Pollarded willow, Thirsk
Thank you for your invitation to provide information about my environmental priorities. If elected as Councillor, my initial environmental focus would be to leverage that position in the following areas.
Cod Beck and Sowerby Flatts
I would support and protect the excellent work done by the organisers and members of the “Friends of Cod Beck and The Flatts” Facebook group particularly by:
Pushing to extend the inadequate conservation area all the way from the beck to York Road to protect that green triangle from further development;
Until that protection is in place, actively fighting at Council against further development there, given in particular the unwelcome and ecologically damaging precedent of Thirsk Services; and
Supporting local water testing to monitor water quality in the beck to confront Yorkshire Water, the Conservatives and the Environment Agency with evidence of pollution.
I welcome the action the Environment Agency has finally taken in writing to Motor Fuels Group Ltd but I am concerned that it may not have the willingness or resources to follow through should pollution from the lorry park continue. I would join in Lib Dems’ efforts to give the Environment Agency the teeth it needs properly to hold water companies (including Yorkshire Water) to account.
For decades, local people have let their children and dogs play in Cod Beck, believing the water was clean. But Yorkshire Water allows raw sewage to overflow into the beck. I would join my North Yorkshire Lib Dem colleagues in calling for a ban on all CEO bonuses in the water industry while the sewage scandal continues.
Cod Beck is one example of a wider problem of illness in our waterways and general lack of care for the environment that affects us all. Lib Dems have been leading the charge against polluting water companies in Parliament, forcing the Conservatives to clamp down and make them pay. I fully support the Lib Dem policy to take strong action in:
Setting meaningful and binding targets to stop the decline of our natural environment and double nature by 2050: doubling the size of the Protected Area Network, doubling the area of most important wildlife habitats and doubling the abundance of species.
Strengthening the Office for Environmental Protection and providing more funding to the Environment Agency and Natural England to help protect our environment.
Ending sewage discharges by transforming water companies into public benefit companies, banning bonuses for water bosses until discharges and leaks end, and replacing Ofwat with a tough new regulator with new powers to prevent sewage dumps.
Encouraging walking and cycling
By way of example, local residents were promised an upgraded footpath from Sowerby Gateway to Green Lane West, but nothing has been done. I would like to see that path upgraded all the way to the station, improving commute times and giving more residents an alternative to the car. It should be safe, well-lit and suitable for pedestrians, cyclists and mobility scooters. I would challenge the housebuilders and the Council to deliver on all their promises to residents.
I would like to see better air quality across the area, particularly in Topcliffe and Dalton, both of which are plagued by unnecessary HGV journeys through their centres. Again, resources need to be deployed to monitor and enforce against rule-breaking.
In closing, if elected as Councillor, I would seek to make myself available to everyone, including conservation groups, to offer suitable access to and support within the Council, as well as appropriate leverage with other regional and/or national bodies.
Further comments added 27.11.23
"If elected, I will be joining a team of Lib Dem councillors who are leaders on climate change and Nature issues in North Yorkshire. Lib Dems have repeatedly called for policy to create better building standards for NET ZERO and have requested investment to retrofit our failing school infrastructure and introduce renewables into the system.
Lib Dems continue to support renewable projects and Nature improvements through the planning system. Our councillors are working through community networks providing funding for nature testing using DNA and building nature networks across the constituency. This allows us to amass the data required to create meaningful policy.
From pond creation within the National Park, to renewable energy projects in Ryedale, to "Slowing the Flow" flood prevention initiatives, our councillors are embedded in an extensive network of environmental action within the North Yorkshire Community.
Last week, the Lib Dems introduced a world leading motion to introduce the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to North Yorkshire to ensure your well being as well as addressing the cost of living crisis, equality, the environment and climate change. All are connected and tackling them together will improve all our lives and allow us to demonstrate global leadership.
The opening paragraph of our constitution summarises where we stand:
"The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We believe that each generation is responsible for the fate of our planet and, by safeguarding the balance of nature and the environment, for the long term continuity of life in all its forms."
That's what I will bring to Sowerby and Topcliffe: the passion and drive, not just of myself but of my Lib Dem colleagues across the county, to make this area the best it can be for the environment, for the economy and for equality."