The following letter was sent personally addressed to three of the Tooting by-election candidates, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan (Labour), Dan Watkins (Conservative) and Esther Obiri-Darko (Green Party). So far we have received two replies (from Ms Obiri-Darko and Dr Rosena Allin-Khan) and we publish them below as well. We could not find suitable contact details for other candidates in time.

Dear Candidate

Tooting By-election: your stance on the environment

Congratulations on being selected to stand as a parliamentary candidate in the forthcoming Tooting by-election on June 16.

As the Borough of Wandsworth based local branch of Friends of the Earth, we campaign for protection of our natural environment and preservation and enhancement of our urban environment

Our group wishes to ensure that whoever is elected as MP for Tooting is aware of and committed to action on environmental concerns, some of which by their nature are longer term – but all of which are fundamental to our health, wellbeing and ultimately longer term survival.

We believe that concern for our local environment should be high on the agenda of our parliamentary representatives and we would very much like to learn of your views and intentions, should you be elected as the Parliamentary Member for Tooting, regarding the following four issues:

  1. Climate Change: There is an urgent need to address the causes of climate change across-the-board and specifically through central and local government action to (a) divest from fossil fuel investments and (b) encourage renewable energy schemes. There is also a clear need to raise public awareness of the very real threat that climate change involves and to implement measures to greatly reduce reliance on fossil fuels for transport and to provide energy.
  2. Air Quality & Pollution: We know that measurement of air pollution is showing particulate and nitrogen dioxide (NOx) levels to regularly exceed legally permitted levels in many parts of London. This is resulting in ill-health, particularly of the most vulnerable people in our community, and significant numbers of premature deaths across the Borough.
  3. Third Runway at Heathrow: The prospect of increased noise and air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and increased motor traffic serving the airport all contribute to a very strong argument against increasing the capacity of Heathrow airport.
  4. Green Space in our Borough: We wish to see public open and green spaces in Tooting and throughout the Borough protected and enhanced. We are concerned that pressures on existing green space (e.g. arising from local funding pressures) will compromise the peaceful community sanctuary and essential ecological diversity that such spaces provide.

Would you kindly respond to this letter, setting out your attitude and intended actions to address the above concerns. We will publicise candidates’ responses in due course, in order to inform the debate about environmental issues that the Tooting by-election should provide.

Many thanks for your time

Yours sincerely

Terence Brown

for and on behalf of

Wandsworth friends of the Earth

The reply received from Ms Obiri-Darko:

Dear Terence,

Many thanks for your email.  I am a strong supporter of Friends of the Earth  and everything that you do.  I have kept my replies below to your four points
brief, referring to our published policy statements as appropriate.  I’m very happy to expand on these and/or respond to any further questions you may have.

Climate Change: I agree with you that this is an issue we must address. Please see chapter 4 of our 2015 general election manifesto on “energy and the climate” (pages 19 to 24).

On divestment  from fossil fuel investments, we say on page 23 of our manifesto that we would “work with financial institutions, local councils and others to encourage divestment from fossil fuels and develop alternative investment in efficiency and renewable programmes”.  On encouraging renewable energy schemes, we have a range of measures listed on page 21.

Air Quality & Pollution: this is another key issue, which I highlighted in my first campaign leaflet.  [Have you got an electronic copy you can attach?].  The Green Party would extend the ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) to Tooting, improve public transport networks and accelerate the rollout of electric vehicle infrastructure.  Our London Assembly member Caroline Russell (who is also our national transport spokesperson) has taken a great interest in this problem for many years, and I was delighted that she could join me in Tooting on 22 May when we installed air quality measuring equipment at five locations in Tooting: the junction of Upper Tooting Road and Beechcroft Road; the junction of Upper Tooting Road and Brudenell Road;in front of the Wheatsheaf pub; in front of Treherne Court on Tooting Bec Road; and in front of the GPs’ surgery on Tooting Bec Road.  More details are in our press release of 23 May (copy below, excluding the pictures).  See also Caroline’s press release of 17 May, urging the new mayor to extend the ULEZ, and our leader Natalie Bennett’s press release of 12 May highlighting the Government’s inaction on air quality.

Third Runway at Heathrow: The Green Party has consistently opposed increasing airport capacity not just at Heathrow but elsewhere, as stated on page 65 of our 2015 general election manifesto.  More recently please see Caroline Russell’s press release of 11 May, highlighting the damage an extra runway at Heathrow would cause.

Green Space in our Borough: I share your view that green spaces are vital.  Within Wandsworth, the Green Party have been campaigning against the holding of Formula E in Battersea Park, with all the damage this caused last year and will do so again in a few weeks time.  The Council has recently announced that the race will not continue to be held there after this year.  Caroline Russell visited the park on 22 May with local activists to install air quality monitors, as this is something the Council have singularly failed to look at in assessing the damage the race has caused.  More generally, you may also be interested in Caroline’s press release of 24 May highlighting the need to review the regulations affecting front gardens, which are increasingly being covered over with impermeable surfaces.

Best wishes,

The reply received from Dr Rosena Allin-Khan:

Dear Terence,

Thank you very much for your letter. I have long been a supporter of Friends of the Earth and would be delighted to work very closely with you if I am elected on June 16th, on the four issues you outline, but also the many other environmental issues we currently face.

I address each of the issues you have raised below. I would also be very happy to meet for a coffee to discuss how we can work closely together and what suggestions you might have on the issues below.

Let me take each issue in turn.

Climate change: I am passionate about our local landscapes, open spaces and wildlife, and above all about preserving these spaces by urgently addressing the threat of climate change. I believe that climate change is the single greatest threat facing Britain and the world in the 21st century. The solutions to it have to operate in tandem at all levels: local, regional and national.

At a local level, that means preserving our green spaces, promoting community action programmes for renewable energy, learning from pioneering projects like Nottingham City Council’s Robin Hood scheme:

At a regional level in London, I would work closely with my friend, our new Mayor Sadiq Khan to ensure that new infrastructure projects have low-carbon designs built in, upgrading our buses, tubes and trains to reduce carbon emissions and extending London’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone to our local area.

At a national level, I would fight against this Tory Government’s outrageous cuts to subsidies for solar and onshore wind farm energy production, pushing them kicking and screaming so that Britain takes a leading role in the implementation of the COP 21 agreement.

Air Quality and Pollution: As a front-line A&E Doctor, I see first-hand the impact that toxic air has on my patients. Children’s lungs, if they are exposed to harmful gasses like nitrogen dioxide, do not develop properly and can remain stunted for life. I don’t want to leave a polluted city to our children. And I was shocked to hear that our last Tory Mayor seemed to have suppressed this damning report, which showed that those most at risk of the harmful effects of air pollution are children in poorer areas:

I would work to extend the ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) to our local area and push for the rollout of low-carbon vehicles to be expedited. I will work with Sadiq Khan to bring Clean Bus Corridors to Tooting and with the Council to introduce Cleaner Walking Routes to School, so that children can get to and attend school without the fear of having their lungs polluted. I will also encourage as many trees to be built across the constituency as we can manage.

Third Runway at Heathrow: I support the need for a new runway in the South East by 2030. I am disappointed that this Conservative Government has broken its promise to respond to the Airport Commission’s recommendations by the end of 2015. As a result, it is local residents who pay the price for continued inaction on noise and air quality.

However, I understand the real an serious concerns that local people have about the impact a bigger Heathrow would have on health and air pollution – I see these impacts all the time on the front-line of our NHS. We need to balance these genuine concerns against the airport expansion in the South East – which could, for example, be in Gatwick instead – if we are to safeguard jobs and economic growth in our area.

Green Space in our Borough: As Londoners and in our constituency, we are extremely lucky to have access to some of the worlds best green spaces in urban areas. Whether its in Wandsworth Common, Tooting Common or Garratt Park, we have to protect the green spaces we have and seek to develop new ones, rather than accepting they are under threat as a result of Tory cuts to local authority funding.

I want my children to be able to grow up here and be able to access these spaces freely – which is why I would work to make sure they remain in public ownership. I am also pleased that Formula E have decided not to return to Battersea Park, given all the damage they have don there.

I hope this gives you sufficient information on my approach and persuades you to vote for me on the 16th June. Together we can build a cleaner, greener Tooting and work to hold this Government to account in Parliament on green issues.

All the best,

Rosena Allin-Khan