Lib Dems Call for Action on Air Quality

Air QualityTowcester Liberal Democrats have called on the government to tackle poor air quality and ensure vital pollution limits are not watered down post-Brexit.

This month marks the 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act, which was introduced in the 1950s to tackle deadly smog affecting UK cities.

In a letter to the new Secretary of State for the Environment Andrea Leadsom, the government is urged to ensure it follows through on EU agreements to tackle air pollution and enshrine essential limits into British law.

The letter emphasises that the government must not “betray the legacy of the Clean Air Act by allowing the UK to become the dirty man of Europe once again.”

Full text of the letter

The Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP

Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs


Dear Andrea

We write to you as both our local MP and in your new role as Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Earlier this month the Liberal Democrats wrote to your predecessor Liz Truss on the important issue of air quality. We are unashamedly using much of the text of that letter to highlight the issue again as it greatly affects Towcester, here in your own constituency.

This month marks the 60th anniversary since the Clean Air Act came into force, which did so much to reduce the deadly smog then afflicting cities across the UK. We are now faced with another crossroads in the fight for cleaner air, as the country prepares to leave the EU and potentially put vital pollution limits at risk.

As you know, Towcester suffers from air pollution caused by traffic, in particular HGVs, using the A5 through the centre of town. With a relief road still many years away, children, the elderly and people with respiratory and heart conditions are all particularly vulnerable to the serious health impacts of such poor air quality. Towcester has schools, nurseries and retirement homes all in very close proximity to the A5. Air quality has been monitored in Towcester for many years but no action has been taken directly to improve air quality.

It is now time for a new Clean Air Act to take this fight to the next level and enshrine vital EU legislation into law. We’ve come far in the fight against air pollution in recent decades, but there remains much to be done. Air pollution is still linked to an estimated 40,000 early deaths each year in the UK. Thousands of children still go to school in areas with dangerously high levels of pollution, damaging lung development and causing higher rates of asthma. The young, elderly and people with respiratory and heart conditions are all particularly vulnerable to the serious health impacts of poor air quality. Many parts of the UK such as Towcester are still failing to meet EU limits for safe and healthy air. Yet despite this, DEFRA has halved local authority funding for tackling air pollution.

European wide legislation is crucial to ensure action is taken by governments to improve air quality. Air pollution crosses borders, with around 40% of harmful pollutants in the UK coming from elsewhere in Europe and much of our own pollution ending up abroad. A new EU agreement has been reached to cut deadly emissions is set to halve the number of premature deaths from air pollution in the EU by 2030. Yet this strong international framework risks coming undone by the UK’s departure from the EU.

We would urge you to ensure that in coming Brexit negotiations, the UK government follows through on EU agreements to tackle air pollution and enshrines essential limits into British law. Leaving the EU must not be used as a way to dilute vital air quality legislation. Please do not betray the legacy of the Clean Air Act by allowing the UK to become the dirty man of Europe once again.

Whatever happens in the coming years, the UK government must commit to making Britain a greener and healthier place to live – investing in electric vehicles, promoting energy efficiency, and encouraging green innovation – and continue to play its part in delivering cleaner air for future generations.

Yours sincerely,

Councillor Martin Johns

Towcester Town Council /                     

South Northamptonshire Council

Towcester Brook Ward


Councillor Chris Lofts

Towcester Town Council /

South Northamptonshire Council

Towcester Mill Ward /

County Councillor for Towcester & Roade


Councillor Lisa Samiotis

Towcester Town Council /                     

South Northamptonshire Council

Towcester Brook Ward


Councillor Catharine Tarbun

South Northamptonshire Council

Towcester Mill Ward


Councillor David Tarbun

Towcester Town Council

EU Funding for South Northants at risk

The Liberal Democrats say that continued funding for initiatives that support local enterprise, employment and training programmes are at risk following the referendum decision. In response yesterday to a question from the Liberal Democrats, the Conservative leader of South Northamptonshire Council gave details of EU funding programmes that are benefiting the district.

Commenting after last night’s meeting of South Northamptonshire Council, Liberal Democrat Councillor Martin Johns said: “The prospect for continued funding for important economic and social projects in South Northants are now very uncertain. It may be of surprise to some residents but European Union funding has supported a range of local initiatives over many years. An even wider range of support has been provided across Northamptonshire and to our local university. Programmes supported by the EU have included business development, employment, training, and support for local agriculture. The EU for example, supported the introduction of Broadband across South Northants, helping connect rural businesses and homes.”

County Councillor Chris Lofts commented: “Its disappointing that the Conservative leadership at South Northants Council has so far failed to fully assess the potential impact of the loss of EU funding on local businesses and the voluntary sector. Another case perhaps of Conservatives without a plan? The Liberal Democrats are urging SNC to wake up to the negative impact of the potential loss of significant EU funding in the district. There is an urgent need to lobby government to explain how it intends to replace existing EU funding programmes after Brexit.”

Councillor Martin Johns added: “The council should indeed be lobbying central government and our local MP, now a cabinet member, who pushed so hard for the UK to leave the European Union.”

Brexit Worries Hits South Northants

Leader of South Northamptonshire Council’s Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Martin Johns writes an open letter to people in our district.

The reality of what Brexit means is beginning to affect you and me, our families and all communities in South Northants, as it is elsewhere across the entire country. The Leave campaign that prominently included our own MP Andrea Leadsom, has proved to be just that, a campaign. There was no plan before June 23rd other than to win, and there is no plan today. Within 24 hours all the key promises made to people, some emblazoned on their Leave battle bus, were shamefacedly taken back.

Following the result, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove looked shocked, bewildered and confused. Today Michael Gove has ruthlessly turned on his friend and called Boris untrustworthy and no leader. Andrea Leadsom’s response had been simply: ‘stay calm’, now she has said: ‘delighted to say I’m running for the leadership – let’s make the most of the Brexit opportunities’; a Freudian slip perhaps.

To appease their right-wing, and to fight off UKIP, the Conservatives gambled with our future peace and prosperity and lost. A generation of our young people, 75% of who voted to Remain in the EU will suffer most for this reckless act.

That’s not to dismiss the real concerns of many of you who voted for Brexit. It’s hardly surprising there’s antagonism towards the EU. For 40 years most of our national press have done nothing but print propaganda against Europe and the EU.

There are genuine concerns about migration that must be dealt with, but there’s also a housing crisis, low pay, zero hour contracts and a struggling, cash starved NHS. All these issues that urgently need attention are on the backburner, pushed aside while the Conservative leadership contest rages and before a plan is cobbled together for Brexit.

Brexit will mean a weakened economy resulting in higher inflation, food and other prices will rise, even lower interest rates will affect pensioners on fixed incomes. Uncertainty is already hitting the value of the pound, jobs, house building, and investment.

After all the pain of the recession, the Conservatives have put a bomb under our economy. Fuelled by Farage and his appalling UKIP campaign, we have seen racist incidents grow, fortunately not in our more tolerant district. But friends, family and neighbours have fallen out with each other over the referendum. Our nation is deeply divided by age, region and nation. Indeed, our United Kingdom is at grave risk of break-up.

With David Cameron to be replaced within two months by a new prime minister, and with no plan in prospect for negotiating our withdrawal from the EU, things could hardly be worse for our country. Like a Shakespearian drama the Conservatives are viciously attacking each other, putting themselves before country. Meanwhile at this time of deep national crisis, the Labour Party continues to tear itself apart, a hopeless case.

There’s a surge in support for the Liberal Democrats, from people who want to help ensure Britain remains a tolerant, liberal, outward looking and optimistic society. This is what millions of people voted for last week. If you share our vision come and join us.

To join or find out more go to:


Vote Remain for a Safer, Prosperous United Kingdom

Lib Dems Vote RemainSouth Northamptonshire councillor, Martin Johns replies to our Member of Parliament Andrea Leadsom’s open letter to her constituents.

On Thursday we will have probably the most important vote we will ever cast at the ballot box. The outcome of the referendum will profoundly effect us, and our children and grandchildren for decades to come. The question comes down to whether we remain as a leader in Europe and the world, or leave the world’s biggest trading block and let others decide our future.

With their bizarre conspiracy theories, the Leave campaign shuns all the financial experts, indeed they denigrate experts of any sort. The Leave campaign portrays the overwhelming mass of economic evidence as simply lies. In the 40 years that I’ve been involved with politics I’ve never seen anything like the inflammatory propaganda run by Farage and others in the Leave campaign. Instead of the economic realities of life, Andrea asks us to simply put our trust in her, and Nigel Farage, Dennis Skinner, George Gallaway, and Boris. Trust us they say, take a punt with your job, your savings, your pension and with the public services you rely on. The risk of another recession is worth it Farage keeps telling us.

Andrea writes of “when the heat and noise of this referendum has passed” but be under no illusion, if Britain leaves the EU much more than heat and noise will adversely affect us, our families and neighbours for many years to come.

If you want to keep the United Kingdom united, a Europe that’s peaceful and prosperous, with a cleaner, greener environment, with workers and family rights secure, I urge you to vote on Thursday to Remain in the EU.

Concerns Over HSBC Closure

HSBCCustomers of HSBC’s Towcester Branch have been shocked at news that the bank is to close in August 2015.

Liberal Democrat, Councillor Catharine Tarbun who represents Towcester Mill, which includes the town centre, said: “It was quite a shock to learn that HSBC is to close. This is another blow to Towcester’s town centre.”

Councillor Martin Johns adds: “This is very disappointing news for Towcester. HSBC is in a key location in the town, moving their customers to a branch in Northampton will be very inconvenient and will have a knock-on adverse effect on other businesses in the town. With the increasing trend towards online banking, high street banks are struggling. I think this closure says more about problems within HSBC than Towcester as a high street destination. However, the loss of yet another business to the town centre will have a negative effect on the town.”

Councillor Chris Lofts comments: “This closure again demonstrates that both the town and district councils need to be doing more to help sustain our town centre. The Liberal Democrats are already in discussion with SNC about helping support our town centre in a more robust way.”

Banking first started on this site as far back as 1781. This was the bank run by local wool merchant and banker John Jenkinson. What became the Midland Bank opened in 1921 until the bank was acquired by HSBC in 1992.

Wood Burcote – Lib Dems Act to Change Construction Vehicles Route

Liberal Democrat councillors have acted swiftly to block a housing developer from bringing construction vehicles through the hamlet of Wood Burcote. The proposal was connected to the development of over 200 new houses on land off Burcote Road in Towcester.

Commenting Councillor Chris Lofts said: “I was dismayed to notice that a developer was proposing to bring construction vehicles through Wood Burcote. It would have been crazy to take this route along what should be a quiet country lane serving Wood Burcote.”

Councillor Martin Johns adds: “Lib Dem councillors for Towcester Brook Ward immediately raised the issue with both SNC’s planning officer and the developer. We are pleased to say that Redrow Homes have dropped their proposal and the council will consult on an alternative route or routes.”

Councillor Lisa Samiotis comments: “Common sense has prevailed. We can only assume that the developer had failed to check out their proposed route before making a planning application. Residents have told us they are very pleased with the prompt action taken by the Liberal Democrats.”

Lib Dems Affordable Housing Success

8 Watling Street

Discussing 8 Watling Street with a Towcester resident back in 2012

A long running Liberal Democrat campaign has succeeded in providing much needed affordable housing in Towcester for single people, couples and small families.

The successful campaign by the Lib Dems also means that a historic building in the centre of Towcester will be put back into use. Both sets of properties were previously used by South Northamptonshire Council for social housing but had stayed empty for years.

Commenting Councillor Martin Johns said: “This has been an important issue that the Liberal Democrats have campaigned on relentlessly for the past four years. We are delighted to see that 8 Watling Street and Lower Stable Yard are finally being redeveloped. They have been empty for many years. It has been a disgrace that a massive amount of public money was poured into these properties by the Tories, only for properties to remain empty for such a very long time. 8 Watling Street, a listed building had been left empty and to rot for more than 14 years.”

Councillor Lisa Samiotis adds: “Council housing officers have worked hard to find a way to bring these properties back to life. After several false starts a solution to providing affordable housing at these locations has been found. This is very good news for people on the housing waiting list and for Towcester.”

Liberal Democrats Say Thank You Towcester

Winning Team (1)The Liberal Democrat Focus Team thanks all those who supported them at the elections on Thursday. Four out of five councillors representing Towcester on the district council are now Liberal Democrats.

Commenting Martin Johns says: “Liberal Democrat councillors will continue to keep in touch, listen and work hard on behalf of everyone in Towcester, no matter who people voted for.”

Chris Lofts comments: “The local election resulted in a massive turnout in Towcester, 85% in Mill Ward and 79% in Brook Ward. The Liberal Democrats expect that South Northamptonshire Council responds by respecting the clear democratic will of Towcester people to have their opinions listened to.”

Those Liberal Democrats elected on Thursday were:

Lisa Samiotis

Catharine Tarbun

Chris Lofts

Martin Johns

Springfields Council Offices Demolition Underway

Tree cuttingRecently the Liberal Democrats successfully called on South Northamptonshire Council (SNC) to withdraw their application to cut down trees on the water meadows. However, work is underway to fell trees on the former council offices site at Springfields. The offices with ample car parking were completed in 1983, with several additions built some years later. The site is being redeveloped for over 80 houses but only a few will be affordable homes. There will be no children’s play area or public open space.

Although several trees had preservation orders, all trees on the site except two are being cut down. Following requests from Liberal Democrat councillors, SNC agreed last year to move a commemorative oak tree to another location.

Commenting, Councillor Martin Johns says: “It’s well known that Liberal Democrats strongly supported keeping the award winning Springfields council offices. Our view was shared with the vast majority of Towcester residents. Unfortunately, Tory controlled SNC went ahead with the move anyway. Although many Conservative councillors openly expressed having doubts about the controversial decision. Towcester’s two Conservative councillors always supported knocking down the Springfields offices and moving to Moat Lane.”

Councillor Chris Lofts says: “People in Towcester regret the expensive office move to Moat Lane. The loss of the landscaped green entrance to this part of town, including the loss of the trees, now coming into blossom, is a great shame.”

Trees Saved by Lib Dem Action

Liberal Democrats have succeeded in having an application to fell trees on Towcester Water Meadows withdrawn. Tory controlled South Northamptonshire Council (SNC) had submitted plans to cut down trees on the water meadows, and reduce others by 40%. Trees on the water meadows are subject to preservation orders and are in a protected area. Although the trees are on land owned by SNC the application to fell them were made by a contractor and not the council. The application was however authorised by the council.

Commenting, Councillor Martin Johns says: “Liberal Democrats supported retaining all these trees, it would have beenTrees saved a another act of vandalism to cut them down. It’s a scandal that the Tories want to fell trees simply to get more light into their massive building that now dominates Moat Lane.”

Councillor Chris Lofts says: “At first I couldn’t believe that the Conservatives would have approved making this application. I should have known better of them and that these lovely trees would be next on their list for removal.”

Councillor Lisa Samiotis comments: “Not only is the council pretending it’s not responsible for making the application, it’s having to pay twice for advice from tree consultants. The council has to support its application with advice from consultants. As a planning authority it is then paying Aylesbury Vale Council to provide advice to SNC’s planners.”

If you wish to see the application do so by following this link: