It was an invaluable experience to be shown around the construction of upgrades to the Foss Barrier in St George’s Fields and even more so to bring this to the attention of our hip Co-Leader, Jonathan Bartley last Thursday in York. Accompanied by the Lord Mayor and Sheriff of York, the former especially keen to question the managers of the project in his usual role as Cllr for Fishergate Ward on behalf of his affected constituents, the tour was conducted by Area Manager Mark Scott and his colleague Tony Andryszewski, (Ouse & Foss Recovery Manager) . Jonathan joined your other Green Group ward councillors Denise Craghill (Guidhall) and Andy D’Agorn (Fishergate), local party Co-Vice Chair Tom Franklin and myself around the site (all donned in the ubiquitous Hi-Viz, boots & hard hats which were evidently not just for show since yours truly, unforgivably donned in heels, fell ungracefully out of the Portakabin), we were fascinated to learn the following key points:
- If another, equally unprecedented flood were to occur now, the work done so far on the barrier would withstand it – great news!
- Maximum flood levels are rising, at a rate of 9mm/year, so the upgrades were the right decision and would’ve been absolutely necessary even without last year’s floods.
- All of York’s flood defences- walls etc. will eventually need to be raised to address this reality which is down to climate change and upstream issues such as land-use, deforestation & farming processes. The government need to accept this, tackle it.
- If we made St George’s Fields car park into a marina (which the York Green Party believe would encourage sustainable tourism and provide affordable accommodation) this would alleviate the consequences of Foss river flooding, even though as an end in itself would still be a small contribution.
- Other surrounding towns, Selby, Boroughbridge, Cawood deserve not to be overlooked and must be allocated funding to deal with their own flooding risks. York has a lot of media attention but it is by no means the only place affected.
- A visual exhibition by the Environment Agency with how they’ll be spending the £45 million on a) immediate plans, b) the 5 year projects and c) the 20 year+ strategy will be available for everyone to visit, on 25-26th November in the Hotel 53, 53 Piccadilly, York YO1 9PL.
Earlier in the day, Jonathan fervently highlighted these issues to members of the media at a special lunchtime gathering attended by members of the anti-Fracking movements – John Cossham, hopeful Green Party candidate for Hull Road ward and Kit from Frack-Free York, Adela, Sue and Steve from Ryedale & Richard from Frack-Free East Yorkshire – at which everyone agreed a clear connection between Fracking stands glowering at one end of the destructive-climate-changing spectrum just as flooding stands at the other. Whilst many around the table held sacred that climate change is the unarguable-argument, the reality of Tory et al. disregard for this fact requires that other major arguments – e.g. the increased infrastructure destruction & pollution caused by fracking must be the current arguments used to fight against it. It is predicted up to 60 million extra HGV journeys would need to be made during the lifetime of a fracking well, all of them due to pass southwards around York and further on to Leeds clogging up our roads and polluting our air.
At the end of the day Jonathan made his way on the 66 big pink bus to York University to make his headline address to the CND and York University Greens societies, buoyed on by the excellent turn out of environmentally and socially conscious young people who challenged and engaged us on issues from nuclear disarmament to green economics, local campaigns and beyond. All fuelled by gorgeously unique ‘Real Junk Food’, (you can enjoy a similar Pay-As-You-Feel meal Wednesday lunchtimes at Tang Hall Community Centre, see Facebook or www.yourcafe.co.uk) Jonathan, students and Green Party members enjoyed an intimate evening reception where no topic of discussion was off the table.