Fatal Attraction – Brighton Green Party’s Love-in With Property Developers
Fatal Attraction – Brighton Green Party’s Love-in With Property Developers
Brighton Greens Propose the Destruction of Toad’s Hole Valley
I remember a hustings held at the Friends Centre in Brighton’s Ship Street in 2005. I stood as a candidate for the Alliance for Green Socialism. Although I obtained a handful of votes others, such as the Sussex University student newspaper, judged that at the hustings, at the University and in town, I had won the debates. Arguments for socialism have always defeated the tired, cliched and worn-out excuses for the failures of capitalism.
I remember at the town hustings launching into the Green Party’s political pretensions. Keith Taylor, now an MEP (replacement for Caroline Lucas) for the Green Party and somewhat on the right of the Party, was their political candidate. He freely confessed when I asked him a simple question, in a quiet aside on the platform, why is it that whenever the Green Party gets into power they jackknife to the Right? Keith was on the right of the Green Party and sincerely believed he would get elected (in fact he came third in the end, but creditably so). The honour of becoming the first Green MP fell to Caroline Lucas and even then she only gained it by little more than a thousand votes.
The local business community just loves the ‘one planet’ idea of destroying the environment
You Can’t Green Capitalism
The answer to me was simple. If you take over as the manager of capitalism, then however wonderful your ideas about a citizens’ income and all the other god, mother and apple pie ideas you have, then you are constrained by an anti-human and the predatory economic and political system we have which feeds on war and poverty. Capitalism is anti-human because whereas the natural tendency of human beings is to co-operate in the quest for life, capitalism sets people against each other. They call it competition and we see its logical outcome in the current economic crisis where investment bankers competed against each other and the market to obtain as high a price as was possible for their derivatives and financial instruments, regardless of the actual value of their toxic investments. Of course it was all built on sand and collapsed like a pack of cards.
GREEN LUNG: Toads Hole Valley
Of course the political pundits and right-wing soothsayers tell us that competition is ‘natural’ – part of ‘human nature’, as if the latter is fixed. But read a book on the second world war. I’m reading at the moment Francis Wheen’s excellent biography, Tom Driberg – His Life and Indiscretions. Dribert, a Bevanite Labour MP and someone who had to live with the perils of being gay at a time when homosexuality was illegal. His sexuality was widely known about but he remained prey to blackmailers and all the other hypocrital scum that make up the British establishment. He also went to Lancing College and is the most famous resident of the otherwise boring Sussex town of Crowborough. Driberg was what is known as a champagne socialist, who was expelled by the Communist Party. He has a country seat in Essex, Bradwell Lodge and was the first and most famous William Hickey columnist of the Daily Express when Lord Beaverbrook was the proprietor (now the paper is owned by Britain’s largest pornographer, Richard Desmond!).
For the duration of the war Bradwell Lodge was impounded for the RAF. Economic planning was instituted by the Tory led government on a scale undreamt of by socialists. All this because it was recognised that private enterprise couldn’t fight a war of survival. You cannot have economic competition triumphing over the battler for national survival. Everyone had to contribute and you couldn’t do that whilst the privileged classes were immune from sacrifice.
Yet today, instead of humanity co-operating in a joint quest to eliminate poverty and disease we have the grotesque and obscene situation of a race to the bottom. If we don’t pay poverty wages, another country or company will. If, as Norman Tebbit once said, we don’t produce instruments of torture then someone else will. Capitalism, as one of the few intelligent speculators George Soros (child of the Hungarian holocaust and an opponent of Zionism who has been called a cog in Hitler’s machine by these debauched prostitutes for American imperialism) proclaimed is ‘amoral’. It also contains within it the seeds of humanity’s destruction. Global warming can only be combated by human co-operation world wide. Instead capitalism, which is notoriously short-sighted, because it eschews long-term planning, which is necessary to combat global warming, instead churns out CO2, eroding the Arctic ice cap and then starts drilling for more oil in the Arctic, presumably so that it can finish the job of frying the world.
It is plain as a pikestaff that you cannot tackle the global environmental crisis as long as capitalism exists. Just as you cannot guarantee the safety of a child in its crib as long as you have a rattlesnake sharing its sleeping quarters. The Greens however have no strategy. To them capitalism is a neutral vehicle and one can harness the market to green society. So when they come into power they make deals with whoever is around, plead how responsible they are and then get on with the business of making the world unfit to live in. In Germany, the Green Party under its leader and Foreign Minister Joshka Fischer, was the first German government to send its army abroad to fight (in Afghanistan). In Ireland, the Green Party disappeared off the political map when it supported Fianna Fail and its vicious programme of austerity. In Scotland the Green Party showed how loyal it was to the Monarchy by attending the Queen’s inauguration of the Assembly at Holyrood, unlike the Scottish Socialist Party, which boycotted it.
Brighton has always been a political oddity, a liberal island amidst Tory Sussex. It is no surprise that the Green Party gained its first seat here in 1996 when Pete West took one of 3 seats in Labour’s St Peters ward, following that up with 3 councillors the following elections. By 2011 they had 23 seats and were in control of the Council. Unfortunately they learnt nothing of other Green Party administrations in other countries nor did they think through what they could do or even whether it was wise to take power.
I remember telling Bill Randall, the first Green council leader, and other Green Party members I knew that the Green Party in Brighton, which in 2010 had captured its first parliamentary seat in Pavilion with Caroline Lucas, was mad to take power in the Council. They would simply be in the position of administering the vicious cuts of the Liberals and Tories nationally. And so it has proved as they propose to close down 3 Adult Learning Centres for the mentally disabled.
But even I assumed that when it came to Green issues, the Green Party wouldn’t be seen to buckle and become the friend of the property developer. Instead the Green Party administration and their leader, Jason Kitcat, have welcomed plans to develop the last major green space in Brighton, Toad’s Hole Valley, which should have been included in the South Downs National Park and would have been but for political machinations.
The Council’s plans
I can remember arguing with the then aspiring Green candidate and now councillor for Hollingdean, Sven Rufus, about the Green Party. He told me it was a socialist party and I disagreed. It shared many aspirations of socialism but it was a petty borugeois, middle class party that didn’t seek to change capitalism but to tame it. Instead it would end up being tamed. Sven has now lost his co-councillor, Christine Summers, a Christian fundamentalist who voted to oppose gay marriage.
Erstwhile radicals such as Phelim McCafferty, who promised to oppose the implementation of cuts, have become deputy leader of the administration instead!
The Green Party administration in Brighton is beginning to make itself extremely unpopular. Having done nothing, because there is nothing it can do about public transport, it has nonetheless implemented an absurdly high parking regime whereby it costs you £3.50 an hour to park in central Brighton, thus ensuring that as few people as possible come to shop or visit. It has now proposed to develop part of the historic Level in Brighton, as part of its madcap schemes. And now Toads Hole Valley, where it is the local Tories who are posing as the opponents of development (& to their credit have indeed opposed any such development) whereas the Green Party i now the friend of the ‘eco property developer’.
I have a vested interest. I help run Brighton Unemployed Centre. In its 30 year existence we have never been asked to pay the 20% of rates which are discretionary. But this year we had to pay 10% for the first time ever under a Green administration. Under the previous Council, I had the blue parking badge for my disabled son renewed automatically. This year it was refused and despite writing to all Green Party councillors, nothing was done to reverse an officers’ decision. In the end I was forced to bring Judicial Review proceedings against the Council before a High Court judge instructed the Council to hand back the badge. At times of cuts they Council laid out some £20,000 I would imagine hiring barristers and paying court fees.
I make a prediction. That at the next local elections the Green Party will do well to hang on to even 10 seats. The real question is whether the Green Council is so unpopular that it drags down Caroline Lucas, who is a good MP with radical credentials, in its wake. Jason Kitcat and the rest of the ‘business friendly’ Greens will go off to a well merited obscurity. Which in many ways is a tragedy because it will allow New Labour, which in Brighton is particularly awful, to come back by default.
Below is an article by a good and long-standing friend, Dave Bangs, who is a well-known environmentalist. He campaigned long and hard for the South Downs National Park and is the most authoritative and knowledgeable person about the fauna and wildlife of the South Downs I know. Going on a walk with him on the Downs is to see the ground one treads on and the fields in the distant in an entirely different perspective. He is author of ‘Whitehawk Hill – Where the Downs Meet the Turf’ (2004).
We now have the prospect of the Green Party administration going in to bat on behalf of the Business Community, with its ‘one planet vision’ [wonderful how they pick up greenspeak so easily!] and the Conservative councillors and local Tory MP opposed to it! Strange bedfellows indeed.
Toads Hole Valley…down the plughole?
By Dave Bangs, firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 01273 620 815 September 2012
co-leader Brighton and Hove Community Wildlife Groups National Park Campaign 2002-4
co-leader Brighton and Hove Defend Council Housing 2004-7
A decade ago local residents and countryside activists – including Green Party activists – campaigned for the inclusion of Toads Hole Valley and the rest of the Brighton downland fringe in a new National Park of the South Downs.
– Aided by Green Party councillor Pete West, a coalition of all the Green and Tory Party councillors, plus two pro-downland Labour councillors, won the full Council vote to recommend an inclusive boundary to the National Park right up to the edge of the built-up area, taking in Toads Hole Valley, Whitehawk Hill, Sheepcote Valley and much more…
– Later, the National Park Public Inquiry Inspector included Toads Hole Valley in his recommended Park boundary, submitted to the secretary of state.
We thought we had succeeded  …and so we should have…for the case was open-and-shut…
– Toads Hole Valley is a ‘pinch point’ on the long chain of the South Downs…almost the narrowest point on the whole open downland chain…which is here reduced to a mere 2.6 miles wide. It is the point at which the integrity of the down landscape is most threatened.
– Toads Hole Valley is thoroughly inter-visible with the rest of the open 1.5 mile West Blatchington Valley (of which it is a part) all the way up to the Dyke Golf Course. Development at Toads Hole will bring serious visual damage to the wider National Park downs at the point where they are most vulnerable.
– The A27 bypass – remarkably – does NOT constitute a major visual intrusion to this downland valley…and the whole downland valley is protected from the visual intrusion of the built up area by the spur of Snakey Hill (King George V1 Avenue).
– Toads Hole Valley had long been judged as of National Park quality, because it was part of the Sussex Downs AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) in which landscape standards are the same as National Parks.
HOWEVER, a second National Park Public Inquiry to re-address boundary issues (chiefly in the western Weald) reversed the decision to include Toads Hole Valley.
NOW the Valley landowners and Green Party developmentalist councillors are having a field day
Their mad plans make NO MENTION that Toads Hole Valley was judged to be of National Park standard and is a critical part of that wider, inter-visible National Park landscape.
– The plans cram built development all up the most highly inter-visible parts of the valley…on the higher ground of the Snakey Hill spur and up by Court Farm.
– They put new greenspace (in the school grounds and next to the SNCI slope) down in the most sheltered (visually and aurally) part of the valley…the reverse of any rational policy of amelioration of the wider landscape damage…which would keep all the higher ground open.-
They cram a major road along the bottom of the Toads Hole SNCI slope and shave off its southern tip to accommodate that road – and shove in a mess of cycle ways, zig-zag paths, and a funicular railway.
– AND THEY CRAM, CRAM, CRAM !!!…700 houses, an industrial estate, a school, a community hub, and an even longer version of the busy Snakey Hill road,
Why all this madness ?…What is the wider context ?
– A hyper-developing south eastern region, where the best rural landscapes and the greatest national biodiversity are threatened with destruction, PLUS a low wage economy, PLUS severe housing stress exacerbated by inter-regional migration of the well-off in search of pleasure and the poor in search of jobs…WHILST the peripheral regions and poorer countries suffer under-development and regression.
– These patterns of uneven development are an inherent feature of capitalism, and bring with them misery and environmental destruction.
They must be challenged and not pandered to.
A sustainable future for both Brighton and the South Downs depends on redistribution and the strictest environmental protection, NOT developmentalism and cosmetic environmentalism…
– 60% of this development’s housing is to be not affordable…and most ‘affordable’ housing is not truly affordable.
– Yet 100% of this development will be environmentally damaging.
– Over twenty years ago Hove planners rejected the idea of housing on Old Shoreham Road at the bottom of Benfield Valley because of the road’s noise and air pollution…NOW the Green Party proposes housing next to the Brighton Bypass with much greater traffic levels, noise and fumes…
– Organise the community take-over and clean-up of the neglected and abused Valley. We first did that nine years ago…and were praised by the National Park Public Inquiry Inspector for our efforts.
REJECT THIS DEVELOPMENT PROTECT THE SOUTH DOWNS NATIONAL PARK ….FOR EVERYONE…FOR EVERMORE
…Despite the attempt of senior Planning Department officers to frustrate our campaign by ignoring their duty to attend the Public Inquiry and argue for the council’s policy. One of these officers told me afterwards that they had not attended because they did not want to be seen to be arguing for a reversal of the council’s previous policy…a bit like a senior civil servant refusing to support the policy of a new government because it contradicts the policy of the old government!