Green Party candidate Sian Berry has pledged a “green recovery that reduces inequality and builds a secure future” for London at the launch of her party’s manifesto at a housing estate in Lambeth today.
Gathered with her London Assembly colleague Caroline Russell and fellow Assembly candidates, Berry said the 130-page document, entitled Manifesto for a New Start, contains policies which show that preventing “climate chaos” goes “hand-in-hand with solving social and economic problems” and vowed that “Greens will work with Londoners to build a way out of all our crises together”.
The manifesto makes a promise to “share power with Londoners” a unifying thread of proposals for solving the “ecological emergency” before 2030, investing in green energy and jobs, cutting fuel poverty, reducing traffic while encouraging public transport and “active travel”, improving air quality and setting “clear targets” for stopping violence against women and bringing the capital’s murder rate down to zero.
It also underlines Green opposition to building the Silvertown Tunnel and highlights proposals for flattening the public transport fare zone structure to “bring down the cost of public transport in Outer London”, creating the post of Elders’ Champion at City Hall, and setting up a People’s Land Commission” which she has said would “empower boroughs, councillors, local people and businesses” shape planning in local areas “from the ground up”,
Berry claimed that opinion polls show “we’re already on track for a record Green result in May”, thanks to ideas she and her party have long been promoting. The most recent poll, published earlier this week, found Berry to be the third best-supported candidate with nine per cent of Londoners saying they intend to give her their first preference vote. She was well behind Labour’s Sadiq Khan on 47 per cent and Conservative Shaun Bailey on 26 per cent, but two points ahead of Liberal Democrat Luisa Porritt, who she has slightly trailed in the two previous polls conducted in 2021. Berry finished third in the 2016 mayoral election and fourth in 2008, when she ran for the mayoralty for the first time.
Berry described as “astounding” the number of times Sadiq Khan used the word “green” when launching his manifesto on Tuesday and argued it was an encouraging sign that he was moving on to her party’s preferred turf. The Greens have hopes of increasing their representation on the Assembly by way of the Londonwide List part of the elections for the 25-strong scrutiny body, which award seats by means of a form of proportional representation. The latest poll, which was conducted by YouGov, found 11 per cent of Londoners intend to vote Green on the List ballot paper, the same figure as for the Lib Dems.
The location for the launch was the Cressingham Gardens estate in Tulse Hill, which has been a case study of disputes over the redevelopment of council housing in recent years. Green councillors, including Berry’s national Green co-leader Jonathan Bartley, formed Labour-run Lambeth’s official opposition group after picking up seats in 2018. They have supported a campaign by Cressingham residents to prevent the demolition of the estate, whose construction was completed in the 1970s to a design by celebrated architect Ted Hollamby.
Berry has been a strong supporter of balloting estate residents about landlords’ regeneration plans, which Khan as Mayor initially resisted but then adopted as a condition for providing funds for such schemes if residents voted to back them. The majority of ballots held under Khan’s rules have produced votes in favour.
Asked by On London reporter Ben Willis if these outcomes had surprised her, Berry, who prefers refurbishment to demolition where possible, said the key issue is “the involvement of residents and getting the residents’ consent”. She said a “good, well-functioning ballot policy involves the landlords, the councils and the developers working with the residents and making a plan which the residents then support. You want to be able to turn down bad ones, but the point is to get better things in the first place.”
Berry’s impression having looked at the schemes coming forward is that “there seems to have been some improvement” with “fewer schemes where everything gets razed to the ground” resulting in not many original residents returning to new homes built on the same site. “We’re seeing more where they’ll build something first, on disused land or car parks,” enabling “phased schemes that are less disruptive and there’s less risk for residents,” she said. “That’s really the goal.” Berry also stressed the “huge impact” of demolition in producing carbon and construction waste.
The manifesto pledges to “gold plate the Green Belt”, which it describes as “under threat” and in need of “improvement and stronger protections” and revitalisation. Khan too has pledged to keep the Green Belt intact except in exceptional cases, despite some housing campaigners and academics urging reform of the decades-old controls.
Berry told On London she as Mayor would concentrate on making the most of “all those extra places where we’re not building homes” before considering seeking Green Belt reform, which she described as “the very last thing” she would want to do. In her view, moves to release Green Belt for building are often driven by big property developers who “want to get hold of green new build land around London because that’s their business model. It’s not what’s best for Londoners.”
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