News and Views

Select a topic from the menu(s) above, or keep reading for all our latest news and views. You can also download copies of our community newsletters, or read A Green Voice For Southwark, our blog about Southwark news and local issues, with a focus on Camberwell and Peckham.

Covid-19 and Democracy

Earlier in the year we hosted with our friends and colleagues in Lambeth Green Party a series of events with leaders from the Green Party under the banner: Beyond Covid-19. I am sure that most of us at the time assumed that months later we might indeed be beyond the pandemic, or at least closer to the end than we are. Nonetheless, with positive news about a vaccine, perhaps we are close to the beginning of the end?

And what about democracy in the time of a pandemic?

The London Assembly and Mayoral elections were due to take place in May 2020. These elections were postponed, now go-ahead in May 2021 and campaigning has begun again. This important election will impact many aspects of our city and provides an excellent opportunity for our Green Party candidates.

  • National Co-leader Siân Berry is candidate for London Mayor and captured excellent polling ahead of the postponement
  • Two Assembly Members – Siân and Caroline Russell – were elected in 2016 via the Proportional Representation element of the vote for London-wide representatives.
  • The ambition is to re-elect Siân and Caroline and to increase the Green representation to at least three and beyond, with Zack Polanski and Benali Hamdache third and fourth respectively on the Green Party list.

   

Teams in Southwark and across London have been out distributing campaign literature to Londoners – but is this safe or advisable during the pandemic?

Evidence-Based Decisions

As a party that prides itself on evidence-based decision-making, we are following the science and official guidance from Public Health England. What this means broadly is:

  • Voters can be confident that receiving campaign literature does not present a risk
  • Door-knocking is not authorised
  • All campaigners are briefed on ‘safe’ leafletting, which means it needs to be done alone, with a mask on and with regular application of hand sanitiser
  • Distributing leaflets is a volunteer activity and therefore is permitted during lockdown

Our guidance is regularly updated but for the time-being, the right type of campaigning is on. Across the borough dedicated campaigners are making a significant contribution to the London-wide campaign. The ambition of this campaign is to reach several hundred thousand voters with multiple rounds of campaign messaging. A massive thank you to those making this happen and for observing the guidelines.

Should you wish to join them, there are always opportunities to do so – the more of you, the better to spread the load. Let us know via contact@southwark.greenparty.org.uk and we will let you know where and when. Equally, if you have been campaigning and have any concerns or questions, please raise them with your co-ordinator or via the central email.

Information for Voters

If you are reading this as someone who has received campaign literature from us and have questions or concerns, we welcome hearing from you.

For those voters who are vulnerable or who are nervous about voting in person in May, it is useful to remember the option to cast your votes by post or by proxy. Details are available from the Southwark Council website here.

Finally, remember that British, European and Commonwealth London residents can vote but you must be registered to do so. If you or members of your household are not registered to vote, you need to visit here.

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Beyond Covid-19: Air Quality

In early May, Southwark and Lambeth Green Parties welcomed two speakers to the second event in its 'lockdown' speaker programme, Beyond Covid-19.

The topic: Air Quality 

The speakers: Rosamund Kissi-Debrah and Diana Varaden.

  

Rosamund is a health campaigner and World Health Organisation Public Advocate. She set up The Ella Roberta Family Foundation following the death of her daughter Ella in 2013 from a rare and severe form of asthma exacerbated by London’s toxic air. The foundation aims to improve the lives of children affected by asthma in South East London by raising awareness, campaigning for better treatment and for clean air.

Diana Varaden is a researcher at King’s College who specialises in engaging diverse community groups in work on air pollution. Attendees benefited from their complementary contributions on the issue of Air Quality.

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Space to walk and cycle safely - needed now

With so many fewer cars on the streets during lockdown, air pollution has fallen by up to 50% and people have been walking and cycling to local shops and parks, as well as to work.

But now, as lockdown eases, cars are returning to the streets. If Southwark doesn’t act to provide more space for pedestrians and cyclists, all Southwark residents will suffer.

  • Many people will not be able to travel safely to work. The majority of residents don’t have access to a private car and there will be reduced capacity on public transport for months to come.
  • More people will choose to drive, creating gridlock - causing delays for those who do need to use motorised transport, including delays to buses.
  • Increased air pollution means more heart disease, asthma and strokes, as well as exacerbating the impact of coronavirus.

It's a question of social justice: 60% of Southwark residents do not have access to a car. With limited capacity on public transport, they need safe ways to walk and cycle. Workers in health care, retail and construction who can’t work from home are more likely to be on lower incomes and most in need of safer ways to commute

If Southwark Council doesn’t act quickly, there’s a real risk that as people avoid public transport, Southwark will become a corridor of choking gridlock, from the southern suburbs to the river.

Meanwhile, people still need extra space on pavements for daily exercise, recreation and essential tasks while keeping a safe distance from each other.

But the last few months have shown that rapid changes are possible.

Photo (above, and top): the Low Traffic neighbourhood around Van Gogh Walk, Lambeth
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Beyond Covid-19 Universal Basic Income

In early May, Southwark and Lambeth Green Parties welcomed Siân Berry as first guest in its speaker programme, Beyond Covid-19. The topic: Universal Basic Income (UBI).

With much to cover, Siân provided an informed and passionate overview of Green Party policy on this issue and explained some of the research that has gone into this globally, as well as answering members’ questions. It became clear that the concept of UBI and the support and resilience it provides was a key policy that first attracted Siân to the Green Party.

 

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The #MasksForAll campaign

Photo: Adam Hypki

'Once 80% of the population wears a mask, the spread of a virus during a pandemic can be stopped almost immediately.'

 

There is evidence that masks can significantly reduce the amount of virus spread by people who have Covid-19 but may not realise it. To a lesser degree, they also provide protection against catching it. It’s a pro-social action to wear a mask: My mask protects you; your mask protects me.

The campaign for #Masks4All is gaining momentum. In the Czech Republic, it started as a grassroots campaign and then passed into law. Within three days, almost 100% of citizens were wearing homemade masks.

Professor Trish Greenhalgh spoke on the World At One on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday 16 April, pointing out that masks can be made of almost any available fabric, and that even if homemade masks are not 100% effective, if a high percentage of the population are wearing masks, there will be a huge drop in transmission rates.

Wearing cotton masks for essential trips to shops or on public transport is a simple, effective action that will protect all of us, and above all key workers like bus drivers and shop assistants. Homemade masks do not replace existing essential measures - hand-washing, keeping a safe distance, staying in - but they are another tool to fight the virus.

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Bessemer Nature Garden

We're very concerned to learn of a planning application made by Southwark Council for permission to chop down four mature poplar trees and eight ash and maple trees in Bessemer Grange Nature Garden (also known as Nairne Grove Nature Garden).

This small, biodiverse garden is used by pupils from Bessemer Grange Primary, as well as for Forest School community activities. The school's catchment area includes three large council estates - Champion Hill, Denmark Hill and Dog Kennel Hill. Many of the pupils live in flats without gardens. For them, the chance to learn about nature in a woodland setting is rare and highly valued.

This photo from the school's website shows a Year 1 class in the garden.

Photo shows four Year 1 children in red school uniform and winter coats, their backs to us as they look at mixed woodland beyond. Photo from Bessemer Grange Primary website http://bessemergrangeprimary.co.uk/1jm/

The trees are covered by Tree Protection Orders and the garden is listed as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation by Southwark Council, as well as being in a 'Critical Drainage Area'.

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Community Response to Covid-19

Interview with Claire Sheppard, Green Party candidate and community campaigner

Can you tell us a bit about Nunhead Knocks?

It was started by a handful of folks local to Nunhead who had skills in tech, community connections and backgrounds in organising who wanted to find a way to help the many people in our neighbourhood who have been affected by the virus.

How did you get the idea for Nunhead Knocks? Is it just you?

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London’s Recycling Chaos

A group of Southwark Green Party members joined friends from neighbouring Lambeth at City Hall a few weeks ago at Mayor’s Question Time. These take place through the year and it is when AMs (Assembly Members) get to quiz the Mayor and hold him to account on a range of issues.

A question handled by Siân Berry was simple: How will you reduce the amount of waste London generates? Missing from Mayor Khan’s answer was anything relating to concrete actions or targets for reducing London’s waste.

 

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Protect Burgess Park from overshadowing

Southwark Green Party objects to the proposal by Dolphin Living for the old Hunnex site at 35-39 Parkhouse Street, in Camberwell, just south of Burgess Park. This is for a 6-10 storey building with 100 flats.

This is one of several applications for tall buildings around the perimeter of Burgess Park, risking permanent destruction of the habitat and character of the park. (We have previously objected to the earlier Burgess Business Park proposal.) It is important not to set a precedent by approving this application.

Our key objections to this application are:

1) the buildings are too tall, in breach of Southwark Council policy

 

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Claire Sheppard for Camberwell and Peckham

Hello! I’m Claire Sheppard and I want to represent Camberwell and Peckham as your MP. I think it’s time for a change and for real action on the climate emergency.

Peckham has been my home for nearly 20 years. It’s where my husband and I chose to get married, start our own businesses and raise our family. I’m a local campaigner, volunteer and activist with a deep love and respect for the area.

Some of the community just got here, some have been here all their lives. What we all have in common is that we want to live in an area where the community is strong and united – and all of us want the best for each other.

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General Election 2019

New opportunities to make a Green vote count in Southwark

Uniting to Remain, Lib Dems step aside for the Green Party's co-leader Jonathan Bartley in Dulwich & West Norwood, while Hannah Graham of the Green Party steps aside in Bermondsey & Old Southwark.

The co-leader of the Green Party, Jonathan Bartley, has been selected to fight the seat of Dulwich and West Norwood in South London at the general election. The other Remain parties, the Lib Dems and Change UK, will not contest the seat as part of the 'Remain Alliance' organised by Unite to Remain. Voters in this constiituency have the opportunity to make history and elect London’s first Green Party MP.

The constituency of Dulwich & West Norwood is shared between the boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth. Both boroughs had high votes for 'Remain' in the 2016 referendum, with Lambeth polling at 78% and Southwark at 73%.

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Protect our trees

Protect our trees – and plant many more

Most of us feel a deep sense of loss when trees we're used to seeing every day are felled. Unfortunately, that's an experience all too familiar in Southwark, where many trees have come down over the past decade. The council's own figures show a net loss of around 1,400 street trees between 2013 and 2017 alone.

Southwark Transport Plan Annual Monitoring Report, 2016/17, p.45

Southwark Green Party has long campaigned to protect trees and green spaces. We welcomed the chance to reply to Southwark Council's recent consultation on its vision and objectives for tree management. The consultation has now closed, but you can read the draft Tree Management Policy on the council's consultation hub.

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Kick out developer's application to build on Green Dale

Southwark Green Party has submitted an objection to the planning application to build a new stadium on Metropolitan Open Land on Green Dale. This Site of Importance for Nature Conservation is in East Dulwich, roughly between the large branch of Sainsbury's on busy Dog Kennel Hill and the pedestrian and cycle-path between Champion Hill and Dulwich that's also - very confusingly - known as Green Dale.

Part of Green Dale. Photo: Friends of Dog Kennel Hill Woo

We support Dulwich Hamlet Football Club as a pillar of the local community, and celebrate its special character as inclusive and socially progressive. But we are not convinced that this plan is any more sustainable for the club than previous ones, and would rather see investment in the clubhouse, bar and sports centre to help support the club.

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Say no to airport expansion

The proposed expansion of Heathrow and London City airports would be an environmental catastrophe. It would mean more plane noise, more pollution, more congestion on our roads. Increases in greenhouse gas emissions would make it impossible for the UK to meet even its current, inadequate commitments to address the crisis of the global rise in temperatures.

The construction of a third runway at Heathrow (in effect, a new airport adjoining the existing one) would have the most damaging environmental impact of any new infrastructure project in Britain. It will result in 750 more flights a day (280,000 a year); the destruction of around 750 homes; two new car parks with 24,000 and 22,000 parking spaces; diversions of the M25 and A4; the rerouting of local rivers; and loss of habitats at wildlife areas including Staines Moor, a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Increased disturbance from flight paths will impact Southwark residents, along with millions of people across London, including many who are not currently overflown.

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Shadows loom over Burgess Park

View of St George's Church from Burgess Park

We have objected to the 10-storey development proposed for Burgess Business Park in Camberwell primarily because it is too tall, and will overshadow Burgess Park, harming the new wildlife area and the enjoyment of the park by local people. Burgess Park is both ecologically important and a vital breathing space for people living in densely built up areas of Southwark along the Walworth Road and Old Kent Road. This is only one of several schemes planned for Parkhouse Street. If passed, this development would set a precedent for other inappropriately tall buildings along the boundary of the park.

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Moving on from Southwark's disappointing Movement Plan

The Movement Plan approved by Southwark Council in 2019 (download here) claims to be a bold vision to change how we get around the borough over the next 20 years. How does it measure up in the light of Southwark Council’s declaration of a climate emergency at the end of March 2019?

Let’s start with the good news. We’re told that 77% of Southwark people who were surveyed support reducing traffic. And there’s an  exciting sounding policy to introduce street closures to reallocate space for people.  But as we read on, what sounded like a commitment to deliver more healthy streets turns out to be a commitment to ‘explore’ acting – is this code for commissioning more studies from consultants? In fact the whole document falls down on a lack of detailed commitments and deadlines.

Will the Movement Plan really help us to walk and cycle more?

Many more people would like to cycle if only it felt safe, rather than having to jostle with drivers cutting through residential areas.. Similarly, many people hop on the bus for a short journey because the alternative – perhaps a noisy, polluted, grubby street with a pavement that’s a bit too narrow for comfort – just isn’t appealing. Imagine how different it would be if you positively chose to walk those ten minutes because it gave you a chance to go through a small park, pick up groceries or walk side by side, chatting with friends. (This is called, in the jargon, ‘suppressed demand’ for walking and cycling).

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Proposals for cutting carbon by changing Southwark streets

In March 2019, Southwark Council passed a motion to ‘do all it can to make the borough carbon neutral by 2030’. Transport is the biggest single source of carbon emissions in our borough, so  we need real leadership on transport to change the way we get around and deliver goods.

Here are some proposals from Southwark Green Party for the kind of interventions we will need to meet the target of going climate neutral by 2030.

1. Green our streets

Southwark's own reports show that the borough has lost 1,000 street trees in the last ten years.

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Third Thursday Green Drinks

Are you wondering where to get started with Southwark Greens? Have you tried a Third Thursday social? Third Thursdays are a great way for a new member to meet fellow Greens, as I discovered last week.

A group of us gathered at The Remakery, a not-for-profit maker-space under a block of flats off Coldharbour Lane. Over coffee and nibbles we introduced ourselves and I was relieved to find that I wasn’t the only newbie.

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Vote for London's leading Remain party on 23 May

Supporters of the Green Party are out and about in Southwark delivering copies of this letter from Caroline Lucas. Sadly, we can't get round to every single door in Southwark, so if you want to deliver to your street/block of flats, drop us a line contact@southwark.greenparty.org.uk or check out our leafletting sessions here.

Below is the leaflet we're delivering.

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Reject the Canada Water Masterplan

Southwark Green Party submitted today its objections to the Canada Water Masterplan.  Despite further changes made by the developers in response to mounting local opposition, the vast majority of our serious concerns remain unaddressed, and we continue to support the wider community campaign opposing the planning application.

See our detailed feedback, and email response template:

https://www.southwarkgreenparty.org.uk/cwmp

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