Category: Blog

One of the best things about Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, is her independence from party whips. You can always be sure that she will vote in Parliament for her constituency, for her conscience, and for her Green principles of equality and ecology. When the anti-Green attack unit set-up by Labour claim that a vote for the Green Party will land you with a Conservative government, it makes me wonder – so what will a vote for Labour get you? In Lewisham West & Penge, it has delivered us Jim Dowd. He seems like a decent person, but according to the Public Whip web site he has voted loyally for his party line in 99% of the votes. So you can be fairly sure that a vote for Jim Dowd is a vote for whatever programme Ed Miliband leads the party on. Caroline, pictured below, is a different story, and…

The Chancellor has announced a cut in stamp duty for most people in yesterday’s autumn statement, claiming it will help first-time buyers. Labour’s shadow chancellor quickly supported him, adding that it will “help people on middle and low incomes who are moving homes”. Given the extremely high prices in London, you sounds like great news! But it could actually make things worse. Let me explain with an example from Anerley. Imagine you were a rich enough first-time buyer to go for the average two bed flat in SE20, which according to Nestoria costs £329,000! You’ll now have to pay just over £3,000 less in stamp duty to buy it, which will be welcome news. But this means you, and every other buyer, now has £3,000 more to bid on the price for the home. The Government’s own economists – the Office for Budget Responsibility – say this will push up house prices. Using Shelter’s…

Campaign groups like Generation Rent have been doing a great job of pushing renters up the political agenda. They’re in the Independent today with a story showing that renters will outnumber homeowners in 107 Parliamentary constituencies by 2021. But political parties will take figures like those with a pinch of salt. Private renters, in particular, are filtered out of the democratic process and so have much less clout than their sheer numbers might suggest. The first filter is that almost half of private renters aren’t even registered to vote. According to the 2012-2013 English Housing Survey, only 56% of private renting households are registered, compared to 78% of social renters and 87% of homeowners. This obviously means that political parties will be less interested in chasing their votes. The second filter is that they won’t then be canvassed on the doorstep. Parties will use the electoral register for this, because it makes…

I’m leading a Transition Town project to bring Legible London to Crystal Palace. You’ll have noticed these signs around central London, conspicuously absent across most of the rest of the capital: At the local Transition Town AGM, somebody suggested we should try to bring these to Crystal Palace. But why wait on TfL? Using OpenStreetMap and TileMill, we can try to produce our own similar map style and stick them up ourselves! Here is my prototype for the wide area map: You’ll notice dark blue lines along the edges of roads and though the park. Those are pavements and footpaths, and indicate where you can walk. Here’s a prototype for the more detailed map of the local area, with local points of interest, pedestrian crossings and bus stops: You’ll notice that some roads don’t show any pavements. Eagle-eyed locals may also spot missing cut-throughs and wonder about missing points of…

Complaining is usually a frustrating experience. We hope it will be cathartic, perhaps even effective. The BBC is among those grand institutions that, when they respond at all, make clear that your views are wrong, irrelevant, and that you are so infinitesimally small a concern that one should be grateful for any response. When the BBC first responded to my complaint about their coverage of the European Election results on the 25th May, they managed to ignore my every point. Going by responses to previous complaints, I wasn’t entirely surprised. I wrote about their ignorance of the politics of the European Parliament, their focus on Westminster (yet again) despite the large public interest in recent European matters such as the ban on fishing discards (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s fish fight). I wrote about their scant coverage of the Green Party, not interviewing a single spokesperson for the party until 2.30am, having constantly…

In April 2012 I joined 10,000 soggy cyclists in the rain to call for a big change to our streets, so whoever won the imminent Mayoral elections would ensure our streets would be safe and pleasant for cycling. In response to months of fantastic campaigning, and not wanting all the cycling votes going to the Green Party, Boris Johnson duly signed up, telling cyclists: “I am fully committed to meeting the three key tests of LCC’s ‘Love London, Go Dutch’ campaign”. Eight months later, TfL began to consult on the plans for Cycle Superhighway 5, from New Cross Gate to Victoria via Peckham, Camberwell and Oval. Here was a golden opportunity for Boris to “make sure all planned developments on are completed to Go Dutch standards, especially junctions”, one of those three key tests he signed up to. Months of consultation and roadworks later, this is what we got: Does…

One of my top priorities for the Crystal Palace and Anerley area would have to be traffic reduction. Every day on my way home from work, walking back from the station or cycling down the hill, this is what I see: The crawling queues are similar around the Triangle and down the other main roads in the area. This is bad news, if only because it’s annoying to be stuck in traffic! Plus, it snarls up buses and makes them less reliable. Here is another pair of pictures, this time showing air pollution in the area. The map on the left shows the quantity of deadly nitrogen dioxide emitted by vehicles each day, and in case you’re wondering the dark blue along Crystal Palace Parade is about the same as the Strand in central London, while the pollution down Anerley Hill is similar to that on the roads leading north…

I’m a firm believer in “densification” – that we can make our towns and cities more dense. This can help us to avoid building on other species’ habitats, and to support more sustainable transport habits like public transport and cycling. I’ve written two blog posts looking at the scope for densifying outer London. But yesterday, Eric Pickles re-announced his own densification programme, and I’m dead-set against it. The Communities Secretary wants to give Boris Johnson £150m to accelerate the demolition of council estates in London, building more dense housing on the land. The official statement describes the estates as “London’s most deprived”; the Evening Standard helpfully spelled out what they meant by that, describing “run down” and “notorious” areas. It’s one of those easy stereotypes to trot out that actually have very little basis in fact – UKIP supporters are wealthy Tories, housing benefit claimants are unemployed scroungers, and council…

I’m supporting the Space4Cycling campaign in the Crystal Palace ward, where I’m standing for the Green Party. I often cycle up and down Anerley Hill on the way to work. It’s a steep bit of road, difficult for those of us who aren’t zipping up to Cadence every weekend on expensive road bikes. Cycling uphill without wavering a little is hard work, so providing some protected space at the expense of a little car parking makes perfect sense. Of course some people who currently park their cars there will lose out. But I want to see streets in Crystal Palace, London, the whole of the UK transformed to serve the needs of people on foot, bike and public transport, and this can only happen at the expense of cars because we have limited road space. The alternative is to leave almost 20,000 vehicles a day trundling along Anerley Hill, creating…

Following yesterday’s post on making London more dense, Tim Lund suggested I do a slightly more sophisticated analysis. Planners in London use a metric called the Public Transport Accessibility Level, or ‘PTAL’, which does pretty much what you’d expect. Rules for things like car parking levels and the density of housing you should build are based on these, because obviously if you’re in central London you have no need for a car and you can justify quite tall blocks of flats, but in low rise suburbia with only sporadic bus services it’s accepted that more car parking and less dense housing is appropriate. So if you were to follow these rules, how much more housing could you build in London? First, I took the data for PTAL levels (the map on the left). Then I took my wards, sliced up to remove any areas that cannot be built on, cut…