Three Uttlesford District Councillors from the local political party Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) have joined The Green Party. The councillors making the switch are Councillors Dr Barbara Light, Paul Fairhurst, and Anthony Gerard.
The transition from R4U to the Green Party of England and Wales stems from the councillors' decision to focus on national interests; building on R4U's track record of environmental protection.
In an open letter, the new group of Green councillors said: "The current climate and ecological emergency is of such importance to us all, particularly in Uttlesford. We believe it is right to focus our time strongly on this issue and we can do this better through a closer alignment with the global green movement and a national Green Party."
Cllr Dr Barbara Light said: "Protecting our natural heritage and achieving a sustainable climate and ecology demands a national and global focus. By joining the Green Party, we will bring the district into this debate and represent residents in this important issue at this critical time."
John Lodge, chair of R4U and majority council leader at UDC said: "At R4U we're proud of the environmental programmes we have delivered, including declaring a Climate Change Emergency, implementing refillable water fountains, replacing a council vehicle with an electric one in Saffron Walden, and planting trees. We'd like to thank Barbara, Anthony and Paul for the work they have done on these and other initiatives as part of our team. While our focus is to put residents first on a whole range of issues, we understand and respect their decision for an even greener Uttlesford. We look forward to working with the new Green councillors to do even more."
Sian Berry co-leader of the Green Party said: "We are excited to have such a strong team of green champions as the first Green Party councillors on Uttlesford District Council. This builds on the success of winning our first Green Party Saffron Walden Town Councillor in May, as part of a Green Wave across the country which saw new councillors on more than 50 district, borough and city councils. This all provides a firm springboard for the General Election."
Green issues are of great relevance in Uttlesford. Its rolling countryside, towns and villages have seen one of the largest green-field homebuilding programmes in the country under previous Conservative council administrations which also waved through Stansted Airport development. The new group of Green councillors are seriously concerned about the airport expansion, and continue to actively question the details of the Stansted application particularly in relation to green issues.
Residents for Uttlesford was founded in 2014 to give local people a stronger say on local matters. In the May 2019 local elections R4U won a landslide victory, gaining control of the local planning authority, Uttlesford District Council, inflicting the greatest Conservative loss of seats in any district council where they held a majority. R4U gained 26 seats, reducing the Conservatives to a minority party of four.
The three councillors who have joined the Green Party were cabinet members. Cllr Anthony Gerard held the Residents and Community Partnerships and Police and Emergency Services portfolios. Cllr Dr Barbara Light held the Education, Libraries, Culture and Heritage portfolio. Cllr Paul Fairhurst held the Business, Economy and Jobs, Investments, Strategy and Youth portfolios, and was instrumental in setting up the Youth Council. As Mayor of Saffron Walden, Cllr Fairhurst introduced a Charter for the reduction of single use plastics for local businesses.
This year the Green Party of England and Wales won record gains in local elections, grew its presence in Parliament, reached 50,000 members, and gained four new MEPs in the European Parliament. The Green Party saw its best ever local election results in its 46 year history this year. The Green Party already had a record 178 councillors and on May 2 the Greens leapt to 362 councillors on 122 councils.