The Solomon Islands and the case for stopping Brexit.

Westminster MPs recessed, then prorogued, now dissolved altogether. Don’t worry, your Members of the European Parliament are still hard at work!

Find out why one trade agreement with the Solomon Islands is taking us closer to tackling the climate emergency – and why that means we need to stop Brexit.

Leckhampton secondary school & green fields update

There is news on the planned new secondary school at Kidnappers Lane – and it’s a mixed bag for local residents.

First of all, a government inspector, Wendy Burden, has issued her interim advice on the draft Cheltenham Local Plan – one of the key local planning documents for our area. Against the run of previous inspections and the wishes of both the Borough and Parish Councils – she concluded that the 39 hectares proposed by our local councils as protected Local Green Space at Leckhampton might be too “extensive” and not justified. This is very surprising since an enormous amount of evidence has been amassed to justify the protection of the Leckhampton green fields (alongside a substantial amount of new housing next to the Shurdington Road). Under the National Planning Policy Framework, there is no upper size limit on LGS and it should for local communities to determine this but nevertheless the opinions of this experienced inspector carry huge weight in the process and the councils have to pay attention to this or risk the whole draft plan being declared “unsound”. I have been in discussion with Cheltenham planning officers along with fellow parish councillors to see what we can salvage from this situation.

The inspector’s verdict has played right into the hands of the Conservative-led county council who want to grab some of the planned Local Green Space for their controversial new secondary school instead of building it on the land next to Shurdington Road which had been earmarked for development (see my earlier update here). The county presented plans for the Kidnappers Lane site at a recent public meeting:

The site proposed by the county council for the new secondary school between Farm Lane and Kidnappers Lane – with apologies for the poor quality of the image.
Again with apologies for the image quality, a plan of the county’s proposed school building and playing fields.

There are some positives to these plans: it’s noticeable that they retain the extensive and ancient hedgerow around the school site which will be really important in Kidnappers Lane and Farm Lane retaining some of their current charm and rural character and will make an attractive green environment for the school students themselves. The plans also set the school building right at the northern end of the site, closest to planned development and the least intrusive location in respect of the planned protected Local Green Space to the south and east. The playing fields – and in particular the all-weather Astro pitch could be important community assets for local young people, including Leckhampton Rovers Football Club.

A sketch of the proposed new school building including some natural-looking materials but little evidfence of genuinely environmentally freindly features – and the apparently small scale is pretty misleading!

But local residents still have deep and – in my view – well-founded worries about the safety and traffic implications of such a large school set amongst what are now rural lanes with already congested roads around them, not least because the county’s shifting of the site will make way for developers to try to put even more housing on the fields next to the Shurdington Road. It’s also disappointing that the building and site so close to a Local Green Space and clearly visible from the AONB seem to boast so little in the way of green features, in stark contrast to exciting low energy new developments like the two Gloucester Services on the M5 which are camouflaged so well as to be nearly invisible from any distance or even the headquarters of Gloucestershire Constabulary in Quedgeley which boasts a fantastic reneweable energy resource in the shape of a large ground-source heat pump.

Unusually the county is applying to itself for planning permission to build the school instead of to the usual planning authority, Cheltenham Borough Council. A further consultation event is planned for 4.30-7pm 27 June at Hatherley & Reddings Cricket Club (on the left of the Shurdington Road outside town down towards Shurdington). Come along and make your views known!

Saving green spaces

Martin has never believed that the best way to help the homeless or make homes affordable was to build all over the countryside. So he has always strongly supported campaigns to protect treasured green spaces around Cheltenham.

In opposition, he developed a policy for the Liberal Democrats which was then implemented by the coalition government as the Local Green Space designation now being used to protect green spaces in Leckhampton and across Cheltenham.  It provides protection for local green spaces not for their landscape value or scientific importance but simply because they are important to local people – providing free recreation and quiet enjoyment, growing local food, improving physical and mental health and absorbing both CO2 and dangerous particulate pollution.

Martin strongly welcomed the coalition government’s decision to scrap Labour’s centrally-driven Regional Spatial Strategies and return powers over housing and development to local communities.

As Cheltenham, Gloucester and Tewkesbury councils then worked together to develop their own Joint Core Strategy, Martin consistently lobbied for enough housing for local people in need but not the tens of thousands required by a strategy based on economic growth regardless of environmental consequences.  In particular he lobbied hard against the loss of precious green spaces at Leckhampton, Chargrove and Springbank.  This was made difficult because neighbouring councillors like Tewkesbury Conservative councillor Derek Davies condemned Cheltenham’s LibDem councillors as ‘greedy’ and ‘precious’ for trying to protect Leckhampton and regularly blocked moves by Cheltenham to protect key green spaces. In the end the JCS ruled out a huge ‘strategic’ development at Leckhampton, reducing the likely housing there from over a thousand houses to a couple of hundred and with most of the green fields permanently protected.

Martin’s father, Don Horwood, was one of the founders of the Leckhampton Green Land Action Group (LEGLAG) and Martin joined at an early age. When he returned to Leckhampton with his own family and his children began attending local schools and nurseries the need to protect a green, safe and healthy local area for the future became even more personal.

Thousands of communities nationwide are now using a policy devised by Martin to protect threatened green spaces in and around their cities, towns and villages.  The new Local Green Space designation is designed to protect local green areas valued by local people – not just great crested newts and landscape painters.  Cheltenham’s LibDem council is pursuing the policy enthusiastically and the new designation is being recommended in the emerging Local Plan for the Leckhampton Fields, Greatfield Park and Holmer Park in Hatherley, Newcourt Green on the Cirencester Road and many more.  Martin developed the policy as an opposition environment spokesperson for the Lib Dems.  It was picked up in the Lib Dems 2010 election manifesto and implemented, as promised, by the coalition government.

In Leckhampton, there is a striking contrast between the Cheltenham side of the borough boundary where housing development has been refused pending the protection of the most important green spaces in the Local Plan using the new Local Green Space designation, and the Tewkesbury side of the boundary – across Farm Lane – where the Conservative-led council caved in to developers Redrow who pre-empted the local joint planning process and have ripped up historic hedgerows and wrecked views from the AONB in their rush to build expensive executive homes.

Martin believes more homes should be built on brownfield sites and in mixed use developments like St.Paul’s, the Brewery and North Place in Cheltenham, in urban city centres in need of regeneration and close to smaller villages and market towns whose shops, post offices, pubs and schools are closing for lack of people.

Martin has also called for more action to support rural housing (for instance in and around farms) where it is wanted and needed, tougher measures to bring more of the UK’s 850,000 empty homes back into use and new powers at local level to encourage the buying and building of more social housing for rent which is where the need is greatest.

Martin pledges to keep hunting ban

The campaign group Keep The Ban (http://www.keeptheban.org.uk/) are asking all parliamentary candidates to commit to keeping the hunting ban if they are elected on 8 June. Cheltenham’s Liberal Democrat candidate Martin Horwood has been quick to sign the pledge.
 Fox

The Conservatives have again said they will bring forward a vote on repealing the hunting ban, on which MPs are traditionally allowed a free vote.

Cheltenham’s Liberal Democrat candidate and former MP, Martin Horwood, has been quick to sign the pledge and put this video on social media this morning: https://twitter.com/ClareSoftley/status/864423997542457344. 

Martin said: “We were warned that the hunting ban would wreck the rural economy, stop even the valuable social side of hunts and make it impossible to protect livestock.  None of that turned out to be true and I don’t think Parliament should go back to condoning the hunting of animals for fun.”

Martin took up many animal welfare causes as an MP, many in conjunction with Cheltenham based charity Naturewatch (naturewatch.org).  He successfully campaigned for more money for alternatives to animal research, voted for the ban on wild animals in circuses, supported the international whaling ban and opposed the badger cull in Gloucestershire and elsewhere.  In 2009 he was voted Animal Welfare Champion by fellow parliamentarians of all parties at the Dods political awards.

Martin added: “At the Trinity church hustings in 2015, all the parliamentary candidates were asked to say yes or no to keeping the hunting ban. Alex Chalk famously replied ‘free vote’.  Well, we all know it’s a free vote but that was just dodging the question!  We then found out he was being actively supported by members of the Vale of White Horse Hunt, North Cotswold Hunt and the pro-hunting organisation Vote OK – so it’s pretty clear where he stands on this issue.  The question is: will he have the courage to say so this time?”  (He didn’t.  Despite again receiving active support from hunt members, Alex Chalk replied ‘pass’ to the same question at the same hustings in 2017!)

Lib Dems vote to ban fracking

Fracking.JPG
The Liberal Democrats Spring Conference in York has voted for an outright ban on fracking – the extraction of shale gas using the high-pressure hydraulic fracturing of underground rocks.

 

Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson for Cheltenham voted for the successful motion: “Fracking poses really significant risks to the local environment wherever it is allowed” said Martin, “from the millions of litres of water pumped below the water table and lost to local water systems, to the pollution and disruption caused by the thousands of trucks transporting water and gas to and from the wells. I’m horrified that the Conservatives even plan to allow fracking in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty like the Cotswolds.”

“It’s also a crazy energy strategy. We’ve just committed to a low-carbon future for the planet in the Paris Climate Change Agreement. So why put direct investment into a new fossil fuel industry instead of energy efficiency and renewables? Fracking for gas won’t even displace coal because dirty coal will be on the way out anyway by the time fracking delivers any significant supply in the 2030s.”
During the General Election campaign last year, Alex Chalk – now Cheltenham’s Conservative MP – promised to oppose fracking in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. But in December 2015, he voted to support it.

Stopping climate change

Martin has campaigned tirelessly at local and national level for tougher action to stop climate change – and for smart planning for the inevitable effects of climate change too.  As MP, he was a member of the Aldersgate Group which brings together leading MPs, businesses and green organisations committed to fighting climate change and was on the advisory board of the Energy & Climate Change Information Unit which actively promotes accurate and accessible facts about climate change in the UK media.

He campaigned hard for climate change to be prominent in the Lib Dem election manifesto and was delighted that, despite some Conservatives trying to put the brakes on green policies, LibDems in the coalition government achieved great progress on the environment:

  • the biggest carbon dioxide reduction on record for a growing UK economy
  • the world’s first Green Investment Bank
  • investment in low-carbon energy locked into UK energy markets through the Energy Act
  • 200,000 green jobs
  • a million trees planted
  • renewable energy generation in the UK more than doubled with solar energy generation going up 60% just in the last year

Many of these achievements have been put at risk since the Conservatives took power on their own in 2015 with support for renewables cut, the Green Investment Bank sold off, the energy efficiency Green Deal plan scrapped with no replacement and greenhouse gas targets now likely to be missed.

Martin has consistently spoken out for tougher action both to stop making climate change worse by reducing greenhouse gases but also adapting to the now inevitable impacts of climate change, including at the 2014 LibDem conference – you can watch Martin’s speech here.

From 2006 until 2010 Martin was his party’s shadow environment minister, and jointly tabled the amendment to the Climate Change Bill in 2008 that increased the reduction target for UK emissions by 2050 from 60% to the 80% all serious scientific opinion believed was necessary.

He also helped to develop Liberal Democrat policies on achieving a Zero Carbon Britain and on protecting the natural environment – which the party has followed up with a pledge to pass five green laws covering issues from access to green space to zero waste to green transport and green planning.

He called for higher standards of energy efficiency and reduction in energy use, as well as championing huge expansion of renewable energy at international, national, community and household level. He opposed the new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth in Kent, supported a moratorium on fracking and spoke out in parliament in favour of more wind, tidal, solar and other renewable forms of energy.

Protecting animals

Martin was President of Cheltenham & East Gloucestershire RSPCA and a member of the all-pFox arty parliamentary group for animal welfare.

He has been active in Cheltenham and in parliament promoting the welfare of animals in the UK and abroad.  He opposes repeal of the hunting ban, has called for an end to commercial whaling and successfully supported legislation to ban wild animals in circuses and to introduce universal microchipping of dogs.

He has consistently opposed the Gloucestershire badger cull and supported alternative approaches to keep both badger and cattle populations healthy as advocated by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust.

In 2009 he was voted Animal Welfare Champion 2009 by his parliamentary colleagues of all parties.  He was nominated by Cheltenham charity Naturewatch.

Martin microchipping back in 2008 Martin was one of the leading MPs to successfully promote the routine microchipping of dogs, now a cheap and easy technology that will identify many of the 100,000 dogs dumped and lost each year in the UK. The coalition government has agreed to make this compulsory from April 2016. It will also help local authorities, charities like Cheltenham Animal Shelter and the police to correctly identify the owners of dangerous dogs and take firmer action and rehome the dogs more easily. Martin also supported moves in Parliament to extend restrictions on the docking of puppies’ tails.  Locally, he has been a friend of Cheltenham Animal Shelter and particularly its innovative Halt project which helps humans as well as animals.  Martin also pressed for reform of dangerous dogs legislation which has now begun to shift the emphasis away from a list of obscure breeds – often difficult to identify – towards a focus on dangerous behaviour and the poor ownership that causes it.

He also strongly supported the ban on wild animals in circuses which was passed into law by the coalition government and pressed for its early implementation.

Martin opposes repeal of the Hunting Act and was targeted by pro-hunting Martin welcomes the tail of a whale to Westminsteractivists in both the 2015 and 2017 General Elections as a result.  They moved hunt supporters in from the Cotswolds in both elections to support the Conservative candidate Alex Chalk who nevertheless repeatedly refused to say where he stood on the ban.

Martin strongly backed the international ban on whaling and met with the Japanese ambassador as part of the campaign to persuade Japan to drop its remaining hunting of these intelligent mammals in the name of ‘research’. He tabled motions in Parliament criticising Canada’s seal hunt and calling for a Europe-wide ban on commercial seal products.

As shadow environment minister in the 2005-10 parliament, he was a strong supporter of the Marine Act 2009 that helped to protect fish stocks for future generations and added to the protection for vulnerable marine birds like the puffin. He supported calls for new marine reserves around British overseas territories and tougher action to stop illegal birdhunting on the UK’s sovereign bases in Cyrprus.

He backed national campaigns like the RSPCA’s Freedom Food standard that promote animal welfare.

key_Martin_and_friend_support_the_Marine_Bill-small.jpg

Martin also worked with local Cheltenham-based charity Naturewatch to oppose all animal testing for cosmetics and promote the ‘3Rs’ in animal research – reduction, replacement and refinement. This approach seeks to promote alternatives to animal research, eradicate unnecessary use of animals and improve animal welfare where research continues.  Another Naturewatch campaign has succeeded – during the coalition, LibDem minister Lynne Featherstone confirmed the government would ban the testing on animals of ingredients used in household products, a pledge included in the 2010 Coalition agreement

Cheltenham MP supports ‘green homes revolution’

Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood has expressed strong support for the Green Homes Bill, which was announced by the Liberal Democrats this week. The bill, which would be brought forward in the next Parliament, would improve energy efficiency and promote renewable heat across the UK, ensuring more people benefit from permanently warmer homes and cheaper energy bills.

The new Bill would ensure these achievements are built on, incentivising people to insulate their homes by:

  • Offering at least £100 each year off your Council Tax for 10 years, when you significantly upgrade the energy efficiency of your home
  • Reforming the Green Deal ‘pay as you save’ scheme into a new ‘Green Homes Loan Scheme’ which would  extend the current scheme to include renewable heat and electricity
  • A new ‘Feed out Tariff’ for investment in Solid Wall Insulation, the most expensive and disruptive type of energy efficiency measure

Martin said:

“The Green Homes Bill builds on the fantastic changes that Liberal Democrats have already delivered in Government relating to energy efficient homes. More than one million homes have been built with better energy efficiency in just two years thanks to ECO and the Green Deal; legislation for Zero Carbon Homes in new build and regulations to ban landlords from renting out energy inefficient homes from April 2018; and an ambitious new Fuel Poverty Strategy.

I believe energy efficiency should be one of our national infrastructure priorities and this bill would deliver what the country really needs: a Green Homes Revolution. The Lib Dems will create 10 million energy efficient homes by 2025 through ambitious targets and generous incentives for people who carry out work to make their homes warmer, cheaper and greener.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat Leader, Nick Clegg said:

“We relentlessly pushed the green agenda over the last five years in government, in the face of strong resistance from the Conservatives.

“Yet despite much needed progress, people particularly from vulnerable households still suffer from homes that are too cold and bills that are too high.

“Energy efficiency is the most important fuel we didn’t know we had. Insulating millions of homes will significantly improve the cost of living and quality of life of people across the UK.”

make their homes warmer, cheaper and greener.”

NOTES

  • Up to an additional £2bn a year will be needed to deliver the energy efficiency targets Liberal Democrats set out today, based on current average costs to insulate homes and incentivise occupiers and owners. Revenue projects will be funded out of existing budgets from 2018-19 when the budget has been balanced and departmental spending is rising again. Capital projects will be funded from borrowing where they meet our rule for “productive investment”. The precise mix of these policies would be determined in the early part of the new Parliament as part of a full Spending Review.
  • Reforming the Green Deal to include renewable heat and electricity could lead to much greater take up of renewable heat and electricity and make it more accessible to the less well off.
  • A Feed out Tariff for installing Solid Wall Insulation would mean that those with savings could invest in their own home’s energy efficiency and get a higher return than they would get compared to leaving their money in the bank.
  • Our Energy Efficiency ambition to ensure all homes get to EPC Band C by 2035 would be achieved by:
    • new legislation forbidding letting of property which was not at EPC Band C by 2027
    • measures to help owner occupiers such as the Feed Out tariff, Council tax discount, 0% loans and a continuation of the Green deal Home Improvement Fund.

Together these policies mean that by 2020 an estimated 4m homes would have had energy efficiency improvements and up to 10m homes by 2025.