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.

Is infilling the answer to Southwark's housing problem?

Southwark has more than 14,000 households on the waiting list for a council home and 3,000 in temporary accommodation.(1) The Labour-led council’s plan to tackle its housing crisis includes building new homes on green spaces and other communal areas on its council estates, a practice known as “infilling”.

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Climate Refugees

The Green Party has long championed the rights of refugees and in this piece, local campaigner and local party member, Helen Kilburn shares the facts on climate refugees and highlights the work of global, national and local organisations.

 

“...you only run for the border

when you see the whole city running as well...”

Home by Warsan Shire

 

The Green Party has been at the forefront of the fight for climate and social justice in the UK and abroad. We stand in solidarity with refugees and asylum seekers and proudly echo the Refugee Welcome Pledge made by Caroline Lucas, MP at the last general election to champion the rights and human dignity of refugees and asylum seekers.

A “refugee” is defined as a person who has crossed an international border “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion” (1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees). In some contexts, the definition extends to persons fleeing “events seriously disturbing public order” (1969 OAU Convention; 1984 Cartagena Declaration). To be recognised as a refugee, an individual must first make a claim of asylum. This is a legal right to which all human beings are entitled, but governments are entitled to reject that claim.

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Reflections on the May 2021 Elections

It’s now over three weeks since the Green Party’s record results in the London elections, and we’ve been reflecting on what the gains mean for us as a party, and on the changing political landscape in our city.

Claire Sheppard, Green Party candidate celebrates election result

Green Party candidate for Lambeth & Southwark celebrates a game-changing result with GP Lambeth Councillor, Scott Ainslie.

First and foremost a massive thank you to Green Party campaigners and candidates across Southwark and London. These monumental efforts saw voters seize their chance to vote Green outside the usual first-past-the-post system, where Labour and Conservatives inevitably dominate. The London List vote in the Assembly elections is proportional, making a Green vote far more than a gesture of support. Greens came second on this ballot paper, ahead of the Tories and with more than double the votes of the Lib Dems. This helped to give us a third member on the London Assembly: Zack Polanski now joins Siân Berry and Caroline Russell at City Hall, where he’s hit the ground running, pushing mayor Sadiq Khan on proposals for a Citizens Assembly for London.

Even in the first-past-the-post constituency vote, the Green Party in Southwark and Lambeth secured brilliant results. Our candidate, Southwark Greens’ Claire Sheppard, gained 19.7% of the vote, overtaking the Conservatives, to come second to Labour. Ours was one of only two constituencies where the Labour-Tory stranglehold was broken, the other being North East London, where Caroline Russell was in second place to Labour.

Results of Constituency Vote 2012 - 2021 

% of votes for the Green Party Constituency Candidates in London and in S&L constituency, 2012 - 2021

 Results of List Vote 2012 - 2021

% votes for Green Party ('List Vote') in London and in S&L constituency, 2012 - 2021

The vote for mayor – under the supplementary vote system – consolidated the Greens’ position as London’s third party. Siân Berry received 11.5% of first-choice votes compared with 8.8% in 2016, and a massive 28% of second-preference votes – the most for any candidate, clearly indicating that Siân and the Green Party can and do get support from across the political spectrum.

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Show your support for Siân

Let's all make our homes a billboard for Siân Berry's inspiring campaign for London Mayor.

The London Young Greens made these brilliant VOTE SIAN posters for everyone to print at home and post in our windows!

We look forward to seeing these around the borough in the next few weeks. Take a snap when you see one and let the Young Greens know @LondonYGs (twitter) and @londonygs (instagram).

Which one for your front window? Green or White? Or both?

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Southwark Council’s Commitment to Green Planning in the New Southwark Plan

Since declaring a Climate Emergency two years ago the Council has frequently stated its desire to engage with residents and community groups, to hear their ideas for tackling the environmental problems we face and to work together with people to create ’a cleaner, greener, safer’ Southwark.

In practice, however, very little has been achieved during these two years. There has been plenty of greenwashing but hardly any meaningful action. It’s true that the Council’s intended approach to engagement with the public on the issue, planned for April to June 2020, was dealt a severe blow by the rapid spread of Covid-19; instead of face-to-face consultation, residents and businesses had to be invited to air their views via an online portal. Inevitably the restricted contact meant that most of the comments received were contributed by people used to engaging with the Council, while the average person remained out of reach and in the dark.

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When Greens are in power

In the week that Southwark Housing cabinet member and Labour councillor Leo Pollak resigned from his post, here at Southwark Green Party we have been focusing on more positive news.

Landing in our inbox today was a snapshot of the positive and responsible impact that elected Green Party representatives are having around the country.

Rather than hiding behind anonymous twitter accounts (see Southwark News for details), elected Greens make good things happen for the communities they represent that are also good for the planet.

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Southwark Green Party Annual General Meeting

Almost every single organisational review taking place in 2021 will likely start along the lines of ‘2020 saw a complete change to our ways of working and great challenges’. At our AGM, we too recognised 2020’s upheaval, change and challenges – but recognised the many achievements we have had as a local party. It has been a difficult time since lockdown first started in March 2020, but our members have been vigilant members of the community and continued to campaign on vital issues, such as the climate emergency.

Overall, since November 2019 (the last AGM) our ambition has stayed constant: secure the representation of elected Greens

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Southwark Green Party Responds to Southwark Council Climate Change Consultation

Southwark Green Party welcomed the declaration of a Climate Emergency by the London Borough of Southwark in March 2019 but councillors and council officers are not acting in a way that responds to the gravity of that declaration.

We call for action that recognises the emergency.

Southwark Green Party members have responded as individuals to the draft climate strategy, and some are also members of the council’s Partnership Steering Group (established in March 2020) and have contributed detailed comments on policy through that process. This response will not duplicate that work, but rather highlights some key failings of the draft strategy and these nine points that define how we would approach the task.

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Tree of the Day - the Heygate Legacy



In a guest post, Guy Mannes-Abbott celebrates Tree Week with stories of the Foxglove tree (Paulina tormentosa), one of many species that make up the Heygate Legacy. He led what became a community campaign to force Southwark Council and developers Lendlease to recognise the public welfare or commons value of the urban forest of 458 trees on the old Heygate Estate at Elephant and Castle.

Early in the first lockdown this year I decided to tweet a Tree of the Day from my account @leaftoleaf; images and notes about a new network of trees that I had an intimate relation with in my neighbourhood. Those trees included Persian ironwood and silk trees, Indian bean and horse-chestnut trees, hornbeams and field maples, black pines and poplars, and the trusty London plane in estates, streets and parks centring on the Elephant and Castle.
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Covid-19 and Democracy

*update* 21/12/2020

Latest guidance on campaign activity for Green Party members can be read here https://members.greenparty.org.uk/covid-19 (membership log-in required).


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 [email protected] 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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