Election 2019

General election 2019: Your Questions Answered on the environment

Cuttlefish Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Cuttlefish live in the south coast's kelp forest

Climate change and environmental damage is one of the issues that matters to people in this election.

While reducing greenhouse gases is a global challenge, issues like habitat destruction and air pollution are affecting British communities directly.

Here, we ask local politicians to answer your questions about the environment in the South East.

After Brexit what is your party's policy on ensuring restoration of the South Coast's Kelp Forest? - Simon Horsley

Image copyright Getty Imags
Image caption Dozens of fishing vessels set sail from the Sussex coast each morning

Mr Horsley, a dentist in Brighton, East Sussex, said conversations with local fisherman at work had drawn his attention to "declining fish stocks and the damage larger trawlers" are doing to the coastline.

Scientists warn the kelp forest, which once extended all along the Sussex coast, has been reduced to small pockets due to changes in fishing practices and poor water quality.

Concern for the habitat that provides sanctuary for hundreds of species including cuttlefish and seahorses has spread, with Sir David Attenborough adding his voice to calls to ban trawl fishing within 4km of the coast.

The Green party's Leslie Groves Williams backs the initiative, put forward by the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA), which would provide "respite to allow the kelp to regenerate".

However, the party would go further, she said, introducing so-called "no-take marine protected zones" in 30% of British waters.

All fishing would be banned in the areas, but she said there would be "economic benefits", with increased tourism thanks to greater biodiversity and replenished fish stocks in surrounding waters.

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Media captionThe kelp forests are one of the most bio diverse environments on the planet

The party would also overhaul the allocation of fishing rights, so the least-damaging operators are given preferential treatment.

"Not all fisherman are the same. In Worthing we've got a little, local fisher people who come and sell their produce on the beach and that's quite different to the mass-ones that go straight into the supermarket."

Conservative Tim Loughton said there needed to be "much better enforcement" of any exclusion zone, adding: "Part of the problem in the past is the existing limitations are not properly being enforced."

"There's been a sort of turf war with fishermen from New Haven for sometime and there's been some almost fisticuffs with some of the Shoreham Harbour fisherman in the past," he said.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sussex fisherman have reported massive declines in the kelp forest since the 1980s

He called for more research on the causes of habitat loss, adding that an "interesting theory" from one fisherman is that reductions in sewage outflow in East Worthing had deprived kelp of vital nutrients.

He said any solution must be "sustainable, enforceable and doesn't drive anybody out of business or completely deplete our fish stocks".

"It needs to be based on a proper conservation and sustainability programme of which our fisherman are best placed to advise on," he added.

Labour's Lavinia O'Connor declined to be interviewed, but in a statement said she supported efforts to restore the kelp forest, which "helps fight climate change, improves water quality, encourages wildlife and biodiversity and improves fish stocks".

She said the local fishing industry must be helped to adapt to any changes, while "any excessive quantities of seaweed" washed up on the beach should be cleared.

"Labour would seek to organise a system of removal with local gardeners, allotment owners and small farmers so that the seaweed can be used as an eco-friendly soil improver."

Ashley Ridley, the Lib Dem candidate, said he supported the introduction of a 4km trawling exclusion zone, adding that the party would "look at if we can extend that to other areas of the county as well, because it's really vital for fish and marine life".

The party has pledged to create a "blue belt" of marine protected areas covering at least 50 per cent of UK waters by 2030 and introduce a fisheries policy that seeks to restore "depleted fish stocks".

Mr Ridley said climate-change tackling measures, such as planting trees, would "bring the emissions down, which will help bring the temperatures of the sea down".

For details of all the candidates visit the BBC constituency page for Worthing East and Shoreham.

How can aviation growth be justified in the current climate emergency? - Adrian Washbourne.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Gatwick is a major employer in Crawley, West Sussex

The 56-year-old has observed a "dramatic and noticeable increase in flight frequency from Gatwick and Heathrow in the last five years" and fears any expansion will lead to a "huge increase" in noise and pollution.

Parliament has voted in principle to support a third runway at Heathrow and Gatwick aims to use its emergency runway for routine flights.

Gatwick is a major employer in Crawley, West Sussex, and communities nearest to the airport could feel the effects of any expansion.

So, what would the candidates do if elected?

The Green party's Iain Dickson said the party pledged to scrap all plans for airport expansion, due to the "huge amount of damage to the atmosphere" caused by aeroplane emissions which would "accelerate the possibility of irreversible climate change".

He said he did not want to see any rise in flights from Gatwick.

Mr Dickson said any jobs lost as a result would be replaced by the party's £100bn-a-year "decarbonising policy" - named the Green New Deal - suggesting roles would become available in areas like insulation fitting and the renewable energy sector.

The party has pledged to ban advertising for flights and introduce a levy on anyone who takes more than one return flight a year.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Green party and Lib Dems have both promised to target frequent flyers

The Lib Dem's have proposed a similar policy, targeting frequent flyers. Candidate Khalil Yousuf said the tax would "not only help to reduce demand" but would also ensure "those who pollute the most, pay the most".

The party would "ensure there is no net increase in runways", but said there was still room for increased flights at Gatwick. However, he said the party would "limit demand on flights to 60% more than current levels, rather than the doubling that is projected."

Conservative incumbent Henry Smith does not agree an increased aviation tax is the answer.

"There is a danger that climate concerns can become an excuse to add taxation that actually damages business and economic output," he said.

He said he was "opposed to Gatwick expanding beyond its boundaries", but supported the airport "being able to grow its business and passenger numbers on its current footprint".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Gatwick hopes to use its emergency runway for routine flights

Plans to use the emergency runway for routine flights "have a lot of potential and are worthy of serious investigation," he added.

He believes new technology can cut pollution, while investment in infrastructure - like the £150m revamp of Gatwick's railway station - would help reduce emissions from people travelling to and from the airport.

Labour candidate Peter Lamb declined to comment.

He said his role as leader of Crawley council meant he could not speak publicly while the airport's proposals to use the emergency runway were being considered by the Planning Inspectorate.

For details of all the candidates visit the BBC constituency page for Crawley.

I live in Storrington which I am told is one of the worst air-polluted villages in the UK. What is going to be done to rectify this? - David Hodges.

Image copyright Google
Image caption The village of Storrington has become a traffic "rat run"

As a resident of the West Sussex village for the past three decades, Mr Hodges said he had witnessed the worsening air quality first hand, blaming cars and lorries using the road through the village as a "rat run" to the A27.

According to the World Health Organisation, the village on the edge of the South Downs National Park is one of the 30 worst-polluted areas in the UK.

All parties contesting the constituency have pledged to improve air quality, but what will this look like on the ground in one of Britain's most-polluted postcodes?

The candidates for Arundel and South Downs agree that reducing the number of pollution-spewing vehicles on the road was important, all pointing to how their parties would encourage the transition to electric cars.

Labour and the Green party have pledged to end the sale of all diesel and petrol vehicles by 2030, while the Lib Dems have promised that every new car and small van sold will be electric by the same date.

Theresa May's government promised in 2017 to do the same by 2040 and Conservative candidate Andrew Griffith said they had been "consulting about bringing that date forward".

Image caption Hundreds of people protested against earlier plans to run the A27 dual carriageway through Binsted Woods

The Lib Dems, Greens and Labour have all promised to introduce a Clean Air Act, while the Tories said they would set "strict new laws on air quality".

Lib Dem candidate Alison Bennett and the Green's Isabel Thurston both said commuters and employers should be encouraged to run car pools and share lifts, reflecting their parties' commitment to organising at a grassroots level.

Ms Thurston said Greens also think that "getting school run traffic off the road is essential", with electric mini buses ferrying pupils from their homes and back.

Ms Bennett said cuts to rural bus services in West Sussex were a "real issue", adding that "unless you put the infrastructure in place... then people are going to keep using their cars".

Labour's Bella Sankey echoed her sentiment and said people were "far too reliant on cars" because of a "massive reduction in bus services" in the past decade.

"Labour's policy is to offer renationalisation of bus services, so that we are able to better regulate the market and ensure there is provision in rural areas and make sure they are not ignored because that's not where the profits lie."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption All the parties contesting Arundel and South Downs have vowed to improve air quality

The Conservatives have pledged to "bring back and protect" rural bus routes with low fares, while investing in electric buses.

Mr Griffith, a business adviser to Boris Johnson before being selected to defend the seat, said local bus routes in West Sussex "already receive public funding... so nationalisation would not change anything".

He said he welcomed "anything that takes traffic off the roads" and wanted to see electric cars and hydrogen-powered buses "as fast as we can".

However, he added: "The only real thing that will make life better for Storrington residents immediately will be to improve the A27."

"The traffic flows, particularly around Arundel, mean Storrington is plagued by traffic trying to make its way west and is unable to do so because of the congestion."

The A27 bypass, which is scheduled to cost up to £450m, has proved controversial in the constituency and is opposed by all the other parties.

Ms Thurston said the Green party was "opposed to building any roads now, because we are in a climate emergency," adding that the money should be invested in public transport and encouraging people to change behaviours.

Independent candidate Robert Wheal said building the bypass was the "biggest thing that will reduce the air pollution in Storrington".

Mr Wheal, a former Tory councillor in Arundel who was due to stand for the Brexit party until Nigel Farage agreed not to contest the seat, said it was "just not feasible" to tell people in rural areas that "we can have more busses, more trains, get people out of cars on to bicycles".

"I just despair that the narrative is being inculcated into a lot of young people and their parents," he said.

He said the causes of climate change and how much humans were responsible was an "ongoing debate".

For details of all the candidates visit the BBC constituency page for Arundel and South Downs.

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