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Green Party response to questions to candidates

30 April 2015

First of the parties to respond – the Green Party response to questions to the York Central parliamentary candidate:-

I am very pleased to have this opportunity to respond to York Environment Forum’s questions – and as a former chair of the Forum delighted that it seems to be in such good heart.

1.  Climate change.  This is of course central to the Green Party’s objectives and policies, and it is deeply concerning that the other parties have barely talked about it.  We would

* take the zero carbon target seriously, bring the date forward and take every possible measure to achieve it;
* give maximum and urgent support to all forms of renewables;
* develop a large-scale programme of building insulation (creating good jobs too in the process);
* adopt every available means to discourage use of fossil-fuel driven cars (as a transport professional I personally believe that charging for the use of roads is essential for this and many other transport and planning reasons);
* promote repair and reuse to reduce the waste of embedded energy in throw-away goods;
* develop land-use policies (including ‘densification’) and promote lifestyles that minimise the use of powered vehicles – walking, cycling and public transport are good for community cohesion and well-being;
* be honest with everyone that the price of carbon fuels must rise and that we have to accept constraints on unsustainable consumption of goods, resources and energy.

2.  The Green Party will stop HS2.  My own view as a railway planner is that it is a wholly misconceived scheme, and I have been saying so loudly for many years (see www.passengertransportnetworks.co.uk).  It
* is a political vanity project without a clear rationale;
* is rooted in unsustainable economic models and will suck business to London;
* cannot deliver its supposed benefits until complete at a distant date – such inflexibility is very unwise;
* will increase carbon outputs and cause huge environmental damage;
* is not even the best high-speed scheme (see http://www.highspeeduk.co.uk/);
* is not the best solution to capacity problems and has some unresolved operational questions hanging over it;
* should be replaced by incremental improvement of the existing network and dramatic improvements to local transport (? a tram for York).

3.  May I leave Ginnie for York Outer to respond to this one, but see our Manifesto and also my contribution to an on-line debate yesterday at

http://www.northern-consortium.org.uk/2015/04/29/live-qa-housing-hustings/#comment-29.

If elected I would be keen to have regular dialogue with the Forum.  The range of issues we jointly care about is very great.
All best wishes
Jonathan Tyler

…and the Lead Candidate in Micklegate Ward:-

I am very pleased to have this opportunity to respond to York Environment Forum’s questions.

What is your party doing to encourage large-scale renewable energy? Would you seek to implement this locally, and how?

In line with our national policy we are aiming to reorganise energy systems to ensure full democratic control, with local communities generating and supplying their own energy needs. Local councils and communities will have a key role in planning efficiency programmes, and organising local energy supply and distribution. Onshore the focus will be more on medium and small-scale installations.

The most environmental friendly way of creating more available energy is saving more energy, which is why we want to produce an Energy Descent Plan for York to gradually reduce the amount of energy we use in the city. This will help us to meet local and national climate change targets, tackle local air pollution and make York more self-sufficient. Also before looking into large-scale renewable energy productions, which always comes with other environmental or landscape related impacts, we need to work with landlords, public sector partners and local businesses to boost energy efficiency and renewable use in all private and public housing. We also want to invest in setting up a Renewable Energy Company for York to contribute to local energy generation, bring down prices and potentially earn additional income for the city.

What are your proposals to reduce air pollution in York?

York currently has illegal and dangerous levels of air pollution in some areas. These are of course the areas that we have to tackle first. Particle matter and air pollution are mainly caused by motor traffic. We need to reduce the motorised traffic in the city centre by offering attractive, affordable and sustainable alternatives to car use. We have to tackle the congestions problem to allow traffic to flow more quickly. Moving cars pollute less than stationary cars with running engines. Drivers need to be informed about the approximate time of waiting so that they can switch off the engine to save fuel and reduce pollution. Non-filtered motor vehicles, particularly those with diesel engines, need to be more strictly regulated within the city centre. And last but not least we have to keep air flow corridors from being built-up to give the natural air circulation a chance to scatter the pollution.

Do you feel the Lendal Bridge trial points to ways forward for further transport change?

I think we have to distinguish between the overall goal of the Lendal Bridge trial and its implementation. We all agree that the trial was poorly implemented after ongoing problems with signage and the legal position on issuing fines. Furthermore citizens had the feeling that they were not sufficiently consulted and the sense and purpose of the trial was not clear.

On the other hand the reason for the trial still exists. Congestion and air pollution in the inner city centre are still a major problem and avoiding our beautiful city being strangled by queues of traffic and stopping the exposure of residents to dangerous levels of air pollution is one of our most urgent goals. Unfortunately because of the political pressure the cabinet was too hasty in pulling out of the trial just before reliable data was collected about the impact on the pollution and congestion.

We definitely need to learn our lessons from Lendal Bridge and act on the CMS report. Even if we know that closing established ways for motorised traffic currently has a bad name in York, caused by the badly managed Lendal Bridge trial, we do need to implement bold changes or the current situation will just worsen with car numbers rising every year. That is why any future trials will have a proper public consolation and are data and science -based. We fully support the cross-party work of the congestion commission, major challenges like getting the traffic problems of our city solved in the interests of citizens should not be subject to political showcasing.

Do you see ways to enhance biodiversity and the natural environment within new development in the city?

It is not only the many green spaces and parks in York that are habitats, but buildings, gardens, parks, rivers, fields, meadows and even the roadside vegetation in the metropolitan area of York which are also habitats for biodiversity and an abundance of wildlife in every neighbourhood. We need a regularly updated Biodiversity Action Plan supported by local supplementary planning documents and the Local Plan. We should make a review of the effects of other policy and Council decisions on the natural environment a standard in the decision making process. We need to encourage more, not fewer, areas and wildlife corridors within the city where wildlife can flourish and be enjoyed by local people. York Green Party also stated in our manifesto:

–          To protect the green corridors – the rivers, strays and areas that provide the “green lungs” of York;
–          To promote a careful balance between the use of green space for wildlife conservation and for the appreciation of that wildlife by local people. The conservation of our natural environment for future generations is a primary consideration;
–          To formally adopt a York Tree Strategy;
–          To support the work of YNET and the development of further ‘friends groups’ around the city, but also ensure the Council retains overall responsibility for the day to day care, maintenance and management of natural areas in the city;
–          To encourage the establishment of more local nature reserves and Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC’s);
–          To promote community and individual gardening and food growing around the city.

Would you propose to build council housing, and if so how?

Living with a roof over your head is a basic human need. We have lots of people on the waiting list for council houses, therefore it is not a question of if but of how we want to increase the direct investment in new Council housing. We want to use available Government funding, local government borrowing and possibly the issue of local housing bonds to enable the Council to increase our own stock, but we would also work more closely with housing associations.

It is also important to prevent creating a social ghetto in York, we need to keep the social balance and need to replace council housing stock in all parts of the city, particularly where we have lost lots of houses due to the right to buy schemes. Additionally we should make better use of our existing housing stock and other buildings including Empty Dwelling Management Orders, loft conversions in Council housing to provide larger family houses and initiatives to utilise upper floors in the city centre where possible.

Best regards,
Lars Kramm

…and further input from the York Outer parliamentary candidate:-

Thanks for inviting York Green Party to respond to the Forum’s questions.  As a qualified housing manager who has worked as both a professional and volunteer (including 13 years chairing a local York housing association), I am pleased to provide a response to the housing question: how will you work to address the national housing shortage and the issue of affordability in our local context?

Along with demographic changes, population growth and austerity, the current housing crisis has been created by decades of short-term policy making which has failed to tackle the country’s major housing challenges.

A report by the National Housing Federation in September 2014 found:

  • We need 245,000 homes a year but we are currently building less than half that number, thereby perpetuating a huge shortage of homes in the UK that is getting worse every year
  • The average first time buyer today needs a £30k deposit: almost ten times the deposit required in the early ‘80s
  • People renting privately are spending 40% of their income on rent
  • The housing benefit bill has risen by 150% over the last 21years and in the last 5 years the proportion of people claiming housing benefit who are in work has more than doubled to 22.5%.

In February 2015, the Greens set out how they would set out to address the linked problems of an acute shortage in housing supply and affordability.  Key manifesto pledges are:

  • End the Right to Buy
  • Introduce a Right to Rent; longer tenancies and licence landlords to provide greater protection for tenants
  • Introduce a cap on rents
  • Abolish mortgage interest tax allowance (worth £5.8m in 2011-12): 40% of housing benefit (£9bn) is paid to private landlords thus encouraging buy-to-let and fuelling house price inflation
  • Abolish the ‘under occupation charge’, otherwise known as bedroom tax
  • Provide 100k social rented homes (through councils and housing associations) a year nationally
  • Remove caps on councils ability to borrow so they can build more new homes, putting them on a level paying field with housing associations
  • Bring empty homes back into use (halve the estimated 700k empty homes by 2020)
  • Prioritise the provision of safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable housing in the city through:
  • The Local Plan provides the context for translating national policy into local provision. Our manifesto for the City of York Council elections 2015 states that, on housing, we will
  • Direct investment in new Council housing and working with housing associations
  • Making better use of existing housing stock and other buildings
  • Supporting the provision of university funded affordable student housing on campus where feasible and off-campus when appropriate
  • Negotiate as high as possible a percentage of affordable housing in new builds, whilst challenging excessive development in the Local Plan
  • Require all new homes to achieve zero carbon emissions and low energy bills

Kind regards
Ginnie Shaw
Parliamentary Candidate for York Outer for the Green Party 

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