Ellie Chowns – Hereford Times “Talking Point” September 2020

We need to talk about climate & nature

If there’s one thing that (nearly) everyone agrees on, it’s this: the big issues shouldn’t be party political footballs. Instead, we need to find common ground.  Whether we’re talking about social care, the NHS, or environmental protection, we need to listen to everyone and work out solutions that we can all support.

That’s what a ‘citizens assembly’ is designed to do.  It’s made up of a truly representative cross-section of ordinary people of all ages & backgrounds, who come together to debate the evidence and say what they think needs to happen.  Campaigners have been asking for such assemblies to help us work out how to tackle the climate crisis, and the UK one (Climate Assembly UK) has just published (on 10th September) its report on ‘the path to net zero’.

The report sets out lots of great ideas about how we can cut emissions.  And it’s really interesting to see how much public support there is now for ideas that used to be considered radical just a few years ago.  Very large majorities now support policies like banning sales of the most polluting vehicles (86%), bringing public transport back under government control (75%), and taxing flights based on how frequently and how far people fly (80%).  It’s clear that there is a broad public consensus in favour of strong action to get us to net zero quickly and (crucially) fairly.

This is good news for us all – and most especially for our children.

Last year Herefordshire Council unanimously agreed the goal of being a zero carbon county by 2030. We’ve also recognised the ecological emergency that faces us – a crisis that can be seen close to home in the pollution that’s currently damaging our precious Wye and Lugg rivers.  So: how can we tackle these crises together? That’s the big question that we all need to hold in mind whenever we make decisions.

While Covid-19 has dominated our lives for the past 6 months, the climate crisis hasn’t gone away – and we’ve kept on working to tackle it. I’m proud that the council has been working with a diverse range of stakeholders – from campaigners to farmers, teachers to businesspeople – to kickstart an ‘Action Plan 2030’ to help us achieve our twin goals of zero carbon and abundant nature.  This autumn we’re going to be consulting widely on this, all across the county – aiming to involve as many people as possible in this vital conversation about our future.  We’ll be sharing info on Herefordshire’s current climate and nature footprint; highlighting inspiring ideas that have worked elsewhere; and inviting everyone in the county to help jointly make a plan for Herefordshire as a whole to tackle the climate and nature crises, together. Keep an eye out for more info in the coming weeks, and please do get involved & make your voice heard!

The very concerning state of Herefordshire’s rivers

Herefordshire Green Party, including our seven councillors, are hugely concerned to protect our precious river ecosystems from phosphate pollution from the increasing numbers of intensive stock rearing units being approved in the countryside. This has had a particularly grievous impact for Herefordshire, the majority of which is in the catchment of the iconic River Wye, a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under European legislation.

On 6th June, Greens on the Planning Committee voted against such an application at Bage Court Farm at Dorstone. However the application was passed by a majority of members. This has led local campaigners, believing there were flaws in the advice given by officers, to challenge the decision through the High Court. In particular, campaigners wish to test whether a full Habitat Regulations Assessment should have been conducted.

For many years, Green councillor Felicity Norman has campaigned for a stronger regulatory system amid evidence of ecosystem collapse along the rivers Lugg and Wye. That both rivers should deteriorate so sharply, despite a Nutrient Management Plan tasked with protecting the River Wye SAC, is extremely worrying.

Green councillors are pushing for stronger local policy on intensive farming consistent with our declaration of a Climate and Ecological Emergency. We have formally requested urgent development of a supplementary planning document (SPD) on this issue to give much greater weight to environmental protection. We are also strongly urging other regulatory bodies such as the Environment Agency to use their existing powers to control watercourse pollution.

As Greens, we are frustrated by the limitations of national planning policy and the exercise of local control over development. Better alignment of our local planning policies to the needs of society and the environment is one of our key priorities. We are doing everything we can – alongside our coalition partners as well as committed colleagues from other political groups – to achieve that. We are working our socks off to translate this intention into concrete changes to policy and practice. We know that protecting our environment makes good economic sense and will enable communities in our county to thrive. We really value the support and activism of local residents as we strive for a better, fairer, greener Herefordshire.

Congratulations Julia & Nat – success in Green Party England & Wales internal elections August 2020

We’re delighted that two local members have won in the recent internal elections.

Julia Lagoutte was elected Publications Co-Ordinator beating two other candidates. The Co-Ordinator role is defined as:

To support the development of publications during local and nation elections, ensuring Green Party publications accord with the house style, electoral law and other legal requirements.

To work closely with the External Communications, Internal Communications and Campaigns Coordinators to ensure integration between media and publications approaches.

The Publications Coordinator is the GPEx representative to the Green World Editorial Board and is the lead for supporting the use of Green World as a communication tool for the party.

Committee Responsibilities: The Publications Coordinator is a member of Campaigns and Communications Committee, Digital Committee, Members’ Website Development Committee, and the Party Branding & Logo Committee.

Natalia Waring is joining four other elected members on the Policy Development Committee, which:

Ensures that motions brought to conference are the best they can be.

Does not make policy – Green Party policy is made through motions to Conference, and this Committee aims to help members to bring forward the best motions they can, especially by liaising with Policy Working Groups and through the new Accreditation process.

Molly Scott Cato talk – European Green Deal

Herefordshire for Europe Webinar Thursday 1st October at 1800

Herefordshire for Europe‘s webinar on 1 October will cover the proposed European Green Deal – how the European Union is addressing the pressing issues of climate change and environmental degradation.

Molly Scott Cato and Emilien Gasc will each speak for 15 minutes with time for questions and general discussion.

Molly Scott Cato is a British Green politician, academic, environmental and community activist, and green economist. She served as a Member of the European Parliament for the South West England from 2014 to 2020. She is Professor of Green Economics in the Business School. at the University of Roehampton.

Emilien Gasc was a Policy officer in the European Commission’s Secretariat General working on issues of resource efficiency in areas such as air quality, plastics strategy and environmental action programmes. He is now responsible for environmental matters in the EU Delegation in London.

Please consider signing up to receive Herefordshire for Europe’s emails – here

Access the Zoom webinar at 1800 on 1 October using this link

Special Occasion – Natalie Bennett to ‘visit’ Herefordshire

21 September 7-8.30pm: Natalie Bennett will speak to Herefordshire Green Parties prior to their Annual General Meetings

Hear directly from Natalie about what’s happening in the House of Lords and what we can do about the Agriculture Bill, the changes to the planning system and other issues.

All welcome – please sign up for the Zoom meeting and submit your questions for Natalie here:

Then members can stay for our AGMs 8.30-9.15pm. Our AGMs are a crucial part of how we function as local parties : it’s your chance to find out what’s going on behind the scenes and to get involved. Check your email for the AGM papers coming out very soon.

Hereford’s Stronger Town bid – have your say

Hereford is one of 100 places invited by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government to be part of the £3.6 billion Towns Fund, a scheme that seeks to support economic growth in towns and cities around the UK. Hereford is in line to secure up to £25m for regeneration projects in the city.

An independent Towns Fund board, backed by Herefordshire Council, has now been established to lead this work locally. The new group, known as the #StrongerHereford board, will connect with local people to create an ambitious vision. They will be asking residents, local businesses, colleges, schools, and many others to help them identify major projects that would bring about economic and social improvements.

In the meantime residents can submit ideas online here

This is a great opportunity to make Hereford a greener place – so please put your ideas forward without delay!

A-Level Fiasco

Herefordshire Greens are calling for the government to make it as easy and as rapid as possible for A-level students to appeal their results.

Councillor Felicity Norman, cabinet member for children and families said, “Although it is clear that many of our young people are pleased with their results, many others have been devastated to find that they have not achieved the grades they expected. The system used appears to have unfairly penalised already disadvantaged young people, while boosting the chances of those who are already privileged. Almost 40% have been downgraded by Ofqual. This cannot be right. We should trust the grades predicted by teachers who are most likely to have known their students’ capabilities.

Schools and colleges, pupils and teachers have already had an incredibly difficult summer, and face uncertainties in the future, without this flawed approach to replacing the exams they expected to sit. Government should now find ways of restoring the confidence and future opportunities of thousands of young people in Herefordshire and across the country”.

Herefordshire Council’s climate emergency plan

An update from Green Councillor Ellie Chowns, cabinet member for environment, economy and skills, on the progress Herefordshire Council is making to develop a plan to address the climate and ecological emergency:

“I’m delighted that the 2020 Climate Challenge project has kicked off properly now, with the first set of meetings held for both council and county groups. The 2020 County Team is up and running and have had two meetings. There’s already a really good group dynamic and great range of backgrounds, experience, ages. Sub-groups/areas of interest are already forming around communications/social media, youth and education and buildings. The group are busy sharing ideas, articles, information on projects elsewhere. The 2020 Council Team have met and are recording their personal carbon footprints using an online calculator. They’re meeting again on 4th August to start looking at the Council’s carbon footprint.

We held a very informative all-councillor briefing on environmental building standards on 21st July – following up on this is a high priority for me, and it was great to see how much enthusiasm there was for this from members across the whole council. I believe we need an SPD on environmental building standards, and I would also like to see us adopt a policy on our own buildings.

A revised governance report format has now been put in place, meaning that every decision report now has to explicitly consider the climate and ecological impacts of the decision. This will help ensure that all our decision-making takes into account the need to tackle the climate and ecological emergency.

I have asked officers from all my three portfolio areas (environment economy and skills) to work together to develop an ambitious energy efficiency retrofit programme to improve the quality of the housing stock, reduce emissions, and reduce fuel poverty.

Work has also started on developing a biodiversity strategy for the council (including a Tree Strategy, as per the decision of Council last week).  I’m really pleased that there is such strong support for measures to plant and protect trees and increase biodiversity more generally.

There’s been lots of work going on regarding phosphate levels in the Lugg and Wye Catchment .  I’d particularly like to pay tribute to Elissa Swinglehurst’s determined work on this topic with the Nutrient Management Board. A decision report is due to come forward very soon containing measures that we hope will unlock the moratorium, including construction of integrated wetlands and commissioning of a phosphate calculator for ‘offsetting’.  Ultimately though it is becoming increasingly clear that unsustainable agricultural practices are a central part of this problem, and this is something that needs concerted action from regulatory agencies, as well as improved policy from national government. I hope we will be able to hold an all-members briefing on this topic soon.”

It’s Election Time!

The House of Lords, Executive & Policy Development Committee Elections 2020 are now underway for Green Party England & Wales. Voting closes 10pm on 31 August 2020.

Only members can vote – you should have received an email with instructions by now. Let us know if you haven’t.

Two local members are standing:

Natalia Waring for the Policy Development Committee:

Policy Development Committee

The Policy Development Committee (PDC) comprises five members who help to ensure that motions brought to conference are the best they can be by liaising with Policy Working Groups and through the new Accreditation process. The PDC also advise on the interpretation of existing policy, and have limited powers to make minor changes to Policies for a Sustainable Society.

Julia Lagoutte for

Publications Co-ordinator

The Publications Co-ordinator ensures a strategic approach to Green Party publications which accords with the party’s broader strategy and is primarily responsible for the following aspects of all Green Party publications, both print and online.

22 January – Big Green Conversation. “Trees Are the Key” documentary film

“Trees Are the Key” is an inspirational 40-minute documentary narrated by Kate Winslet. It was made in conjunction with The Word Forest Organisation, a Dorset charity that plants trees, builds classrooms and facilitates education in rural Kenya. It also shines a spotlight on the women’s empowerment group, Mothers of the Forest. It tells the story of why we need to plant more trees in the tropics and why we need to support the people who are taking care of the forests.

The documentary will be followed by discussion, including a focus on Herefordshire’s tree wardens and the FoE Double Tree Cover campaign.

7.30pm – 9.30pm, The Speakeasy Bar, The Left Bank Village, Hereford.

If you can’t make it to the Conversation, you can watch the film on-line here

11 December – Big Green Conversation: Housing and the upcoming Herefordshire Core Strategy Review CHANGE OF DATE from 27 November

at 7.30pm at Left Bank Hereford

Herefordshire Council is re-writing its core strategy (Local Plan) . What should it say about housing? A discussion evening organised in association with the Herefordshire Centre for Community Led Housing. Council Cabinet members and officers are expected to attend.

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