Green Infrastructure & Ecosystem Services
Biodiversity is part of the Future Generations cabinet portfolio which Mary shares with Cllr June Burtonshaw. This is because of the vital role which a healthy natural environment plays in meeting the future challenges associated with climate change, as well as promoting health and well-being for humans. Trees and other “Green Infrastructure” provide vital functions called Ecosystem Services: keeping our air clean, preventing floods through soaking up water, sequestering carbon and keeping it locked out of the atmosphere etc. Without green infrastructure, councils would have to fund artificial ways of providing these services. Also, green space delivers well-documented benefits for people’s physical and mental health. Swansea’s health inequality (a man’s life expectancy can be as much as 15 years longer in the green and leafy Swansea West than in the greyer, post-industrial Swansea East) is due to many factors , including pollution and stress. Equalising incidental access to natural green space is an important part of creating A More Equal Wales, A Healthier Wales, and many other well-being goals.
This month we have both been querying the removal of trees in Uplands (one on Beechwood Road, one reportedly due for removal on Glanbrydan Ave) and discussing possible replacements. These may need to be funded out of community budgets. There may be some work for residents in helping identify possible sites for new trees. Mary has been working to ensure that “tree loss” is recognised as a significant risk to the council, particularly in the light of the Ash Dieback disease, and to raise awareness amongst councillors of the benefits of Ecosystem Services, as well as overseeing the development of new policies and strategies to support Swansea’s healthy green infrastructure.
Scrutiny Inquiry: Natural Environment
Cllr Peter Jones (Sketty), Councillor champion for Biodiversity and the Natural Environment, is chairing a scrutiny inquiry examining the Council’s work in this area. The scrutiny sessions will be open to the public, and the Council will be seeking experts to provide evidence on various aspects of the inquiry. Anyone interested is very welcome to get in touch with us to find out more about getting involved.
By the time of this meeting (Feb 12th) the consultation on Swansea’s Well-Being Plan will have only one day left to run, amid many criticisms of the short timescale imposed by Welsh Government. There is a commitment to increase involvement of the public in this plan by keeping an ongoing conversation going, rather than seeing this as a one-off exercise. More information at www.swansea.gov.uk/psb or from our Facebook posts on the subject.
100th Anniversary of Suffrage
Last Tuesday was the 100th anniversary of wealth women over 30 (and all men over 21) being allowed to vote. The occasion is being marked by various events (some for International Women’s Day, below) including the creation of a touring exhibition of information panels being created by Swansea’s award-winning archivist (and Uplands resident!) Kim Collis.
International Women’s Day
Given the centenary mentioned above, Mary and her joint WLGA Spokesperson for Equalities, Anti-poverty and Welfare Reform, Cllr Susan Elsmore (Cardiff) wrote to all Council leaders and Equality lead members to invite them to make particular efforts this year to mark International Women’s Day, March 8th. In Swansea a working group including many key officers and Councillor Champion for Women, Louise Gibbard (Dunvant) is collating information about local events and planning Council events. These will include a talk by Dr Alys Einion of Swansea University about Gender Stereotyping, how this leads to sexism in the workplace and how colleagues can call it out when they see it. Council officers will hopefully be allowed to attend this Civic Centre event during paid work time. We will share information about other IWD events as it is known.
As reported last month, traders have been struggling with parking fines, which really eat into their takings and have a bad impact on market morale. We’ve seen traders pulling out and organisers spending unjustifiable amounts of time involved in disputes over tickets. Cllr Mark Thomas (Penclawdd), Cabinet Member for Environmental Services urged officers to work with us to identify a solution. The official road closure will now run from Gwydr Square to the junction of Gwydr Crescent and Ernald Place (with entry for access only), including a suspension of the double yellow lines so traders displaying an agreed permit provided by market organisers can park there.
The SPG which Planning Committee rejected last July proposed a threshold test of 25%. (More info on our website.) The recent successful Cardiff appeal vindicates the advice of officers, often repeated: the concentration threshold is meant to reflect current reality, not aspiration and if set too low it will not stand up to appeal. Without the SPG, it is difficult (perhaps completely pointless) to object to HMO applications unless the objection relates to a clearly existing policy. This month we are objecting to the conversion of a 4-bed house to 6-bed HMO on Brynymor Road, and the conversion of the former Twizzle Lodge day nursery, Hawthorne Ave, into a 13-bed student house, both specifically on parking grounds. The Brynymor Rd scheme does not seem to meet Parking Standards (rules saying how many spaces must be available) since there is no kerbside provision at all, and on Hawthorne Avenue the conversion of a large HMO into 2 flats on parking grounds was refused a few years ago, with comments which would suggest this application couldn’t be supported. Petitions going in this week.
Misinformation on Privatisation
Unison has been claiming recently that the Council is set to ‘privatise’ some leisure facilities. This is not so. All services are subject to a commissioning review aimed at keeping services running (LC2 is already run by a not for profit body). This process is likely to conclude later this year. The trade unions have been involved at every step, asking for employees’ safeguards which have been included. So far, as a result of this process, the Swansea Museum, Plantasia, Brangwyn Hall and Grand Theatre have all remained in council ownership. We are both firmly against privatisation and support the efforts of the Labour group and Cabinet to avoid it.