Follow by Email

Thursday, 5 July 2018

My Concerns About The Proposed St Botolphs Quarter Development

We have serious concerns about the proposed St Botolph’s Quarter development and having attended the recent public exhibition at Greyfriars by Alumno Group and Building Partnerships, those concerns have been amplified. The main development proposals are for a 90 bedroom (approx.) hotel next to the new Curzon cinema on Queen Street and for a 330 bedroom (approx.) student accommodation block on the former bus station site adjacent to Firstsite.  Our concerns include the following:
1)      The St Botolphs area is supposed to be a cultural quarter and yet the proposed development offers minimal new cultural facilities; only a possible performance space for Colchester Institute students within the accommodation block. Most of the development is student accommodation with nothing related to heritage and no additional public arts, craft or leisure facilities, which is a huge missed opportunity.
2)      The development is being sold to the public by Alumno as ‘mixed development’ when in fact is essentially a hotel and student accommodation block with retail facilities largely for students and hotel guests. The Alumno rep admitted that the retail spaces would be leased at a market rate (meaning expensive) to student-friendly chains of the Costa coffee and Nandos type (the rep actually mentioned Nandos). Given that Colchester desperately needs a low rent retail area to create a vibrant small business hub such as the Lanes in Brighton, this is another huge missed opportunity. Once again large corporate chains are being given priority over small retailers and local independents.
3)      This development proposal is being led not by the community but by commercial interests and profit maximisation. The local community has been invited to comment on the developers’ proposals but not on the actual use that the site should be put to. This therefore is not a truly democratic process. The public and local residents should be consulted by the Borough Council on whether student accommodation is the best use of this site.
4)      The density of the proposed development raises a number of micro issues. The North Building of the accommodation block obscures the view of Firstsite and Berryfield from the Curzon cinema restaurant space, while the Central Building obscures the view from the proposed new hotel. The height of both the hotel and much of the accommodation block is four storeys, as high as Firstsite. This is a much bigger and much denser set of buildings than the recently demolished building next to the Curzon and would totally block the view of Firstsite from Queen Street.
5)      The student accommodation itself is being pitched at the high end of the market. The Alumno rep flatly refused to indicate what the likely rent levels are to be, indeed she stated that it was against company policy to divulge that information. However she then went on to state that it would be ‘market rate’. This is a euphemism for expensive. This development is a private commercial venture by Alumno and not by the University of Essex. Not only does it contribute to what amounts to the privatisation of higher education and student infrastructure but it also does nothing to address the problem of high student living costs and debt. Furthermore, if as is possible, not all of the 330 bedrooms are let to students, due to the high rents, then it is possible that the accommodation could end up as high-cost flats.
6)      There is no social housing proposed for the site. Given that the Borough Council are constantly (and with reason) pointing out the need for more social housing in Colchester, this is surprising to say the least.
7)      Alumno have stated that none of the students will be allowed to have cars and that there will be no parking for either students or hotel guests on site. We welcome the fact that there is an intention to minimise additional traffic in the area. However this means that hotel guests will be told to use the Priory Street car park, putting additional pressure on that facility. Moreover, it is not clear how Alumno will enforce the no car rule regarding the students. When they were asked what would happen if students park cars ‘under the radar’ on nearby car parks, the Alumno rep stated that it would be up to local residents to report this. This raises the question of how local residents are supposed to identify whether car owners are students or not, how they are supposed to prove it and who would have the authority to approach drivers in a car park and question them.

Therefore we believe that the Borough Council needs to look at this again. The area does need careful and considered development however this should be led by community need as opposed to corporate greed. We believe that creating a vibrant, low rent retail area of specialised independent shops, combined with new heritage facilities and museum space would be a much better use of the site. Also if some badly needed social housing were to be part of a genuinely mixed use development then this would help towards alleviating some of the pressure to build on greenfield sites.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

The Results Are In: Dangerous Levels of Air Pollution In Castle Ward

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            As reported in the Colchester Gazette, here are the full set of results from our diffusion tube testing of nitrogen dioxide traffic emissions in Castle Ward. We have done this testing to add to the Council's own testing results rather than to compete with them and we fully encourage people to use both sets of results. Our findings are more positive for Brook St residents as the emissions are lower than on the Council's 2016 set of statistics. However they are very concerning for those living near East Street and North Station Road. The concentration of an air pollutant (eg. Nitrogen Dioxide) is given in micrograms (one-millionth of a gram) per cubic meter air or µg/m3. NO2 levels should be within a 40 ug/m3 annual legal limit.

1) Outhouse East, East Hill - 36.22
2) Brook Street (Near Number 71) - 34.52
3) Brook Street (Bottom End Near Traffic Lights) - 37.84
4) Queen Street- 34.72
5) St Botolphs Street- 52.72
6) East Street near Ipswich Road turning - 60.74
7) North Station Road - 58.02
8) East Street - 52.76
9) Colchester High Street - 37.10
10) Top end of East Hill (Oyster House) - 44.17

Monday, 22 May 2017

My Appeal To Conservative Voters: Lend Me Your Vote This Time

It may seem strange to some that a Green candidate should be asking Conservative voters to lend me your votes this time. However I know that many Conservative voters have serious concerns about overdevelopment of the countryside around Colchester, the need to help small businesses, Theresa May's proposed 'dementia tax' and crime. Many will not feel comfortable voting Labour or Lib Dem, however lend me your vote on June 8th and I will get things done for Colchester.

Protecting Our Countryside from Overdevelopment

Many people are rightly worried about overdevelopment and the huge new towns planned for West Tey and near to Wivenhoe. In 2012 the Conservative led coalition government introduced a National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which created a presumption in favour of development. It is a developers' charter which skews the planning system in favour of developers and prevents local people from stopping unwanted urban sprawl. It is the current Conservative government that is imposing unreasonable development targets on local councils such as Colchester and Tendring.
The Green Party Manifesto 2017 pledges to:
- repeal the National Planning Policy Framework completely
- end the presumption in favour of development
- put planning back in the hands of local people
- provide strong protection for the Green Belt
- stop fracking
- abolish HS2 and spend the money on existing rail lines
- introduce a Clean Air Act and an Environmental Protection Act

Locally I will continue to oppose the developments at West Tey and Wivenhoe.

Stopping the Dementia Tax

People work hard throughout their lives to pay off their mortgages and build a home. Most people with children hope to leave most of what they have worked for to their children and grandchildren, including the family home. Currently over 75% of over 65s in the UK are home owners and the average price of a home is £280,000.
The Conservative Party's new proposals on social care funding open up every person's primary property to seizure upon death to cover care costs, even if the care was provided in the property and not in a residential home.
The Conservative manifesto proposals will only protect  £100,000 for you to leave to your children or grandchildren in such circumstances which is less than half the cost of an average family home. Make no mistake, whatever the backtracking, Theresa May wants to stop you leaving your primary property to your children if you need social care in your later years.

The Green Party will not introduce these proposals.

Small Businesses First

The Green Party believes in small local businesses and a vibrant local economy. If elected, I will campaign and lobby for:
- better and cheaper parking facilities in central Colchester
- lower business taxes for small businesses. Make the large corporations pay more.
- a Brexit deal which still enables small businesses to trade with Europe easily
- recognition and encouragement of our street traders
- lower rents for businesses in the town centre


The Conservative and coalition governments have cut police numbers by 20,000 since 2010. As Home Secretary, Theresa May broke her pledge to protect the police budget in real terms. Crime affects us all, yet very few of us can afford to live in gated communities or to hire private security firms. We need more police officers in Colchester to cope with weekend policing in particular. If elected, I would lobby and campaign for:
- increased funding for Colchester police and more officers
- a zero tolerance approach to drug dealers coming to our town from London
- increased officer patrols in central Colchester on Friday & Saturday nights

Guarantee a Home For Ex-Service Personnel

It is completely unacceptable that someone who has fought for their country should end up on the streets. Yet across the UK, one in ten of rough sleepers are ex-service personnel, 1000 in London alone. That is why I will, if elected, be lobbying and campaigning for a law to guarantee all ex-service personnel, as well as all those aged under 21, a home by law. Local councils will be forced to house them and central government forced to fund it.

If you like what you read, please lend me your vote on June 8th


Sunday, 14 May 2017

Save Our NHS

After leaving university in 1988, I worked for a year for the NHS in the finance department of Leicester Royal Infirmary. Back then the financial pressures on the NHS seemed acute, however that was nothing compared to the situation today. Our NHS is being sucked dry by PFI debt, hammered by underfunding and bit by bit privatised by stealth.


However before we get too carried away with current doom and gloom, it would be sobering to have a few choice facts about life before the NHS was created by the post-war Clement Attlee government.

- Before the NHS, the only system in place was that created by Lloyd-George's National Insurance Act 1911. Premiums were high because they were charged at a flat rate, the Lord and the labourer paid the same.
- The uninsured were only treated in hospital if they had TB (Tuberculosis). Everyone else could sling their hook.
- One in twenty children died before their first birthday.
- Thousands of people died in England every year from treatable diseases such as pneumonia, polio and meningitis.
- Those who could not afford 'to call the Doctor out' had to resort to home remedies such as bread poultices and blackberry vinegar. Or alternatively they could kick the bucket.

This was the reality of 1930s Britain.

Fortunately we now have the NHS, the largest employer in the UK, providing jobs for 1.7 million people. It treats over 3 million people per week in England alone and the NHS budget for 2012-2013 was £109 billion.
However the very scope of the NHS is what makes it attractive to those who want to buy into its services to run them for a profit.


Government politicians love to say that they are spending record amounts on the NHS. In raw terms this may be true. But what they never tell you is that these increases are more than wiped out by the rising cost of drugs and increasing demand due to the rising UK population. Spending per patient is going down while the big drug companies are allowed to charge extortionate rates for their products.
In the 1990s the John Major and New Labour governments came up with the worst idea ever inflicted on UK public services. PFI Deals (Public Finance Initiative). Put simply they got private firms to build new hospitals and then leased the buildings from them at extortionate rates of interest. Here are some astounding statistics:

- The NHS has PFI debt of £80 billion for hospitals which only cost £11.5 billion to build.
- The total PFI debt for all UK public services is £300 billion for projects worth only £55 billion.

The stupidity behind this whole idea beggars belief and yet these rip-off deals keep going on with student accommodation being the latest racket. Meanwhile our so-called 'failing hospitals' are deemed financial failures because they are saddled with years of debt.

The result is endless reorganisations, cuts and outsourcing of services to private firms who bid for contracts at the cheapest rate, often at the expense of quality of service. Some further statistics:

- Between 2005-2009, New Labour blew £780 million on 70 reorganisations in 4 years.
- The current Conservative government has spent £17.6 million on management consultants briefed to draw up plans to cut £22 million from the NHS budget by 2020.
- In January 2017 there were 18,000 trolley waits due to not enough beds.
- Extra funding does not all go to the NHS. In winter 2016-17 £2 million went to private providers eg Richard Branson's Virgin Healthcare.
- Private firms now carry out 17% of hip replacements, treat 10% of all trauma patients and 6% of all gall bladder removals.

Private providers bid for services by offering to run them on the cheap, undercutting the NHS. The Tory government have changed the law in order to insist that the private sector has to be given equal access to bid for services and the imposed cuts create a situation where cheapest wins. Cheapest also often means low paid staff, job losses and a bog-standard or inadequate service for the public.

- In 2013 a Freedom of Information request found that 52 NHS staff had been paid £2 million in gagging orders to stop them speaking out about what was happening to quality of provision.


In 2011 Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire became the second UK hospital to be given to a private company, called Circle,  to run for supposedly 'failing'. Failing that is in the context of being saddled with £40 million PFI related debt thanks to Mr Blair and being situated in a county with a huge rising population. As a result:

- Circle's debt reduction plan included £311 million worth of job cuts and streamlining A&E services leading to increasingly long waiting times before being seen
- In October 2013 the Childrens' Ward failed to meet national standards of care.
- In 2014 the Care Quality Commission found severe issues with patient care including people lying for hours in their own faeces.
- Circle pulled out in 2015 claiming that the hospital was not financially viable , meaning in other words that even with all of its 'efficiency savings' the lack of funding and crippling PFI debts were too much.

Friday, 12 May 2017

My Personal Appeal To UKIP Voters in Colchester

UKIP have decided not to field a candidate in Colchester for the general election on June 8th. They have chosen to disenfranchise you by denying you the opportunity to vote for them again, as 5870 people chose to do in the 2015 election. By doing so they have let you down. This comes after they lost all of their county councillors in the recent local elections in Essex. They are a party in terminal decline.
I know that many people chose to vote UKIP because the other parties seem like an out of touch elite who talk from a script, don't do what they say they'll do and generally talk down their noses at people. But it doesn't have to be like this. As someone from a working class background who has only been doing this for four years I know that career politicians are often out of touch and live in their own world. I won't let that happen to me. In Colchester I am the only anti-establishment candidate standing. The Conservatives want to slash £12 billion from our public services and to privatise the NHS bit by bit. Labour in Colchester represent the Tony Blair faction of the party that have caused so much damage to our country.

Lend me your vote this time and I will get things done. 

My priorities include:

- Getting more investment into our hospital and NHS
- Campaigning for a guarantee of a home by law for all ex-service personnel and under 21s
- Creating over 2 million jobs nationally in renewable energy
- Campaigning loudly against the overdevelopment of our town and the huge new towns planned for us.
- Campaigning for a huge investment in social care for older people
- Putting small businesses before the large corporations. Less tax for the small businesses, more for the corporations.
- Investing in equipment for our armed forces so they are not sent into conflicts ill-equipped
- More police and zero tolerance of drug dealers coming to Colchester from London

If you like the sound of this then please lend me your vote on June 8th and let's get things done.

Mark Goacher

Thursday, 11 May 2017

My Top Ten Environmental Policy Prioities for Colchester

The grey parties are wilfully ignoring the environment as an issue in this general election. Environmental issues are getting barely a mention in the media but what sets the Green Party apart from the others is that we place environmental issues at the heart of our campaigning. Joint leader Caroline Lucas states:
"The need for the Green Party is greater than ever. Unless we have got a vocal Green Party then the environment is allowed to fall off the agenda".

Here are my top ten environmental priorities for Colchester:

1) Improving Air Quality: Some areas of central Colchester suffer from high pollution. Brook Street, East Hill and North Station Road all spring immediately to mind. As MP I would put pressure on our local councils to monitor the air quality of the town and around its major roads more rigorously and campaign for cleaner buses as opposed to bus companies using old polluting vehicles as a cheap option.

2) Promoting Solar Energy: There is much roof space above our major retail outlets and public buildings that could be utilised for solar panels. As MP I would set up meetings between representatives from businesses, local councils and solar power providers to facilitate greater use of this space.

3) Defending Our Green Spaces: As MP I would have a platform and the oxygen of publicity to really challenge the developers and central government over the huge overdevelopment planned for the Colchester area. I would rigorously campaign and lobby against unreasonable housing targets, weakening of the planning laws, encroaching on the green belt and more specifically West Tey and the concreting over of Middlewick Ranges.

4) Saving Our Wildlife: I would campaign for and vote for the Green Party's proposed Environmental Protection Act designed to protect the natural world in the wake of Brexit and the loss of the EU wildlife and birds directives. The act would set up a new environmental regulator and court.

5) Tackling Habitat Loss: The 2013 The State of Nature Report, launched by Sir David Attenborough, revealed that 60% of the species studied have declined over recent decades. More than one in ten of all the species assessed are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether. As MP I would work with national organisations such as Friends of the Earth to lobby for the State of Nature report to inform all government decisions involving the environment as well as for the promotion of conservation work to reverse this decline to be a top government priority.

6) No To Fracking, Yes to renewables.  The current government's cuts to the subsidies provided for renewables should be completely reversed. As MP I would campaign for our government to learn from Germany and Scandinavia and put renewable energy first in order to tackle climate change, create jobs and avoid pollution. I would campaign for the creation of 2.5 million green energy jobs by 2030.

7) A Ban on Glyphosates: Glyphosate herbicides are over-used on our crops, paths and in Castle Park. I would use my position as MP to put pressure on the Borough Council to end this use locally and on central government for a national ban.

8) No to Foxhunting: Engaging in animal cruelty as a sport should remain illegal.

9) Subsidies For Farmers Who Promote Wildlife: Farmers who set aside land for nature or create wildlife meadows, ponds and other habitats should receive generous subsidies from central government. I would lobby hard for this.

10) Litter: Litter blights central Colchester far too often. I would use my position as MP to lobby the Council to ensure regular cleaning as well as set up local community volunteer teams. Bag it and bin it and that way we'll win it.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Getting Up Close & Personal: Who is Mark Goacher?

Most interviews during an election period concentrate just on the politics. Which often begs the question of how much you really know about the people standing and asking for your votes. So here is my attempt at a more personal kind of interview.

Q: So what do you do outside of politics?

Well I'm a full time teacher at Colchester Sixth Form College and have been for 27 years so that takes up a great deal of my time. I've just finished marking the A level coursework and mock exams and now it's full on revision lessons and trying to encourage the students to do as much graft as possible in the run up to exams. I'm the NUT rep at the college.

Q: Yes but what else besides work?

I volunteer regularly at Outhouse East, Colchester's LGBT charity, and am on the board of trustees. I am an avid reader of history and fiction; I have just finished John Guy's book on Thomas Becket. Late medieval history, particularly the Wars of the Roses, is a particular interest of mine and I grew up not far from the site of the Battle of Bosworth.  I'm also an avid fan of cult tv/sci fi from the 60s and 70s : Doctor Who, Blake's 7, Survivors to name but a few.

Q: But isn't sci-fi is geeky and shouldn't you play down your involvement with a gay charity?

No and no and I'd find anyone asking such questions to be amusingly anachronistic. I fail to see why an interest in Doctor Who is any more geeky or nerdy than the guy who collects car magazines or the bloke into war gaming or football. As far as the LGBT angle is concerned I doubt there are many voters who still think that politicians can only be heterosexual males with a wife and two children in 2017 .

Q: So where did you grow up?

I was born in Leicester and grew up in Leicestershire near Hinckley and Bosworth. As I said it was not far from the site of the Battle of Bosworth where Richard III was killed. I was extremely pleased when Richard's remains were discovered and reinterred in Leicester Cathedral. It was a great moment for the city and has brought over £45 million of investment into Leicester. I used to work at Leicester Royal Infirmary as a trainee accountant.

As Leicestershire lad 1979

Q: How do you think your background has shaped you?

Well I've lived in various social worlds in my life which I think gives me an understanding of a range of different people. I never have and never would want to live in an echo chamber which seems far too common among the politician set. My parents didn't live together and my mother worked in a boot and shoe factory and my dad, who lived with his parents in Hinckley, was a linesman fixing electric wires. So that's a pretty working class start. I went to comprehensive schools Heathfield High School and then Earl Shilton Community College. Both are now one single academy which makes me shudder as they served me well. Teachers like Mr Clarke, Mr Chitty and Miss Mclintock inspired my love of History. There were some brilliant teachers in those schools and I made it through sixth form and got into Lancaster University in 1985, the first of my family to go to university. Going to university meant something to me, it was not something I took for granted. I think too many people involved in politics are not only distanced from the majority of people but also look down on them, often unconsciously.

At Lancaster University 1988

Q: So when did you move to Colchester?

In 1990 when I came to work at the Sixth Form College. I'd has a job as a trainee accountant at Leicester Royal Infirmary which I didn't enjoy one bit. Hardly surprising as I've no interest in numbers or figures. I applied as quick as I could for teacher training, which I did at Nottingham University's school of education. Then came to Colchester. I've been here for nearly 27 years and I was 23 when I arrived so that's most of my life. So I may not be an Essex native but I think I've earned the right to call myself a Colchestrian. I know that Colchester people value its Sixth Form College and I'm proud to have been part of a History department that has offered such a wide range of subjects and options over the years.

Q: Why did you get into politics?

I've always been 'into politics' in the sense of being interested in it. However I joined the Green Party in 2012 because I was angry about two things ; the swingeing cuts being imposed on education, public services and pensions and the huge overdevelopment of our countryside. The coalition government's tuition fee policy made me furious as the prospect of being saddled with £45,000 + worth of debts would certainly have impacted badly on me in later life. I went to university for free so why shouldn't the millenials? Then the Lib Dem controlled Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council wanted to build a huge urban sprawl estate on the countryside near to where I grew up in Leicestershire. I've always been interested in conservation and wildlife protection and I'd joined the Green Party in the 1990s as a non-active member. It was around the time of Swampy and the Newbury bypass roads protests that were in the news. I wasn't active in any way but I sympathised with green causes. Now however I decided to get more involved.

Q: Are you a glass half empty or a glass half full kind of person?

Both I think. I do think that we need to be realistic about the world and not overly, completely optimistic about everything. I wonder how far that state of mind is from being wilfully indifferent or just unimaginative. You have to recognise that there are awful things going on which are going to be very hard to reverse such as the underfunding of the NHS, the catastrophic decline in global wildlife and of course climate change. However taking a fatalistic approach to these things without any optimism at all or capacity to believe that you can do your bit to change things is just copping out.

Cleaning up the Colne