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Tuesday, May 3, 2022

County candidates respond to Friends of the Earth questions

Ahead of the May 5 County Council election all six candidates for Llangollen were invited by Llangollen Friends of the Earth to complete our election questionnaire.

They were asked the following questions, with a word limit of 200 words on each answer:

Question 1: Please provide a personal statement. Hint: Perhaps include your background, skills or your motivations.

Question 2: How would you like to see the council do more to tackle ecological collapse?

Question 3: How would you like to see council do more to address the climate emergency?

Question 4: Can you suggest how the council might address local air pollution issues?

Question 5: Thinking broadly if you wish, please list your top 3 priorities should you become elected.

Candidate responses have been reproduced below as closely matched to the format received as possible. Four responses have been collected as of 02/05/2022, listed in alphabetical order.

Stuart Davies - Independent

Please see my reply below along with my attached manifesto [see link above].

I refer you to my manifesto for my aims and aspirations for the town. I was instrumental in obtaining £3k for your organisation a few years back to buy the first tranche of re useable Llangollen shopping bags. 

Moving on, when the Wenffrwyd project was first put forward by myself, I met with some of your members at their request, who wanted to set up a wild flower garden there. I agreed with their aims  and introduced them to the officers who were moving forward with the project with instructions to help with this.

I spoke to one of the trio a little while back and this person said that unfortunately they had other things on and didn’t move with the project. A great shame really. 

I believe in alternative energy sources and the transition to them. Unlike some of our European friends, I believe that we should be using the least polluting hydrocarbons while we transit. Self sufficiency in these least polluting transition hydro carbons is key given what is happening in Europe at the moment.

I was instrumental in kickstarting the Green Dee Valley water powered electricity project as mentioned in my manifesto. 

Karen Edwards - Independent

As set out in my manifesto, I grew up in Llangollen and I am therefore very familiar with the area and the issues affecting the town, its nearby rural communities and the surrounding environment.

Denbighshire County Council as a Local Authority declared a climate and ecological emergency in July 2019 and formally adopted their Climate and Ecological Strategy 2021-22 to 2029-30 in February 2021.  In this the Council states that by 2030 it aims to become a net zero Council and an ecologically positive Council.  Please use the following  link to view this

I believe that in terms of climate change whilst we can’t all do everything, we can all do something to make a difference.

My priorities should I become an elected representative for the Llangollen Ward are set out in my manifesto.  

Paul Keddie - Independent

Question 1: Please provide a personal statement. Hint: Perhaps include your background, skills or your motivations.

Firstly, I’d like to thank the dozens of residents who have been in touch to wish me well since I announced I was standing for County as well as Town Council. 

I have always been a keen fly fisher and nature lover and support the aims and objectives of Friends of the Earth and other environmental groups.

I have a strong track record of putting our community first.  I am a Director of the Llangollen Fringe Festival, I volunteer as a Stage Manager at the Eisteddfod, I organise the monthly Comedy Nights and am a member of Llangollen Town Council, delivering safer, greener, cleaner and stronger communities.

I have never been a member of a political party and I strongly believe that politics should play no part in decision making.  I will always fight to improve our town and villages, to keep Council Tax as low as possible and for our fair share. 

Question 2: How would you like to see the council do more to tackle ecological collapse?

I fully support Denbighshire County Council’s declaration of a Climate and Ecological Emergency in July 2019 and will work hard with the plans to become a net carbon zero and ecologically positive council by 2030.  Actions speak louder than words however, and the current issues with our recycling centre that serve the Llangollen area flies in the face of any action to combat climate change.  Put simply, unless this is resolved it would be impossible to become Net Zero by 2030. 

Residents currently face a 2 hour round trip to Ruthin Recycling Centre as successive administrations who run Denbighshire County Council have failed to get a grip of the problems.   This has led to an increase in fly-tipping and I am the only candidate with a positive plan to sort this out once and for all. 

I plan to resolve the scandal of local residents not being able to use Plas Madoc Recycling Centre. Our rubbish doesn’t understand boundaries.  On Day 1 as a County Councillor, I will ask the Welsh Senedd to intervene. I will fight to introduce fortnightly ‘Flying Skips’ on a Saturday morning. These will tour our streets and allow residents to get rid of extra rubbish.

Question 3: How would you like to see council do more to address the climate emergency?

Denbighshire County Council has an important role in delivering carbon emission reductions, particularly in transport but also in other areas such as buildings – are they doing enough?

The biggest obstacle to climate change action is austerity and financial cuts.  In the 2012 report on Local Authority Action, the Committee on Climate Change said, “There is currently a significant risk that local authorities will not develop and implement sufficiently ambitious low-carbon plans … given the highly constrained fiscal situation. In order to mitigate this, and the associated risk for meeting national carbon budgets, the Government should seriously consider providing additional funding … and/or introducing a statutory duty for local authorities to develop and implement low-carbon plans.”

I will fight for additional funding to implement an ambitious low-carbon plan.  It is important that any action they take is beyond simply improving their buildings and instead encompasses all the areas where they have powers and responsibilities.  I would like to see environmental impact reports to be produced for every single decision made.

Question 4: Can you suggest how the council might address local air pollution issues?

Local authorities can have a strong influence over emissions, research shows one-third of all UK emissions are dependent on sectors influenced by local government policies or partnerships. 

The solutions to tackling climate change are largely the same ones required to improve air quality, including transitioning from petrol and diesel cars to electric vehicles, public transport, walking and cycling. DEFRA Air Quality Expert Group’s analysis found that reaching Net Zero emissions would likely lead to a significant improvement in air quality.  

Local authorities have a statutory duty to improve the health of their local population and air pollution is a public health emergency requiring urgent action. Toxic air is linked to one in every nineteen deaths in the UK. Research has shown that air pollution may be damaging every organ in our bodies, including increasing risk of heart and lung diseases, diabetes and dementia, as well as having negative impacts on the development of children including reduced cognition and leading to babies being born with impaired lungs. 

Local authority action to encourage usage of public and active transport also reduces congestion, which has significant economic benefits.

Question 5: Thinking broadly if you wish, please list your top 3 priorities should you become elected;

  1. Fight to improve recycling rates across Llangollen and our villages linked to the campaign for access to Plas Madoc Recycling Centre.  For too long, the Council have prevaricated and a TWO HOUR round trip to the Ruthin Tip is unacceptable.  Until this is done, it will lead to lower recycling rates and higher emissions. 

  2. Accelerate the transition to all the council’s fleet including bin wagons and school buses becoming electric as soon as possible.  Improve public transport including ending the scandal of no disabled access at Ruabon Railway Station and look for more park and ride opportunities.

  3. Accelerate social housing decarbonisation which will reduce bills for our poorest amid a cost of living crisis and lead the fight against any over development of our green spaces.   The built environment is responsible for a huge 40% of all global carbon emissions, which is far higher than any other individual sector.  I will also propose that any planning application for over 5 houses have an environmental audit and associated developer funded green improvements to our infrastructure.

  4. Sarah Marshall - Green Party
  1. Please provide a personal statement (background/skills/motivation).

I have three decades experience working in Public Sector services (NHS, Local Authority and Public Health), much at strategic commissioning and regional levels. This included involvement with Scrutiny Committees, Cross Party working groups, Council Executives and Regional Directors of Public Health. I have been consistently committed to working for public interest and improving quality of life, particularly for disadvantaged groups. My interest in outdoor pursuits brought me to Llangollen for the first time over thirty years ago and I have loved the area ever since. In the 1990s I was secretary to the Llangollen group who campaigned hard to protect the Youth Club Field from housing development. Currently I am looking into ways to protect access to Pump Field on the edge of town for future generations. In 2021 I achieved an MSc (Distinction) in Sustainability and Behaviour Change, bringing together my interests in working with people and protecting the environment. I want to use my knowledge, background and skills to address the climate emergency in my locality. The collaborative responses to COVID demonstrated our community’s potential to work together to support each other and overcome challenges that are faced globally. (191)

  1. How would you like to see the council do more to tackle ecological collapse?

Improving biodiversity is essential to mitigating ecological collapse and it would be great to have more initiatives such as the rewilding at Wenffrwd on brownfield sites. I will be pressing for improved biodiversity on Council owned land especially, reducing pesticide use, encouraging wildflowers wherever possible on verges and public spaces, and tree planting in both town and rural areas, whilst effectively issuing and enforcing Tree Protection Orders, particularly for the rare Llangollen Whitebeam. Within an AONB there is current funding available for local biodiversity projects which need to be encouraged. Raising community awareness will also be key to encourage biodiversity in private spaces.

I am keen to support the Riverside Park proposals and funding applications. Recent surveys show that there is community support for environmental sustainability as part of the improvements, which include the green infrastructure such as sensory garden, planting and flowers as well as seating and benches.

The Council should also be supporting initiatives to produce food locally (such as Grow Llangollen) and in an environmentally sensitive way. Promoting local engagement with the Sustainable Farming scheme, which prioritises biodiversity in land management, would increase a sense of ownership of the intended outcomes. (194)

  1. How would you like to see council do more to address the climate emergency?

The Council have good policy intentions in their Net Zero strategy, and I intend to hold the Council to account for delivering.

The Council need to encourage a community of businesses who are working towards sustainable practices and promote leaders in their localities. Support for initiatives and businesses that encourage a circular and repair economy should be prioritised. Avoiding waste should have a greater focus than recycling. I want to build on the work of Plastic Free Llangollen to work with local businesses and highlight good practice in reducing plastic use. Council plans for household collections must assess whether recycling has been improved by any changes. I would like the Council to consider separated bins in public spaces for recycling.

The Council should accelerate efforts to procure local and sustainable food wherever possible and encourage supporting producers and growers to sell more locally and to link with procurement opportunities for local public services.

Measures to reduce energy consumption must be prioritised and supported. Local energy generation (e.g., community cooperatives) needs to be explored. There are also viable innovative options from anaerobic digestion of agricultural waste. This is especially important with rising fuel prices and increasing fuel poverty. (197)

  1. Can you suggest how the council might address local air pollution issues?

Air pollution approaches unacceptable levels especially in high traffic areas such as the town centre and around school drop-offs. The changes to the town centre road layout and the situation need reviewing to assess the impact on air-pollution compared to previous levels.

The Council should support community transport options such as Dial-a-Ride type schemes, Flexi-Bus, and exploring car-share and car club options in the town. The Council should promote non-carbon vehicles in any services they provide or procure (e.g., School transport). Transport companies that serve the local area also need to be encouraged to decarbonise their fleets where feasible and to link effectively across bus and rail services to support local people who make regular short journeys, as well as visitors to the area. This will become especially pertinent under National Park proposals.

Vehicle charging points at diverse “public” spaces should be explored, (e.g., Health Centre, Pavilion Car Park, Leisure Centre, Youth Club, schools).

The Council should work with schools to encourage active travel, children and young people need to see this as a viable and safe option for getting around town. Road layout is not consistently conducive to this, but improvements could be made, and pedestrians/cyclists given greater priority. (200)

  1. Thinking broadly if you wish, please list your top three priorities should you become elected.

Previous responses were structured in the way the questions were asked but are interlinked. Ecological collapse and climate emergency are inseparable, and we must consider systems long-term, rather than single issues and quick fixes, to ensure our actions have the best effect. I have focussed on local issues but of course we are part of wider communities.

My top three initial priorities would be:

• Establishing relationships with local groups and interest communities and making myself available to hear local people’s concerns and issues. I am representing the Green Party agenda but also am committed to reaching out beyond my existing networks.
• Building a collaborative approach with local groups, businesses, services and institutions who want to address the climate emergency and encourage leading by example and showcasing good practice. This would raise awareness of environmental issues and demonstrate what positive progress can look like, providing role models that motivate and inspire.
• Prioritising climate and environmental impact and keeping this at the top of Council agendas without fail from day one. This is the greatest challenge currently facing us all and we must step up our efforts if we want a secure future for our community, our families and ultimately humanity. (199).

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