Amanda Baker: Green Candidate for Acocks Green 2016

Amanda Baker - Green Party

Amanda Baker – Green Party

The Birmingham Green Party works for the common good of the people of Birmingham. We are working for a cleaner, fairer, more inclusive city that can be enjoyed by everyone. We support social justice and oppose the failed ‘austerity programme’. We seek a safe, clean environment. We will work to ensure that everyone access to a secure job that pays at least the true Living Wage, with public services such as the NHS in public hands. We will defend existing social housing against the failed ‘Right to Buy’ process, campaign for more social rented homes and to bring abandoned buildings back into use, to ensure that everyone has a secure and affordable place to live.

Q1 There are a lot of larger Victorian and Edwardian properties in Acocks Green which lend themselves to a variety of uses.  in recent years there has been much discussion in regard to the preservation of roads as residential roads.    A recent decision on a planning application (see this link) gives some support to the idea that residential roads should where possible be retained as such in order to help preserve the community atmosphere of the neighbourhood.  This issue becomes even more pressing in regard to applications to turn larger properties into what is technically known as ‘C2’ (Residential Home) accommodation.  What is your view both on the general preservation of residential roads as such, and in particular on the clustering of a number of C2s in a small area, which because usually Victorian/Edwardian, will often be part of the proposed Conservation Area as well.

A I support the right of all local people to have a fair say in how the built environment of their communities is changed, adapted and conserved. This is Green Party policy. Ensuring the mix meets the needs of all local people is vital. The nature of the built environment is part of what enables people to develop and enjoy the culture of their own neighbourhoods. Housing needs to provide people with homes. Planning decisions need to fairly balance the needs of all the people within a community. We current have a shortage of affordable, safe, well-insulated homes in Birmingham and in Acocks Green. Housing in our village should first serve existing local communities of Acocks Green. Birmingham City Council needs to plan a fair distribution of higher density homes, if we need these across the city. As local residents, we need more support to actively agree together how and where higher density homes can help us, and be in keeping with our neighbourhoods.

Q2 We are currently awaiting a decision from the Boundary Commission upon the final boundaries of Acocks Green ward.  The subject generated considerable heat earlier this year.  However, regardless of what decision is finally taken as to where the boundaries should lie,  we will become smaller as a ward, and we will have fewer councillors handling a larger number of households.  In the light of what is in effect going to be reduced involvement and support from elected representatives, what is your view on Acocks Green setting up its own parish council, and would you be willing, as a councillor, to help support this?  To help you here are two links (1) from Hebden Royal Town Council  and (2) Notes by David Treadwell, Chair Acocks Green Neighbourhood Forum, on Parish Councils

A I have supported the potential of a resident-led Parish Council for Acocks Green for over 10 years. The Green Party believes in decision-making at the most local level possible, and hence we support Parish Councils. This is a particularly important issue in Birmingham right now. Our number of councillors is being reduced so that each one represents a larger number of people. The proposed West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) risks turning the councils themselves into ‘rubber stampers. Council leaders and an elected mayor, together with unelected business leaders would decide policy for the WMCA, and effectively impose it on councils. I therefore fully support a Parish Council for Acocks Green to campaign for local decisions for local people. This will be more effective than individual citizens or a single councillor, and can work collaboratively with residents’ groups.

Q3 Recently, in  Douglas Road Acocks Green there was much publicity, see link here  following a seven-car pile-up after a speeding incident.  It has so far proved impossible to charge the driver, who cannot be identified by the police.   Fortunately, and amazingly, no-one was hurt.  However, are you confident that a 20 mph sign in the road will prevent this kind of incident occurring in the future, or do you believe that physical traffic-calming measures may need to be installed on some of the longer and more vulnerable residential roads in Acocks Green?

A In my experience as a person on foot, on a bicycle and in a car, 20 mph road signs are widely ignored. Yet, traffic calming measures are potentially costly: to be effective they must be in place on all the local ‘cut through’ routes so as not to simply shift the problem from one road to another. This is the sort of issue where a Parish Council could consider the costs and local benefits of each approach, including possibly speed cameras, and how the costs could realistically be met.

Q4 Fly tipping and garden waste collection both continue to be issues of concern in this area, especially since some free council services have now become paying services.  It is not disputed that government cuts to local councils present a strong challenge.  What measures would you therefore put in place to prevent unsightly and in some cases insanitary, eyesores accumulating in the area this summer.

A My position is as before. The Green Party has costed plans to reduce waste, increase recycling, do away with damaging incineration and move towards a zero-waste system. So we will renegotiate the Tyseley contract to boost recycling, and rapidly phase out incineration. Also, shredded garden waste is a valuable resource, for example as mulch or fertiliser for allotments. A locally appropriate scheme for the harvesting of garden ‘waste’ can ‘pay for itself’ as happens in rural areas, with no charge at the point of collection.

Q5  Do you believe that local ward meetings are important?  What views do you have on the continuation, structure (e.g. top table/formal or informal around a shared table/circle etc)  and advertising of local ward meetings?  (There is a reason for including this link – see where it takes you!)

A People need to be easily able to contact their councillors with their concerns. For those with fair access to society, it can be straight-forward to find councillors’ contact details online e.g. from the council website or the [3]WriteToThem.com service. Currently, ward meetings are challenging – most local people do not hear about them, and few are able to attend. Neighbourhood Forums, where local people set the agenda and own the process, currently seem more effective than ward meetings in engaging the public and stimulating constructive proposals. Parish Councils may help more local people to be actively engaged with their City Council, also.

Q6 We are seeing an increasing trend for planning applications in Acocks Green to involve the considerable enlargement of existing properties.  Sometimes these applications can throw the visual appearance of a  Victorian, Edwardian or 1920s or  1930s property ‘off balance’ and can also alter the street scene for the worst.  Obviously, every PA is different, and all PAs need to be considered on their individual merits.  However, do you have an overall view on this?

A Inappropriate extensions are the result of lack of appropriate housing policies. I would oppose planning permission for inappropriate extensions. Any extensions should meet a housing need that cannot be met in other appropriate ways, be in keeping with existing architecture, and protect green space and capacity for rain absorption, for example. Green Party policy supports homes provided through socially owned and rented housing, where necessary built on carefully prepared brownfield sites.

Q7 Can we count on you for positive support and vigilance once Acocks Green’s long-awaited Conservation Area is finally in place?  See this AGFG post on the Conservation Area for further info (Note: a small part of Oxford Road leading away from Sherbourne Road is now also included, although not indicated in the boundary lines shown here.)

A You can continue to count on my support. As I said previously, The Green Party will protect the historic environment, introduce Community Right of Appeal against proposed developments, and strengthen the City Council’s powers to protect community facilities. Local residents are often the first to spot local problems. So, a named person as point of contact in Birmingham City Council is needed to co-ordinate the response to any CA infringements reported. This role will be fully funded under Green plans to restore the City Council budget. The complete Birmingham Green Party Manifesto can be found on our Website: https://birmingham.greenparty.org.uk or contact Patrick Cox (BrumGreensPolicyOfficer@gmail.com) for a copy.

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