I am standing as a Green Party candidate in local elections in the North Walworth Ward where I live -and where once I articulated or ‘led’ what became a community campaign to rescue an urban forest and its unrecognised commons value. A campaign (2010-2013) which achieved ‘major development’ planning precedents (now in the new London Plan), a redrawn Masterplan around retained trees, removed roads and a park (albeit not yet* public), and the replanting of about 1600 trees all around the Elephant and Castle (albeit not yet* linked closely enough to it).
I agreed to stand with no illusions (super-busy with two book projects, a young family and no supportive ‘machine’ -strategic focus for the Greens is elsewhere), to amplify some principles and lay down markers in the context of a socially, politically and -despite the above ‘success’- ecologically regressive (non-)regeneration which is also typical of the failures and missed opportunities elsewhere in Southwark as well as the now expanded regime of Opportunity Areas (cf new London Plan) across the urban formation within the M25 that London now is. It’s easy to be negative, especially in this case! so I will be positive/ constructive/ propose alternatives.
Vote for me if you can or wish by all means, and if something stunning were to occur (weirdly, it is actually up to you!) then I will make serious adjustments in my life and fully honour your investment of faith in me; utterly unbiddable, flattered to be described as dissident by a very-in-the-loop friend one late night leaving an art party in Chelsea (yes, I know, that’s the point), who has paid heavily (pah!) for principles held and lent support to, who will defend myself and others from unjust attack to the end of the (winning) line, and who has been forced to become over-familiar with the costs of systemic failure, witless abuse and failed local governance.
Three starting points;
. Missed Opportunity Area: The new London Plan is expanding the regime of Opportunity Areas in our city, which will -if nothing systemic changes- keep on imposing the same social violence for foreign-investor or global-corporate benefit as exemplified at the Elephant and Castle. To change this record requires a sharp change of approach; existing communities need to be elevated to the very front of the process and priority throughout it, with unequivocal commitments to a Right to Community and a Right to Clean Air, amongst other simple but potent entitlements to well-being, so as to meaningfully shape outcomes from the ground-up, as all other considerations filter though them. It is not easy, but there are alternatives and enough-is-enough of the existing failed approach. There is a state of emergency for many across London as well as a refusal to respond accordingly, to have or hold tough-minded principle…
. Right to Clean Air: the E&C OA exemplifies failure at the Local and Greater London Authority levels. You establish a planning-free-for-all Opportunity Area, super-impose a Central Activities Zone and a densely populated part of central London will double in density as a result of deliberate planning resolutions. In this case, very few public gains from the loss of public assets/ interests will be sought or achieved, and no attempt to address the central toxic fact of the place will be made. Nothing has been done to address the continuing massive flows of traffic through its ‘densifying’ midst, or to address its toxicity. Every day in North Walworth, according to official figures, the pollution level on the Walworth and New Kent Roads and between is double EU limits (1). North Walworth is part of a larger problem in Central London, Zone 1, yes, but this Ward is unique in that zone for its higher proportion of economic deprivation and BAME populations (2). So the failure is especially grievious, an even greater social and political injustice. Southwark Labour have spent 8 secure years creating this situation. The point is to change it…
. Green Economic Zone: Again, the contemptuous bunch that hand-made this casual disaster have no ideas. They believe and state that there is ‘no alternative’ for existing communities. It is a lie. I’m inspired by a friend in Gujarat India, who originated a GEZ to counter the displacement-effect of what in ‘booming’ Gujarat is called a Special Economic Zone. Development works there just like the socially, politically and ecologically unjust ways that the OA and ‘regeneration’ has done at and around the Elephant and Castle. Displacing and/or impoverishing existing communities for the benefit of foreign or corporate profits alone. A GEZ is designed to recognise, take care of and strengthen existing communities and their ‘world’ by a host of low-cost or free initiatives and tools. The objective is to make life more sustainable here using the ‘guerilla-localism’ adopted in Preston to redirect pubic monies and procurement (localising food suppliers for school meals, for example), to support cooperative bodies, and to enhance well-being -not to cut down urban forests with their obvious public benefits at the same time as failing to tackle related air pollution or mention let alone significantly reduce the 31,000 vehicles a day (3) storming through an increasingly populated area.
I’m being brief; these things are/will be well articulated and expanded elsewhere. I’ve added a brief note on the GEZ below which I hope we can establish in North Walworth slash the Elephant and Castle making it the first GEZ in London or the UK.
. My candidates page here.
. Fellow candidates here.
. To Southwark Greens here.
. To regional Greens/GLAMS here.
. To national Greens here.
Membership of a party like the Greens is rewarding but also really makes a difference to its effectiveness. Our world is changing and it needs you! Here.
There is no doubt that our electoral system lets us all down; I was a signatory to Charter 88! but it remains frozen, ossified, failing, unable to represent you or me and so to really change things. There are 3 simple ways to act on what I know matters to you:
2: Vote Green in North Walworth this time!
3: Vote Mannes-Abbott! You may not have another chance 😉
Green Economic Zone: It is a model with hyper-local features but a general purpose that can be adapted to many other locations too. We aim to begin the first stage of recognising the simple good green features and characteristics of our area; ZEDs/Cargobike delivery, schools and offices that overtly encourage walking to school or office and back, tree and other green planting and routing, SUDS, rainwater reuse, bee keeping, fruit and nut tree mapping, retail outlets offering discounts for re-use of your own cup (Pret discount organic coffee to 49p if you bring your own), to new public water fountains, and so on. Lots of small things… add up.
Stage two of the GEZ, will develop on existing positives and spread those practices more widely, to advertise or educate, to encourage a sharper uptick in what are existentially necessary everyday changes in the ways we live. We need to marry ground-up, simple, every day acts, with systemic rethinking and reprioritising and force change in those ways and places too. We need to put opportunities like this at the heart of a very distinct area. You can start the latter by voting for me and my Green colleagues in North Walworth, which is also the easiest of ground-up acts you can possibly make, isn’t it? You only need a pencil…
Footnotes and data:
(1) EU Limits/Objectives for NO2 is 40. In North Walworth according to London Borough of Southwark annual figures for 6.1.2016 – 4.1.2017:
. SDT38 Elephant Road/Walworth Road junction: Average: 118.32
. SDT 40 New Kent Road/Meadow Row: Average 82.92
. SDT 41 New Kent Road/Rodney Place: Average 88.45
These are averages which can be compared with previous years, and show a very slight average reduction over 3 years.
(3) 2016 Manual count New Kent Road 1.10 km/0.68m 18837 Cars/Taxis out of a average total of 31,609 vehicles a DAY! (Source: Department for Transport, Road Traffic Statistics. Exchanges Feb. 2018, these are the latest counts)