Tonbridge & Malling Green Party Policies

Our policies for Tonbridge and Malling

Greens believe that sustainable communities are active communities; that people are citizens not just consumers or producers. We support community self-organisation and seek to encourage active, democratic participation in the delivery of local authority services. Therefore, we will encourage areas to set up residents' associations and other forms of community organisation and seek to integrate these into service delivery models to work alongside professional service providers.

Below are some of our policy priorities for Tonbridge and Malling. We seek to implement and lobby for policies that will make the borough economically sustainable for the long term and as self-reliant as possible while reducing our environmental impact. As a nation we use up three times the planet’s natural resources each year and, clearly, this is a situation that cannot continue. Therefore, if we are to leave anything of worth for future generations, each community has a duty to play its part in remedying this situation.

We believe that this is a practical task that is not only achievable but will also enhance the quality of life for everybody.

We do not pretend to have solved every problem or to have anticipated every difficulty. Politics is always a work in progress but, if approached in good faith, we believe that a new social consensus for social and environmental justice can be built. You are invited to join us in this process. Green politics are open and inclusive. Indeed, you might even be a member of another political party but whatever your starting point or tradition, if you are prepared to engage in honest and constructive debate, we would like to work with you for the common good.

Local democracy

We believe that decisions should be made at the most practical local level possible. That politics is something people do rather than something they have done to them.

Therefore we will make council decision making much more transparent and localised.     

Using the powers councils already have under the Localism Act (2011) we will:

  • Scrap the cabinet system in favour of a committee system so that councillors can represent those who elect them more effectively
  • Address the democratic defect in Tonbridge by introducing a Town Council for the town, (to operate within current budgets), so that it is on par with elsewhere in the borough.
  • Devolve as much decision making to the town and parish council level as possible so that people have a greater say in local affairs such as planning.
  • As funds allow, introduce webcasts of all council meetings (along similar lines to those used by KCC).
  • Explore participatory budgeting to involve the public in council budgeting decisions. For an example see: http://pbnetwork.org.uk/how-durham-is-linking-participatory-budgeting-and-budget-consultation/ and, for wider contexts: https://pbnetwork.org.uk/

Transport

Tonbridge and Malling suffers from congestion and air pollution and is far too car dependent. Public transport is poor in many areas and prohibitively expensive which leaves people with little or no choice but to drive. Therefore, we will:

  • Take steps to combat air pollution and traffic congestion by promoting better cycling and walking and increasing public transport provision to make travel in the borough much less car-dependent. One in five people in Kent don't have regular access to private cars so we will explore ways to reduce fares and increase the frequency of public transport in order to make transport available for all.
  • Implement the KCC/TMBC borough cycling strategy as a matter of urgency and work with schools and others to encourage walking and cycling. We support organisations such as Tonbridge Bicycle Users Group and we will work with them and others to develop better cycling provision across the borough.
  • Support the J5 Slips campaign to build east facing slip roads at the junction M25/M26 to take traffic from Borough Green and North Sevenoaks. This will reduce the volume of through traffic, cutting congestion and improving air quality.
  • Make minor rural roads safer by reducing speed limits and, in towns, introduce 20mph on all residential roads and near schools.
  • Work with other agencies (eg KCC, Kent Police) to review all speed limits in the borough.
  • We will explore ways to divert traffic from the centre of Tonbridge to enable further pedestrianisation of the High Street. We support the refurbishment of the High Street and recognise that this has greatly improved the general High Street environment. However, we are concerned that the lack of lay-bys for buses and other layout and signage issues need to be address and the wider traffic management situation still remains unresolved.
  • We will also investigate innovative public transport solutions such as Share Taxis and Car Clubs and encourage greater car sharing. We will work with parents and schools to cut the number of car journeys involved in taking children to and from school.

Environment

We all depend on a healthy environment for our wellbeing but too frequently our environment is coming under threat, especially from over-development.

Therefore, we will:

  • Protect the green belt and oppose inappropriate development. Instead, we advocate building within the footprint of existing communities and using brownfield sites more effectively.
  • Ensure that flood protection is increased and the drainage infrastructure improved.
  • Lobby Southern Water to upgrade sewage and waste water provision in the Danvers Road/Barden Road and other areas where waste water provision is inadequate.
  • Ensure flood protection in Tonbridge and elsewhere in the borough is improved and maintained to the highest standard and that the Environment Agency implements improvements to the Leigh Barrier as speedily as possible.
  • Ensure that KCC carries out an audit of surface water run-off and that drains are properly maintained.
  • Prevent increases in hard standing and encourage use of porous surfaces.
  • Introduce a moratorium on further building in flood prone areas until drainage and waste water management improvements are implemented.
  • We support the flood warden scheme and will also ensure that households in flood prone area are provided with adequate first line protection such as sandbags.         
  • Actively implement the government's national Pollinator Strategy and take steps to protect local ecosystems and biodiversity through promoting wildlife areas.
  • TMBC should draw up a local Pollinator strategy working in conjunction with other stakeholders.
  • Improve Recycling and Waste Collection by introducing comprehensive doorstep collection of glass, plastics and metals.
  • Publicise and support free WEEE collection.
  • Oppose out of town retail developments and, instead, concentrate retail in town and village centres close to transport hubs so that people can walk, cycle use efficient public transport services.

Services

The government's austerity programme, pursued for ideological reasons, has inflicted immense damage on our public services. Unfortunately, Labour have no intention of remedying this so whoever forms future governments take, the defence of our public services will continue to be necessary. However, we think that councils can do more to increase their self-reliance by using their publicly owned assets to raise revenue in a way that benefits the whole community. We oppose the sell-off of community assets.

Therefore, Greens will do all we can to protect key services from the cuts proposed by the other parties, especially for the elderly, young people and people with disabilities.

Health

Although not responsible for NHS services, local authorities have considerable responsibilities in the Community Care and Public Health areas and work closely with CCGs to deliver Health and Wellbeing services.

We believe that the Borough Council should increase its support for self-help groups and work with community groups, charities, churches and other organisations to encourage healthy lifestyles and participation in the community to combat isolation and social exclusion. 'green gyms', 'Walking for Health', healthy eating, allotment gardening and other active lifestyle activities should be encouraged.

Business and Economy

Small and medium sized businesses are key to our long and short term prosperity and the sustainability of our local economy. Locally, over 80 percent of jobs are in this sector. Therefore we will:

  • Increase support for small and medium sized businesses and independent retailers.
  • Use existing powers under the Localism Act (2011) to ensure that council tax rates are kept as low as possible for small businesses.
  • Ensure that the cost of TENS (Temporary Entertainment Notices) are kept to a reasonable and affordable level.
  • Strengthen the local economy by encouraging an enterprising, innovative and sustainable business culture.
  • Support Farmers' Markets and set up designated advertising sites for markets and community events.
  • Promote the provision of affordable small business units.
  • Support the introduction of a supermarket levy with proceeds being used to help small businesses. This has already been shown to be effective. in 2012, the Northern Ireland Assembly legislated for a new local rate of 8.5% to be applied to all retail outlets with a rateable value of over £500,000. The Sustainable Communities Act (2007) already has provision for this (see: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2007/23/pdfs/ukpga_20070023_en.pdf).

Housing

We regard secure and affordable housing as a human right but too many people in the UK still do not have adequate housing. Under this government, homelessness has continued to rise. There are too many people waiting for social housing which the government has consistently refused to invest in and rent levels in the private sector are unacceptably high. For many young people, owning a house of their own is now an unobtainable dream. In one of the wealthiest nations on earth, quite simply, this is not acceptable.

Therefore, Greens will:

  • Build affordable new homes constructed to the highest eco-standards to save money for homeowners and tenants.
  • Review the Local Development Framework and devise a Social Housing Action Plan. (NOTE: TMBC does not own any houses. All its housing stock has been transferred to Russet Homes, now a part of the Circle Group – see: http://www.circlegroup.org.uk/our-group).
  • Retrofit existing buildings to make them more energy efficient.
  • Lobby Central Government to remove VAT from refurbished buildings.
  • Support young people leaving care to make sure they are adequately and securely housed.

Communities

Strong and supportive communities are vital for the promotion of wellbeing, for environmental protection and social and family cohesion. Too many people are isolated and alienated from their neighbours, feel disempowered and are time poor due to work and commuting pressures. In the long-term, we believe that the work life balance needs to change so that people can express themselves as active social agents rather than simply perform the role of consumer or producer.

Therefore, we will:

  • Protect community resources such as pubs, playing fields and allotments from ‘development’. and use the Sustainable Communities Act (2007) to designate "Assets of Community Value" in each parish.
  • Support people and promote health by encouraging initiatives such as community gardens, community supported agriculture and community owned renewable energy.
  • TMBC should initiate a Community Renewable Energy scheme. TMBC currently operates a Collective Switching scheme which should be better publicised (see: http://www.tmbc.gov.uk/services/environment-and-planning/sustainability/energy-efficiency-advice-and-assessment/energy-dea).
  • Use Section 106 agreements more forcefully to ensure maximum community benefit is attached to every new development.

Borough potential

We feel that Tonbridge and Malling is well placed to benefit from its natural and historical assets (the River and Castle), its proximity to London, its location within the South East England and the quality of the countryside within the borough.

Therefore, we will seek to:

  • Increase the area's tourist potential.
  • Encourage investment, especially in the clean tech/low carbon industries and high value-added industries that will form the centre of a sustainable, green economy.
  • Encourage the rural economy and lobby for a faster rollout of high speed broadband and investigate the installation of free access wi-fi in town/village centres such as Tonbridge, Borough Green and West Malling.
  • Encourage local food production. The Borough Council should work with partners such as KCC to establish viable locally sourced food for schools and all institutions where food is prepared.

The behaviour of companies like Drytec which has been polluting Tonbridge for over a decade is unacceptable. TMBC has, at last, taking legal action against the company but it should not have taken this long. It has had a negative impact not only on citizen's lives but also on the town’s reputation. We will pursue a rigorous environmental health policy by making sure that officers are based in Tonbridge and lobby government to strengthen the Environmental Protection Act (1990).

These are just some of the measures we think are necessary for a sustainable borough that values all its citizens and insists on social and environmental justice. In the post referendum environment, many in the Conservative party and Ukip want to get rid of environmental, consumer and workers protection. They also want to abandon measures to tackle climate change and support fossil fuels and nuclear power instead of cheaper, clean and sustainable renewable energy. For them, this is seen as just so much 'red tape' to be abandoned as soon as they can. Their economic and industrial strategy is based on looking backwards to old polluting industries and is steeped in post-imperial nostalgia. Greens reject the post-Brexit cowboy capitalist economy they want to build. Theirs is an economy that will only benefit a very few but, instead, we aim to build an environmentally and economically sustainable society that will benefit everybody not just today but for the long term.

We will work at all levels to achieve this goal so, if you share our vision, vote for the Green Party and join us to work for the common good.

County and National Green Party Policies

Kent Green Party

Green Party of England & Wales