Former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett says Sheffield’s approach to environment must change

Prospective Sheffield MP tells JUS News the city has “huge problem” with air pollution and flood defences

Natalie Bennett, the former leader of the Green Party, has hit out at air pollution levels in Sheffield and urged reform of the city’s environmental policies.

Miss Bennett, who is standing in Sheffield Central at the next general election, said: “We’ve got a huge problem with air pollution, particularly looking at the proposed expansion of Meadowhall. Those areas of Sheffield already have an acute air pollution problem – they are some of the poorest areas of the city and we cannot keep doing things as we are.

“It is a really clear demonstration of that fact, that we have a deeply unhealthy economy and society and that needs to change. So we need to give people security, safety and a healthy society.”

Air pollution is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths nationwide each year, though reports vary dramatically on more precise figures. A government study published in 2014 suggested that 5.5 per cent of deaths in Sheffield were caused by air pollution.

According to the City Council, who monitor pollution 24 hours a day, Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and “fine particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5)” levels are of particular concern in the city.

The Australian-born politician is in the process of moving to Sheffield, after standing down as party leader earlier in the year.

Commenting on the potential for flooding in the city, she added: “It was terribly ironic that last week the council was cutting down trees in a dawn operation – trees that help soak up water. Obviously eight trees is not a dead wreck relationship but in the overall prospect of tens of thousands of trees, it is a serious issue.

“If you look at Sheffield, private landlords have a very high tendency to pave over gardens; that’s going to have an impact on flooding. We need to think about insisting on sustainable urban drainage so that if you do have some form of hard standing at least have it so that the water can soak through.

“It’s the classic green problem – everything is related to everything else. We need to think about how we shape this city so that it’s resilient, so we can prevent floods and manage the floods when they occur. Just building walls higher is never going to work.”

50-year-old Miss Bennett also called for more ‘car clubs’ in the area, arguing that it was “the only practical option” for her whilst she lived in London.

She said: “One of the things I am slightly disappointed by in Sheffield is that there is very few car club cars. I have access to a car club car in London; so, occasionally – if you need to move loads of leaflets round or something – that’s the only practical option.

“I am going to be talking to some of our Green councillors about this to see if we can get some more car club cars in Sheffield. If we can, then that would be an alternative to having your own.”