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As cafes and shops prepare to reopen with the easing of lockdown, the Worthing Green Party are calling for the council to introduce ‘parklets’ to help breathe life back into the streets.
Many independent cafes and restaurants in Worthing have limited indoor seating and little or no outdoor space, making reopening with social distancing measures tricky if not impossible.
But reallocating road space to create new outdoor areas could provide a lifeline to help businesses rebuild after months of closure.
Ian Davey, campaign co-ordinator for the Worthing Green Party has asked the council to use a recent government grant to create ‘parklets’ and help local businesses thrive.
Ian said: “Independent cafes and restaurants are at the heart of our local communities, shopping streets and economy. Maintaining social distancing with limited space presents a major challenge for these businesses - particularly if they have little or no outdoor space.
“We’ve seen many local authorities in the UK help small businesses by creating new outdoor areas through reallocating road space to create ‘parklets’ - new seating areas, often with greenery or other features.
“For areas like Montague Street west where there is no outdoor space but a number of independent cafes and restaurants, this could provide a lifeline to support local businesses to safely reopen.
“This is fairly common in European cities, and recently we’ve seen businesses in Paris take this very approach. If we want to boost the economy and help our communities thrive, this seems like a simple way to help.”
The council have recently been allocated around £150k from the government’s ‘Reopening High Streets Safely Fund’, in which guidance suggests that the money could be used for ‘street markings and temporary barriers’.
While the council have so far announced some measures including temporary road closures and widened pavements in order to help facilitate social distancing, there are no details and as of yet no mention of parklets.
More information on Parklets at:https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/about-us/our-work-in-action/campaigning-for-parklets, https://www.meristemdesign.co.uk
Can you describe, briefly, the group you established in Worthing?
I set it up with the intention of identifying the most vulnerable people in Worthing, by encouraging residents to contact their neighbours and set up micro communities on WhatsApp or Facebook.
Once the council got involved and took over the responsibility of coordinating deliveries of food to the elderly and vulnerable, we narrowed our focus; primarily sharing tips, ideas and resources to lift people’s spirits, help them with home schooling and nurture mental health.
Our other main function is to provide clarity on government guidelines and ensure the message we are promoting is up-to-date.
What motivated you to set up this group?
Since moving to Worthing I have immersed myself in supporting community groups, from Transition Town to my children’s pre-school committee, the local Green Party and our community garden.
It’s really important to me that local people get to know and take care of each other, and acknowledge on the most primitive level that we depend as a species on human contact and communication. I think that can often be forgotten amidst the hustle and bustle of modern living.
Although the relative “lockdown” has been a challenge, I think a lot of good has come out of us having to slow down, reduce our activities and limit the work we can do. Many people have had a chance to reflect and realise what is truly important in their lives. I hope I have played a part in enabling that within our community.
What do you want to see come from this group?
The group has served its purpose and will eventually need to evolve once our “exit strategy” is clear. For now, it will continue to provide general support and guidance but having discussed its future with the admin team, we agree it should be down to members to decide what’s next.
When the time is right we will put it to a vote and mutually shape the group’s function. We’ve built a fantastic network and I hope it can be of use in other situations where strength and resilience of the local community are needed.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Worthing communities in the face of COVID 19?
It’s difficult to say. Honestly, I think we’ve remained relatively sheltered from the virus in the area but as the distancing measures ease up, I predict we will see a dramatic rise in local cases, especially if day-trippers are allowed in from other areas.
It’s harder for us in Worthing because we have so many beautiful places nearby; from the coast through to the South Downs, and it’s difficult for people to resist the temptation to enjoy these outdoor spaces. Now that we will be given unlimited time to exercise outside, all our favourite spots will be thronged, making it very difficult to keep what’s considered a safe distance from others.
The other big issue we face locally is our demographic. We are infamous for having an older population and an abundance of residential care homes. This puts us at higher risk of outbreaks and also makes it very complicated for those relying on grandparents for childcare now that we are expected to return to work without schools being reopened.
What can people do to support Worthing Coronavirus (COVID-19) Support Network and mutual aid?
Simply join our Facebook group by going to https://www.facebook.com/groups/WorthingC19SupportNetwork and join the conversation!
The government and Borough Council now have a system in place to link volunteers to those in need, so if you are able to help someone in your area or simply pick up the phone for a chat, you can register your interest here: https://www.adur-worthing.gov.uk/coronavirus/
For information visit: https://www.gov.uk/volunteering/coronavirus-volunteering
Can you describe, briefly, the aims of your petition?
The aim of the petition is to allow more areas in the parks and green spaces to grow wild with the aim of increasing biodiversity, supporting bee and other insect populations as well as small mammals and amphibians, such as hedgehogs and frogs.
What motivated you to start this petition?
Members of Worthing Climate Action Network and Extinction Rebellion Worthing have been writing to councillors for several years asking that verges be allowed to grow long, with little success. We have a new Rewilding group in XR and the petition was started after conversations within that. We wanted it to coincide with No Mow May, an initiative by the organisation Plantlife, who want to encourage councils and individuals to mow less, so that our lawns, verges and other grassy areas might replicate the 97% of wildflower meadows that have been lost in this country since the 1930’s.
What do you want to see come from this petition?
The grass area at end of my road, Robert’s Marine, is a case in point: it is a fairly large rectangle of grass, used only by an occasional dog walker or runner. A small area has been sown with planted flowers but the whole area is naturally covered in dandelions in Spring, great for bees and Birdsfoot Trefoil all summer, providing food for bees, butterflies and moths.
This grass is cut and strimmed very two weeks, depriving bees of much needed food.
Why do you think Worthing in particular might benefit from Wilding?
Worthing is a beautiful town with lots of parks and gardens but there appears to be a determination to clean and tidy every park, flowerbed and pavement crack. Pesticides and herbicides are still being used, destroying wildflowers and poisoning bees. We are in an ecological crisis and to address this we must change our mindset and start to equate wildflowers and a little untidiness with beauty. The council need to take a lead on this. They have recently started allowing grass to grow around the very edges of parks, with an information board to explain why. This is great but we need them to go further. Increase the size and number of areas that are not mown, use larger sign boards.
What can people do to support Wilding Worthing?
People can sign this petition and share with friends. Inform themselves about the value of wild places for nature and biodiversity. Consider ‘adopting’ an area near them that has potential for wilding and write to their local councillors about it. Don’t take no for an answer!
This feature length documentary was premiered on Earth Day April 21st. Directed by Jeff Gibbs, Executive Producer Michael Moore. To view the film, here is the link:
The blurb for the film is:
Michael Moore presents Planet of the Humans, a documentary that dares to say what no one else will this Earth Day — that we are losing the battle to stop climate change on planet earth because we are following leaders who have taken us down the wrong road — selling out the green movement to wealthy interests and corporate America. This film is the wake-up call to the reality we are afraid to face: that in the midst of a human-caused extinction event, the environmental movement’s answer is to push for techno-fixes and band-aids. It's too little, too late.
This is Steven Carleysmith's review:
I think that a major fault with the film was that it did not consider whole life cycle assessments of environmental impact.
For example, electric cars get negative treatment in the film, but on the most pessimistic assumptions electric cars are better for the environment and on average much better.
Jeff Gibbs talks about all the coal going into solar panels, but again he misses or ignores the point that solar panels over their lifetime generate much more energy than is used in their manufacture and installation.
Jeff Gibbs talks about the cement and steel in wind turbines, but omits to say that this energy is recovered after a few months operation, and from then on the turbines save CO2 emissions. The truth: “wind power plants release 1/40 of the CO2 emissions produced by coal power plants, and significantly decrease the amount of air pollutants released”
A true comment from the film is that green energy is low density and so requires large amounts of land and sea area. The film of rare plants being bulldozed for desert solar plants is worrying. The film showed mountains being flattened not to dig coal but to build wind turbines. That point is made strongly is this classic text by David JC MacKay “Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air” which everyone should read
It’s not feasible to replace all our fossil fuel energy with green energy at our current level of consumption. As the film implies, too many people and many with too extravagant lifestyles.
The film was correct about timber. As one commentator said just an excuse for fossil fuel companies to find something else to burn. Here is Bill McKibben (who was skewered in the film) recanting on green energy from trees
I’ve been a long time subscriber and contributor to 350.org but Bill McGibbon should have know who was funding his organisation.
The film also highlights the point that our green energy fixes require a very high level of technology (manufacture of solar panels, management of varying output of windfarms, advanced battery manufacture, the smart grid). This needs much more sophisticated technology than the Victorian technology of burning coal to make steam. No going back to a more primitive sustainable society if the current world population maintains its desire for energy.
The film is correct is saying that solar and wind energy are very variable. We do not yet have cheap batteries to store vast amounts of electricity, and so conventional fossil fuel plants (and/or nuclear plants) must be kept running prepared for nights with no wind. (I did some work in a gas fired power station which was kept ticking over ready to power up when electricity demand suddenly increased. A very expensive plant to use only occasionally).
So the film makes some good points but is hugely misleading. If you look on line you can already see fossil fuel interests using the film to debunk green energy ambitions. That’s a tragedy.
Whilst the Covid19 crisis is horrific and the impact on people's lives often devastating, it is worth taking a moment to reflect on some of the positive impacts life in lockdown has brought and how it might inform our efforts to secure a better and healthier future for us all and the planet.
The air is certainly cleaner, whilst the birds are able to sing without having to compete with noise from traffic and planes, the sky is free of 'chemtrails' whilst at night the stars shine more brightly. It seems to me that nature has had an opportunity to fight back and to bloom as it should naturally in spring time. Many of us are getting more time to appreciate the world around us and maybe get a taste of what a cleaner, greener Worthing could feel like.
Traffic levels have gone down dramatically here and in towns and cities across the globe. Many of our roads have been transformed into safer quieter spaces. I find it particularly heartening to see families out cycling together on roads which in normal times are so dominated by motor vehicles that only the bold cycle on them.
The big question is what happens next? As the lockdown is eased how do we avoid going back to where we were before or possibly, as some fear, to a worse situation with even more traffic, congestion and pollution as people shun public transport out of fear of contagion? How can we lock in behaviour change before our streets once again become dominated by traffic and our air polluted with more poisonous fumes?
A movement is building globally arguing that there can be no going back to where we were before and that instead wemust #BuildBackBetter. Boris Johnson has spoken of "taking the opportunity to push clean, green travel, active travel, cycling infrastructure and getting cars off the road" (Guardian 1st May). He has even heralde a post pandemic "new golden age for cycling". The government has hinted that extra funding may be available for active travel measures.
In reality, a massive increase in spending on walking & cycling along with investment in clean and affordable public transport is required to bring about the transformation needed. The government could fund this by scrapping their £27bn road building programme. Starting with the £50m plus earmarked for tinkering with the A27 around Worthing and the £3-400m needed for the Arundel bypass. All road building options will bring ecological destruction, worsen the climate emergency and lead to more traffic, congestion and air pollution.
Ending the road building programme would offer the government the added benefit of avoiding the legal challenge brought by Transport Action Network which is taking them to court claiming that their road building plans are incompatible with their declaration of a Climate Emergency. The same basis on which the Court of Appeal recently ruled the Heathrow expansion illegal.
We are hearing a lot from politicians at the moment about "The new normal". But what does it mean? Councils are being urged to bring in changes immediately to facilitate safe physically distanced walking & cycling for exercise and travel. Many are doing so. We don't need to go far to see changes being implemented. Madeira Drive in Brighton has been temporarily closed to traffic to allow people space to walk, cycle or generally exercise safely. Meanwhile many London boroughs are opening up more streets for cycling and walking by implementing trial measures to create space to allow people to use them whilst maintaining a safe social distance. In addition bike share schemes including BTNBikeShare in Brighton&Hove are offering free use to NHS staff and other key workers.
Unfortunately, we are yet to see any noticeable changes in Adur&Worthing or West Sussex.
The new normal could see a seismic shift away from car and oil dependency in favour of healthy active travel with a re-modelling of public space to prioritise people over cars. It really isn't rocket science. The solutions are all at hand and being implemented somewhere. We know what they are. All that is needed is the political will to deliver..
We are calling on politicians from all parties in Worthing to develop and implement measures to create safe social distance for exercise and travel and to open up our streets to walking and cycling for all. Now more than ever our elected representatives need to show vision and leadership. Let's hope they will.
Ian Davey, Worthing Greens May 2020
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