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Putting nature on Oxford's Port Meadow at the heart of the General Election

Monday 29th May 2017

Nature at the heart of the General Election, Port Meadow, OxfordHeart among the buttercups on Port Meadow

Prospective MPs for Oxford constituencies joined wildlife supporters, local residents and the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) to put nature at the heart of the General Election. On Friday evening, 26 May, more than 50 people gathered on Oxford’s famous Port Meadow to make a heart among the golden buttercups.

The environment feeds and clothes us, and provides us with clean water and air as well as biodiversity and environments to improve our health and wellbeing. We have to take nature and the environment seriously.

BBOWT’s Tom Beckett, Director of Public Affairs, spoke of the need to protect wildlife habitats. “Port Meadow is part of the Oxford Meadows Special Area of Conservation (SAC), currently protected by EU nature law the Habitats Directive. But there’s no guarantee this protection will continue after the UK leaves the EU. If we lose the protection for this place it could be vulnerable to the impacts of development on land nearby."

The Wildlife Trust invited all prospective parliamentary candidates standing in the constituencies of Oxford West & Abingdon and Witney, both of which cover the Oxford Meadows SAC, and also Oxford East to attend the gathering and speak of their parties’ commitments for nature and the environment.

Before everyone gathered into a heart-shape among the buttercups the politicians: Marie Tidball, Labour, Oxford West & Abingdon, Artwell, Independent, Oxford East and Dr Kirsten Johnson, Lib Dems, Oxford East spoke passionately of the need to ensure the next Parliament passes legislation for the environment to provide clean air, water and habitats for wildlife.

Marie Tidball, Labour, Oxford West & Abingdon has lived and worked in Oxford since 2002. “The Oxford Meadows, including Port Meadow, are currently protected by EU legislation. While the Tories' disastrous Brexit negotiations threaten a bonfire of red tape, I’m proud that the Labour Party has committed to preserving and enhancing our environmental protections, guaranteeing important natural spaces like Port Meadow will continue to be protected.

“We know that the natural world doesn’t have borders and nor do the pollutants which put it at risk. That’s why Labour has pledged to introducing a new Clean Air Act to deal with the Tory legacy of illegal air quality. Our farmers and foresters are the caretakers of our rich and diverse landscape that composes the garden of England – Labour has committed to working with them to plant a million trees to promote biodiversity and flood management – essential in places like Oxford.

“Protecting our environment means working collectively to put nature at the heart of politics; investing in our environment is investing in our future. And as we look across this luscious meadow at the buttercups, yarrow and white clover bobbing in the warm summer breeze, we must remember the bees. In this green and pleasant land, it is the bees – our army of invaluable pollinators – who are at risk. That’s why we have committed to prohibiting neonicotinoids.”

Artwell who is standing as an Independent in Oxford East described how he was inspired by the documentary film An Inconvenient Truth which highlighted the way the planet’s environment is being polluted by human waste.

“We’re using Mother Nature as a dustbin and is has to stop,” said Artwell. “The real planet-savers are the South American native people risking their lives to stop logging. We need Parliament to be accountable to save our environment, clean up Sellafield and stop all the plastics in the oceans.”

Dr Kirsten Johnson, Lib Dems, Oxford East, who used to live near Port Meadow, outlined the party’s pledge to introduce Five Green Laws for Green Transport, a Zero-Carbon Britain, Green Buildings, Zero-Waste, and a Nature Act.

“The Nature Act would put the Natural Capital Committee (NCC) on a statutory footing; set legally binding natural capital targets, including on biodiversity, clean air and water; and empower the NCC to recommend actions to meet these targets. Liberal Democrats would significantly increase the amount of accessible green space, including completion of the coastal path, and create a new designation of national nature parks to protect up to one million acres of accessible green space valued by local communities.

“The Nature Act would protect and restore England’s lakes, rivers and wetlands, including through reform of water management and higher water-efficiency standards, and establish a ‘blue belt’ of protected marine areas. We would reverse the current sharp decline in the rate of woodland creation by aiming to plant a tree for every UK citizen over the next 10 years, and protect remaining ancient woodlands.

“We would establish a £2 billion flood-prevention fund focused on providing support for small community and council-led schemes to reduce upstream flooding, and knock-on effects in downstream areas, in addition to improving flood defences, and introducing high standards for flood resilience for buildings and infrastructure in flood-risk areas. This is especially pertinent to Port Meadow and this area of Oxford. We would suspend the use of neonicotinoids until proven that their use in agriculture does not harm bees or other pollinators.”

After hearing from the politicians Tom Beckett from BBOWT said: “This is such an impressive gathering and so good to hear from the candidates about their commitments to the environment. The Wildlife Trust will be holding those elected politicians to account during the next Parliament.”

All candidates standing in constituencies of Berks, Bucks & Oxon have been invited to state what they will do for nature and the environment in their constituencies; their responses are posted on