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Gold standard for green politics

August 13, 2008

Whether or not you were for or against the Olympic Games being given to China (and I was against it, due to their human rights record) it is wonderful to see Team GB starting to bring home the gold medals.

(That’s Team Great Britain, I should add, rather than Gordon Brown!)

As regular readers of this column will note, I have had in mind to raise the issue of the Hastings seafront cycle path for a while.

The fact that Great Britain’s first gold medal was won by Nicole Cooke in the women’s cycling road race was just the cosmic prompt I needed to make this week the week!

You may or may not know that in December 2007, Sustrans’ Connect2 project, which comprises some 79 cycling and walking schemes around Britain, won £50 million from the Big Lottery Fund in a televised vote.

The coastal cycle track is part of Sustrans’ plan and there was some £600,000 awarded for the creation of the ‘missing link’ along the beach from Hastings to Bexhill.

Great news, and great celebrations proceeded locally.

But where are we now?

In their recent online article, the lobbying group Hastings Urban Bikes (see link to website) states that the County Council is not going to deliver the cycle path until 2011-12.

The County Council has replied that this is because it is working towards delivery of a number of integrated transport schemes in its three year programme, and therefore ‘new schemes must be developed with these existing schemes in mind’.

As far as I am concerned this is Council-speak for ‘We’ve got a lot on, and frankly, this doesn’t really pedal our bike’.

I accept that there is a financial implication for ESCC. The County Council must provide part of the funding necessary in order to realise the scheme. But surely, with the difficulties of the A259, all the problems with the proposed link road, and the pressing nature of global environmental issues, you would have thought that ESCC would have given the scheme a higher priority than it has?

But then the County Council is run by the Conservatives.

This is the party that has changed its logo recently. From the Olympic-style torch, the Tories have moved to an oak tree.

It’s all soft and wavy and has nice flecks of green. Just like David Cameron: soft and wavy, with (alleged) flecks of green.

Only when it comes to getting an exciting environmentally beneficial scheme off the ground, the County Council starts equivocating.

And who is the lead member responsible? None other than Hastings Tory Cllr Matthew Lock (the elder).

This is the same Cllr Lock who has been trying to force (Lib Dem) Eastbourne Council to impose parking charges against the will of residents. Sound familiar?

This is this kind of political and policy contradiction which shows that the Conservatives don’t really understand green politics, and would rather be seen to be ‘tough’ on parking enforcement, than to have a coherent and sustainable approach to greener, effective transport infrastructure.

The Tories are ambitious for Government at a national level, but talk a better game than they have the skills and policies to deliver.

It is the Liberal Democrats who have been voted by all the key environmental pressure groups to be the greenest of the major parties.

We have policies that are costed, and will deliver on our environmental objectives.

We are not just talking the talk, we are walking (and often cycling) the walk.

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