The Green Party made great strides in the May elections, with a collapse on the Labour vote, and Tory votes over Brexit they gained 42 seats, a gain leverages by the rise in independent Councillors and loss of overall control in many local authorities, with losses seemingly greater in authorities where anti-greenfield sentiment has been large.
From authorities from South Oxfordshire to Warrington and St Helens we have seen calls from Green Councillors to forestall or even ‘scrap’ local plans, even though in most cases this will lead to more speculative sprawl where there (by definition) will be no 5YHLS.
The script is clear:
1. Declare a climate change emergency
2. Claim that by definition greenfield housing consumes resources and will worsen the emergency
3. Scrap the local plan QED.
I see nothing wrong with being Green, and have been involved with Green activism for decades. However this approach is both naive and dangerous as:
A. There is nothing necessarily resource hogging about new housing, new houses allows its occupants to consume less and it can be designed as net-zero. Houses dont consume resources residents do, which on the whole are living in the are already. If they are forced out and forced to drive in for work you are making the climate emergency worse.
B. There is a massive shortage of greenfield sites in the area of greatest affordability pressure in the South East, however opponents simply wont read or believe the evidence on this as it contradicts there Greenfield=the holyness we must protect doctrine.
C. They promote wholly unfounded and disproved malthusian theories that building on farmland will create food shortages, even though this has happened nowhere in the world. The most productive agriculture in the world is glasshouses in or near rapidly urbanising areas .
D. If there is a shortage then build Green New Settlements linked by public transport. Something which has firmly part of the original Green party platform but now long forgotten.
How has this come about? How have local Green party members become so reactionary promoting policies design to destroy the welfare of lower earning constituents and worsen the climate emergency?
There have always been clashes between reactionary and progressive wings in Green Politics. In Italy and Germany we have seen the formation of eco-fascist parties. In the 90s we saw the split between Deep Green and Social Ecologists. But the main cause I think is the rise of middle class progressives who have grown up on protesting and campaigning for scrapping things. Many of these are now homeowners and /or live near areas which they place a price on in terms of local amenity. As has been observed in the states amongst many NIMBY groups
back in the 1960s and ’70s, NIMBYs were the people fighting highways and oil refineries in their backyards, not [development]. In battling upzoning, some NIMBYs are animated by the fear of a takeover of their neighborhoods by commercial interests.
Also the policies reflect a certain nativity that comes from the freedom to oppose not the responsibility of proposing sites and locations for development. There is always a unicorn paddock of somewhere else where development should go.
As we are in a climate change emergency this requires immeadiate action. Action now to meet our housing needs, reduce energy from the construction and transport sectors and find locations for Zero Carbon developments. As such the worst enemies of the climate change emergency movement are Green Councillors, with there call to delay and as they are searching for unicorn paddocks effectively put of for ever the key choices necessary to achieve zerio carbon development.
Overall at a national level they need to make a manifesto choice, are they to present themselves as the natural party of reactionary Nimbys (as UKIP did at the last election) or are they to push forward realistic proposals to solve the housing crisis and climate change emergency at the same time.