Green Party leader visits Leeds flood sites and calls for action to protect people from climate change and pollution

2 February 2016

Natalie Bennett and Chris Foren on Otley Road

Natalie Bennett and activist Chris Foren on Otley Road at Hyde Park Corner

Leader of the Green Party Natalie Bennett visited the scenes of recent flooding in Otley today and heard about local volunteers’ work cleaning up the flood damage. Bennett used the visit to call for more to be done at local and national level to address pollution and climate change, which has been shown to increase flood risk [1], and praised local community efforts to promote sustainability.

Bennett’s visit to Leeds included flood sites in Otley, which was badly affected by the December floods, speaking to volunteers who have been working on the clean-up and raising funds for flood victims. She has heard from Leeds Green Party members in Leeds and Otley how their communities have suffered from the flooding, and their fears that more ‘extreme weather’ may be to come related to our changing climate.

Leeds Green Party activists Joe Salmon and Chris Foren also discussed with Bennett the effects of air pollution in Leeds, showing Bennett the gridlocked traffic and fumes along Otley Road through Hyde Park and Headingley, and their worries that Leeds residents are not able to breath clean air. Leeds was identified by the WHO as one of nine areas in the UK failing to meet guidelines on air quality [2].

Bennett’s visit also included community projects based on sustainability principles: The Saltaire Canteen, a pay-as-you-feel café serving food that would otherwise be wasted, and Bedford Fields Community Forest Garden, Woodhouse, which aims to educate people on how forest gardening can be a viable alternative to food production, resilient to climatic change.

Natale Bennett at Bedford Fields Community Forest Garden

Natalie Bennett visits Bedford Fields Community Forest Garden

Natalie Bennett, leader of The Green Party, says: “Protecting the environment is crucial to people’s health and wellbeing. When we talk about protecting the environment, people often think about trees, wildlife and far-away places. But protecting the environment is primarily about protecting people and communities. As our climate changes, people are more at risk from destructive events like flooding, which has caused such devastation here in Leeds. And people’s health is directly affected by air pollution, an invisible killer. That’s why we need much more done by national government and local authorities to reduce pollution and transition to a green economy. It’s so encouraging to see local projects championing sustainability, and to hear of many initiatives around Leeds helping to create a greener future.”

Joe Salmon, Leeds Green Party activist, says: “People in Leeds and elsewhere have suffered terribly due to the flooding. While it’s amazing to see what volunteers have achieved in the clean-up, it’s so worrying that there might be more flooding to come as our climate changes. At Leeds Green Party we are also conscious that air pollution poses a direct threat to people’s health across the city – the traffic seems to be getting ever worse, and we just don’t think enough is being done by the council to ensure people can breathe clean air. It’s brilliant that we’re seeing projects springing up around Leeds that are based on the principles of sustainable living – we’re fully behind that. But we also need the council to do more to tackle pollution and make sustainability a priority.”

Mick Bradley, Otley Town Councillor (Green), says: “Flood damage to properties in Otley may have been greater because the water level exceeded Environment Agency predictions and we need to find out why. It may be that a combination of already saturated ground and water flowing rapidly off local hills added to the high flow of the River Wharfe. Central government seems unprepared to provide necessary funding so as a local Town Councillor I am concerned that we get some answers ourselves and put pressure on the statutory agencies responsible: the Environment Agency and Leeds City Council need to put in place effective flood prevention and resilience measures."

Bennett’s visit to Leeds also included:

  • Speaking at a public meeting in Garforth about fracking, flooding and HS2, organised by Elmet & Rothwell Green Party;
  • Attending a community meeting discussing how we can ‘End Discrimination’ at the Cardigan Centre in Headingley;
  • Visiting the LS14 Trust, which works to benefit communities of Seacroft, Swarcliffe and Whinmoor;
  • Meeting the children at Ashfield Primary School, Otley, in assembly;
  • Visiting community radio station East Leeds FM;
  • Taking part as a panelist in a student ‘i-debate’ organised by the Independent on the topic ‘British politics does nothing for young people’.

Leeds Green Party is calling on Leeds City Council to protect people and environment by:

  • Addressing air pollution, so people’s health isn’t threatened by toxic fumes.
  • Protecting the city’s green spaces (and create more), which are important ‘green lungs’ and wildlife habitats, as well as places people can unwind and exercise.
  • Ensuring everyone in Leeds can get around via sustainable means, by improving walking, cycling and public transport provision.
  • Supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency, including ensuring all new housing and buildings are energy efficient and when possible supplied by renewables, and retrofitting existing buildings.
  • Reducing emissions and support local businesses to do the same, and ‘divest’ council pensions from investment in fossil fuels, so the city is doing its part to prevent climate change.

For more info:

Leeds Green Party: leedsgreen.party @LeedsGreenParty 
National Green Party policy: https://policy.greenparty.org.uk/ 
Or contact: leedsgreensnews@gmail.com

End notes:

[1] Pall, P. et al. (2011) Anthropogenic greenhouse gas contribution to flood risk in England and Wales in autumn 2000. Nature 470, 382–386.

[2] World Health Organization (2014), Ambient (outdoor) air pollution in cities database, http://www.who.int/phe/health_topics/outdoorair/databases/cities/en/