A New Year and despite all the challenges that still lie ahead, there are reasons to be hopeful. The IPCC report on limiting global warming concentrated minds and the COP24 meeting in Poland finally settled the “rulebook” to put the Paris Agreement on emissions, mitigation and adaptation into effect.
Renewable energy is back on the agenda as the technologies improve and prices fall. The push to remove unnecessary plastics from our lives is gaining momentum every day. Bans on new petrol and diesel-powered cars are set to come into force in several European countries, including the UK from 2040.
Closer to home, conservation organisations such as the Kent Wildlife Trust and the RSPB have had major successes - extending Ham Fen, near Sandwich (home to beavers) and protecting Lodge Hill, on the Hoo Peninsula (home to Nightingales).
2018 was certainly a busy year for Greens in Tonbridge and Malling. We have been fighting against the environmental vandalism of our own council and their plans to build on River Lawn, we have challenged the loss of swathes of Green Belt land across the borough and we continue to push for measures to reduce pollution in our town centre. We welcome the announced upgrade to the Leigh Flood Storage Area but we will resist further construction on the floodplain as climate change will compromise its long term security.
Green voices have been at the forefront of campaigns to re-open The Nelson Arms, prevent the development of the Tonbridge Boatyard and extend 20mph where residents want it. Our High Street is looking healthier than many as we welcome new independent traders. The key to prolonged success will be to retain a healthy footfall in the central retail area, not helped by Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council’s seeming willingness to allow further retail development on the edges of our town.
This year we will challenge our council’s Draft Local Plan and the proposal to build thousands of new houses without tackling the lack of homes available for those on modest incomes.
May will bring elections for the Borough Council and it will be interesting to see how the incumbent councillors justify their record of increasing taxes and charges like the Garden Tax, while delivering reduced services and shrinking reserves. We will continue to highlight the inadequacies of their failing business model until it changes.
We need transport solutions to reduce reliance on cars. Improving the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, and limiting further increases in the cost of student travel by bus are key to enabling that. Only by reducing the numbers of cars travelling through our towns can we begin to tackle the air pollution which is such a threat to public health.
Greens want to see a culture change at Kings Hill. We want to see our representatives start to address the environmental and community needs of our residents. Sustainability underlines our vision for a borough which works efficiently for everyone. Let’s look forward to a year of positive change.
Mark Hood, co-chair, Tonbridge & Malling Green Party
This article first appeared in the Times of Tonbridge 9th January 2019