Wednesday 25 March 2015

Toward a green manifesto for Stoke-on-Trent

What would a genuinely green election manifesto for Stoke-on-Trent looks like? I don't mean the half-baked ideological mish-mash of the economically illiterate Green Party. I mean proper old-school green measures, to do with wildlife, strengthening ecosystems and cleaning up local environments. Here are my suggestions:

* Litter and dumping:

A constant multi-year rolling programme of 'showcase' prosecutions of fly-tippers and dumpers, modeled after the successful and unrelenting anti-drugs Operation Nemesis. Use 'smart water' sprays, roadside stops, license enforcement, sting operations, cameras and audio surveillance, license plate ID, and all the other tools available.

Local councillors should be asked by voters to commit at least 10% of their Ward budget to community litter picks. And in the worst areas, so as not to replicate existing Council provision.

Free litter pick-up tools / bags / gloves, offered to those committing to organise regular litter picks.

A public campaign to target the idiots who feel compelled to hang sickening little plastic bags of dog poo on trees, bushes and fences.

Double the litter picking budget for the city, with new part-time 15-20 hour a week posts to make it attractive for older people.

* Vehicle pollution:

Stoke-on-Trent is one of the worst in the country for potentially deadly air pollution along roads. We need a formal scientific investigation into the reasons for this, which also lays out the practical measures we can take to reduce it. Possibly it has to do with our clogged roads, which causes so many vehicles to stop/start in heavy traffic.

Force another few thousand "old clunker" cars off the roads of the city.

Mandatory monthly spot 'health checks' on all buses entering Hanley bus station, in terms of how heavily the 'heavy black' type of diesel fumes roll out of their exhaust pipe as they climb the short hill up to the bus station.

Search for a suitable space in the city to which we could move all the city's car scrap yards / 'orrible car repair yards / old car tyre sellers.

* Environment restoration:

Restore and 'daylight' a highly polluted tributary of the Trent, the Fowlea Brook.

Officially decide which of the "fence and forget" brownfield wasteland in Stoke is never going to find a use, and properly restore them with basic tree planting, simple pond-making and by breaking up concrete surfaces so that nature can take over.

Consider a joint Stoke-on-Trent/Newcastle-under-Lyme project to expand Bradwell Wood beyond its current margins, by using field margins and nearby disused brownfield sites.

Link environment restoration to local schools in an ongoing way, via a small cross-schools cadre of 'young citizen scientists', doing real science.

* Wildlife:

We need a proper timetabled 'wildlife and green places strategy' such as the one Newcastle-under-Lyme has been enacting for the last decade. Something better than Stoke's vague and too-late 2014 'green space strategy'. In terms of wildlife this just has a paragraph of hot air in a larger report, without any deliverables or timetable.

A major urban wildlife survey, to find out what is in the city, where it is and what new 'corridors' might better connect it together.

An expansion of the successful programme to allow grass to grow tall on parts of playing fields, grass verges etc, which doesn't appear to have caused any added grass fire hazard.

Commit to a 20% increase in 20 key species in the city by 2020 — frog and newt friendly ponds, hedgehog protection, hawks, owls, bees, rare plants, etc. Consider crowd-funding or bringing in business sponsors on this on a per-species basis, to cover the cost of the project.

* Light pollution:

A survey of practical measures to further reduce light pollution in the city. It's probably better than it was (it's been reduced by 25% in the West Midlands since the early 1990s), but the night sky above Stoke is still a-glow on a Friday and Saturday night, just as if the old blast furnaces at Shelton Bar were still going.

* Noise pollution:

This seems to be ever-increasing. Explore measures for reducing it. For instance, require council tenants in flats to use wireless headphones to listen to music and TV, rather than big amplified sound systems.

* Allotments:

A commitment not to sell allotments or build on them for the next 20 years.

* Public footpaths:

A commitment not to permanently close off-road footpaths in the city, and to maintain the off road cycle-path network.

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