Minister dismissive of sustainable alternatives
The ‘Stop Climate Chaos’ sponsored ‘panel’ event in Battle on 20th May offered us an opportunity to ask Greg Barker – MP for Bexhill and Battle, and minister for climate change – his views on the ever more costly Bexhill to Hastings Link Road, and in particular, whether he thought there was a case for re-examining the scheme in the light of predicted extra Co2 emissions of between 5 and 6,000 tonnes per year.
The question was asked, and expanded, to seek his views on looking afresh at alternatives which had been ignored or shelved for over a decade – a new station at Glyne Gap, real time bus information, quality bus routes and new and improved pedestrian and cycling facilities. His answer was disappointing.
Minister Barker explained that the alternatives had been looked at when there was plenty of money promised by the last government, and some good things had been delivered, but the people in Bexhill Road were fed up with congestion and pollution and the BHLR was essential. The future was in his view ‘the electric car’.
We believe that the (school term time) problems of congestion and air quality in Bexhill Road could have been dealt with many years ago by alternatives. As for the ‘electric car’, well, there may be improvements in local air quality in 15 to 20 years, but in any case, continuing with car based developments will bring more congestion and urban sprawl – with facilities difficult to reach for those with no car- and more pressure on land in such places as Combe Haven valley. Electric cars will also kill and injure no less than conventional ones.
Parliamentary officer for Friends of the Earth, Martyn Williams emphasised the last point on road casualties and reflected that many MPs in England accepted the fact that building roads only led to more traffic and congestion, but made an exception in the case of their own local road scheme! Martin was applauded.
Conclusion: Greg Barker’s response was remarkable for its passionate defence of dull orthodoxy and techno-fix solutions.