By Councillor Alan Baldock / Housing / / 0 Comments

 

Councillor for Northgate ward, and leader of the Labour Group, Alan Baldock, has written to the Kentish Gazette urging the Council to be bolder when it comes to developing housing in the district.

Last week, Canterbury’s Chief Executive stated in the Kentish Gazette, that the thousands of new homes needed are a “big ask”. Labour believes that Canterbury residents are worth such a “big ask,” as it isn’t really too much to hope, in this day and age, that everyone is provided with affordable, dignified accommodation. Now is the opportunity to radically rethink how and where we build those homes and communities and to link them with an integrated system of transport. It may be a “big ask” indeed, but let’s be a bit radical and make a start, let’s establish a working integrated transport hub in advance of significant future development, and redefine “affordable” so that truly affordable homes are built in the next Local Plan.

Let’s use the practical experiences of local families and businesses to help, set up an independently run event to get both radical and new ideas on an integrated transport system for this District. Joined up public transport is vital to meet climate change targets and to simultaneously cope with a huge increase in population, after all we share the problem and the solution. The suggested couple of extra bus stops, and the excuse for a misplaced multi-story car park at Canterbury West Station, do not constitute, in my opinion, the integrated transport hub our District deserves: it needs to be radical and inclusive.

Homes to rent or buy from the private sector are unaffordable to huge numbers of families working in this District, an area blighted by the high cost of housing and low wages. The term “affordable housing,” referred to triumphantly in a planning application, is defined as being about 80% of the market rate to buy or rent. Social Rent (Council house rent) on the other hand is much more affordable for those on low pay or unsecure employment. Unfortunately, there is a chronic short supply of Social Housing due to years of Local Authority underfunding and the effects of “right to buy’. It is definitely not the same as “affordable”. This month, Labour Councillors will be asking Canterbury City Council to redefine “affordable” in its Local Plan and Policies. It is possible to base a new definition on median house prices and disposable income resulting in a more meaningful definition of “affordable” that would bring a degree of sanity to the market over time and make “affordable” a home reality.

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By Councillor Alan Baldock / Environment / 0 Comments

 

After weeks of marches and protests, climate change activists and local Labour members have succeeded in convincing Canterbury Council to listen. A state of emergency has finally been declared but only after the Tory-led city councillors were dragged there, kicking and screaming. Historically, the Conservative faction has argued that they could not take the necessary lead on congestion and pollution in our seaside towns and City, because it was not their problem, passing the responsibility instead to the wider body of Kent County Council.

Canterbury city councillors previous ignored clear indications that action was desperately needed, which has led to decisions being made this month to concrete over wildlife areas in Wincheap in order to extend the Park & Ride system, and to commit £9 million of our money to a car park in the centre of Canterbury that will increase congestion and pollution. They have also taken almost two years to install just a dozen car charging points across the whole district, and have ridiculed campaigns calling for a rethink of transport in Canterbury using an Integrated Transport Hub approach, revised Park and Ride schemes for commuters and much more. It seems like the climate was not an emergency for Canterbury’s Tory-led Council, until they were told that it needed to be by local activists. The Council is now declaring a Climate Emergency proposing a Carbon Neutral Council by 2030 and, finally, starting to show some leadership.

So what has changed? Nothing less than public opinion. Think back just a few weeks to the Extinction Rebellion peaceful protest at the Council’s AGM, with their pointed comment of “Less Pomp More Action,” that evening. Extinction Rebellion have always asked us all to rise above politics and get on with the urgent job in hand. Rest assured, we will be doing that now the opportunity may well be opening up. For the ten newly-elected Labour councillors, as participants in debates, marches and campaigns to heighten awareness of the issue, our climate has always been a priority.

This Wednesday, 17 July 2019, the recommendation on Climate Change is bought forward by the Tory Group for discussion, to the Policy and Resources Committee. It pulls together the sentiments and wording of the two Climate Change Motions logged for debate at full Council on Thursday 18th July by the LibDems and Labour.

We will seek to improve the recommendations published through the Policy and Resources Committee before is put to full Council the day after. Firstly, we will aim to ensure the proposed Canterbury Climate Change Board is an independent body. As such, it will be better protected from the political changes over the next ten, perhaps even the next thirty years. Its purpose should be as a critical friend and advisor to the Council, local businesses and residents. Finally, it should measure and report the progress towards carbon neutrality by 2013 and independently publish its findings. The Labour Group hopes that the Tory leadership will see the huge boost in credibility independence this will bring in the long term.

In developing Climate Change Strategy, the Council must drive all that follows coherently in order to achieve the 2030 target. The Labour Group believe the Councillors’ Working Group needs to deliver the framework document, encompassing existing and new Policy, by the end of this year. Without a plan the urgent progress implied in a Climate Emergency is severely impacted, even neglected.

Finally, the Labour Group would like to issue a call to everyone to get involved in the Local Plan and Corporate Plan changes which are planned over the coming months. We will aim to ensure that Climate Change measures are embedded in every aspect of these guiding documents on Wednesday but there will much to do. It is vital that every new and refurbished house in Canterbury District should be Carbon Neutral as well as every part of CCC operations and every business playing their part. Wednesday will see the Labour Group doing what it can to ensure a carbon neutral future is ours finally, there is no time to lose, a Climate Emergency will be declared. Stand with us, and we can combat these dangers together.

Labour Councillor for Northgate, Alan Baldock.

 

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By Councillor Alan Baldock / Environment / 0 Comments

Labour Councillors led the debate last Thursday at the Regeneration and Property Committee for a new Nature Reserve on the land bordering the Stour behind the Wincheap Industrial Estate, extending from the A2 to the railway.

The proposed new Nature Reserve, designed to protect the flood plain from future development, was debated at the recent Canterbury Forum council meeting on 10th January. At this meeting Many members of the public contributed there expertise and thoughts about the proposed Nature Reserve that evening and the proposition was unanimously endorsed by the Cities Councillors who saw and supported the immense value of a protected wildlife corridor along the river bank.

However at Thursdays Regeneration and Property Committee the debate was focused on the Councils recommendation to establish a Nature Reserve on just part of the area. The rest of the designated flood plane site being covered in tarmac to accommodate an extension to the Wincheap Park and Ride.

The five Labour and LibDem Councillors all voted to supported the motion that the whole area to be designated a Nature Reserve, regrettably it was defeated when the seven Conservative Councillors all voting against it. A Council recommendation for the partial designation of the site, one that would accommodate the Park and Ride extension was passed by the Committee and will no doubt be established.

Following the political choice made by the Conservative Group to devalue the riverside green corridor we can only share the disappoint of residents of Canterbury especially. They have again seen local Conservative policies place the car user above the environment, let’s not forget the recent decision on the St Dunstans’ Multi Story Car Park that has staggered people across the district. There policies consistently fail to look hard and imaginatively for solution, dismissing ideas such as multi-story parking at Wincheap, building up not out.

We will always challenge those decisions that do not align with our Labour values and our Local Council Manifesto.

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