Tackling climate change and air pollution and giving residents a real voice in how the borough is changing are upfront and bold in the Mayor’s foreword to ‘A Fairer, Safer and More Sustainable Hackney’, Labour’s manifesto for the 2018-2022 Council. And while the environment is bringing up the rear in the document, the content marks a significant strengthening of the approach to environment and sustainability and features several initiatives which have been the subject of lobbying by Sustainable hackney and other local environmental organisations.

Centre-piece of the climate strategy is the establishment of a municipal energy company utilising the 50% of Hackney’s roof space at the disposal of the Council for solar power. Promises of clean and cheap energy for residents and a social dividend from this local generation is accompanied by commitments to energy efficiency measures in council assets, LED street lighting, an increase in the proportion of renewable energy procured, reductions in the carbon intensity of and, where permissible, a requirement for at least 10% of new developments energy requirements to be generated on site or locally. This is backed up by commitment to an ISO standard to manage implementation. Also promised is a commitment to a fossil free pension fund with a commitment to a 50% reduction in exposure to fossil fuel by 2022.

The stubborn problem of air pollution will be addressed by extension of low emission neighbourhoods and networks, more greening of the Council fleet, extending emissions-based and diesel-surcharging parking permits to estates, more on walking and cycling support and shifting road space from motor vehicles, electric vehicle charging points within 500m of 80% of residents by 2022 and work with TfL to reduce freight vehicles and provide consolidation sites to support cycle and EV deliveries. Work to improve public transport will include campaigning for step-free access to all TfL stations in the borough, an eastern extension to Crossrail 2, improving access to the Olympic Park, Hackney Wick and Stratford and generally improving Hackney Central station.

Increasing recycling is as big a problem, with the rate stuck at just over a quarter of waste for years. In line with advice from SH, the Council plan measures focused on estates and for flats – but provide no detail. Measures to tackle waste overall include well-maintained water fountains to wean people off bottled water, working with businesses to reduce other single-use plastic, establishment of re-use hubs to support development of the circular economy and an object lending library to save us all money and space as well as cut resource use.

An evidence-based Public Realm Green Infrastructure Plan, the key theme at this year’s SH AGM, will be supported by connecting parks and green spaces, 1000 new trees, supporting residents’ engagement and building user groups. There’ll be support for food growing. To gladden many a Hackney heart, there is also a commitment to fight to keep the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden (the Council own only part of the land) but perhaps worrying to “shape” the plans for it too, along with the Kingsland Shopping Centre.

Development pressures in the borough will continue. The Council itself is promising 3000 new homes and a substantial proportion of those council and social rented or shared ownership. Some of the bitterness of recent developments is addressed by promises to work with the consent of tenants and leaseholders, a new charter for residents’ rights and guarantees for Council regeneration schemes and recommitting to existing tenants and leaseholders right of return along with ballots where large-scale demolition is proposed. The scale of the housing problem is clearly recognised but with the Council’s hands and finances tied by Government lobbying and campaigning feature strongly.

Achieving these commitments in four years will take us a significant step forward environmentally and sustainably but it will require residents and business involvement to make the required changes in our daily lives. Various networks are referred to and there’s a commitment to review consultation and engagement techniques but exactly how the residents “real voice” is to be heard – and heeded – is unclear. Sustainable Hackney looks forward to working with other local organisations to make sure it is. But we think there’s another more ongoing aspect to be addressed too. These are very difficult problems and residents and local businesses and organisations need to be informed and given the space and support to help develop the solutions, not just voice their opinions on worked out proposals put out for consultation.

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