RICHARD BLACKMAN: Now is the time to save our Environment

The bushfires in Australia have brought home the threat posed by climate breakdown. We all need to act to save the environment, our livelihoods and to improve our quality of life.

In Southampton progress is slow. Poor air quality continues to endanger the health of the city's residents. As signatories of the Clean Air Southampton Manifesto the Southampton Lib Dems are pushing for substantial improvements in several policy areas. This includes our longstanding campaign for a port plug-in so that cruise ships won't run their polluting diesel engines.

In Bassett we're seeking to:

  • Make the junction of Burgess Road and Hill Lane more pedestrian-friendly so that residents can access the Common and local shops more easily;

  • Campaign for better bus routes. Many parts of the ward are not served by direct bus routes to the city centre; Improve pavements, footpaths and cycle routes to key destinations such as the sports centre;

  • Tackle the traffic congestion problems affecting Hollybrook and Bassett Green primary schools, which have a negative environmental impact on their neighbourhoods. Children's health and well-being must come first.

  • Present an ambitious plan to implement a city wide park and ride scheme.

It's vital that our city does its share to combat climate change while also improving our quality of life. Labour's Green City Charter is too timid. The Conservatives are not even in favour of weak policies. It's time for a fresh new Liberal voice on Southampton City Council to push strongly for the changes that so many want to see.

Richard demands answers on Empty Housing.

Two houses in Bassett that have been left empty are being allowed to go to rack and ruin on the golf course. Bassett campaigner Richard Blackman has written to the Cabinet member responsible for housing on Southampton City Council to ask why this situation has been allowed to go on for so long.

Richard Blackman commented:

"I would like to see local families living in these homes. At the recent General Election the Lib Dems manifesto planned the building of 100,000 social homes per year across the country to solve the nation's housing crisis. At the very least the Council should be making full use of existing housing stock."

Clean Air Zone consultation - our response

Prior to the release of Southampton City Council's 'Clean Air' consultation later today, here are the comments submitted by Southampton Liberal Democrats to the consultation:

The Southampton City Council (SCC) Plans for a Class B Clean Air Zone are rather timid. As currently presented, they are little more than a 'minimum viable product', which seeks only to meet basic legal requirements, and little more. This despite many leading health and research organisations stating that there are no safe limits for air pollution.

As the aim is simply to do just enough to meet the basic legal requirements, how confident can we as residents of Southampton be of SCC delivering real and significant improvements to air quality?

We are also concerned that:

  • Projections for road traffic growth in the years ahead, as highlighted in the transport consultation, suggest an increase of 74,000 journeys in the city per day by 2040. In the medium to long term, this increases the risk of non-compliance with government requirements.
  • Particulate matter is only mentioned once in the consultation and that the danger from this is overlooked.
  • Research shows that the public health consequences of air pollution are damaging, yet SCC appears not to have undertaken a study of the health impact of air pollution specifically on the residents of Southampton. Unless SCC seeks to go beyond the minimum then there is a danger that these significant health risks to the population will continue to go unchecked.

Southampton Liberal Democrats believe that greater consideration should have been given to Class C and D Clean Air Zones and that it was wrong to exclude these from the consultation.

Environment Spokesperson Alexander Clifton-Melhuish

As SCC's own air quality strategy states 34.1% of air pollution in the city comes from HGVs and 23.9% comes from cars. While it is right to ensure that HGVs' contribution to pollution is reduced, car use in Southampton will also have to decrease to improve air quality. Other cities, Birmingham for example, have decided that charging cars is the right way to tackle air pollution.

However, given the inadequacy of alternatives to car use in Southampton, we recognise that charging car users would be unfair. We need rapid and more effective measures to encourage the use of more sustainable forms of transport: walking, cycling, buses and trains. SCC's draft vision for transport appears (despite its verbosity) to be laudable, but unless rapid measures are taken to incentivise more sustainable forms of transport and reduce car use then a Class B Clean Air Zone is unlikely to meet its targets.

Improving the environment must be a collective endeavour involving all sections of the community: residents, businesses and local government. SCC however must lead the way and not be timid in seeking to improve the quality of citizens' lives. While we support the introduction of a Class B Clean Air Zone, its impact is likely to only go so far in improving air quality, and as such we believe that additional measures are required.

We agree with the principle of charging the most polluting vehicles and if Southampton Liberal Democrats were running SCC we would ringfence the income from the charges envisaged for the implementation of sustainable transport policies and infrastructure. We trust that Labour-controlled SCC will do the same.

Furthermore, SCC has to meet obligations in respect of climate change and a zero-carbon future. If SCC were serious about improving air quality and doing our share to mitigate climate change it would propose more far-reaching measures. There is considerable overlap in the policies required to improve air quality and combat climate change.

It is vital that SCC links the issue of air quality to its wider transport strategy and, in addition, should work closely with neighbouring authorities to facilitate the establishment of Park and Ride sites and the reopening of the Waterside railway line. These projects need to be progressed rapidly to encourage a shift in favour of public transport use.

The port of Southampton is overlooked in the consultation, but it is vital that the port makes good on its undertaking to set up a port plug in for cruise ships as soon as possible. The residents of Bargate, Freemantle, Millbrook and Redbridge, in particular, suffer from the additional air pollution generated by the port. It is important that more freight and cargo is transported by rail, and we support moves to enhance rail capacity. If local green space is lost other local brownfield sites should be converted to green space to compensate.