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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.

365 days of Shades of Green- Part 2

Here at the Shades of Green headquarters, we are still in celebration mode as we pat ourselves on the back for one year of green-ish living! In our previous anniversary post, we focused on Emma as I (Tamara) asked her about her eco changes and choices.

Today Emma puts me in the hot seat as we continue our two-part series in which we discuss our Shades of Green journey.

 

Talk with Tamara

Hey Tamara, Happy Blogiversary to us! I’ll start off with a softball question. What’s the problem with me throwing compostable materials in the bin? (Also, I don’t actually do this. I’m asking for a friend.)

vegetable peelings

As this is my first question, I will refrain from speeding down Rant Road and instead will meander down Sensitive Street and say, there is no problem at all with you throwing compostable materials in the bin if there is absolutely no other option.

If you can compost, here’s why you should. First, let me set the scene…imagine The Lion King’s ‘The Circle of Life’ playing in the background. Why send organic, compostable matter to landfill or to be burnt when it could instead be composted down to produce the most boootiful natural fertilizer for the soil. From the earth, back into the earth – what could be better?

I am so lucky to have space in my garden to compost my organic waste. I haven’t always been in such a privileged position and I appreciate that not everyone in Pompey has outdoor space to compost. This is why I have signed up to ‘Share Waste’ and currently have four people, who do not have outdoor space at their homes, dropping off their veg peelings once a week to be composted in my home compost bin.

My biggest bugbear is that Portsmouth City Council don’t offer a food waste collection. This would mean that ALL food waste, including cooked food and leftover meat and bones, could be rotted down into compost. I compost as much as I can in my garden but I still throw away bits of cooked food as this cannot go into a home composter. Also, realistically – Pompey is full of flats and home composting is not an option for them! I did try a Bokashi Bin when I lived in a flat but you still have to dispose of the fermented waste.

Another bug-bear is how bio-plastics i.e. plant-based compostable or biodegradable plastic is marketed as a much more eco-friendly plastic version. It can be – if it is composted in an industrial composter. If it is thrown into the bin, it is not being composted! It is just going to landfill or the incinerator or finding its way into the sea. Sigh! The best one I have found locally is sold in Wild Thyme – their packaging for takeaway food is home compostable. That makes me happy. Ok, rant over! 

 

Eeek! Start composting now, everyone. Organic material doesn’t rot properly in landfill.  Okay, let’s move onto your green journey. What do you feel you’ve learnt about eco issues over the past year?

I have learnt that reducing my waste and what I buy needs to come before recycling. I aim to recycle as much as possible but when China banned imports of our trash that we send to be recycled, I realised I had to reduce my waste first and recycle second. This is a difficult mindset change for me and I have been helped with this by joining the local Zero Waste community. For example, I now try to buy my fruits and veg in no packaging, use soap and shampoo bars and refill my laundry and washing up liquid bottles at Wild Thyme and Southsea Health Shop on Albert Road. I’ve also joined a Bulk Food Buying group. 

 

 

That’s incredible – I’m sure many of our readers would join you with that! So, I think I already know the answer now, but lay it out for me: why should we cut down on plastic consumption if we can recycle it (I.e. plastic bottles)?

In one word, China! Recycling is a good option, where facilities exist. But what happens when we can’t recycle it – it goes to landfill or is incinerated. Therefore, reducing at source is the better option. Plastic production is resource intensive and plastic does not biodegrade, it just breaks down into microplastics and pollutes our oceans and seas. Think of the turtles!

 

I do love turtles. Okay, you’ve convinced me; not more bottled water! Let’s move on to something positive. What eco changes would you like to see PCC adopt on the next year?

Well, I have already ranted about the lack of food waste recycling! So that would be amazing. A few recycling banks for tetrapaks and food/drink cartons across the city would make a huge difference as well. I don’t expect miracles – but a trial such as the one in Southampton shouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility. And my third change would be more split bins on the street which would have a recycling section. And in case anyone from PCC is reading this, I’d also like a million pounds…. 😉

 

I hope you’re planning to share that million pounds – some of us have un-eco holidays to pay for, lol. Okay, final question, what eco changes would you like to adopt in the next year?

I am a person who has lots of intentions, tries to do it all, gets overwhelmed and then hides from the world in shame. So, keeping it manageable is key for me!  

I was tempted to say I will give up flying but with friends and family living abroad and my love for swimming in a warm sea, that would not be honest of me. But for my Europe trips, I am aiming to only fly one way and to get the train/ferry one way.

I have a weakness for crisps (cheese and onion mixed with prawn cocktail is mah jam!) but the packaging is not recyclable. So making my own crisp substitutes is a priority for me, as well as meal planning and cooking more as my local chip shop knows my order before I open my mouth!

I would also like to buy more clothes from ethical companies. I really hate clothes shopping and never have any money – which means twice a year I grab a load of clothes from Sainsbury’s and call that George!

I also have a few recycling options to explore such as Terracycle and stretchy plastics in the Carrier Bag recycling banks – this has been on my list for a while and I need to get round to it! That’s why I love doing this blog with you, it keeps me accountable.

 

As always, we love to hear from our readers. What are your top Pompey recommendations? What eco changes have you made in your life? What are your guilty pleasures? Tell us in the Comments Section Below.

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.

Ask Your Greens

Inspired by Portsmouth News’ ‘Letter of the Day’ encouraging voters to ask questions of their local council candidates, today’s blog post takes those same questions on air pollution, plastic recycling, rough sleeping and proportional representation and puts them to the Pompey Green Party local council candidates. 

Q: Where do you stand on pollution of the air, and what are your views on how to make our area clean air areas?

 

Mike Wines,
Fratton candidate:

Air pollution is the invisible killer in our city. If you walk down Kingston Road and Fratton Road or, indeed most of the all-too-many congested areas of Portsmouth and you can taste it and feel it in your nose and eyes.

In a recent article in The News, the current City Council leader announced plans to make Portsmouth “the Greenest City in the country”. This is interesting as they have yet to even produce their Air Quality Control Plan promised for last year Christmas 2017, let alone launch the e-petition Portsmouth Green Party along with other concerned groups under #LetPompeyBreathe submitted 2 weeks ago calling for the urgent production of said Air Quality Control Plan.

The introduction of “Boris bikes” is a welcome step but until the city has a clear network of safe and inviting cycleways cross the city it is but a gimmick.

At the same time as the Council want to turn us into the Greenest City, they are also working on plans for the Hard area to be a “little Manhattan” with the M275 entrance into the city inviting more and more cars. Does the word oxymoron come to mind?

For Portsmouth to truly be a green city we need:

  • A reduction in vehicles entering the city
  • A reduction/ban on diesel
  • A safe and clear cycle network and people to be encouraged to use it
  • More trees being planted and NOT cut down as at St James Hospital.
  • Our depleted green areas to be preserved.
  • An integrated public transport system using clean, green energy.

 

Ken Hawkins,
Copnor candidate:

Air pollution is one of the biggest health risks in the UK and nearly 100 people die prematurely every year because of small particulate pollution. Copnor Road is one of Portsmouth’s most congested roads, so I am a strong supporter of the #LetPompeyBreathe campaign to monitor and improve the city’s air quality.

Portsmouth City Council needs to urgently publish a draft Air Quality Action Plan for consultation. It has to give details on how air quality will be improved to safe levels and set specific targets and timeline.

I support the introduction of Clean Air Zones as they offer the fastest and most effective way to improve air quality across the city.

Tim Sheerman-Chase,
Central Southsea candidate:

Air pollution is a public health emergency and has been linked to a range of diseases, as well as shortened life expectancy. I’ve been involved with the #LetPompeyBreathe campaign which has focused on raising public awareness and holding the council to account. Portsmouth City Council needs to plan and implement effective solutions, which the current council has been reluctant to do.

One of the best ways to ensure air quality improves is a city-wide charging clean air zone, which levies a fee at the most polluting vehicles driving in the city. The money raised can go towards improving the walking and cycling routes, as well as better public transport. We also need to change our priorities in planning applications, moving away from car-centric housing and shopping developments, and towards a human-friendly urban environment. For more information, please visit the #LetPompeyBreathe blog and facebook pages.

Q: Regarding plastic – a very useful product but one that is being abused. Do you support the idea of the councils having a department in which this plastic could be recycled by using machinery that can grind the plastic into granules and then sold back to manufacturers?

Emma Murphy,
Hilsea candidate:

I heavily support the idea of the council having a department to recycle plastic and sell the material back to manufacturers as it would increase our recycling rate, provide jobs for the people of Portsmouth, and increase money for the council without raising taxes. Win-Win-Win.

Plastic waste is a blight on our beautiful landscape and something needs to be done, but I would also say that PCC needs to increase our recycling rate overall –Portsmouth has one of the lowest in the South East – by doing things like increasing what we can recycle at kerbside and put recycling bins in public spaces.

 

Duncan Robinson,
Nelson candidate:

I believe recycling in Portsmouth should be massively increased, to include food waste and carton collection.

In regards to the collected plastic, this should be recycled by using machinery that can grind the plastic into granules and then sold back to manufacturers, where there isn’t a more efficient recycling option. I also think that the use of single-use plastics should be stopped wherever possible.

 

bekkie KINGSLEY-SMITH,
st tHOMAS candidate:

It has become increasingly obvious in recent times how problematic plastic can be, with both mainstream and social media apparently recognising the issues it presents and the devastating damage it has on the planet, why has Portsmouth City Council not woken up to it yet? Ecologists have estimated that there will be no fish in the sea in a short 30 years, as sealife struggles to exist amongst overfishing and the tonnes of plastic that we empty into the oceans each year.

Increasingly frustrated by the perfectly recyclable contents of my green bin being rejected, I emailed PCC to query why I am still having to throw away roughly three-quarters of my recyclable plastic. I received no response. This is shockingly below par in comparison to other cities in the U.K. and needs to be addressed immediately.

As a seaside city, we should consider the ocean as an absolute priority. The idea of machinery that can grind up plastic and resell it to the manufacturers sounds like an efficient answer, this should both curb the number of plastics being produced from scratch and lessen the amount that would usually end up in landfill or wrapped around a defenceless creature’s throat.

Q: We have a problem with homeless sleeping rough in all our local areas. Should the councils be operating shelters and day centres to help these unfortunate people?

Stock Photo

Sarah Gilbert,
Charles Dickens candidate:

I am horrified by the increase in rough sleeping in the Portsmouth area.

I believe we need to ensure that not only are there sufficient hostel places in the short term but also that we look at long-term solutions to help people move into more settled accommodation with the necessary support. I do not believe that anyone should be left with nowhere to sleep.

 

Chris Jolley,
St Judes candidate:

Currently, it seems as though it is private organisations, individuals and charities that are making the real effort in trying to help those in dire need, with the current councils’ efforts lagging woefully behind.

Unfortunately, this seems to go all the way up to a Government level, but whilst we need an overall change in policy, we also need action much closer to the issues and this should undoubtedly be council led.

Tamara Groen,
Milton candidate:

Rough sleeping in Portsmouth has increased consistently over the past few years in a direct correlation to changes to the benefits system and cuts to essential local services such as mental health and domestic abuse support. In 2016, Portsmouth was one of the top 10 local authorities with the largest increase in the number of rough sleepers. This is unacceptable.

The council needs a proactive, person-centred approach to addressing the complex needs of those both experiencing and at risk of homelessness. The Green Party takes a “Housing First” approach which provides people experiencing homelessness with accommodation as quickly as possible – and then provides the services they need such as treatment for substance abuse and mental health issues.

To do this, we need an increase in council housing and to provide year-round shelter schemes, not just in the winter-time. Local charities and community groups have stepped in to assist rough sleepers in areas where the council is failing as those forced to sleep rough on the streets are often not considered a ‘priority’ according to the council criteria. Housing is a basic human right and I would push for an increase in council spending in this area.

Q: Would you support a form of proportional voting using any system that is fair but not the alternative vote which was soundly rejected during the Cameron-Clegg administration?

 

Bob Simmonds,
Baffins candidate:

There can be wisdom in crowds. Ask enough people with a wide experience of life and you may get a wiser decision.

Life is more complicated than Right vs Left. Politics needs to reflect this.

The First past the post system is simple and well established. For most of the past 100 years, it has ensured alternating Conservative and Labour governments. All other parties and political ideas are crowded out.

Proportional Representation (PR) along the lines of the Scottish and other regional elections would challenge this. It would give voice to a wider range of ideas and encourage representatives to work with each other and find a compromise rather than conflict. PR would also encourage more participation in politics and elections.
There should be no such thing as a ‘safe seat in Parliament’. There are too many of those at present, where it matters not who you vote for or whether you vote at all.

Every vote should count. Who could possibly be against that?

Menno Groen,
Eastney candidate:

The voting system we mostly use in the UK, first-past-the-post, often results in many of the votes being wasted, as well as complacent MPs in safe seats and disillusioned voters. Proportional representation would not only produce fairer and more balanced results, it also tends to produce higher turnouts.

The Green Party has long supported introducing proportional representation. As I’m originally from The Netherlands I’m very familiar with the Party List PR system, but I would support any fair and proportional system, such as the Single Transferable Vote (as used in Scotland’s local elections and Northern Ireland) or the Additional Member System (as used in Scotland’s parliamentary elections, Wales and the London Assembly).

First-past-the-post may have worked for the UK in the past, but fewer and fewer people are voting for the two largest parties and it is not fit for purpose anymore. Proportional representation, whichever system is ultimately selected, is the best way forward.

 

 

To find out more about the individual Green Party candidates, go to the Candidates page on the Portsmouth Green Party website.  And yes, for those eagle-eyed regular readers, candidates Emma and Tamara are also us, Emma and Tamara the Shades of Green blog writers. Busted! We decided to put ourselves out there.

And remember to tune in next week for the final instalment of Adulting Mondays, the election special where Tamara explains how to actually vote. Where is my local polling station? Do I need ID? Never fear, Tamara is here…on Monday!

Have you got any questions for the Green Party candidates? Or perhaps you have an experience of standing in an election. Let us know in the Comments section.

Local Government Demystified

Welcome to Part Two of a three-part series of Adulting Mondays where I (Tamara) attempt to demystify the upcoming May 3rd local election in Pompey. Today, I am exploring local council and councillors and what the flippin’ monkeys it is all about. So, prepare to be skooled, yo!

 Are you sitting comfortably? Then let us begin…

Welcome to Portsmouth…City Council

Portsmouth is a unitary authority which means Portsmouth City Council (PCC) is responsible for all local government services in Pompey. It basically does the jobs of-of a county council and a district council combined and is responsible for public services that affect our daily lives. Southampton is also another nearby example of a unitary authority.

Yes, Portsmouth is geographically in Hampshire but being a unitary authority is the reason you can’t use a Hampshire County Council library card in Pompey and vice versa. I’m looking at you Mr Rude Dude who aggressively shouted at a Central Library librarian because you couldn’t use your Hampshire library card to access the computers. Pssstt and boooo to you!

The different local services Portsmouth City Council deal with are numerous and include housing, recycling, waste collection and disposal, council tax billing and collection, environmental health, education, libraries and social services, to name but a few.

For example, do you have have a dodgy landlord? Rubbish not collected? Want more recycling facilities? Have a noisy neighbour? Tired of potholes on your route to work? Contact Portsmouth City Council and your three local ward councillors.

Here Be Wards (and Councillors)

‘What be wards?’, I hear you cry. Ok, lemme bruk bruk bruk it down for you:

The geographical area PCC cover is divided into two parliamentary constituencies: Portsmouth North (currently Conservative MP Penny Mordaunt) and Portsmouth South (currently Labour MP Stephen Morgan).

So, these two constituencies are each made up of seven electoral divisions known as wards. Nowt to do with hospitals! It is the role of local councillors to represent their ward and the interests of the people who live and work in that area.

To clarify – on a national government level, we vote for a local Members of Parliament (MP) who represent us and the constituency in Parliament. On a local government level, we vote for city councillors who represent us and our ward at the local council. It is this local level that I am focusing on in this series. (Shout out to all the League of Gentlemen fans who are now reading this in a creepy Tubbs voice.)

Anywho, in Pompey, we have 14 wards with three councillors representing each ward, with a total of 42 councillors (3 councillors in each of the 14 wards = 42. See – I can do smart!). Councillors can be independent or affiliated with a political party – totally up to them.

 

The Portsmouth North wards are Baffins, Copnor, Cosham, Drayton & Farlington, Hilsea, Nelson and Paulsgrove. The Portsmouth South wards are St Thomas, St Jude, Central Southsea, Eastney & Craneswater, Milton, Fratton and Charles Dickens.

 

The ward boundaries can seem pretty arbitrary, for example, I live in the Eastney and Craneswater ward but I live literally two steps from Milton market which is in the Milton ward. Therefore, I feel invested in both areas.

You can find out what ward you live in here and who your current councillors are here .

The four C’s… Council, Cabinet, Councillors and Candidates

Councillors are elected for a four-year term. The cycle of elections can seem a bit confusing but basically here in Portsmouth, a third of the councillors are elected every year over a four year cycle – with no elections in the fourth year.

At the moment PCC is a Conservative-run council as there are 20 Conservative councillors, 15 Liberal Democrat councillors, 2 Labour councillors, 2 UKIP councillors, 2 Independent councillors and one vacant seat. For the Conservatives to run this minority council, both the UKIP and Independent councillors lend them their votes. This effectively puts the Liberal Democrats in the Opposition.

The Full Council (all 42 councillors) elect the Leader of the Council (currently Conservative Donna Jones), and the Leader appoints the other members of the Cabinet – known as Executive councillors. Each cabinet member holds a separate portfolio or responsibility for a particular part of the council’s services, such as housing or education and is the spokesperson for that policy area or ‘portfolio’ they are responsible for. The Cabinet tends to be made up of the ruling political party – so for us in Portsmouth the Cabinet is currently made up of 9 Conservatives councillors. Scrutiny Committees are there to hold the Cabinet and Executive councillors to account and usually tend to be more politically-balanced and made up of non-executive backbench councillors.

Being a councillor is a pretty full-on commitment with tasks ranging from handling local constituents issues and concerns, dealing with casework and council business, developing council policy, working with council officers, scrutinising cabinet decisions and engaging with the community. Councillors are not paid a salary as such and many also have a regular day job, families and responsibilities outside of their role of councillor. They are paid a basic allowance of just over £10,000, travel and accommodation expenses and then extra for additional duties and special responsibilities such as being Leader of the Council, the Mayor or an Executive Cabinet member.

To find out who your local council candidates are for the upcoming election on May 3rd and to read their candidate statements: visit All About My Area. 

So, why not take five minutes to find out:

  • What ward you live in
  • Who your current local councillors are
  • Who your local councillor candidates are

And in considering who to vote for, why not contact your local councillor candidates to find out their opinions on issues that matter to you.  You can use this Portsmouth News  Letter of the Day ‘Ask candidates pertinent questions before you vote’ as inspiration.

Let us know in the Comments section if you have any questions about the local elections and council, and I will do my best!

Tune in next week for the final part of this series – How to Vote, yo!

Public Service Reminder – Register to Vote

As you may be aware, local elections in Portsmouth are coming up on May 3rd. This is the first in a three-part series of  Adulting Mondays where I (Tamara) pretend to be a grown-up and de-mystify local elections, starting with registering to vote.

So consider this your Public Service Reminder to register to vote!  To vote in the local elections in Portsmouth on 3 May, you need to register by midnight tomorrow Tuesday 17 April.

Don’t know how to register to vote? Too busy enjoying the sunshine (woop woop!) to Google it. Never fear, Tamara is here!

 

Tamara’s Guide to Registering to Vote

  • Register Online: With the registering deadline just over 24 hours away,  the easiest way to register to vote is to do it online: gov.uk/register-to-vote.
  • Personal Details: You will need to provide some personal information such as your name and address (obvs!), your nationality, your date of birth and your National Insurance number. Once you are registered to vote at your current address, you don’t need to do it again, unless you change address, name or nationality.
  • Congratulations, you have adulted on a Monday!

‘yeah, but….’

You say…I’m not from Portsmouth, Can I even vote?

Tamara says …To vote in a local government election you must:

be resident at an address in the area you wish to vote in
be registered to vote – well, duh!
be 18 or over on the day of the election (‘polling day’)
be a British, Commonwealth or EU citizen
not be legally excluded from voting

You say…I might be already registered to vote. Who knows?

Tamara says…If you are not sure if you are registered to vote at your current address, call the Portsmouth City Council Election Services on 023 9283 4074 and they can check for you.

You say…I’ve just moved house.

Tamara says…If you have recently moved, yes – you will need to re-register to vote at your new address. There is no magical updating system, a shame I know! But the registering system is pretty quick and easy, so don’t give me that crud excuse!

You say…I’m a uni student, where can I vote?

Tamara says…If you are a student, perhaps at the University of Portsmouth, did you know you can vote twice?!

Basically, if your home address is in a different local authority area to where you live in term time e.g. you are living in Pompey in the term time and your home address is in Southampton, you can vote in the local elections in both areas. This is my tip of the day, as I had no idea of this fact when I was at university. I always thought that was illegal. In local elections it’s fine! Who knew?! Not me!

 

‘But Tamara’, I hear you say, ‘it’s only the local elections so who cares? I don’t get local politics anyway. What do local authorities actually do? What do local councillors do? Are they the same as my MP? It’s all so confusing!! Ain’t nobody got time for that!’

Chillax, dear reader. Tune in next week when I attempt to break down the local council and upcoming local elections into tasty bite-sized chunks.

Prepare yourself for a series of me pretending to adult! Huaazh!

 

Anna Against the Machine

In honour of International Women’s Day, we are thrilled to be celebrating the achievements of local community campaigner and Portsmouth Green Party activist, Anna Koor.

In this extended interview,  we discuss Anna’s involvement in the ongoing campaign to get the road around Camber Dock in Old Portsmouth registered as a Public Right of Way.  This is a longer blog post than usual, but I (Tamara) hope you will agree that it is worth the extra scrolling!

So to bring you up to speed, last week saw a significant win for the campaign; Portsmouth City Council was instructed by the Environment Secretary to raise an Order for a Restricted Byway.  

Thanks to the steadfast dedication and campaigning of Anna Koor, Ken Bailey and the Camber Action Group, and with the support of the Open Spaces Society; the quayside path around the Camber is now on the road to becoming a Public Right of Way – which is what the campaign is all about! This milestone step towards the protection of our public access to this pathway comes after a lengthy four-year campaign of rejected applications and appeals.

“This is wonderful news Tamara”, I hear you cry! “But what does that actually mean? Raising an order? Public right of way? What is this language you speak?”

Well, dear reader, basically this means that Anna and the campaign are moving closer to their aim to ensure that this historic route finally becomes fully protected by law. 

Headshot of community campaigner Anna Koor

 

But don’t just take my word for it, as to tell us more and to explain in plain English what this all means, Anna Koor is here with me.

campaign Chat Time with Anna

Tamara: Anna, welcome to Shades of Green and congratulations on the success of your appeal.

Let me start by saying  I am feeling rather sheepish as I know next to nothing about public rights of way and raising orders, and so will probably be asking you some rather obvious questions!

Anna: Hi Tamara, it’s great to catch up with you and even better to also explain more about what a milestone this news is for people in Portsmouth.

Tamara:  Before we get to the nitty-gritty of your recent triumph, please tell us a bit about yourself and your involvement in the community.

Anna: I’ve lived back in Pompey with my partner since 2005 – we both were here in our formative years as students at the Polytechnic in the 1980s. So in that respect, I do consider Portsmouth my spiritual as well as physical home. I’m self-employed as a book editor but also work locally as a barista and baker.

I am very involved in my local community and campaigns like Community Speedwatch. Speeding is something I could rant on about endlessly so a few years ago I signed up for Community SpeedWatch with some of my neighbours and we started doing education exercises on our 20mph streets.

I also joined the Green Party in March 2015 and ended up standing as a Green Party local council candidate. The Greens did really well across the whole city and from talking to voters I got the impression that they were fed-up with the three big parties and wanted an alternative.

The Camber dock

Boats on the Camber

Tamara: You seems to be very connected with your community. Where did the Camber Dock come in? I have to admit I don’t know much about it, apart from The Bridge Street Tavern pub!

Anna: The Camber Dock is just around the corner from us. One of our first discoveries, when we moved back to Pompey, was this little gem tucked away behind the Cathedral — the Camber Dock became our daily post-work ‘constitutional’.

The Camber Dock is part of the Old Portsmouth Conservation Area. It really is a hidden treasure – I think we must be the only seafront city with a fishing fleet right in the heart of the urban environment. The Camber is where Portsmouth was born – the city grew out of this little enclave centuries ago.

The land the Camber sits on is owned by Portsmouth City Council and is used by the Port– it, therefore, belongs to all of us and is a valuable heritage asset. The public – locals, visitors etc – have always used this quayside road along with users such as boat owners and fishermen.

Many of us would be unhappy to see this land sold and possibly lost to the public.  

THE CAMPAIGN FOR RIGHT OF WAY BEGINS

Tamara: Gosh, I had assumed that as it was public land, the council would have to honour that. How did you get involved in campaigning to protect the area? What brought it to your attention?

Anna: Ken Bailey and I are the applicants who originally applied to the Council in 2014 to register the Right of Way. Ken was born and brought up in and around the Camber and still lives a stone’s throw from it – he remembers using it as a playground back in his youth.

It was only when we heard about the redevelopment plans at the Camber in 2014, to make way for the Ben Ainslie Racing building, that we got together with fellow residents because we were worried that the right of way we had all been using might be under threat. It wasn’t the building we were concerned about but the possibility that the route around the water’s edge might no longer be accessible to the public.  

Tamara: I have no idea how to challenge the Council on public access other than complaining on Facebook, which as we all know isn’t always super effective! How did you and Ken go about it?

Anna: Well, when it became clear that the Camber quaysides were in danger of being blocked to the public, a group of us teamed up and joined the national Open Spaces Society in order to learn more about rights of way and what we could do to protect this route in law under Section 53 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Like you, I knew very little about rights of way other than thinking perhaps this could be a way of legally protecting this established route that the public have used for decades. We applied to Portsmouth City Council to have the definitive map and register amended to add a Right of Way.

Tamara: Definitive map? Is this like Google Maps but more authoritative?

Anna: *chuckles politely at Tamara’s terrible joke* Not quite – Definitive Maps are a legal record of all Rights of Way in England. They are kept by Surveying Authorities who have a duty to keep them updated. Portsmouth City Council is a Surveying Authority.  

THE JOYS OF APPLYING TO THE COUNCIL

Tamara: Ahhh, I see. Thanks for explaining that. What did putting together the application involve? I can imagine it wasn’t simple and straightforward?

Anna: It has been a very long and drawn out process.  Along with other volunteer supporters, we spent an age going through historic records in the Portsmouth History Centre. We scoured the minutes of council committees going back to when records began.

The process we used essentially involved supplying witness statements demonstrating that the Camber route had enjoyed uninterrupted use by the public over a 20 year period. We provided witness statements to that effect, along with documentary and photographic evidence of historic use.  

Tamara: Anna, this sounds like SO much work! I feel overwhelmed just thinking about all the research and paperwork. With all this evidence behind you, why didn’t the Council approve the application?

THE FOUR-YEAR KNOCKBACK

Anna: Well, our first application in 2014 was refused, partly because the Council considered that a right of way around the quay edge would interfere with the duties of the Port, even though our evidence demonstrated that the public has always used this route in happy co-existence with port activities.

Tamara: I assume you took to Facebook in armchair rage at the futility of local politics?

Anna: Not exactly! Instead, we appealed to the Secretary of State. This was dismissed – not because of reasons to do with the port, but because of an amendment to government legislation. It is very convoluted, but to cut a long story short, we had no option but to make fresh applications in 2016 to the Council to record a different category of Right of Way – either a Restricted Byway or a Footpath.

Tamara: Please tell me this time the council agreed and they offered you the key to the city. (I have been watching a lot of ‘Parks and Recreation‘ lately.)

Anna: That would have been nice but no such luck. Again, the council refused.

Tamara: So far, it’s sounding like you were being knocked back at every turn. The Council rejected your application twice. How did you turn it around?

AN ORDER IS RAISED (THIS IS A GOOD THING)

Anna: Last year we appealed for the second time to the Secretary of State. This time, the Planning Inspector re-examined all the evidence and any fresh information we had unearthed and instructed Portsmouth City Council to raise an Order for a Restricted Byway. Ultimately, this will lead to getting the Right of Way registered on the definitive map.

View of the Camber

Tamara: Yes! Result! Anna and Ken against the Man!  Just to clarify…asking for a friend – what does it mean to raise an Order?

Anna: Basically, to amend the definitive map by adding an established Right of Way, the Surveying Authority (Portsmouth City Council) needs to publish an Order which anyone has the opportunity to comment on.

Tamara: Whew, what a process to get to this stage! You and Ken have my admiration as I don’t know many people with your tenacity and perseverance.  It must have been rather disheartening to do so much work and get numerous rejections. What kept you going?

*hums Tubthumping’s ‘Chumbawamba -I Get Knocked Down‘*

Anna: Really, it was the strength of feeling among the local community, the compelling evidence we found and the feeling that we had to see this through to some kind of just conclusion meant we felt compelled to Appeal. The only way we could feel that our case could be properly settled was by an independent Planning Inspector.

Tamara: Which is what has finally happened with the Planning Inspector instructing PCC to raise an Order for a Restricted Byway. I will definitely be commenting on this Order, in your favour obvs, when it is published. When is that going to be?

Anna: We hope this is now done without further delay and that this route finally becomes fully protected in law so that future generations can continue enjoying it.

Tamara: Thank you so much for speaking to me today. It has been a pleasure. Good luck with the rest of the campaign and please do come back and update us after the Order is published.

 

For more information or to get in contact with Anna Koor or Ken Bailey about the Camber Dock campaign,  email anna.koor@ntlworld.com.

You can also find out more about their appeal success here as reported in The Portsmouth News.

What are your thoughts on the Camber campaign? Have you ever gone up against the Council? Tell us in the comments below.

How to Recycle in Portsmouth 2: Recycling the Unrecyclable

In one of our very first posts back in August, we talked about what can be recycled in our lovely port city of Portsmouth, both at kerbside and at recycling banks scattered across the city.

 

To quickly recap, the council kerbside collection accepts metal cans, tins and aerosols, plastic bottles, paper and cardboard as well as small electrical equipment (WEEE). Easy peasy lemon squeezy as I (Tamara) don’t have to leave my house.

 

For those adventurous souls who like to venture into the great outdoors, there is a mix of council, charity, and supermarket recycling banks across the city that accept a variety of materials – mostly textiles, glass jars and bottles, and printer cartridges. But let’s not forget my piece de resistance – mixed plastics at Sainsbury’s.

 

Though I am pleased I can reduce my waste through recycling mixed plastics, it does require more effort than kerbside collection as I have to leave my house – you know how I feel about that!! I have rocked up to Sainsbury’s Farlington with a car full to the brim – and this is no exaggeration – with mixed plastics from my household, my next-door neighbour, and at least 5 other people from Portsmouth Green Party who don’t have cars. And then…prepare yourself for the horror….the recycling bank is overflowing and I have to take it all back home again. Bloody pain, I tell you! First world problems, I know – but incredibly frustrating nonetheless! So much so, I took it upon myself to contact Sainsbury’s to ask about their scheduled emptying of the banks and they notified me that they had ordered a second bin to the store to accommodate all the recyclable plastic. I’m rock ‘n roll like that!

 

 

Enough of my ranting. Let’s turn our green dial up and look at the other household bits and bobs that can also be recycled in Pompey at supermarket collection points and recycling banks. 

Household Batteries

batteries

Collection bins for domestic batteries can be found in most chain supermarkets – and not just the larger superstores but also, for example, your local Tesco Express. Check the supermarkets you frequent the most and I guarantee you will find a battery collection bin.  My nearest one is at my local Co-Op. You can also locate your nearest battery recycling online. A quick postcode search on Recycle More shows collection points at a variety of shops including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, One-Stop, Toys ‘R’ Us, Debenhams, Mothercare, and Maplin Electronics – but remember not all options are necessarily listed online or in one place.

 

Since 2010, a change in the law means that larger providers that sell batteries also need to provide in-store collection for used batteries. Tesco has battery-recycling points at all Express, Metro, Superstore, and Extra stores and also accepts batteries from mobile phones, laptops, hearing aids, watches, cameras, cordless power tools, electric toothbrushes, razors and hand-held vacuum cleaners. Sainsbury’s also offer a take back scheme for all portable waste batteries. Lots of other stores also have collection bins for batteries – just keep your eyes peeled.

 

It is so important to recycle batteries as if disposed of in landfill they can leach chemicals into the ground causing soil and water pollution. The majority of our waste in Pompey is incinerated and burning batteries can cause atmospheric pollution. A large proportion of batteries bought in the UK are not recycled and end up with household waste. Prevent these toxins from entering our environment and recycle your batteries!

 

You can also consider switching to rechargeable batteries which are a greener, more cost-effective option and can also be recycled at the end of their lifespan!

 

A final note, check the batteries of your smoke alarms and, unless it is a ten-year alarm, remember to change (and recycle!) the batteries once a year.

 

 

Plastic Carrier Bags

I have noticed collection points for recycling plastic carrier bags at some larger supermarkets such as the Commercial Road Sainsbury’s and the Palmerston Road Waitrose [and the Commercial Road and North Habour Tesco’s- Emma].

 

Some of these collection points also allow for other packaging films to be included such as plastic bread bags and the plastic wrappers from toilet roll and kitchen towel packs. I will write a follow-up post on this as I want to be sure of what exactly can be included before I send you off on a recycling pilgrimage!

 

Water Filters

 

Online search facilities have failed me on this one – however, luckily Emma, our Instagram Queen, spotted that the big Tescos at North Harbour has a recycling station for water filters cartridges. Other than Tescos, the only other option I am aware of is collection points for  BRITA branded water filters. These can be recycled locally at Boots, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Argos, where boxes are provided for the collection of used Brita cartridges.

 

Cartons

juice carton

Juice cartons, milk cartons, cartons for tomatoes and soup…I wish I could tell you these can be recycled locally. But sadly, they can’t. Don’t get me wrong, it is totally possible to recycle cartons and tetrapaks – Portsmouth City Council just doesn’t provide this facility.

Some of you have asked us if cartons can be recycled with kerbside recycling of paper and card or at Sainsbury’s mixed plastic banks. Good question but the answer is unfortunately no. This is because cartons are made of a mix of paper, plastic and aluminium foil and so would contaminate either the paper or plastics collection if included.

The nearest permanent carton recycling banks I have found through Recycle Now are in Bognor Regis and Chandlers Ford. Southampton City Council is currently trialling mixed plastics recycling banks which happily for our neighbouring city does include cartons (tetrapaks) as well as plastics like plastic meat and ready meal trays and plastic bottle tops. I am seriously jealous. This is my call to action – if Southampton can have cartons recycling, so can Pompey!!!

 

Energy Saving Light Bulbs

lightbulb

Let’s end on a bright note – haha, do you see what I did there? I am pleased to tell you that recycling light bulbs are pretty straightforward. Old style standard light bulbs cannot be recycled but energy saving light bulbs – which are a type of fluorescent lamp – can be recycled. Robert Dyas, Commercial Road Sainsbury’s and Curry’s PC World all have collection points/ recycling banks for energy saving light bulbs.

 

Have you spotted any recycling banks or collection points that I have missed? What other recycling facilities would you like to see in Portsmouth? Let us know in the comments below. And ’til next time, Happy Recycling!