Midlothian Greens select parent campaigner for Penicuik by-election
Helen Armstrong is selected by Midlothian Green Party members to contest the Penicuik by-election for the Scottish Green Party on the 22nd March.
Helen has lived in Penicuik with her family for more than eleven years, and currently chairs the Penicuik High School Parents’ Association. She is a consultant ecologist who has campaigned to protect primary school playing fields; who is passionate about protecting Midlothian’s green spaces, and who wants to see strong communities being built, not just mass housing.
“I love Penicuik’s strong sense of community, the friendliness of the people and the huge range of activities that take place, largely run by committed volunteers. The voluntary groups and Council-run facilities which make Penicuik a special place to live need strong support from Midlothian Council and if elected I will fight hard to protect them.
“I joined the Green Party because I believe we are the only party that understands the connections between economic, environmental, community and personal health and wellbeing. Our vision for Penicuik is one where local businesses thrive and provide fulfilling jobs in a clean, green environment and where schools, healthcare and housing really meet the needs of local people.
“The voting system for Council elections means that there is no such thing as a wasted vote and I urge Penicuik voters to give their number 1 vote to Midlothian Greens to call for a different, and a better, way forward for Midlothian.”
“We do need far more creative use of the powers we do have, but far from undermining the case for independence, a bold approach to the day job will demonstrate how confining those limits are, and will only strengthen the case for breaking beyond them”
THE phoney war that is the annual GERS debate has broken out again. It’s all too predictable, but with Scotland’s public finances under scrutiny I make no apology for once again challenging the dominant assumptions about oil and gas. In 2014 the Green Yes campaign published figures showing that the multinationals operating in the North Sea were receiving about £1 billion worth of tax breaks from the UK Government every year – despite making huge profits.
“The comments were made in response to the call by the GMB Union for the UK Government to scrap the national energy regulator Ofgem after disappointment in what the GMB called “ineffectual reforms”.
What now for the greenbelt and for greenbelt communities? How will Midlothian be effected by this ongoing expansion of housing and associated infrastructure in Edinburgh and this continuing nibbling away of the greenbelt?
Will the thousands of empty homes and commercial premises across the city ever be developed? Will the existing acres of brownfield sites and land banked by developers ever be brought into sustainable use? When will we actually start building sustainable livable homes that are affordable, accessible and connected to good quality local services, transport and greenspace?
What is the value of all LDPs and their housing targets, including Midlothian’s post-Brexit? There’s a question! Perhaps a time fro a rapid reassessment?
At present, I’m not sure that there’s a satisfactory answer to any of these questions? Or indeed any sign that the voice or concerns of local communities on either side of the greenbelt will be heard any time soon by either local or central government.
Well if independence is put to the test again, nobody will be able to claim that the status quo is even an option; to remain in the UK would be to leap together into an uncertain future outside the family of European nations.
I was immensely reassured this week to see thousands of people gather together outside Holyrood – and I know this has been happening elsewhere too – to say boldly that we are not resigned to that fate. Europe is part of our history, our culture and our identity. We voted to stay, and that’s what we’re going to do.
Ian Baxter, Midlothian Green Councillor writes about his concerns that a hotel has been given planning approval in the Pentland Hills Special Landscape Area.
At Tuesday’s Planning committee meeting of Midlothian Council, the contentious item was supposed to be the proposal for two small wind turbines at Springfield Farm near Leadburn (voted down, in the main by SNP councillors, despite my pleas for Midlothian to step up to the plate on our – and the SNP government’s – carbon reduction targets).
However, it was an application for a hotel in the Pentland Hills Regional Park which troubled me more. Within the boundary of Hillend Country Park and in an area designated as an Area of Great Landscape Value, the site is also in the Pentland Hills Special Landscape Area in the proposed MLDP, “assessed as being of high value in terms of scenic quality, enjoyment and naturalness”. The site includes a large number of mature trees and shrubs.
Midlothian Greens have condemned the Proposed Midlothian Local Development Plan (MLDP) as totally lacking in sustainability, and risking turning Midlothian into a suburb of Edinburgh.
The MLDP was approved by councillors on 16th December 2014 and is described by Midlothian Council as representing the council’s settled view as to what the final adopted content of the plan should be. The statutory period for representation/expression of opinion runs from 14th May to 26th June and comments can be submitted on the Council’s web site during that period.
At the meeting on 16th December, Midlothian’s Green councillor Ian Baxter voted against approval on the basis that it did not offer a sustainable future. The response now published and submitted by Midlothian Green Party to the consultation spells out in detail why we believe this to be the case.
Our submission can be downloaded from our Publications page, or here
Co-convener of Midlothian Greens, Malcolm Spaven said, “The council’s proposals run the risk of turning Midlothian into little more than an extension of suburban Edinburgh, with more roads, more cars and more commuting. Our vision is to work with the council and local communities to develop a sustainable Midlothian with comprehensive transport solutions linking cohesive communities while protecting our green spaces and farm land and creating jobs that will last.”
Proposals to build a new A701 ‘Relief’ road and double the size of Straiton Retail Park led Green councillor Ian Baxter to move rejection of the proposed plan when it was brought before Midlothian Council on Tuesday 16th December. As his motion could not find a seconder, the plan was approved with minor amendments.
Councillor Baxter also challenged the decision to hold the discussion and decision in private, although this was overruled due to ‘commercial confidentiality’.
At the council meeting, Cllr Baxter said,
“It’s clear from recent Biodiversity and Climate Change reports that the council has neither the tools nor the inclination to objectively consider sustainability in the context of economic development. This worrying situation is confirmed by SEPA in a letter to the council dated 29 August 2013 where it stated that it would have welcomed a wider selection of questions on climate change than those set out and it felt that discussion on climate change issues had not been promoted.
“There are many reports published worldwide which clearly show that building more roads encourages more traffic, so what makes us believe that building the A701 Relief Road will be any different? How will this increase help us achieve the stated Strategic Aim of “responding robustly to the challenges of mitigating climate change”? Even the Environmental Report states “The potential A701 realignment project could impact on CO2 emissions and car travel, but the scale of the impact is uncertain.
“The plan’s Environmental Objectives include protecting and enhancing the countryside, ensuring careful integration of new roadbuilding into the landscape, seeking the reuse of brownfield land over greenfield, especially the Green Belt, and most importantly, directing new development to locations which minimise the need to travel, particularly by private car.
“How will the plan’s Social Objective of securing active and sustainable travel options for existing communities and growth areas be fulfilled by encouraging more private transport, while at the same time encouraging more cross-Midlothian travel to a place whose only adequate existing and planned links will be from Penicuik or Edinburgh? Public transport links from other parts of Midlothian to Straiton are already woeful and will only deteriorate with the additional traffic this development will attract. The proposal also seems blind to what the plan says about Sustainable Place-making.
“We are told that the road needs the development to pay for it, and that the development needs the road. What is needed is a clear plan for modal shift to more sustainable forms of transport, and that isn’t even being considered as an option.
“A Transport Appraisal is being carried out. Would one have been undertaken if Transport Scotland had not requested it? However, we know already that this appraisal will give the thumbs up – it has to; the MLDP contains no alternative to the new road or indeed a sustainable way to address congestion. Prioritising the existing A701 for public transport and cyclists will work for a while, until traffic levels increase once again, and will not address the cross-Midlothian issue, but is and must be seen as merely a sop to give the impression the council is addressing the underlying problem with a sustainable transport policy. It is not.
“In summary therefore, I cannot support the proposed MLDP. It offers little if anything in the way of sustainability. This council has shown it has neither the resources nor commitment to plan for sustainable growth. There is no plan for a county-wide modal shift in transport, contradictions are manifest, recognised but addressed using terms such as ‘mitigating measures will be taken’, ‘these issues will need to be addressed’ and “due consideration will be given to”.
“This is supposed to be a plan for the future but simply offers a 1960s solution to twenty first century problems.