Dear Cllr Whelton,
Congratulations on your re-election. I am writing to you on behalf of Merton Green Party in your capacity as Cabinet member for Regeneration, Environment and Housing. Parliament has taken a decision to phase out the use of single-use plastics on its premises by next year, together with a number of other measures detailed in the press article below. We are writing to ask the Council to adopt a similar policy in all its offices in the same timescale. As Kenneth Green, our representative at the FSB hustings on 25 April, suggested to Council Leader Stephen Alambritis, doing so would provide demonstrable environmental benefits and send out a clear message that the Council is willing to do its bit to reduce the damage caused by single-use plastics.
Dear Love Morden,
Thank you for the work that you do, and for your excellent questions. As requested, we have tried to set out our short and long term aims for your consideration. We hope that our response demonstrates how much we value this part of Merton, but crucially, too, we believe that its residents, business owners, employees, and visitors deserve a lot better than Merton Council seems capable of delivering.
Morden is characterised by a pronounced diversity that makes it an interesting place to live and work. People from different socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds rub alongside one another. An array of local businesses hold their own alongside the chains. The Tube station and Merton Civic Centre serve as important hubs. Morden Hall Park, Morden Park, and a variety of other green spaces provide havens amidst the urban development. And the area possesses a markedly rich history.
In comparison with Wimbledon town centre, however, Morden town centre has a distinct air of neglect. Dominated by road traffic and the dilapidated façade of the Underground station, it feels more like a place to pass through, than a place to linger, congregate, or celebrate. Whilst Morden Court Parade has been transformed by great workmanship and with pleasing aesthetic sensitivity, there is little sign of progress elsewhere, despite a whole decade’s worth of talk of regeneration. Indeed, shockingly, www.merton.gov.uk/moreMorden currently states that ‘At this stage, there is no detailed regeneration plan of what will be delivered in the town centre.’
Merton Council lacks a clear vision, the dynamism, and the determination needed to finally turn Morden town centre into a friendlier space for the community and its visitors. Failing to work productively with TfL (Transport for London), who are central to the development, must no longer be accepted as an excuse for inaction. And, as is par for the course, public consultation is extremely poor. Merton Green Party believes that those who live in, work in, and travel through Morden deserve far better. There are many hardworking, skilled and talented people who are eager to collaborate, and we are keen to help them.
In the long term, we are particularly concerned about how the £42 million of Housing Zone funding pledged in 2015 by then London Mayor Boris Johnson is to be used. The target of 40% ‘affordable housing’ is laughably unambitious, and we will actively oppose any attempts to ‘gentrify’ the area.
In addition, we see no reason to stall the 'greening' of Morden town centre. We know, for example, that TfL are aware that 86% of monitored areas in the UK currently exceed EU air pollution limits, and that air pollution is endemic in London, with almost 6,000 lives claimed prematurely every year as a result of long-term exposure to NO2. Indeed, London is expected to continue exceeding legal limits across the board for over another decade. Whether encouraging people to avoid buying/selling products wrapped in unnecessary and unrecyclable packaging, working with Veolia and other companies to improve recycling rates, monitoring air quality, prioritising and investing in sustainable urban mobility (e.g. pedal bikes, e-bikes, trams, car-sharing, etc.), facilitating the installation of solar panels, or promoting insulation measures, the Green Party are, naturally, passionate about environmental responsibility.
Furthermore, the Green Party views austerity measures as tantamount to the wilful destruction of the welfare state – of the infrastructure that bonds and enables us, and of the safety net that catches us when we fall on hard times. Hence we are deeply disappointed by Merton Council’s essential complicity with the cuts perpetrated by the government. If elected, we would fight with all our strength the underfunding of our public services, doing our best to ensure that the growing population of Morden has access to good healthcare, nurseries, schools, policing, fire services, Adult Social Care, disability services, and so on.
In the short term, we find the artist’s impression in the latest plan available appealing. However, we note that the façade of the Tube station is not rendered in any detail, and we see that the town centre end of Abbotsbury Road is likely to continue to be under-utilised. The latter is a shame, as it could easily become a space that helps to create a green corridor of sorts between Merton Civic Centre and Morden Hall Park/Deen City Farm, encouraging residents and visitors towards this part of the town centre and helping the businesses located there.
Moreover, we are keen for local businesses to not just survive, but thrive, and for residents to contribute to decision-making processes. Thus we propose regular events in which local business owners and employees, residents, and council staff come together to network about the future of Morden town centre. Maybe, for example, there could be regular stalls in the town centre - looked after by the aforementioned people – to which members of the public could come to contribute their ideas. And perhaps businesses and community groups could take it in turns to drive initiatives that are aimed at bringing together the community - with the target of, say, at least one initiative per month.
Finally, we are committed to ensuring full access for people living with disabilities by involving them in the relevant planning processes.
If you are interested in looking at our mini manifesto, here is a link: https://merton.greenparty.org.uk/resources/Merton_GP_mini_manifesto.pdf
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us again. Thanks again for getting in touch.
Merton Green Party
Further to the call on Council to take further action in tackling air pollution (Tom Killick, 2 March), comprehensive parking reform would also make a huge difference to both congestion and pollution levels . Current parking policy facilitates rather than regulates households, allowing unlimited multivehicle permits, whilst discriminating against households without vehicles, regarding both access and cost of visitor permits. As a consequence, over recent years, Council has also allowed expansion, rather than restriction, of vehicular parking along main roads, such as Kingston road and even more alarmingly, created these parking spaces over existing cycle lanes and pavements. The result is to deter rather than encourage both walking and cycling, endangering safety, both from the additional pollution caused by parking manoeuvres & idling, as well as physical danger, with pedestrians not protected by barriers, as drivers attempt, often with great difficulty, to park half on and off pavements. Cyclists are perilously forced out into the main traffic fare, away from fast diminishing, piecemeal cycle lanes. The Council has already taken action regarding a diesel surcharge, but needs to go much further if there is to be any significant environmental improvement. It would be helpful to know how many residents are currently turning up at GP surgeries and hospitals, having difficulty breathing whilst walking outside, and being prescribed inhalers?
Merton Green Party Member
MERTON GREENS HIGHLIGHT POOR AIR QUALITY IN MERTON
You reported (20th January) on toxic air alerts in several London boroughs. Pollution in Merton is well above legal and healthy limits, according to the latest tests carried out by Merton Green Party. The levels of nitrogen dioxide were tested at ten sites around Colliers Wood, Mitcham and Wimbledon, mainly near primary schools and GP surgeries. Evidence has shown that older people, people with long term health conditions and children are particularly vulnerable to the impact of air pollution. Pollution can make it harder for these people to breathe, make existing conditions worse and can stunt children's lung growth. Nine of the ten sites were above the recommended maximum levels, with three being more than twice the the maximum. Around 10,000 Londoners die prematurely each year as a result of long term exposure to nitrogen dioxide.
We believe these results show the importance of supporting the Mayor's proposed Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), making it extend beyond the north and south circulars, so Merton residents can breathe without risk to their health. We also call on the Council to take more action to tackle this problem, such as introducing 20mph speed limits across the borough, fines for vehicles whose engines idle unneccessarily, making cycling and walking more attractive alternatives to car use, urging Transport for London to introduce less polluting buses and pressing the government to take action on diesel cars such as via a scrappage scheme.
Merton Green Party
Dear Wimbledon Guardian,
Air pollution is estimated to account for over 9,000 premature deaths in London every year, and motor vehicles are a major contributor. It is therefore good news that Wandsworth Council has recently introduced fines for vehicles whose engines are left running unnecessarily, joining other boroughs such as Camden and Islington. Merton Council should now consult on introducing a similar policy.
Merton Green Party
Latest Government figures show 1,249 vacant homes in Merton. That is a substantial number, especially given the desperate need for genuinely affordable housing. The Council charges 50% extra Council Tax for homes which have been empty for at least two years: why not reduce this to one year, to encourage owners to bring these homes back into use?
Merton Council has a target of 40% of new homes being "affordable". However, figures from the London Tenants Federation for the last year show that of the 412 new homes delivered in Merton, only 94 were "affordable" - less than a quarter. Merton relies on "viability assessments" provided by housing developers which claim to show that meeting the 40% target would make their plans unviable. We have been pressing the Council to make these assessments public, but they have so far refused to do so. Three other councils (Islington, Greenwich and Southwark) now publish them - Merton should do so too.
Caroline Pigeon's claim (interview on 15 January) that the Lib Dems are the only party against Heathrow expansion is wrong. The Green Party opposes not just Heathrow expansion but any airport expansion, because of the damage to our environment it would cause.
Merton Residents returning to work after 4th January will have noticed that public transport fares have gone up. On that day, Sian Berry, the Green Party's candidate for London Mayor, announced a range of policies to make the system fairer. In particular, there will be a simpler four zone structure, with reduced fares for everyone in the present zones 4, 5 and 6. Other proposals include a cheaper fare for journeys involving a change between bus, tram, tube or train, and lower fares for people who work part-time and cannot take advantage of monthly tickets. Full details are available on Sian's website: www.sianberry.london