘elephant in the room’ in the Medway Messenger’s report was of course the lack of any mention of the Council’s insistence on development at Lodge Hill, near Hoo, a Site of Special Scientific Interest which hosts the country’s largest number of breeding nightingales, an endangered species. This was high on the agenda in both the Rochester and Strood by election in 2014 and the last General Election and has yet to be resolved.

Whilst the Green Party has been consistent in opposing development there, I would urge all other Rochester and Strood candidates to communicate their positions during this election on both this issue and the Local Plan in general so voters can be clear what they are voting for.

Sonia Hyner
Green candidate for Rochester and Strood

Medway Green Party’s response to the latest stage of the local plan consultation can be found on our website.

 

 

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May 25, 2017

Meet Bernard Hyde, Green Party candidate for Chatham and Aylesford

Chartered Architect

Email: bernard.hyde@greenparty.org.uk

Bernard HydeThe Green Party stands for ‘the common good’. Three simple words that have a real and particular meaning for creating a sustainable future in which people and the environment that support them matter most. I am honoured to stand for the Green Party in the forthcoming general election for the Chatham and Aylesford Constituency.

I have enjoyed living and working in Medway for nearly seventeen years. I am a grandfather, keen gardener and self-employed chartered architect and town planner specialising in energy efficient buildings, both locally and overseas. The maxim of my architectural practice is ‘work with nature and nature will work for you’.

Many plants and animals have died out because their natural habitat has been destroyed. Frequently these habitats have been destroyed by human activity.  We must stop this happening.  Unlike other species we are able to determine our future and choose to make intelligent use of our natural resources.

The choices we make have to be for everyone and everything, because everyone and everything matter, they are all integral and all have an essential contribution to make to the well-being and future of our planet which is also our one and only habitat.

In Government policy making, everyone should count equally and everyone should have equal opportunity to make their unique contribution to society. Policies need to look to a future spanning decades and centuries, not related to short-term gain but a future shared and enjoyed by everyone.

The physical resources of the world in which we live are finite and we have already used up substantial quantities of them. We inherit the planet from our parents, but we also borrow it from our children. It is our duty to act in an intelligent, mature and compassionate way towards those around us and those who come after us.

Although our resources are finite, our potential to create innovative solutions to a myriad of problems is infinite. Every single person has a role to play and has potential to contribute to a better future. Educational opportunities must therefore be equal for all, healthcare must be equal for all, housing must be available to all. How else can everyone contribute unless they have reached their potential in mind, body and well-being.

Our country has a rich tradition of inventiveness and creativity. In the past this has been the product of a minority of educated and privileged people. How much further and faster might we progress to a sustainable future if we harness the efforts, energies skills and gifts of everyone.

There are already new ideas and developments emerging in every field that could help shape a truly sustainable future for everyone. These need to become our common place, common sense, common knowledge that will be our building blocks to a sustainable future.

Chatham has a proud tradition of skill, knowledge and dedication to the greater good. It is now a seat of learning in every respect from toddlers to retired adults with the potential to achieve great things, not just for the Chatham & Aylesford constituency, but for Medway and surrounding areas as a whole, nationally and globally.

The Green Party has responded to the consultation for the Medway Local Plan with a vision for the future of this area. If elected, I would work to ensure that this vision becomes a reality.

May 20, 2017

Greens put the environment at the heart of their General Election campaign

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Last week saw the launch of the Greens’ “Environment Manifesto” which includes plans for a new Environmental Protection Act [1].   This would seek to protect the natural world following the EU referendum decision by creating a new UK environmental regulator and court and enshrining in UK law all the existing EU environmental legislation.

It would also establish “a right for every person in the UK to have access to a healthy and safe natural green space, promoting good mental health, physical exercise and building community”.

Medway’s own natural environment is threatened by the scale of development proposed in the Council’s local plan, which has at its centre the proposed building of nearly 30,000 homes. [2] Every development option proposed in the Council’s consultation document is likely to impact on countryside and wildlife.  In particular all options suggest development eventually taking place at Lodge Hill, near Hoo, an area which includes a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Sonia Hyner, Green Party candidate for the Rochester and Strood constituency which includes Lodge Hill, says:

“An Environmental Protection Act is vital to protect our environment and wildlife following Brexit.  It would give statutory protection to SSSIs like Lodge Hill which supports the largest number of breeding nightingales (an endangered species) in the UK and areas of green belt land.  While we recognise the need for additional housing in Medway, we are disputing the requirement for as many new homes as are currently being proposed.  We are also concerned that they will not be the right kind of homes, sustainable in design and affordable to local people. We must not risk destroying our local natural environment needlessly. We must fight to protect it for ourselves, our children and future generations as well as for our wildlife, 60 per cent of which are in long term decline.

“The threatened development at Lodge Hill was high on the agenda in previous elections and the issue has yet to be resolved. Whilst we have been consistent in our opposition to development there, we would urge other Rochester and Strood candidates to communicate their positions during this election on both this issue and the future of environmental protections in general so voters can be clear what they are voting for.

“Many plants and animals have died out because their natural habitat has been destroyed as a result of poor choices and distorted priorities.   We must not let this happen here in Medway. The Green Party is the only political party to put the environment at the heart of all of its policies.”

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NOTES:

[1]  https://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/2017/05/11/caroline-lucas-announces-green-party’s-environment-promises/

 

[2] http://www.medway.gov.uk/planningandbuilding/planningpolicy/localplan-futuremedway.aspx

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April 24, 2017

Party People – achieving truly sustainable development in Medway’s Local Plan

Please see below a piece written by Steve Dyke for Medway Messenger’s Party People column and published on 13th April.

Since writing this, the deadline for responding to the Local Plan consultation has been extended once again to 30th May so there is still time to get your response in!

Details of the consultation can be found here.

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With the deadline for responding to Medway Council’s latest consultation on its Local Plan approaching, my hope is that the Council will review all responses received and be prepared to adapt the Plan accordingly.

To achieve truly sustainable development in Medway requires boldness in planning in order to reduce our ecological footprint to a ‘one planet’ level.  This should be seen as an opportunity rather than a hindrance.  Imagine Medway with a proper cycle network, reliable, accessible and cheap public transport and low energy homes affordable for local people.  Developing the technological expertise locally to build off-site constructed energy efficient homes and renewable energy technologies could reinvigorate our local economy.  This is what is truly meant by “meeting the twin challenges of global competition and a low carbon future”.

We must also ensure that we protect valuable existing green spaces from development.  The most sustainable development option would be to focus on brownfield sites in urban locations close to travel hubs, suggested by the Council within one of the four options in their consultation document. However, they could go much further, such as making better use of existing space through utilising empty premises or building above car parks and in the air space above existing buildings.

Of particular concern is that the Council still wish to press ahead with major development at the Lodge Hill SSSI.  This is despite a policy approach stated in their consultation promising that “a high level of protection from damaging impacts of development will be given to Sites of Special Scientific Interest”.

Medway Green Party would love to see Medway become an inspiration for other areas on how sustainable development can be achieved.  My fear is that we will end up with piecemeal, destructive, unsustainable growth.  I hope the Council will prove me wrong.

April 18, 2017

Green Party Election Broadcast 2017

Released today!

Intended for the local elections in May but could also apply to a General Election in June.

April 12, 2017

Medway Green Party slams Lower Thames Crossing decision

Medway Green Party has expressed its disappointment at the decision made today to proceed with ‘Option C’  for a new Lower Thames Crossing.

Steve Dyke, Medway Green Party Co-ordinator says:

“We feel sad for those in Shorne and Chalk and the other villages in Kent and Essex near the proposed tunnel or on the route of its associated road network who will be directly affected by this project.

“Once again an environmentally damaging infrastructure project has been justified on the grounds of making motorists lives better and the possible economic benefits it may bring.  Yet again it has been decided that the solution to traffic problems is to build more roads.

“However any short term benefits in tackling congestion are likely to be eroded by an increase in road travel and the existing Dartford crossings will soon be back up to full capacity.  The new tunnel will do little or nothing on its own to alleviate the existing high levels of pollution in Dartford and Thurrock.

“With the decision made, we now need to know urgently what mitigation measures will be put in place to safeguard the natural environment, address air pollution, protect the affected communities, minimise any increase in traffic on already stretched local roads and prevent infill development following construction of the tunnel.  We urge Medway Council to be mindful of the impact this project may have on its residents in Strood and other areas west of the River 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