Sustainability looks set to be one of the major themes of the next four-year council administration in the district. At the second of three hustings to be held before the 2 May election of 39 councillors, all the candidates representing the four main parties agreed to espouse sustainability in general and the UN’s Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) in particular.
Thursday’s [17 April] hustings were held at the Friends Meeting House in Canterbury, attended by 100 people and accessed overnight nearly 700 times in a recording made by the Canterbury Journal for the Canterbury Society.
Speaking for the Conservatives, and standing for re-election in Blean Forest, Ben Fitter-Harding told the gathering that SDGs should “absolutely” be “reflected in the next Corporate Plan” and also in the next Local Plan. These are two of the main documents which set the goals and buildings and infrastructure plans for Canterbury City Council. He also proposed setting up a Forum for Sustainable Development.
Green candidate Professor Stephen Peckham, Director of the Centre for Health Services Studies at the University of Kent, said “Yes, yes, yes” when a three-part question on the issue was put to candidates by Dr Carl Wright, formerly a UN co-chair of the SDG consultations.
Dr Wright’s question posed whether candidates would ensure the SDG principles went into the Corporate Plan, and if candidates would work to ensure alignment of council goals with the SDGs and appoint a lead councillor on the area. “It would be a big change of direction,” said Professor Peckham.
Pat Edwards, the Labour candidate for Barton, spoke of the Labour party being “totally committed”, and cited the quality of new buildings as an example of where the SDGs should be applied. Nick Eden-Green, Lib Dem councillor in Wincheap who hopes to win that ward again, said that SDGs should be at the “core” of the Local Plan, and went on to give examples of green roofs, urban drainage and permeable driveways.
The meeting was chaired by Professor Rick Norman who is also chair of the Canterbury SDG Forum. He said: “It was a privilege to chair a hustings which showed that local democracyis alive and well. A good attendance, excellent questions, a lively debate with a good mix of civilised disagreement and encouraging consensus – these are all hopeful signs. And with my ‘sustainability’ hat on, I was pleased with some of the answers!”
A third hustings is to be held for the Barton ward on Wednesday, April 24 at 7pm in Christchurch University, in the Michael Berry Lecture Theatre (room Og46), in the Old Sessions House. This is best accessed from Longport, next to the entrance to the former prison.