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Interview with Portsmouth Green Party’s Fratton Candidate: Tim Sheerman-Chase

It’s that time of year again, dear reader. The local elections are less than a week away and all of us at Portsmouth Green Party have been fighting away to get you a Green councillor to represent you and hold the main parties to account.

With that in mind, I (Emma) sat down with the PGP’s Fratton ward candidate Tim Sheerman-Chase to find out why he’s running and what he would do to improve Portsmouth for its residents and the world at large.

Hey Tim, I was wondering if you could tell the readers of Shades of Green why you’re running for office?

I decided to get involved in politics and local campaigns after seeing worrying signs of environmental and social breakdown. With my background in science and engineering, I am also well aware that, without drastic change, climate breakdown is a huge problem. The good news is that pressure from campaigners can be effective and real improvements can be made.

I learned so much from authors like Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein about how current politics isn’t working for most people, so I aim to be an independent voice in politics that is a change from business as usual.

That sounds like just what we need. Now, I know that PGP have been out in Fratton talking to people to find out the main problems they have in the area. Can you tell me what those are?

Based on our survey, the main concerns of residents’ are:

  • crime
  • antisocial behavior
  • fly tipping
  • street cleanliness

Residents also face the danger of illegal levels of air pollution, which causes a wide range of health problems. All of this is against a backdrop of devastating cuts to local services under the banner of austerity.

That’s just terrible. So, what would you do to address these problems?

Fratton Green Party Candidate Tim Sheerman-Chase talking with local police about issues affecting local residents.
Fratton Green Party Candidate Tim Sheerman-Chase talking with police about issues affecting local residents.

I talked to the local policing team and they heavily depend on information provided by the public. I would help coordinate residents’ concerns with the police and other council services. On cleanliness, we need to provide more convenient recycling and waste disposal options, rather than having to travel to Port Solent or pay steep fees for waste collection. I would work to coordinate council services to keep the streets clean.

On air quality, I have been campaigning for a number of years with the #LetPompeyBreathe group. I have been pressuring the council to make significant improvements, beginning with producing a realistic plan. Unfortunately, the council has been slow in producing results. Since we need to transition away from private car usage, we need good transport alternatives, including better bus services. We also need to investigate the feasibility of introducing a charging clean air zone as quickly as possible.

Why is the Green Party the party to address these issues?

Many people are disillusioned with mainstream politics because it only offers superficial change. As Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” The Green Party is different because of its emphasis on long term planning, while valuing people and the environment. This has allowed it to be an earlier adopter of many beneficial policies that have since gone mainstream.

That’s a really good point. If I wasn’t already a member, I’d join. Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers and the people of Portsmouth?

I’ve been encouraged by canvassing feedback and the hard work of our campaign team. This means we have a good chance of getting a first Green councillor for Portsmouth. We can win and we can hold the mainstream parties to account.

Well, there you have it folks. If you care about Portsmouth, if you care about our planet, and if you’ve had it with politics as usual, get out there and vote Green on May 2. If you’d like to read more from Tim, Tamara did an interview with him about air pollution in Portsmouth, which is an important (and scary) read.

Every Polluted Breath You Take

Air, oxygen, breathing – I admit these are not topics I tend to ponder as I go about my daily life. When in my car, I (Tamara) tend to be more concerned with evading Pompey traffic than about the effect I am having on the air quality. When I cycle around town trying to get past the self-same bumper-to-bumper traffic, I am not thinking about the fumes I am breathing in so much as trying to survive aggressive drivers.

But as with most things in life, it is all interconnected. Air quality in Portsmouth is at illegal and unsafe level. I first became aware of these issues when my local Portsmouth Green Party activists initiated the #LetPompeyBreathe campaign.

let pompey breathe

As a lazy environmentalist,  I prefer to have issues explained to me in simple, easy-to-understand terms. Here to do just that, in this special Thursday edition of Shades of Green, is Portsmouth Green Party activist and #LetPompeyBreathe spokesperson Tim Sheerman-Chase.

Me: Hihi Tim! Thanks for joining me via email to talk about the air quality issue in Portsmouth. As some of our readers may not be aware of the #LetPompeyBreathe campaign, what it is all about and what is your role in this?

Tim: #LetPompeyBreathe is a campaign group aiming to get Portsmouth’s air pollution within safe and legal limits. It is affiliated with Portsmouth Green Party, Friends of the Earth, local neighbourhood forums and other concerned groups.

My role is as spokesperson, blogger and researcher of government published reports. These tend to be fairly large and impenetrable, but I am assisted by my science background. I am the lead petitioner on the petition currently before Portsmouth City Council.

 

In a nutshell, what is the problem with our air quality?

Portsmouth is one of the worst cities in the UK for air quality, with pollution levels in continuous breach of both legal limits specified in the EU Air Quality Directive, English law, and World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.

 

Is the air pollution a problem across the whole city or is it localised to certain areas?

Pollution levels greatly vary around the city. Some particularly bad areas include:

  • Hampshire Terrace/Queens Street
  • The top of Commercial Road
  • London Road/Fratton Road/Kingston Road
  • Eastern Way/Milton Road

The residential areas of Southsea, Milton and Tipner have relatively better air quality.

Traffic is the largest factor in local air pollution. Diesel engines are particularly bad, particularly from diesel cars, buses and heavy goods vehicles. This is probably the easiest area to make improvements and bring pollution to within safe limits.

 

Gulp…I used to have a diesel car as I thought it was better for the environment than petrol cars! Luckily, it broke down on me and was replaced with a petrol-electric hybrid. What other individual actions can we take?

It is difficult to avoid air pollution completely for an individual person, apart from moving away from cities! However, you can reduce exposure by avoiding busy roads at peak times. Pollution is far worse inside vehicles than outside, so you can help yourself (while helping your community) by reducing car usage. Try to use public transport, cycling and walking instead, even if only for one day a week extra.

 

What is it specifically about our air quality that is unsafe?

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bj72L-0HpmR/?taken-by=pompeygreens

There are various types of pollution – Portsmouth has a particular issue with the levels of small particulate pollution (PM2.5) exceeding WHO safe limits. We also breach the annual NO2 limits in several locations.

 

Particulate pollution?

Particulate pollution (also known as particulate matter), is the general term for the solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Small particulate pollution is fine microscopic inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometres and smaller.

 

How is air pollution measured and who regulates it?

Regulations have been put in place to address the problem. Among the most significant is the UK law Air Quality Standards Regulations 2010. This specifies legally binding limits on the UK government for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate pollution.

 

That is a great start but it’s one thing to know there’s a problem and set national regulations and another to actually take positive action on a local level- what is actually being done about it?  Why are the council and government not being held to account?

As you said, government bodies often ignore their responsibilities and 278 of the 391 local authorities missed the legal targets in 2017.

These legal limits are gradually being enforced. The European court of justice is threatening the UK and five other countries with multi-million Euro fines if they do not comply with legal limits.  Three successive High Court victories have been won by ClientEarth over the UK government, with the government’s plans being found to be inadequate.

Responsibility has largely been given to local government, which have taken some steps to deal with it but far stronger measures need to be taken. Part of the ClientEarth ruling found that central government does not have a sufficient enforcement for local authorities to meet these legal limits. Being underfunded, local government is having difficulty in taking suitable measures. Also, in many councils, the political will to address the problem is lacking.

 

How does the #LetPompeyBreathe campaign hold Portsmouth City Council to account?

#LetPompeyBreathe has two main goals: to raise public awareness and to encourage Portsmouth City Council to take further action.

At a local level, there are two documents that the council are required to produce: an air quality strategy and an action plan. Currently, #LetPompeyBreathe are petitioning the council to urgently publish its Air Quality Action Plan for consultation. In the two months since the petition went live, we have gathered the required 1000 signatures for the issue to be discussed at the next Full Council meeting which is in July (and handed them in on Clean Air Day – which is today).

 

As for the effectiveness of petitioning, politicians respond to public pressure particularly when well organized. If they see there is a clear demand for something to be done, we are in a much better position. The petition is only one step in the campaign.

 

What specific actions could the council take to rectify the air pollution problem?

There are many things, including:

  • improve walking and cycling routes
  • make the urban environment safer and more pleasant
  • make public transport easier to use, more integrated, cheaper and cleaner
  • reduce car use through careful city planning

MPs from different parties have been calling for a new Clean Air Act which will greatly strengthen monitoring and control of pollutants. We also need to shift the cost of pollution on to the polluter, particularly in egregious cases like Dieselgate and the car manufacturers.

Most large cities will require a charging Clean Air Zone (CAZ) to bring air pollution to within safe limits within a reasonable time.

 

Tim, thank you for taking the time to inform us about the #LetPompeyBreathe campaign and petition. Dear Reader, please sign the petition, if you haven’t already and share it with your friends, family, acquaintances and frenemies.