Along with over 400 Londoners, community groups and businesses, Southwark Green Party has signed a letter initiated by campaigning group Mums for Lungs to unite local councils in the fight for clean air.
When Caroline Russell first became a transport campaigner in the early 1990s, she was courted by both Labour and the Lib Dems to stand in local elections. But, she says: “I knew I always trusted what the Greens said on transport.”
Twenty-five years on, Caroline is a councillor in Highbury East ward, Islington – the only Green on a council that is otherwise 100% Labour. With Sian Berry, she is also one of two Green members of the London Assembly and chair of the assembly’s environment committee, holding mayor Sadiq Khan to account to ensure he delivers on promises to reduce air pollution and make travelling around London safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
Caroline works tirelessly for environmental and social justice, and we were delighted to welcome her as our guest speaker at Southwark Green Party’s AGM, held on 15 November at the Albrighton Centre, SE22.
A major breakthrough Caroline has helped to bring about as a London Assembly member (AM) is to put climate change on the environment committee’s agenda. This might seem an obvious part of its remit but, amazingly, some Conservative AMs continue to reject overwhelming scientific evidence of the link between fossil fuels and global warming. The beefed-up remit means that committee members can, for example, challenge the expansion of Heathrow airport on the grounds that it will breach the UK’s legal commitments to reduce its carbon emissions.
Caroline’s work has also led to the publication of the assembly’s Hostile Streets report, looking at areas of outer London where streets are designed for cars and not people. This crisis is becoming ever greater as thousands of new homes are built along busy roads surrounded by noise, danger and air pollution.
A crucial policy set out by Sadiq Khan is his Vision Zero plan to end all deaths on London’s roads; disappointingly, however, the target date is not until 2041. As Caroline noted, if as many people were killed on our railways each year as on our roads, “no trains would run”.
So does Sadiq listen to what Green AMs have to say? Yes, said Caroline, but he is “going very, very slowly”. Car use is not declining fast enough. The mayor has pledged to triple the capital’s bike lanes to 90km but so far only 10km has been completed – and he’s been in office for two and a half years. Bike lanes are urgently needed, and “if it’s a bit inconvenient for drivers, that’s tough”.
A wide-ranging Q&A session following Caroline’s talk included discussion of the ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) for motor vehicles, which will come into force in central London from April next year, with the whole of inner London covered by 2021. Caroline’s concern is that areas outside the North and South Circular roads won’t be included in the zone, yet there are residential streets running much of the way along these major arterial routes. Road pricing offers the fairest way to tackle the biggest polluters, and it's an idea that other parties are now picking up on.
Even the slow and limited action being taken by the current mayor to improve air quality could be under threat. The Conservative party, Caroline warned, has already begun to campaign in the run-up to the 2020 mayoral elections – and car-loving Tory politicians don’t believe that breathing bad air is a problem. Electing Sian Berry as mayor of London, getting Caroline re-elected as an AM, and increasing Green representation in the London Assembly will all be vital, therefore, if we are to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions and protect the health of Londoners. It’s up to Green activists to make sure voters get this message!
Southwark Greens were in Bristol from 5-7 October for the Green Party's 2018 autumn conference, with a schedule packed with training sessions (e.g. canvassing masterclasses, guidance on writing newsletters and leaflets), policy working groups (e.g. "Tackling period poverty in young people", "Animal sentience and the Animal Welfare Act") and fringe meetings ("What do we want for our schools?", "How Green is Corbynomics?" and much more).
We support the campaign for a vote on the actual terms of Brexit - a chance for us all to say whether we prefer the deal that has been negotiated or to remain as we currently are.
We marched in June with the campaign for a People's Vote - and there will be even more of us on Saturday 20 October. Save the date, details to follow. www.peoples-vote.uk/march
Something you can do in the meantime is sign the European Citizens Initiative - www.eucitizen2017.org/ - to retain EU citizenship in spite of Brexit. This is for all EU nationals - pass it on!
Have a look at the information compiled by Green MEP Molly Scott Cato about the people behind the push for Brexit https://badboysofbrexit.com/
Just 8 days after the Council elections, British Land submitted its planning application for the Canada Water Masterplan – handily ensuring there was no opportunity to debate it during the election campaign.
Only three sites are set out in detail. Yet as the developer has submitted a “hybrid” planning application, British Land will not require any further planning applications provided they stay within these (very broad) outline plans.
Southwark Green Party has repeatedly raised serious concerns over the Canada Water Masterplan proposals, which have not been addressed. We are now supporting the wider community campaign opposing the planning application.
See our detailed feedback, and email response template:Read more
In the Southwark Council elections on 3rd May 2018, Southwark Green Party's lead candidate Eleanor Margolies achieved 31% of the vote in St Giles ward. Her tally of 1,420 votes - a 13.8% swing to the Greens since the 2014 election in this ward - fell just under 700 votes short of the 2,118 votes which elected the third of the three Labour councillors in the ward. [Full St Giles result...]
Southwark Labour increased their majority on the council even further, winning 49 of the 60 seats declared so far (with the election for the final three seats delayed). Southwark Lib Dems have won 11 seats, while Southwark Conservatives have lost their only two seats on the council.
The Green Party is now in second place in 10 out of the 23 wards in Southwark, taking 13.4% of the vote across the borough and cementing their place as Southwark's third party.
Borough-wide vote shares (with 22 of 23 wards declared):
+/- since 2014
|Women's Equality Party||1.6%||+1.6%||0|
|Christian People's Party||0.1%||+0.1%||0|
Ward-by-ward Green vote share
After the 2014 local elections, Southwark's Labour-run council promised they would build 1,500 new council homes by the end of 2018. Now Councillor Mark Williams, lead for regeneration and new homes, has admitted "we will not be meeting this target".
Only 400 new homes will have been built - less than one-third of the local Labour promise. Southwark Labour's 2014 manifesto had promised 11,000 new homes, but it didn't say how long they would need to meet this pledge. It has since emerged that the Labour-dominated Council's official homebuilding targets stretch to the year 2043 - 25 years away from now.Read more
In December, property developers Delancey put in an application to demolish Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre and London College of Communication. Councillors on Southwark Council’s Planning Committee refused to approve the plan, yet accommodated an eleventh-hour promise from Delancey to make an improved offer. This means the committee will hear the proposal again this month.
Meanwhile, the Shopping Centre is being run down, conveniently bolstering the claimed 'need' for demolition. Certain entrances are now being closed during trading hours (right). Empty units are no longer available for re-let, enhancing a 'ghost town' feel. Escalators have been left broken for long periods. Pedestrian access has been unsatisfactory since removal of subways. Yet the building is structurally sound and could be imaginatively refurbished, re-landscaped and re-clad. This would avoid nine years of environmental destruction, intense construction noise, degraded local shopping and leisure facilities, and enormous disruption to nearby residents' home delivery access.Read more
Southwark Council is due to decide on Tuesday 16th January on permission for demolition and redevelopment of Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre, plus the London College of Communication (LCC) site. If permission is granted, property company Delancey plans to begin demolition work in September 2019.
200 objections have been lodged by the local community to Delancey’s current redevelopment plans. The Green Party’s submissions highlighted numerous features which many local people find unacceptable:Read more