Saturday, 15 August 2020

Standing for the nomination as Green Party Candidate for West Yorkshire Mayor

 Councillor Andrew Cooper - Candidate statement

I am a Kirklees Green Party Councillor and have been for the last 21 years. I have been elected and re-elected 6 times. During that time I have gained a wealth of experience as a Cabinet Member, Scrutiny Panel Chair and as a Leader of the Green Party Group. We have held balance of power and so have managed to implement a number of Green Party policies including the UK’s first universally free insulation scheme and what is effectively a ban on Fracking in our Local Plan.

I have lead on the Green Party response to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Devolution Consultation writing, collating and integrating responses from members. The response highlighted the lack of focus on climate change, the lack of accountability of the proposed Elected Mayor and the threat to local democracy posed by the Mayoral Combined Authority. The full response can be viewed here.

In my Campaign to be the first Green Mayor of West Yorkshire I will focus on Jobs, Homes and Climate Change

Green Jobs

Over 5 years I will seek to generate and influence the creation of 100,000 new Green jobs. In line with the landmark Campaign against Climate Change report. These jobs will be in renewable energy, sustainable construction, retrofit of buildings, establishing new public transport and active travel networks and through promoting rich natural environments in and around our communities.

Green Homes

I will campaign hard to have the ‘right to buy’ Council Housing suspended in West Yorkshire to protect valuable social housing and to help the business case for investment in more Council housing. This will also act as a check on house prices at the lower end on the market.

I will establish a Green Building Fund that all Local Authorities in West Yorkshire can access to support the development of homes and other buildings to the Passivhaus standard. This will reduce carbon emissions, energy bills and fuel poverty.

I will establish a new retrofit fund to improve the energy performance of existing homes, targeting those on the lowest incomes and seeking to draw in matched funding from energy companies and central government.

Tackling Climate Change

One of my first jobs in office would be to boost the ambition of our plan to deliver a Zero Carbon Economy. This would aim to bring the target date for a Zero Carbon Economy forward from 2038 to 2030 in line with the recommendations of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

I will cease all new road building projects and any project that supports the expansion of Leeds/Bradford Airport.

I will work with green industries on a plan to boost our renewable energy generation capacity across all appropriate technologies and seeking to support community owned and managed renewable energy projects.

A Green Team for West Yorkshire

If elected as Green Party nominee for West Yorkshire Mayor I will invite the second placed Candidate to be the named Deputy mayoral candidate. Normally Labour Mayors simply appoint them after and election.

Friday, 14 August 2020

The Housing and Planning Bill we should have had

 The Conservative Government’s proposals in the Business and Planning Bill have been justly criticised for being far too developer friendly to the detriment of the local environment, climate change, housing standards and local democracy. It panders to the interests of the big builders and not those of millions of people who need low cost, secure housing with low living costs.

 So what would an alternative look like that addressed these issues and made things better rather than worse? Here’s some thoughts.

A National Planning Policy Planning Framework that acknowledges the Climate Emergency

A principal issue is that the National Planning Policy Framework NPPF which all Local Plans have to comply with gives a greater emphasis on development above environmental concerns. Since the NPPF came into law we have had Councils and Parliament declaring a climate emergency in response to the warning from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that we have to get our emissions under control by 2030. So the NPPF needs revising swiftly to reflect the urgency of the climate emergency and allow Local Councils to revise their Local Plans accordingly. One immediate effect might be to stop the allocation of land for development on flood plains and in absence of sufficiently robust energy efficiency standards the ability to set higher ones locally.

Building Council Housing a new national priority and an end to the 'Right to Buy'

Another priority needs to be a renaissance in social housing and council housing in particular. Property ownership is neither a viable nor desirable option for millions. The diminishing stock of council houses has meant that it has become poverty housing for those in the direst of circumstances. We have to end the ‘Right to Buy’ for tenants of council homes. The implicit assumption of the policy is that owner occupation is somehow preferable to council housing. We need to recognise that social housing is a social good with low rent, security of tenure and upkeep the responsibility of the landlord. If supply of council housing were plentiful than it would be a check on rising house prices and a viable alternative for people looking for a home. To make investment in new council housing stack up the Right to Buy with the generous discounts on the value should cease immediately. This would bolster the business case for council housing by filling the hole in the revenue bucket, preventing the loss of housing stock and giving councils the confidence to build at scale.

Zero Carbon Homes now!

In the Business and Planning Bill the Conservatives announced that we would be building Zero Carbon homes in the UK by 2050. Utterly scandalous. We can build Zero Carbon housing now and we would have done if, the then Chancellor, George Osborne hadn’t cancelled the policy back in 2015.

A reasonable timeframe would be 3 years to get the housing industry to be geared up to deliver low emission passivhaus standard housing. Passivhaus is a quality assured method of building to a standard that delivers very low energy demand buildings making homes more affordable and healthier to live in.

Protect the green belt and end land banking

Councils are encouraged by Government to reconsider the designation of green belt land to boost land for potential development. Given excessive demands from Government to boost the supply of land for development some Councils have diminished the amount of land with greenbelt status. Threatening the green belt is completely unnecessary as developers are sitting on planning permissions for a million homes. In fact we should tax developers punitively for not developing on land that they have been granted permission to develop.

Abolish Private Sector Building Control

Perversely there is a competitive market in companies that developers can use to determine whether or not their buildings conform with Building Regulations. One thing we do know is that in reality many homes and other buildings use far more energy than we would expect if they had been built in accordance with Building Regulations. The suspicion is that developers have cut corners, built sub-standard housing and paid a private Building Control company to sign off their developments. Hence the performance gap. It is bizarre that private companies can pay another private company to decide whether or not they have complied with the law. It must stop and Building Control should be purely a public sector function resting with Local Authorities.

Well that's what you could have had.