If Family Fortunes asked one hundred people for things that they associate with the first national lockdown, I think that sunny weather would have been right up there with toilet roll shortages, Zoom calls and clapping for our carers. Being cooped up inside all day with only an hour allowed out in the sunshine for exercise in the local area gave many people a new appreciation for the green spaces around them.
The weather this time is very different, but I still see many people out and about enjoying (in a responsible and socially-distanced manner) the parks, woods and open spaces of Tameside. We are lucky to have some really great green spaces, including Haughton Dale and Hulmes Wood Nature Reserves and parks like Victoria Park in Denton, Ryecroft in Audenshaw and Dukinfield Park. Also on our doorstep, we have Reddish Vale Country Park in the Stockport part of my constituency.
I am very pleased that more and more people are discovering these fantastic local spaces and this just reinforces the need to protect them and the environment more broadly. That’s why I’ve been so adamant about opposing the extension of the Bredbury Industrial Estate into the precious greenbelt land of the Tame Valley. Being in an urban area, our green space is more limited than it might be otherwise and we need to protect what we’ve got.
But it’s not just about keeping parks and nature reserves open, we need to think more broadly about our environment. One key element of this is cleaning up our air. Whilst we have move on a lot from the smoke-filled photos of years gone by, that doesn’t mean that we aren’t facing serious problems with pollution, which in turn has a very negative impact on public health. Russell Scott Primary in Denton have been trailblazing on how air quality can be improved in and around schools, improving both the health and education of children. We need more innovative thinking like this.
I have a long list of things I’d like to see when we come out of this pandemic – better pay and conditions for key workers, an end to food poverty, proper funding for local councils and public services, and so on. Right up there, though, is a greater focus on the environment both locally and nationally. I believe we can all work together to see a greener and healthier Tameside when we leave Covid behind.