Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Concreting over Green spaces could seriously damage your health...

I've called on Brighton and Hove City Council to do more to protect urban green spaces against development to improve the health of some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.

Academic studies have shown that there are wide variations in life expectancy across the city, with an average resident of Moulsecoomb, Bevendean or Queen’s Park being likely to live a significantly shorter life than an average resident of Rottingdean, Withdean or Patcham.

At the same time, academics at several universities have argued that preserving green spaces in more deprived areas – even small ones – can boost everyone’s health and reduce such differences.

This council has shown an alarming tendency to approve building and car parking schemes on green spaces and grass verges - but the experts say this is widening inequalities – and shortening lives.

As academics have said – this isn’t about ‘prettying up the neighbourhood’ – it’s about reducing health inequalities and, frankly, making life a little fairer (and longer!) for everyone.

I presented a motion (reproduced in full below) to the full council, which batted it down the the cabinet member responsible for planning and the environment (Geoffrey Theobald). He said no - for the mazing reason that there isn't enough cash in the council's coffers to consider the health impact of every development bid.

Am I alone in thinkin that's appaling? And that what it shows isn't that we should shy away from protecting thwe health of the most vulnerable - but that we need to ensure our planning officers are better resourced so they can do their job properly?

Sometimes it seems at though this Tory Council just doesn’t care about health, preserving our built environment, addressing inequality – anything at all in fact except keeping Council Tax bills down.

Here's the motion in full:



This Council notes:

The 2008 report of The Director of Public Health for Brighton and Hove, which reported that health inequality persists in the city, and that this manifests itself in wide variations in life expectancy, with an average resident of Moulsecoomb, Bevendean or Queen’s Park being likely to live a significantly shorter life than an average resident of Rottingdean, Withdean or Patcham.

The recently-published findings of researchers at Glasgow University and the University of St Andrews that green spaces near homes can reduce such variations in life expectancy, and the November 2008 comments in The Lancet journal of Dr Terry Hartig of The Institute for Housing and Urban Research at Uppsala University in Sweden that: ‘Green space does more than ‘pretty up’ the neighbourhood – it appears to have real effects on health inequality, or a kind that politicians and health authorities should take seriously’.

And therefore resolves

To take into account this impact on life expectancy and health generally whenever it considers removing, developing, or granting landlord’s consent for development on any green spaces under its control in the city, however small.

Proposed by: Cllr Ben Duncan

Seconded by: Cllr Keith Taylor

Kemptown children going hungry at school

Sometimes I just can’t believe that people believe New Labour are really a political party that represents the less well off in our society. I know it’s hardly news that whoever ratchets up most votes in an election (sort of) the Government always wins, and that Governments are never really interested in prioiritising the needs of the poorest, but today it has been reported that almost a million children across the country are living in poverty but not receiving free school meals.

According to The Guardian newspaper that’s about half the total number of children living in poverty across the country. Since, according to the Child Poverty Action Group, some 50 per cent of all children living in the Brighton Kemptown area fall into that category, it implies that one in every four children here are struggling to meet the costs of eating lunch at school. The mind boggles really.

The answer has got to lie in rolling out free school meals to everyone, something the Greens have been calling for years – and managed to persuade the council was a good idea for Brighton just last week.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Mark World Human Rights Day by helping to stop climate change

Today is the 60th anniversary of the signing of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I'm not sure either Eleanour Roosevelt, H G Wells or any of the other original drafters would make of the world now. Or, come to think of it, the US military-industrial logic that human rights can and should be defended with cluster hombs and a space age arms race.

But perhaps their biggest surprise would be that we are failing to take climate change seriously enough. Of course its real impact is going to be less about the wonderful new varieities of sparkling wine growing in Sussex - or even the inevitable flooding at Brighton Marina - and more about the devastation set to wreak havoc across much of the developed world. The price will be paid hardest by indigenous communities and minorities, who are least able to take preventative measures - and whose voices are so often denied. Now that's a human rights violation if ever there was one, and it shames us all.

There's loads more on this here - and a petition you can sign to add your voice on climate change to some of the most voiceless on the planet.