Judges Lord Justice Hickinbottom and Mr Justice Holgate have rejected outright the Judicial Review brought by local councils, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. They approved the government’s decision to build a third runway at Heathrow. [Full judgment]
A Disappointing Summary
Reading out the judgment, Lord Justice Hickinbottom barely looked up at the people in the crowded courtroom. He made no effort whatsoever to explain in plain language the nature or reason for the judgment he delivered.
He did concede “We understand that these claims involve underlying issues upon which the parties – and, indeed, many members of the public – hold strong and sincere views.”
Rather patronising to those who actually care about climate change and think we should do something about it.
The judgment was at pains to point out that it was only concerned with the legality of the government’s National Policy Statement. It was not concerned with its content or merit. But if the judgment is sound (and this is not clear because it is being appealed) the implications are profound.
One upshot of the judgment is that the Paris Agreement, signed by the UK government, can be ignored when it comes to expanding Heathrow.
The government has not actually implemented the Paris agreement, because it has not amended its Climate Act or passed any other binding legislation. So ultimately the Paris Agreement can be disregarded.
So Government has a green light to act in bad faith!
Another upshot is giving government a green light to mislead MPs and the public. The National Policy Statement (NPS) was materially misleading. For example it claimed it “.. concludes both that expansion via a Northwest Runway at Heathrow Airport (as its preferred scheme) can be delivered within the UK’s carbon obligations ..”
What the judges are saying is, in effect, that it is okay for the Government to lie and mislead. And this from a court – of all places!
The judges could reasonably argue that they were required only to consider the legality of the government’s policy, not the merits. This may be so, but judges have complete freedom, which they often use, to make general comments on a case and its issues. They are entitled to say that, irrespective of what they were forced to conclude for reasons of law, the law is mistaken or irrational or immoral.
The fact that the judges made no such comment speaks volumes.
After all, why rock the boat by suggesting we should actually take climate change seriously instead of just paying lip service? Why not hide behind legal niceties instead of saying what needs to said? ‘An easy life’ would be one of the more charitable answers.
Judges Hickinbottom and Holgate have meekly supported the government by saying that they can ignore the latest evidence and even its own undertakings on climate change. So we must now hold them as well as the government to account.
But this attitude will backfire. If people see judges just supporting the ‘establishment’ , it can only lead to even less trust in government, big business, the judiciary and ultimately democracy itself.
Ealing Council is proposing to make cuts of ￡1.14million. This means it will ceasing to manage Greenford, Hanwell, Perivale, Northfields, Pisthanger, West Ealing and Wood End libraries. Unless local groups come forward to manage these libraries, they will close.
Ealing Council’s Solution
The Council expects local groups volunteering to run the libraries to provide ‘community offers’ such as story times for children, opening for a specified number of hours and doing an enormous amount of fundraising. The consultation suggests local groups would need to raise around ￡15k – ￡30k per year to meet annual running costs, though the exact figures are unclear.
Ealing Green Party is concerned this is not feasible and libraries will close. Libraries provide a safe space for children and adults to read and study. They offer free access to computers and the internet which is critical now that even many public services are ‘digital by default’. They also draw people to local town centres which benefits the shops, cafes and other businesses in the area.
What you can do
The Ealing Green Party is opposing the cuts and would urge you to do the same by:
The Triangle started out as a plot of land earmarked for development by British Rail back in the 1980s. However there was a Public Inquiry, which ruled in favour of nature in a city.
Thus Gunnersbury Triangle was designated as a nature reserve.
Since then, the Triangle has been officially recognised as a Local Nature Reserve. It was also handpicked by the Mayor of London’s office to become a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation.
It is literally a very important plot of land.
A Site Always Under Threat
Astoundingly, rather than being carefully looked after, threats to the Triangle’s very existence are never far away.
Ongoing major developments at Chiswick Business Park.
Flood lights on surrounding plots.
Two big residential developments right on its border.
All this has already damaged The Triangle’s ability to provide safe habitat for local wildlife. Now a tiny scrap of land right next to the reserve has fallen prey to developers.
Species you can see at Gunnersbury Triangle
Take a look at the list of species that you can find in this sanctuary surrounded by tube lines. It is not difficult to see why it has been named as one of the most important nature reserves in Greater London.
Amphibians: Common toad, smooth newt, common frog Birds: Green woodpecker, great spotted woodpecker, blackcap, sparrowhawk Invertebrates: Speckled wood butterfly, orange tip butterfly, ivy bee, stag beetle, azure damselfly Mammals: Hedgehog, field vole, wood mouse, pipistrelle bat, noctule bat Plants: Hogweed, broom, ragwort, turkeytail bracket fungus
All the above means that the custodians of The Triangle should be treating it with the utmost care. Any doubts about this should be raised and discussed as a matter of priority.
Development at Gunnersbury Triangle Nature Reserve
A new five-story block of nine luxury flats is planned to be constructed on the scrapyard bordering the Gunnersbury Triangle Nature Reserve.
This may have caused concerns for the London Wildlife Trust (LWT), which manages the reserve and holds a portacabin at the entrance as their office space. However, any concerns have been assuaged by the promise of a brand-new permanent office facility that will be constructed alongside the block of flats. The London Wildlife Trust have therefore added their seal of approval to this venture.
Of course this ‘support’ from Hounslow is deeply embedded in the desire to generate a lot of money from this development. Adding a visitors centre for the London Wildlife Trust is a small price to pay for the developer.
The Planning Meeting
Ealing Council’s Planning Committee met on Wednesday 16 January 2019. The development of the Gunnersbury Triangle scrapyard was the only item on the agenda. For the Committee to meet over just one proposal is apparently highly unusual, as local councillor Andrew Steed (Liberal Democrats) remarked.
Mr Steed, along with the designated objector (Marijn van de Geer of the Ealing Green Party and local resident), raised grave doubts as to whether these plans should be approved.
These doubts centred around:
• The impact that the construction of the tower block will have on the delicate biodiversity that is preserved at The Triangle. Although the London Wildlife Trust has dismissed the risk as ‘negligible’, they cannot guarantee this. • The effects two other recently constructed developments on biodiversity in the area. There are no reports from “before and after” these developments were built. However, local residents and regular visitors say that the decline of wildlife in the nature reserve is clearly visible. • An incomplete Planning Application. There is no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), no Environmental Statement (ES), no official EIA Screening Report, and no Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP). • Inadequate publicity was given to these proposals from the start. Also the Planning Committee Meeting was announced just a week before it took place. This appears to be common practice for Ealing, and no good reason has ever been given.
Finally there are major problems with the document that forms the basis of the Planning decision.
The Planning Officer’s report
There are issues with the Planning Officer’s interpretation of Policy 7.19 of the London Plan .
Policy 7.19 of the Plan states the following:
‘On Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation development proposals should: give strong protection to sites of metropolitan importance for nature conservation (SMIs). These are sites jointly identified by the Mayor and boroughs as having strategic nature conservation importance’ (Biodiversity and access to nature, Section D).
The Planning Officer’s report ignores this.
Policy 7.19 goes on to state:
‘… when considering proposals that would affect directly, indirectly or cumulatively a site of recognised nature conservation interest, the following hierarchy will apply:
Avoid adverse impact to the biodiversity interest
Minimise impact and seek mitigation
Only in exceptional cases where the benefits of the proposal clearly outweigh the biodiversity impacts, seek appropriate compensation.’ (Biodiversity and access to nature, Section E).
An Inconvenient Point
The Planning Officer decided to ignore point 1 above, which is to avoid adverse impact to the biodiversity interest. The reality is, as this is a hierarchical list, he should never even have moved on to points 2 and 3.
Point 1 alone clearly demonstrates that the development should not go ahead. Otherwise the development would not be in line with the London Plan’s Biodiversity and access to nature.
The policies of the London Plan take precedent over anything else, because the site is of Metropolitan Importance. This means it is important not just for Ealing but for all of London. By approving the development, the Planning Committee goes against the Mayor’s biodiversity policy.
A proposal to defer the planning decision due to these many concerns was firmly rejected by all Labour councillors present.
An Asset of Local Value
There is another significant point to note. The proposal to designate Gunnersbury Triangle an “Asset of Local Value” will be considered in early February.
Many feel that the scrapyard development proposal appeared before the Planning Committee very abruptly, showing that there was a rush for the proposal to be approved. Was this to avoid the issue of an Asset of Local Value putting a spanner in the works for the developers?
Questions for London Wildlife Trust
So what have the London Wildlife Trust got to say about this? Obviously, it is great that they will get enhanced office and visitors space, but did they really need this development to take that desire forward?
It has been mentioned that £800,000 in Section 106 money has not yet been officially accounted for from the previous developments on the border of The Triangle. Why didn’t they push this point harder?
One of Labour’s councillors argued that the London Wildlife Trust’s open support for the development must be a deciding factor (“they would hardly support the destruction of their own nature reserve”). This ignores the fact that LWT is a tiny, overstretched, understaffed and underfunded charity with its back against the wall.
Whether they had much option other than to support this development remains to be seen.
A Concerning Lack of Concern
When it came to the vote to approve the proposal at the Planning Committee meeting, all 10 Labour councilors voted in favour. The Labour members of the planning committee evinced an air of detachment throughout the proceedings.
They were uninterested in biodiversity. They were uninterested in the other developments that had already adversely affected wildlife in the area. They were uninterested in the timing of this meeting and arguments for the decision to be deferred.
Labour had come in to do one thing: push this development through. And such is their power in local government that nothing was going to stop them.
While other councils, including Hillingdon, Richmond and Hammersmith & Fulham are strongly and publicly opposed to a third runway, Ealing’s Labour council has always been equivocal. Council leader Julian Bell has said, when pushed, that Ealing does not support a third runway.
But there has been no clear public opposition.
Motion to Oppose
Because Ealing seemed to be sitting on the fence, the Conservative group tabled a motion at the full council meeting on 18th Dec:
“This Council states that it is opposed to a third runway at Heathrow Airport. This Council therefore pledges to support those organisations and local authorities who are taking legal action against the plans to expand Heathrow Airport.”
The motion was supported by the LibDems.
Prior to the debate on this motion, a member of Ealing Green Party was allowed to ask a ‘public question’. He asked the question on Heathrow expansion and climate change, referring to the extra £2.9m tonnes of CO2 pa that would be emitted. This was referred to by the Conservatives and LibDems.
The Labour response was, broadly: * This is a national government decision and therefore there is little that Ealing can do. * With severe cash constraints the council cannot justify spending money opposing it. * Ealing seeks to get the maximum compensation/mitigation
There were a couple of speeches from Southall Labour cllrs supporting expansion. This included one from Cllr Rajinder Mann which, as pointed out from the public gallery by said Green Party member, sounded like a script provided by Heathrow.
We know it was because it quoted economic benefits from Heathrow’s propaganda, which is completely at variance with the official government estimates.
The Art of the Compromise
When it looked as if the motion would be voted down, the Conservatives adroitly amended the motion to the first part only:
“This Council states that it is opposed to a third runway at Heathrow Airport.”
It’s been an intense Autumn for the Green Party and environmentalists in general. An Autumn in which the existential threat that faces all of us has come more sharply into focus than ever. But also an Autumn that has seen us dare to hope like never before. It is a season that has given us dark glimpses of the future, but has also seen us march in numbers not seen in years as we protested against Brexit chaos. And a season in which, finally, an open rebellion has been declared against the establishment, and its suicidal “Business As Usual” policies.
And finally, as we approach the season of goodwill, perhaps we have reason to wish each other a “Green Christmas”!
The Autumn began with a special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). And, as I’m sure you will now be aware, the situation has never been more critical. We have, as a planet, 12 years in which to drastically cut our current emissions in an effort to avoid a global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees or more above pre-industrial levels. Even if we stop at this increase we risk devastating heatwaves, superstorms and floods that make islands in the Pacific disappear beneath the waves.
One thing is certain, the Climate Crisis will get worse from here, and it is a sad fact that global carbon emissions increased in 2017 and are set to increase again in 2018.
Hope Dies, Action Begins!
It is with the above, and with other such dramatic statements of intent, that the Extinction Rebellion (XR for short) set about their mission.
The mission began in earnest at the end of October, with a stirring call to action outside the Houses of Parliament. The highway next to Parliament was blocked for 3 hours during this protest, causing several people to be arrested, and this set the pattern for the month that followed. The highlight of this month of action was Rebellion Day on 17th November, which saw 6,000 people from around the country descend upon London.
On this day five of the main bridges in the city (Westminster, Waterloo, Blackfriars, Lambeth and Southwark) were blocked by a motley crew of rebels from all age groups, races and faiths (or lack thereof); united in the cause of trying to jolt this government from its state of denial towards this crisis we are in. At the end of Rebellion Day nearly a hundred people had been arrested.
Of all the political parties, XR was embraced most of all by the Green Party. None violent Direct Action is actually part of the ethos of the Greens, because when the establishment is no longer protecting the common good, then the laws and regulations that it has declared become part of the trappings of authority and power that must be challenged by the people.
So far such notables as Caroline Lucas, Jonathan Bartley, Molly Scott Cato, Jenny Jones and Rupert Read have pledged support to XR. And the Ealing Green Party have played their part, up to and including adding to the arrest figures! This is not a course of action that any of us has taken lightly, but we acknowledge that “Business As Usual” has ended, and that the time has come to make a fundamental analysis of this culture of economic growth at all costs.
We know this current system is not good for the planet or its animals; we know this system increases inequality, poverty, homelessness and depression in its people. Is it time to find another way?
The Green Party says yes!
And with policies that include democratic reform and the introduction of a Universal Basic Income, we are already setting forth ideas for what this new world might look like.
Fighting for a People’s Vote
Of course, part of our immediate future is still heading towards withdrawal from the European Union.
But before this drastic step is taken, should the people not be consulted on what this Brexit might look like, and should they not have the choice of ending this course if we think the risk we are taking is too great?
And so on 20th October, we joined over 600,000 people on the biggest protest march seen in Britain since the days of the Iraq War.
This is an issue that is developing by the hour; but we must do all we can to make the People’s Vote a reality, and, if the worst comes to the worst, then we must fight to get the Greenest Brexit we can get. It is probable that this will never be over.
Finally, as December begins, two bits of fantastic news!
First, with the prompting of Green representatives Caroline Russell and Siân Berry, on 6th December the Greater London Assembly voted to recommend that Mayor Sadiq Khan should agree that we are in a state of climate emergency!
Does this mean that London will finally get true protection for green spaces, traffic reduction, more protected cycle lanes and drastic action on renewable energy that it desperately needs? As yet this is unclear – but at the least, it has to be a shot in the arm for these campaigns.
Don’t forget to sign the petition to Ealing Council. Time to divest your pensions from fossil fuels!
Second, what does all this mean for the membership of the Green Party, including the Ealing Greens?
It means it’s going up!
The new Green surge has begun!
We look forward to seeing you along at one of our new look monthly meetings on the first Thursday of every month.
At the local elections in Ealing in May 2018 the Green Party showed – again – that it is a serious opposition party.
The current electoral system is rigged to prevent parties smaller than Conservative and Labour winning seats. Many voters understand this already – here are some facts and figures.
Despite standing only one candidate out of 3 in each ward, the Green Party got 5% of the total vote.
Ealing’s Third Party
If there has been a fairer ‘Proportional Representation’ (PR) system we would have got 3 councillors elected, on the basis of this vote. If we had stood 3 candidates in each ward we would have got about 6 councillors.
The Green Party candidate got more votes than each of 49 LibDems in 19 wards out of their total of 69 candidates in 23 wards.
The Green Party candidate got more votes than each of 3 Conservatives in one ward (Elthorne).
The Green Party candidates comprehensively beat UKIP, BNP and Polish Pride candidates.
These statistics show that the Green Party can realistically be considered ‘the third party’.
We know many people believe in green policies but do not vote Green because they don’t think Greens can win. But our view is that the only wasted vote is for a party you don’t believe in.
The size of the Green vote already influences Labour and Conservative policies for the good. And every time the public sees a good vote for the Greens, pressure for PR increases.
Fair is Worth Fighting For
So don’t just vote Green! Lobby for a fairer electoral system which will elect more Green councillors and MPs.
Only with Green representatives will ordinary people get a real say in their future. Only with the Green Party will we get a fairer and more equal society. Instead of a country run for the benefit of developers, bankers and tax-dodgers.
Compared to some of the comrades who will be taking this action alongside me, I won’t be going that long without food (2 ½ – 3 days). But it should still be an interesting experience.
We are doing this for two reasons: firstly, we wish to highlight the madness and short termism of a government that wants to build an unnecessary 3rd runway at Heathrow. This expansion will bring negligible economic benefits to the country as a whole (as has been confirmed by the government’s own economic studies on the subject).
So the benefits will be little – however the impact on an already strained environment will be great. Air pollution, noise pollution and traffic congestion, already considerable in London, will be further proliferated.
But the greatest price we will pay for this vanity project is the acceleration effect towards catastrophic climate change that this will have. Aviation is one of the biggest contributors towards an atmosphere already heaving with human generated CO2.
And here we have a government that pays lip service to climate action while favouring the car industry and pushing fracking (even being prepared to override democracy) at the expense of clean, renewable energy sources.
We need to make a stand, now.
3 Line Whip
Jeremy Corbyn, if he is serious about climate action as he claims he is, needs to impose a 3 line whip on his Labour MP’s to vote AGAINST this disastrous expansion.
That’s why we’ll be sitting outside Labour Party HQ (105 Victoria St, Westminster, London SW1E 6QT) every day from Saturday 9th June: to put pressure on Mr Corbyn to do exactly this.
I will be with them on Saturday 9th between Midday and 4PM, then on Sunday 10th and Monday 11th June between 8AM and 1PM.
And then my hardier comrades will continue the hunger strike into the week.
Why not come and say hello to us, and lend us your support?
The Ealing Green Party relies entirely on volunteers to run. But what does it mean to be an active member for the Ealing Greens?
One of our new members describes her experience so far…
“Most of us don’t really think about what members of local political parties get up to. The main interaction you will have with active members is probably around election time when they come knocking on your door to tell you about their activities and asking you to vote for them.
Like most people, I have always been polite, taken their leaflet, but other than that never really engaged. When it was time to vote, I didn’t recognise any of the faces on the ballot and would just tick those who were standing for the party I wanted to support.
I joined the Green Party just over a year ago and became an active member about 8 months ago. I didn’t even really know what an ‘active member’ was. First of all, did you know that just by voting you haven’t done even half of the things you could do to help out your party of choice? And most of us find even just going to the polling stations a chore.
Politics is Life
How did we become so disengaged from politics? How did we forget that everything around us is politics; from the height of your pavement’s curb, to the litter in your local park and rubbish collection, to the new high-rise development going up in your back garden. People often say they are not interested in politics. I now know that this is like saying you’re not interested in breathing. You may not be interested in it, but it is still happening.
So I went along to my first Ealing Green Party meeting which they hold once a month. If you are a member of the Ealing Green Party you are always allowed to attend. I don’t really remember why I decided to go along. I don’t have any friends who are active for their local political party or anything like that, but I guess I was curious as to what the people would be like.
My First Meeting
When I arrived the meeting was in full swing and I didn’t have a clue what was going on. They were talking about issues I had never heard of before, using terms which I didn’t understand. I took notes and tried to take in as much as I could, but pretty much all of it was going over my head.
It wasn’t until after when we all had a drink and people were chatting, that I started to get a better understanding about how things work. Everyone was very friendly, so I felt like I could ask questions without worrying about sounding stupid. I didn’t even know the basics, like that a borough is divided up into wards, and I didn’t even know which bits of London belong to Ealing. I discovered how big the borough of Ealing actually is, and realised how little of it I’d explored!
A few months later, I have a much better understanding of local issues and feel confident and supported in meetings to be able to ask when I don’t understand, and sometimes even contribute a point of view myself! The learning curve is steep, and I feel like I’ve become a little bit smarter every time I come away from one of our gatherings!
After this first meeting I had loads of ideas buzzing around in my head and I jotted them all down into an email and sent it to some of the people I had been chatting to that night. They responded and asked me to get involved with various things.
And I think that’s how it kind of starts. You show that you are interested and committed to help, and the group will take you in with open arms. Local parties have extremely limited resources, including people. They are all doing this on a voluntary basis, out of concern for their local neighbourhood.
So if you can do more than just show up at the polling station at election time (and please, do that as well!!), you really should. It’s a brilliant way to get to know your borough, not just the places that you would normally hang out. You make friends with your fellow party members which is great; especially in London where you have to travel at least an hour to go have a cup of tea with someone. It’s lovely to know people so near by!
And perhaps most importantly: slowly but surely you start to understand more about how things work. How decisions are made, and how you can help create change. You learn what the issues are, whether it is housing, protecting green spaces, safety, roads, traffic, hospitals, and before you know it you’ll be so much more knowledgeable on these issues than you ever were.
As an active member you commit as much time as you can. You can pick the particular issues you’re passionate about. You can decide how you would like to help, be it designing flyers, knocking on people’s doors, helping with data entry, writing for the party blog, helping with social media, or going to events that are relevant and reporting back to the group what you’ve learned. The list is endless.
Whatever you decide to do, know that we are out there trying to make our shared living space a better place for all of us. If you see us handing out flyers, come have a chat. If we come knocking on your door, let us know your thoughts on local issues. We are doing this for all of us, and we are happy to do it.”
Marijn Van De Geer
In a Nutshell
Being an active member can include the following:
Attending party meetings
Canvassing and doorknocking
Writing for the party blog/website
Helping with social media
Attending relevant events and reporting back
What you get out of it
Meet new people
Discover your local area
Understanding of local politics
Empowerment by being heard
Improve your neighbourhood
Build a community
If you live in the Acton Central Ward you can vote for Marijn to be your Green voice on 3rd May!
To the Concerned Parties of the Ealing Planning Committee,
On 18th February 2018 a meeting of Ealing’s planning committee was convened. The first item submitted for approval at this meeting was a proposed residential tower block to be constructed in North Acton on the site of a former Art Deco wing of the Imperial College: the “Perfume Factory”.
A Powerful Objection
The proposed development was controversial because of its height and because of the density of its living spaces, which inspired a strongly worded speech from the designated objector, Mr Jonathan Notley, a local activist. There followed an equally strong debate, and by the time the vote came it was clear that at least two of the committee intended to vote against the motion, one of them citing the phrase “rabbit hutches in the sky” with reference to the 20 studio apartments that were well below what the new London Plan considers a “liveable space”.
The vote then took place, and this took the traditional form of the raising of hands of all those who approved of the application, and then the raising of hands of all those who objected. The Chair, Steve Hines, counted 6 votes in favour and 6 votes against the application. This meant that he could bring his own casting vote into play. He chose to wave through the motion, and thus the Perfume Factory development was, for the moment, approved.
An Extraordinary Mistake
It took an eagle eyed and bold member of the public to spot what had happened during the decision making process: and this member of the public, thankfully, took action by having a message sent down to Mr Hines from the public gallery. It transpired that a mistake had been made by the planning meeting’s adjudicator; a mistake that was missed by the 3 people who sat next to him (including the Planning Committee’s legal advisor) and faced those who took the vote.
The voting numbers had been miscounted!
There were a few moments of confusion, as this incident appeared to be without precedent. However it was eventually decided to take the vote again. Upon a second time of asking, it was seen that the application for the Perfume Factory had in fact been rejected by 7 votes to 5.
Footage of the meeting, including the two votes was recorded by Mr Notley, and can be seen in this humorous montage:
Upon viewing the footage, and in hindsight, it does not seem difficult to see that the hands of those approving in fact numbered less than those raised against. However, mistakes do happen.
But the vital question now is how do we take this forward? How can we ensure this does not happen again?
A Plea for the Future
What makes this doubly important now is the issue of trust. Because if there is another close vote, especially upon a contentious project like the Perfume Factory, then questions may be asked about the veracity of the decision. And even if they are not explicitly stated, this memory will be there.
It is clear that more transparency is required: with twelve members of the planning committee, votes should be taken one by one and then formally recorded. This would provide more accountability, and of course greater accuracy. Also, why is the recording or filming of planning meetings considered such an unusual step?
The level and style of development being seen now, not just in Ealing but across London and other major cities in Britain, has become a prominent and controversial issue. The public are, understandably, angry and mistrustful. The way to assuage this mistrust is with greater openness and democracy.
It’s been a very very cold February (colder here, than, bizarrely, the Arctic, which should worry us all). But despite that the hardy folk of the Ealing Green Party have hit the campaign trail. All through the month we’ve been braving the conditions to speak to the people of Hanwell and Acton in our quest to hear the thoughts of the locals and to spread our message that Ealing Council needs a Green voice!
No Wasted Votes
This coming election will be an important indicator of how people feel about the plans that local government has in store for them, and some of those plans, we have to say, are somewhat alarming. From demolishing locally listed buildings to selling off green spaces to constructing “rabbit hutches in the sky”, our council is giving us plenty of reason to be concerned. And we’re lucky that the people who vote in May will have more than one choice – so there is no doubt that giving one of those votes to the Green Party will not be wasted.
One word we’ve been using quite a lot is “accountability”. It is something that is sorely needed in Ealing: a dissenting voice from someone who is not beholden to any party line. It’s all very well saying you should join one of the big parties and try and “change them from within”, but we have seen that people in those parties can be punished quite severely if they do try to defy the wishes of the group they belong to.
It’s been great to see then, that so many people are switched on and share our concerns about what is happening to Ealing. When we saw the plans for the tower block that will be built on the Wickes site on the Lower Boston Road we knew we had to raise our voice in protest, and to know so many people are wanting the same thing has been driving us on through the cold.
There is certainly some interesting sights and sounds on the doorstep – for instance the man who answered the door naked! Of course he was doing the cleaning, obviously. And he was also receptive to the Green message, so that must have been the naturist in him!
The gentleman who worked for the Pakistani consul offered us a cup of tea, and we found out through the course of the conversation that when one of the canvassers speaking to him had problems entering Pakistan once, the visa belonging to the Green campaigner was safely in his keeping! So that was a reassuring turn up!
Of course many people are not feeling very hopeful about the future, and that is to some extent understandable: a feeling of helplessness in the face of a council that has a different agenda to the people of Ealing; a council that appears to be set on its course and seems to give little regard to opposing wishes, viewpoints and concerns.
I asked around for how we could answer points like this positively, and a Green supporter said this to me, which I thought was very wise:
“Tell them that wherever Greens are elected into office they do so because they want to make a change. Green Party councillors don’t answer to any “mainstream” party or follow the consensus agreed by the dominant group in the council. They listen to resident’s concerns and take those concerns right into the heart of the council and they fight for it. They do this because they feel the same way you do, it’s time to change, time to make a difference and that’s why we ask for your support.”
I couldn’t have put it better myself. And we’d love to hear your thoughts!