I recently caught up with three of Glastonbury’s Green Councillors, Mayor Jon Cousins, Lindsay MacDougall, and Mike Smyth. Although Jon and Lindsay are also District Councillors, they were keen to tell me about the difference having a Green-run Town makes. Greens started as a minority administration in 2015 and now have the majority. They told me how they are working hard to bring environmental and social improvements to the town.
Jon says, “Glastonbury Town Council is one of 9,000 Parish and Town councils in England, with 80,000 councillors, serving 16 million people, raising £1billion in precept. That’s a lot of collective power, and – while Governments do nothing – Parish and Town Councils could take responsibility and lead the way in helping to address the Climate and Ecological Emergency!”
One of the things they are most proud of is hiring a Climate Emergency and Resilience officer. She has audited the Council’s carbon emissions (48 tonnes per year) and has already reduced them by a quarter in her first year in office. They are also encouraging residents to reduce their carbon footprints by supporting programmes that enable the collaborative purchasing and installation of solar panels.
Glastonbury Greens are focused on helping their town practically. When cuts were made to Youth Services they stepped in and funded the town’s two youth clubs. Lindsay helped initiate campaigns for a 20 mph limit throughout the town, which has now been implemented; a key change that makes a real difference – contributing towards a safer environment, helping to improve air quality, reduce noise pollution, and encourage more physical activity such as walking and cycling.
They work in a collaborative way with their fellow councillors, and all of the projects they have implemented, or are in the pipeline, come out of a process of in-depth community engagement.
When the Government announced the Town Deal scheme, Glastonbury Councillors were keen to get involved, but had to prove that they could get things done rapidly through an ‘Accelerator Fund’ – £0.5 million worth of projects, which were carried out in six months. Mike championed ‘The Glastonbury Way’ – a new walkway around the town of approximately seven and a half miles, the route created using the existing long-standing pilgrim paths and rights of way. Jon was involved in the renovation of St. Edmund’s Community Hall, which is in one of the most deprived wards of the town. The Green-led council facilitated improvements to the town centre, and also improved ‘Herbie’s Field’ – a large site, purposely bought as a permanent home for Glastonbury’s annual ‘Tor Fair’, the UK’s second oldest fair, granted a charter by Henry I in 1127.
Once Glastonbury qualified for the Town Deal, a board was created, which has worked with residents to put together a Town Investment Plan that details over £23.6 million worth of projects to improve Glastonbury. At the heart of the 12 projects proposed is the Glastonbury Clean Energy Project, which will be implemented by the community-owned Avalon Community Energy. They are excited about providing a new leisure centre, a new environment centre, and a new food and regenerative farming centre.
As I write they are awaiting a decision from the Government about what will be funded. With elections to fight in May 2022, the Glastonbury Greens have a proud record of achievement to stand on.