IT’S a year ago this month that The Gazette launched a campaign with the aim of making Basingstoke and Deane the green capital of Hampshire by 2020.
The campaign was launched with the following mission statement:
1. To make Basingstoke and Deane the green capital of Hampshire by 2020
2. To make Basingstoke and Deane a green trailblazer – a town and borough that is a beacon for sustainability and a location of choice for green-committed businesses
3. Twenty per cent of the borough’s energy will come from renewable energy sources by 2020
4. To turn Basingstoke and Deane from one of the worst performing authorities in the country for recycling into one of the best
We asked local politicians – the people with the power to make or influence green decisions – what they thought of the Green Town, Green Borough initiative, and their environmental hopes for Basingstoke.
Twelve months on, we have gone back to the same people to find out if anything has changed, and what they have done to help make Basingstoke and Deane more sustainable and energy efficient.
Basingstoke MP Maria Miller
“I congratulate The Gazette on the first year of the Green Town, Green Borough campaign.
“Having a regular campaign page to highlight local green issues has been a great way of drawing people’s attention to a range of really important matters for all the community.
“I continue to work with a number of environmental and sustainability groups in the Basingstoke area, and I know how much they have valued The Gazette’s interest and support for their work and the issues which they are passionate about.
“For my part, I will continue to campaign for an improvement in the water quality of the River Loddon, and to ensure that the plans for future house building in the Borough are truly sustainable and do not harm our environment.
"I hope that the Green Town, Green Borough campaign will continue to highlight these concerns too.”
Independent Borough Councillor Martin Biermann, a former Mayor of Basingstoke and Deane
He said he is impressed by the number of groups formed to campaign on the environment, but believes the issue is still not being tackled properly by the council.
He added: “We need a really serious environmental chairman with the real power and resources to be able to make changes. I don’t think we have that.”
Cllr Biermann believes the council could profit from introducing green initiatives, adding: “It’s not a burden on taxpayers – it can be a benefit. But it doesn’t pay overnight. It’s something we have to look at in the longer term and that’s why your campaign is important and needs to continue.”
Cllr Biermann criticised the borough’s efforts to encourage more people to cycle, adding: “When there’s been decisions about the Top of The Town improvements, I don’t see cycling included.
"Lots of people have said how can we get from one side of the town to the other but no one in the council is saying ‘this is a big issue and we really need to address it.’
“It’s no use just saying the words – we have to follow them with the deeds and some of these things might cost money or be less popular, but it’s the right thing to do and in the long term will bring benefits.”
Cllr Sanders told The Gazette last year that the community has a “vital role to play in taking Basingstoke and Deane higher up the recycling league table.”
He said he believes the borough is “making progress” adding: “It’s never going to be perhaps as fast as we would like it to be.”
Referring to recycling, he said: “It’s going to be a long, slow progress until recycling becomes engraved in our way of life. But I think it will be a long slow steady slog. It’s not going to happen overnight.”
He added that the council had made sure money was available to “accelerate” green projects.
Councillor Robert Donnell, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council cabinet member for environment and climate change
Cllr Donnell believes a “huge amount” has happened in the last year regarding green issues.
He said: “We held our first-ever green forum where environmental bodies came into the council, and we presented our first draft on the climate change strategy to them, got feedback and re-wrote it.”
Cllr Donnell highlighted the glass recycling scheme as a success, and hit back at those who have criticised it.
He said the green waste collection service is also working well, adding: “More people have signed up than ever before. We are also doing a huge amount of work with schools and looking at wider green issues around open space.”
He said a paper on green space, with a proposal to give it more protection, will soon go to full council.
Cllr Donnell said other successful green initiatives included Insulate Hampshire, the regeneration of Basing View, which is set to offer environmentally-friendly office space, and £1million of funding for green investment.
Councillor Gavin James, Basingstoke Liberal Democrats group leader
Cllr James said: “With estimated returns of 10 per cent, renewable energy could not only contribute to tackling climate change but also provide extra revenue for the council to fund services while keeping council tax low.
“Last year, the Liberal Democrats fought for £1million to be set aside for green investment, yet none of it has been spent.
“Large warehouses and buildings such as the ice rink offer an opportunity to site solar panels that could provide energy for the occupant or feed into the national grid.
“There will be pockets of land that don’t offer recreational or biodiversity value and are not suited to development that could be used for the same purpose. And with residents struggling with higher fuel bills, we should be exploring how we can install solar panels on social housing helping both the residents and the borough.
“The Local Plan was another opportunity. Other authorities demand developers build with south facing roofs and insist that solar panels are incorporated into the design of new properties. They insist on including the most water efficient toilets. And there has been no attempt to force developers to use underground heat sources.
“On recycling, there has been a distinct lack of innovation since the introduction of curb-side recycling. The council could explore whether to offer schools financial rewards for increased recycling rates in their catchment areas and unlock the potential of children ‘pester power’.
“One year on, the council seems to have not embraced The Gazette’s campaign – you can’t tackle climate change with hot air and the only thing they have recycled is their excuses.”
Councillor Laura James, leader of the Basingstoke Labour Group
Cllr James told us last year that she hoped the campaign would push the council to be greener. A year later, Cllr James believes much more can be done, and she is disappointed with the council’s lack of commitment to the environment.
She said: “It's all recycled policy announcements. Cllr Donnell claims ‘if you look at most areas which have improved in recycling, it is areas which have scrapped the weekly bin collection’.
"This is not the case. Government minister Eric Pickles in his recent guidance says: ‘It is a myth that councils can’t get decent recycling rates without moving to a fortnightly collection of residual waste.’
“There is much more we should be doing. The new tendering for the Shuttle Bus did not require it to be environmentally friendly – why not? There is no cycling strategy. Bus services are still being cut and don't run after 9pm.
“On the most crucial of issues, they should have done a lot more to address fuel poverty. The council remains one of the worst performing in the country."
Independent borough councillor Ian Tilbury
Cllr Tilbury warned last year that a new approach was needed, or the town would be in the same position in 2020.
He said: “We are recycling a lot of cheap worthless glass by sending expensive diesel trucks around to collect it. It costs a fortune to collect. That’s why no one in the private sector is doing it.”
He added: “There’s nothing that’s been done to encourage recycling of paper and other things.”
He believes the borough council should look at how new housing can be more environmentally friendly, but said this is not happening.
Referring to the Overton Hill development, he said: “Surely they should put solar panels on the roofs? There doesn’t seem to be the drive. It’s always ‘someone else can do it’. A lot more could be done.”
Do you have a view on what has been said by the seven politicians? Have your say by using the comment box below, writing to The Letters Editor, The Gazette, Pelton Road, Basingstoke, RG21 6YD or emailing email@example.com.