I’ve stood in every local election since I joined the Green Party in 2012, but this one feels more special.
Having been involved in the recent campaign to try to persuade the District Council to think again about it’s review of the local plan, I feel I really have something extra to fight for in this election.
I wrote a detailed response to the council plans to tear up large swathes of the green belt between Kidlington. Begbroke and Yarnton and plonk 4400 houses in the middle of an area with overloaded roads and infrastructure. A plan that would see the three communities amalgamated into one sprawling conurbation, created not to serve local affordable housing needs, but to supposedly provide housing for workers in the city, even though most of the jobs are based in the east.
You can read the full response here
As everyone involved knows the oft-touted claims that this will include so-called ‘affordable’ housing is laughable. Valuable green belt land will become ten times more valuable once it becomes ripe for development and the landowners and luxury house builders will stand to make a fortune.
I along with several others were allowed a five minute representation to the councillors in the chamber, some of whom it was later reported couldn’t even be bothered to listen to those who had come to plead their case. One was even photographed using a mobile phone during the speeches!
Seeing the lack of connectedness demonstrated by the predominately Conservative council enraged me more than I imagined it would. If you watch the video footage from the planning meeting a few weeks ago you can hear me heckling quite loudly throughout some of speeches from Barry Wood and Colin Clarke.
Normally I wouldn’t do something like that. They deserve their time to speak just as I and the other campaigners had. But being the last to have their say (as Cllr Wood ensured he would be) they were able to simply brush aside the very salient points raised by protesters and other councillors.
Tory councillor after Tory councillor stood up and gave no logical reason why these plans should be forced through in the face of what everyone recognised was an historic level of opposition from the people in the district they represent.
Over 1500 responses were given to the plans, nearly all of them objecting to this wanton and unnecessary destruction of our precious green belt. Yet the council seemed oblivious to them, to the cogent arguments put forward by speakers and even to the legal opinions that were presented by the two main campaigning groups.
The cavalier attitude of Barry Wood, who I’d previously challenged for seeming to pre-judge the outcome of the consultation, was amply demonstrated when he and his fellow councillors abdicated their responsibility to the people of Cherwell and threw their objections at the feet of the planning inspector.
His closing argument was that it was the inspector who would make the final decision not them, even though they were elected to represent us. As I suspected months ago, the council had already made its mind up, and the consultation was simply a box ticking exercise. The fate of our green spaces, our wildlife habitats, our clean air and the distinctiveness of our communities has been thrown into the lap of an outside agency because the Tories on the council didn’t have the guts or the inclination to properly consider the alternatives.
So I hope you’ll forgive me some heckling out of pure frustration at the lack of professionalism and respect for democracy being shown by these people.
That’s why I want to win this election. I want a guaranteed voice in that chamber so that I can represent the views of the people in Kidlington, Yarnton and Begbroke – an area that is so remote from that chamber, way up at the other end of the district that people like Barry Wood and Colin Clarke feel it’s safe to throw us all under the bus for the sake of expediency.
It’s also why the Green Party in Kidlington is working with the Liberal Democrats in this election to elect me in Kidlington East and Alaric Rose in Kidlington West. You can see our joint statement about that here.
I hope you’ll give me and Alaric a chance to be a strong voice for you after May 3rd.
You can see the full video of the planning meeting (including the heckling) on the Cherwell District Council Website. You can see my speech to the chamber here.