Local Elections and Sustainability
If you’re wondering why I haven’t been posting so frequently here recently, it’s because I’ve been out pounding the pavements to ensure I got re-elected to Newcastle City Council. And I did it, with exactly the same vote share, 49.7%, as I did last time I was elected four years ago. Spooky!
From a Sustainability point of view, the big issue in these elections was Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs). As I’ve said before, transport is probably the biggest single hot potato in the Sustainability field. If you own a car, you tend to predicate many big life decisions around the assumption you can drive where you like – where you live, where you work, where you shop, where your kids go to school etc. Therefore, unlike, say, switching your electricity tariff, insulating your loft or changing your diet, changes to transport priorities can really impact on you personally. The level of discomfort can be seen in all those tweets, e-mails and complaints that begin “I’m a committed environmentalist but…” even from those who work in Sustainability.
Here in Newcastle, a controversial LTN undoubtedly contributed to the result in one ward, but across the country the big picture was clear as anti-LTN challengers tended to lose out to those implementing traffic changes. Even in Oxford, the focal point of hoards of conspiracy theorists who believe the 15 minute city concept (aka the urban village) is some kind of dystopian Hunger Games-style open prison, the ruling party who brought in the measures did better in the local district Council elections than those opposing the measures. Likewise in Bath and North East Somerset, pro-LTN candidates beat those promising to ‘rip them out’. This follows the pattern from previous years.
It is quite cheering that this most difficult of changes is possible, if you get it right. But it ain’t easy – and fixing some LTN issues is top of my priority list for the coming weeks.