Our third election blog post by Canterbury Labour Party member Mike Blamires.  Edited by Ali Dilnutt

We have a climate emergency. 

Drastic changes must be made to how we travel, and slashing our use of cars is at the forefront.  With an announcement today from the British Heart Foundation that air pollution is damaging our hearts to the equivalent of smoking 150 cigarettes a year, the evidence of how poisonous our air has become couldn’t be more stark.

One move we must make is to get traffic out of our city centres and the go-to solution for most councils is to build or expand a park and ride bus service.  But this does not address the core problem – we have too many cars, we make too many car journeys, we are car dependent and that has to change.

In Canterbury, our Wincheap Water Meadows are under threat from the creation of more park and ride spaces.  This is the solution our Tory council have found to encourage the use of public transport.  Clean, accessible, integrated public transport is vital if we are to combat the very real climate crisis we face.  But at what cost to our existing environment?

Wincheap Water Meadows and Hambrook Marshes would be significantly impacted by the development of a new car park.  This impact wouldn’t be just the destruction of plants, mature trees and the habitat which supports the diverse wildlife there, but also people’s enjoyment of a beautiful and peaceful public space.

Then there’s the issue of flooding.  The river Stour has burst its banks already in recent weeks, the water flooding out across the marshes preventing further flooding downstream.  If there was a carpark there, it would have been submerged and a significant volume of water would have been forced elsewhere. 

Marshes such as the one in Wincheap must form an important part of our planning for the future and the Labour Party manifesto sets out promises to protect and restore our natural environment, alongside bold plans to create a cleaner public transport system. 

The reality is that once Wincheap marshes are covered in concrete, there will be no restoration or recovery – they will be lost.

People from across the political spectrum may regret these losses and some might argue they are the price to pay for progress.  It is clear, however, that party politics have a role to play in the quality of our lives and the lives of future generations of Canterbury citizens.

Environmental Stewardship is a grand old Conservative value enshrined in David Cameron’s Tory Oak Tree logo, but in practice, action appears to be lacking.  In Canterbury, it is the Tory Councillors from the rural wards outside of Canterbury (apart from Neil Baker) who are prepared to be rigid in their thinking and are likely to vote for a park and ride next to Wincheap Water Meadows and the Hambrook Marshes that have long been an iconic resource for Canterbury people. 

Rosie Duffield, our local Labour candidate has been vocal about her support to save this precious marsh land.  She already made a video at the Meadows to highlight the threat and also appeared on local radio to argue the case for both these locations.

Vote for Rosie on December the 12th and you will vote for a candidate that understands that our climate emergency means it’s not business as usual and we need Real Change to tackle it.

The next Canterbury Council meeting to discuss the park and ride development at Wincheap will be on January 8th 2020 at 7pm at the Guildhall in Canterbury.  All welcome.

You can read more about the campaign to save the marshes here.

You can follow the Facebook campaign to save the marshes here.

You can sign the petition to support the campaign to Save Wincheap Marshes here.

You can write to Conservative Councillors with your objections to the development of the marshes here.

By Amy Licence / Latest News / / 0 Comments

Little Hands

Located beside the Wincheap Primary School, Little Hands Children’s Centre has been providing essential services for families in the area for over a decade. Supporting children and their carers, its helpful staff and warm welcome have quickly made it a local favourite. On any given day, it might offer a combination of midwife clinic, developmental checks, lactation advice, play sessions, childminding courses, life skills, twins’ groups, mobile farms and more. It is impossible to estimate just how many Wincheap and Thanington families have benefited from the centre, a fact which the ward’s Labour council candidate, Paul Todd, decided to celebrate on Valentine’s Day this year.

On Thursday afternoon, Paul and his Labour activists spoke with parents at the school gates, many of whom warmly expressed their appreciation of the centre. Some recalled how reassured they had been, as new parents, by the support on offer, others praised the range of services, or the understanding they experienced when in difficulties. “They came and visited me at home when I was struggling,” said local mum Laura, “I had no idea they could do that. I felt so much better that they thought I mattered enough to do that.” Emma, who didn’t know many people in the area, had received an invitation to join a baby group, and felt accepted at once. “I had no idea what I was doing first time round, and I was so glad to meet other mothers going through the same issues, in an environment that wasn’t pressured or judgemental. They helped me find my feet.”

And yet, the wonderful Sure Start initiative came under attack when the Conservatives took power in 2010. Established twelve years before by Tessa Jowell, Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, the intention of the centres was to “give the children the very best possible start in life,” a sentiment central to the building of strong, healthy families at the heart of our communities. Now though, a study by the Sutton Trust charity, suggests that up to 1,000 such centres may have been closed in the last eight years. “This is outrageous,” explains Mr Todd, “and the children who will be hit hardest by the closures are the most vulnerable among us, the very ones for whom the centres were created.”

On Thursday, Paul Todd and his fellow activists collected dozens of signatures in support of the Little Hands Centre, covering both sides of a large Valentine’s card and spilling onto a separate sheet. Parents, carers, grandparents, friends and children were keen to show their appreciation for the centre, for what it gives the community and the hard work of all its staff. There was a lot of love for the Sure Start Centre this Valentine’s Day. Labour councillors in Canterbury, present and future, will continue to fight to preserve the rights and needs of our children and families.

By Amy Licence / Latest News / / 0 Comments

Valentine’s day this year falls eleven weeks before residents in Canterbury, Whitstable and Herne Bay go to the polls to elect their new city council. Keen to improve their home towns for the better, prospective Labour Councillors have been posting letters to Simon Cook, the current Leader of the Council, and of the Conservative Group. These heart-felt missives ask Mr Cook why the Council’s recent decisions suggest that they do not love their city as much as they might, or listen to the wishes of its residents.

Writing about his home town of Whitstable, Chris Cornell applauds its “energy, its creativity and most of all its people.” However, he notes, that recent council decisions have led the community to question why they’re only seen as Canterbury’s “second class neighbour.” The Council have taken a step back when it comes to the vibrant seaside town, closing its police station and job centre, allowing residents to be priced out of the housing market and strangling their beloved festivals in red tape. The Conservative Council are ignoring our parking problems and not building any new, affordable homes. “I love my town,” writes Chris, who is standing in Gorrell ward, “and as such, I’m, standing to try and save it.” It simply isn’t enough that the Council have withdrawn to being “at the end of a public phone line in the harbour.”

Paul Todd, posting his letter in the ward of Wincheap and Thanington, where he is standing for election, feels that the Council have failed to listen to the needs of the people in his area.  With the city recently named in a Lloyds’ Bank Survey as being in the top twenty least affordable places to buy a home, Canterbury residents have seen a rise of 9% in house prices, equating to 7.8 times the average income. With rents on average £54 pounds higher in the city than the rest of East Kent, Paul is concerned about the knock-on effect for renters in poorly maintained properties, and the resulting rise in homelessness. The Council’s Housing Policy, claims Paul, has not been reviewed since August 2015, but with over 1,700 people on the Housing Needs Register, the emphasis must shift from provision by private firms to greater direction from a caring Council. “I can’t bear to see our young people growing up, unable to afford homes of their own, becoming disaffected, and ending up homeless,” explains Paul, whose work for the charity Catching Lives ensures he sees the problem at first hand, “and there are old people, families with small children and people with chronic health problems, living in substandard accommodation. I’ve lived in Canterbury all my life and I’m standing for Council because its people deserve better.”

Gill Gower, prospective councillor for Westgate, is outraged at the Council’s expensive plans to push ahead with the West Station carpark, scheduled to begin construction this autumn. With negligible support among locals, the Council have borrowed nine million pounds, Gill writes, which will inflict higher levels of pollution on a city already struggling to regain cleaner air. Not only this, the car park contravenes the Council’s own District Green Infrastructure Policy (2018-2031). If the Council is serious about improving the air quality and transport of its residents, says Gill, “they should make bus journeys into the city free and join up its fragmented cycle routes. I have lived in Canterbury for over 30 years and I ask why is the city council mismanaging our money and treating its residents with such contempt.”

It remains to be seen whether the Conservative Council, led by Mr Cook, will heed these Valentines’ Day messages. When it comes to polling day, though, on May 2, voters must remember the inspiration of Labour’s candidates, whose love for their home towns will drive their passion for improvement, rather than the profiteering and mismanagement endemic in the current body.

 

Pictured left to right: Chris Cornell (Candidate for Gorrell), Gill Gower (Candidate for Westgate), Paul Todd (Candidate for Wincheap), Morag Warren (Candidate for Swalecliffe), Mel Dawkins (Candidate for St Stephens)