Labour is bewildered by the Green Party’s position on the new Council Offices. The Greens have consistently supported the Conservative administration’s plans, voting in favour of them two years’ ago. In their latest statement they seem to have woken up at last to the strength of public and business opinion against all the risks, wrong priorities and environmental & social damage.

They repeat some of the arguments which Labour have been pressing for many months – lack of affordable housing, selling off valuable and scarce Council assets, loss of trees, absence of a credible displacement parking plan.  But the Greens still seem unable to bring themselves to join Labour and the business community in demanding a pause, while parking is addressed and better options all round properly considered.

They attack the absence of a Labour alternative plan for parking – as if entirely unaware of the proposals made by Labour and local businesses for some months, such as to deck Chandos Street and/or phase the construction on Covent Garden in order to maintain some parking at all times.  We can all agree the Greens’ long-term wishlist for more bus use, cycling etc but where is their hard, credible, costed and timed plan?

There’s actually no argument between parties about the need to replace the decaying carpark at Covent Garden – just the best way of going about it with minimal disruption.

Why will the Greens not get off the fence, join the cross-party opposition to the current plans and recognise the other strong arguments against them?

  • breach of major planning policies, on affordable housing yes, but also on paying for schools, roads and health, policies which all other developers are expected to follow
  • damage to the conservation area, not only to trees, by cramming in large, high and undistinguished block of flats
  • net loss of much-needed office space
  • no proper consideration of alternative options for Riverside House to regenerate not demolish, sublet or sell in whole or in part, for less cost, less risk and higher return – or even to use existing emptying public office space in the District ? (The subletting option was fully researched and proposed by Labour 18 months ago).

Perhaps a full U-turn is not easy for the Green Party, a party which on District issues over the last four years has failed to support Labour on key motions to

  • start building social housing (twice)
  • keep management of the new Leisure Centre in public hands
  • keep open local hostels for the homeless, being shut by County cuts
  • invest resources in waste enforcement and community safety
  • protect the Adelaide Road area for community activities

There have been other examples. Surprisingly, the Green Councillor avoided voting against the Conservatives and with Labour, on almost all serious decisions – on 14 out of 16 major votes since 2015, including the six above.  Residents should be aware that if they vote Green locally, Conservative policies pass more easily.  Well, to be strictly accurate, 88% of the time.

Grudgingly, the Conservatives have at last started to be shamed by public pressure and sustained Labour campaigning, to shift their positions on flytipping and waste enforcement, on at least promising social housing (again)  and most recently on reopening hostels for the homeless.

Labour hope that the District Green Party will manage to rediscover their environmental and social principles at some point, so that we can campaign together and deliver on priorities both parties share.

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