Local Policies for a Sustainable Maidstone

"Sustainability is the ability to provide for our needs today without damaging the ability of future generations to provide for themselves."

The Green Party puts both the environment and people at the heart of its politics.

We are committed to the true meaning of sustainability that is concerned not just with business but with the environment as a whole. Maidstone Green Party's Local Government manifesto is centred around three main themes: sustainability, social justice and the environment and all of our policies reflect the need for these three themes. The policies reflect the need to protect and nurture both our countryside and our towns.

Maidstone Green Party wants:

  • a well-run Council that works with and for local communities.
  • a robust local economy, based on local provision for local needs, and sustainable production methods - including organic farming.
  • an integrated transport system which enables people to get around by bus, train, bicycle or foot more cheaply, safely and conveniently.
  • good quality, affordable, energy-efficient housing, close to all essential community facilities.
  • clean streets, clean air, and green spaces that are full of wildlife.
  • properly funded, non-selective schools, enabling all children to receive a good education at their nearest school.
  • thriving local cultural centres, public services and health facilities - accessible to everyone, and protected from cuts and closures.
  • safe communities - where people of all ages, ethnic origins and abilities respect and support each other.

We will be working tirelessly in local government to ensure that Maidstone becomes a great place to live and work.

Representing You

Maidstone Green Party is committed to the councils representing the residents at all levels of decision making. Maidstone Green Party will:

  • ensure that public consultation will be at the centre of changes to policy, the public will be made aware of consultations and will be listened to
  • lobby parliament for proportional representation at all levels of government and propose that the Council Cabinet be proportionally represented
  • have regular Maidstone Cabinet 'Question Times' for the public
  • stay in regular contact with local residents, to tell them what we are doing and ask for feedback, through the 'Green View' newsletter, consultations, correspondence, public meetings, the media and our website
  • ensure that community representatives play a full part in developing and implementing local visions and strategies, and that this work is properly resourced by the Council and other agencies
  • push for local referenda to be held on controversial district-wide issues
  • involve local communities in deciding whether to set up Urban Parish Councils in Maidstone. Actively support Residents and Tenants Associations, and provide more community notice boards
  • all votes at council should be ‘recorded’, i.e. there should be a formal record of how each councillor voted
  • answers to questions from the public to council meetings should be minuted
  • Social media should be used to promote on-line discussions
  • Maidstone should have a town cryer
  • Gifts over £25 should be declared rather that the £100 allowance for undeclared gifts that councillors have allowed themselves.

Energy and Resources

There is now abundant evidence that the Earth’s climate is changing rapidly due to human emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane. The impacts of climate change are already being felt, even here in Maidstone with the flooding of winter 2013 exacerbated by climate change. Across the world too, the resulting flooding, severe storms, drought, famine, loss of freshwater, and spread of diseases are starting to cause human suffering and ecological havoc which will continue far into the future. Our generation must act now to reverse the trends and prevent the worst consequences. Maidstone Green Party will:

  • promote energy efficiency and reduction in use of energy as the key to future sustainability
  • ensure that new builds are as efficient as possible (see housing section)
  • maximise insulation in existing homes, identifying grants to insulate all homes for free to reduce fuel poverty
  • promote micro-generation working with agencies such as the Kent Energy centre, including 30% of energy needs are produced on site for new builds.
  • ensure that renewable energy, such as wind farms and hydro-electric power, is promoted and supported as widely as possible and investigate hydro electric generation at Allington.
  • promote the use of combined heat and power
  • continue its opposition to Nuclear power as a highly dangerous and expensive form of power generation that is not renewable and will not be in place in time to address climate change. Continue to oppose new coal power, e.g. Kingsnorth
  • provide assistance and support for planning applications involving home or commercial renewable energy generation
  • promote the use of other renewable resources such as sustainably managed wood stopping mineral extraction except where no sustainable alternative can be found
  • make Maidstone Borough Council "zero emission" by 2020
  • trial a 50% (alternate) switch of of street lights after midnight and end lighting on motorways between junctions.
  • work with shops and businesses to reduce lighting out of hours, eliminating all but security lighting; and to reduce over door / out door heating encouraging businesses not to keep their doors open in winter.
  • work with shops to encourage them to reduce heating in the winter and cooling in the summer of their interiors. Currently many shops are stifling and unpleasant to be in.
  • quarterly carbon and ecological footprints of both council and the borough to be published on MBC website
  • 6% per annum target reduction in both ecological and carbon footprints of the borough
  • Commission a study on the future viability of Yalding

Local Economy & Work

A strong, vibrant economy is vital to ensuring the employment and wellbeing of all of us. Maidstone lacks an economic identity, an industry that people associate with the town (other than shopping). With the local TV studio and its long history of creative arts, we want to see Maidstone at the forefront of the creative and digital arts industries.

We are also the Party of small businesses and cooperatives. We want to keep the economy as close to local people as possible which keeps money circulating within the community.

Maidstone Green Party will:

  • Promote Maidstone as a centre of excellence for creative and digital arts, encouraging employers to invest here and encouraging the University of Creative Arts to expand its currently shrinking involvement in the town.
  • ensure at least a minimum living wage of £7.45 per hour for council employees and press other employees in Maidstone to do the same - we will name and shame employees who pay less than this
  • introduce the "Maidstone Pound", a currency that can only be earned and spent in Maidstone as other places such as Bristol have done.
  • promote creation of a local rewards card service for local people and businesses
  • not support planning permission for large chain-stores or shopping malls which will result in the closure of local shops and create a 'clone town'. We will oppose large out of town shopping developments.
  • oppose Maidstone as a centre for fossil fuel extraction such as fracking
  • seek to promote and expand local producers’ street markets, co-operatives, skills workshops, and directories of local businesses
  • ensure MBC procures from local companies where ever possible and set targets for increasing the level of procurement from them
  • employ a Business Support Officer to promote new small, local initiatives and provide expertise to existing ones.
  • employ a Community Economic Development Officer to support and develop initiatives such as credit unions, Exchange Trading Schemes (LETS), and skill and tool shares

Waste Management

The use of land fill to dispose of waste is unacceptable in a sustainable society. The concept of "reduce, re-use, recycle" has to be at the forefront of waste management. Waste reduction saves everyone money. Maidstone Green Party will:

  • lobby government to push for greater reduction in packaging and to increase the mandatory recycled percentage of packaging.
  • work with businesses to reduce, reuse and recycle waste
  • lobby for Local Authority performance indicators on waste reduction to include trade waste as well as domestic waste, and make it easier for businesses to recycle their waste.
  • greatly exceed national targets for waste reduction and recycling
  • set up central storage facilities for furniture and office equipment to be refurbished and passed on to other local businesses and organisations
  • extend the doorstep recycling schemes to include garden waste, paper, cardboard, cans and metals, glass, plastics, tetra packs and textiles
  • ensure that waste for composting is collected in biodegradable sacks provided to homes for free
  • promote on street recycling bins
  • promote community and home-composting schemes, and use the compost on local gardens, parks, allotments and farms.
  • promote anaerobic digestors for garden and kitchen waste collected from homes and businesses each week to maximise energy recovery and minimise greenhouse gas emisions
  • require the Council and other large institutions to draw up and implement strategies for reducing waste and energy, and buying more recycled goods
  • begin drawing up a comprehensive plan with other local authorities and KCC for the period beyond the lifetime of the Allington incinerator

Transport

Maidstone is badly congested and over reliant on cars, causing frustration for those wanting to travel round town by car, and isolation for many who don't have a car. Congestion, the cost of fuel, pollution and, of course carbon emissions, are all good reasons to reduce our reliance on cars and to ensure that people can travel by walking, cycling and public transport. Maidstone Green Party will:

  • prioritise cycling, walking and public transport
  • address congestion by reducing reliance on cars and lorries
  • oppose the Southern Maidstone Access Road and the Leeds Langley Bypass
  • work with KCC to prevent ‘rat run’ traffic in rural and residential areas
  • push for the A20 cycle lanes to be completed properly and work with cycling groups to create more cycle lanes.
  • work with agencies to ensure that cycle lanes are designed for cyclists, not drivers
  • ensure that pavements are usuable by pedestrians with a high priority on maintenance
  • ensure that all residential areas have a 20mph speed limit (with or without speed humps), a maximum 50mph speed limit in non-urban areas and lobby for a 55mph speed limit on motorways
  • ensure that traffic calming measures are in place where ever possible - utilise paved home-zones in residential areas
  • work with public transport providers on “smart tickets” allowing changes in journey between transport types
  • work with public transport providers to provide high quality bus / rail interchange at Maidstone East, served by more bus routes
  • work with bus and train companies to increase services especially in rural areas
  • work with bus companies to secure zero emission buses in the borough
  • ensure that cycle storage is available at railway stations
  • promote home working through technology such as broadband
  • promote local, community shops and markets
  • encourage community owned vehicle schemes

Housing & Homelessness

The housing market has been wrecked by the sale of social housing and a reliance on market forces to determine the supply of the housing stock. The escalating house building programme is providing houses that are out of financial reach of first time buyers. Houses also account for 30% of all CO2 emissions. Maidstone Green Party will:

  • ensure that brownfield sites will be used for development rather than greenfield sites
  • ensure that the changing needs of the population are met rather than building homes simply to promote economic growth
  • call for all new housing developments to be 80% affordable houses or social housing
  • call for all new houses to be built to the "Excellent" Eco-Homes Standard or higher, include rainwater harvesting where possible, and generate 30% of their own power on site
  • promote higher density car free housing developments supportedby excellent public transport
  • ensure that larger developments include a live/work area
  • ensure that existing empty housing stock is refurbished to high energy efficiency standards and re-used, this would be encouraged by the creation of Empty Homes Officers
  • support an "Estate Stewards" scheme, where stewards look after repairs and gardens in Council housing estates
  • review tenant participation and satisfaction in consultation with Maidstone Housing Trust
  • support a well-staffed Housing Benefits department and lobby the Government to simplify the benefits system, so that claims can be processed much more quickly.
  • support charities for homeless people, and ensure that the Council works closely with the voluntary sector to rehouse people in need
  • support Landlords' Forums to drive up standards in the rented housing sector
  • encourage more diverse tenures such as housing co-operatives and community co-housing, and more innovative design such as self-build schemes, car-free housing and zero-energy buildings

Countryside and Green Spaces Management

Our countryside is vital for our survival and must be managed sustainably and treated with respect. Maidstone Green Party opposes intensive farming methods and genetic modification, calling instead for organic and environmental stewardship of the countryside. Green spaces within our towns and villages should be treated in a similar way. Maidstone Green Party will:

  • have planning policies that protect all rivers, wetlands and their vicinities from any negative developments. Work with the Environment Agency to enhance watercourse in the council’s ownership and promote restoration to landowners where appropriate.
  • increase tree planting on upland slopes to improve drainage and reduce flooding
  • ensure that planning proposals protect existing wildlife habitats and include public open space
  • enhance the biodiversity at all public open spaces, where this would not conflict with its recreational use, and ensure they are appropriately managed in the future
  • reduce the Council’s use of herbicides and pesticides in public parks, open spaces, tennis courts, streets, etc. Organic weed control methods should be adopted wherever possible
  • promote the benefits of organic, locally produced food, and local distribution networks or box schemes
  • lobby the Government and EC to improve incentives for producers to switch to free range and organic food production, and remove incentives for large scale monoculture and factory farming, which have devastating effects on biodiversity, animal welfare, soils and water quality
  • encourage schools and other institutions to use organic, GM-free and Fairtrade ingredients and to provide more vegetarian and vegan options
  • encourage local shops and supermarkets to sell a greater proportion of food that has been produced locally, organically and ethically
  • persuade the Council to work with Allotments Associations to develop an Allotments Strategy – to protect existing sites, provide new sites in new large development, ensure that they are well maintained, promoted, and have areas set aside for organic production
  • work with charities, such as the Kent Wildlife Trust and Woodland Trust to plant new woods and establish new wildlife habitats around the borough with public access
  • increase the number of trees per hectare across the borough
  • plant roadside verges and roundabouts with wildflowers to prove natural habitats
  • Promote wildlife areas and parks such as Mote Park, Vinters Valley reserve, Fant Wildlife area and Boxley Warren.

Health & Social Care

Health is not just about hospitals and social care is not just about social services. Although the NHS is outside of the control on the local council, the council can make improvements in health. Maidstone Greens will:

  • oppose the downgrading of services at Maidstone Hospital and the shifting of services to Pembury
  • recognize that public health relies on good housing, low pollution, low social exclusion rates and low poverty
  • work more closely with the Clinical Commissioning Group and County Council to improve health and local health care
  • work with local employers and trade unions to reduce stress in the workplace – e.g. by giving employees the option of flexible working hours
  • demand action on poor air quality – e.g. close roads when safe levels of pollutants such as benzene, nitrous oxides and particulates are exceeded.
  • oppose any plans to fluoridate our drinking water supply. There are concerns over the safety of fluoride, and people should have the right to choose not to consume it
  • ensure that the longer term care needs are met within the overall planning of new developments
  • campaign for better services for elderly people, people with disabilities or mental health problems, and their carers
  • support Citizens' Advocacy, Citizens' Advice Bureau and other organisations that provide support to people in need (particularly those moving from institutional care)

Education

Education is a lifelong process, and we learn in many different ways. Teaching and learning should be enjoyable, and not hampered by stress, bureaucracy, league tables and narrow curricula. Our education system should encourage creativity, curiosity and active citizenship, as well as academic and vocational skills. Although education is not under control of the borough council, Maidstone Greens would lobby KCC to:

  • provide free school meals from locally grown and cooked food and oppose all fast food sales in schools
  • provide cookery lessons for all pupils to ensure pupils know how to cook basic meals from fresh local produce, reducing reliance on expensive ready-made meals from supermarkets
  • encourage all learning centres to actively promote sustainability through teaching and involving pupils/students in developing ways of reducing energy use, waste, car trips and food miles
  • oppose large class sizes and support increased funding of education
  • oppose the current selective school system
  • oppose tuition fees and lobby for the restoration of means-tested grants for students - higher education should be paid for by higher taxes for high-earners, not by forcing students into massive debt
  • press for reform of the assessment and competitive league-tabling system to avoid excessive testing, bureaucracy and intolerable workloads on teachers
  • oppose academy schools and bring existing ones back into state sector
  • oppose faith schools with aim to bring existing ones into line with non-faith school admission criteria
  • promote life skills based learning

Community Safety and Human Rights

Many of the problems of crime, drug abuse and anti-social behaviour are related to poverty and social exclusion. The solution can never simply be more police or more CCTV cameras; it has to involve a fundamental rebuilding of values and community relations. We need to provide more opportunities for work, play, learning and socialising, and to empower individuals and communities to take control of their lives. Maidstone Greens will:

  • ensure licensing times respect local people
  • promote night bus schemes for late night revelers
  • promote self-policing in town by encouraging more people to live there (e.g. over shops) and creating lively, well-lit pedestrian areas. The town centre should not be areas where people are scared to go at night
  • develop Neighbourhood Watch schemes into broader community forums with police support. These can often help to prevent crime and vandalism by identifying local problems and potential solutions
  • encourage a greater emphasis on restorative justice - which focuses on repairing the harm to the victim rather than simply punishing the offender - and community rehabilitation of offenders, to reduce re-offending rates
  • expand facilities for teenagers throughout the borough, always in consultation with young people themselves
  • strengthen support for the rehabilitation of drug abusers and increase education on drugs and alcohol in schools, colleges and youth groups
  • use planning powers to encourage well-balanced communities and to make the built environment safer for everybody
  • conflict prevention e.g. through twinning with communities in developing countries and providing support e.g. through 2-way short-term secondments of local government staff to/from the twinned town to transfer skills and knowledge and build capacity
  • ensuring protection, welfare and respect for asylum seekers
  • work with KCC seek to provide a suitable site for travellers, in consultation with travellers and the settled community
  • ensure that the Council implements its Race Equality Scheme and other equality policies, and adopts an anti-discrimination charter

Culture, Leisure and Tourism

Opportunities for entertainment, play, creativity and social interaction are vital for the well-being of local communities. Maidstone has many good venues, projects and festivals, but more is needed for young people. Maidstone Greens will:

  • provide community centres in all areas that do not currently have them - for meetings, skills workshops, games and entertainment, equipment hire, child care, access to the internet and information about local services
  • ensure that green spaces, sports pitches, tennis courts, skate parks, children's play areas, etc., are protected in development plans
  • fight to protect local cultural centres (museums, theatres, cinemas, libraries and other venues) from threats of closure or cuts to services
  • oppose the selling off of the Carriage Museum, or any other historic building in the Council’s ownership, and that it is promoted as an important tourist attraction
  • ensure the All Saint’s conservation area is restored
  • improve indoor recreational facilities in all areas, especially for teenagers during evenings, weekends and school holidays. Work with KCC to give incentives to schools and colleges to open up their facilities for community use.
  • encourage a more diverse nightlife in local towns (alternatives to pubs and clubs), e.g. non-smoking or non-alcoholic venues, late-night cafés, and open air events