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West of England Metro Mayor - A Vote for Nature?

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Posted: Thursday 27th April 2017 by WildBlog

A hustings event this week for candidates in the West of England Metro Mayor election was a chance for voters' voices to be heard through a series of short films Avon Wildlife Trust made, allowing people of all ages to express how nature shapes their experience of living and working in the region.

As the bluebells give way to early summer wildflowers in our woodlands and meadows, and spring gently eases into early summer, election season is upon us. The 8th June general election is focusing the news agenda on manifestos and policy commitments, on Europe and the kind of exit we will embark on as we leave the EU. But for voters here in the West of England, the election to elect a Metro Mayor next Thursday 4th May comes first. It’s then we will have the chance to cast our vote for a new role which will shape important decisions across our region both for people and for our natural environment.

Yet awareness of the Metro Mayor and his or her powers is patchy, and a dismally low voter turnout is predicted. Together with partner organisations who are members of the Bristol Green Capital Partnership, we have worked to raise awareness amongst people of all ages about the election, and in particular about the impact it will have on the natural environment for the three local authority areas in the West of England Combined Authority area.

A hustings event this week gave Metro Mayor candidates a chance to answer questions on how they would ensure sustainability and a nature-rich West of England. Around 250 people who attended heard talk of sustainably-built new housing development, of the need to respect and value the ‘natural capital’ of our region, and of the urgent need to find a solution to the poor air quality and traffic congestion which blights lungs and journeys.

In the days before the hustings we asked members of the public what messages they felt all the candidates should hear about nature and the priority it should have. We asked young and older people, men and women, to have their say and express how nature shapes their experience of living and working in the region.

“It’s really important for kids to see the outside world – not just concrete,” said one mum, looking up and gesturing beyond the roofs of Broadmead’s shops. For her the urban centres across our region are places where children need the space and encouragement to explore everyday nature and built a connection with the natural world.

And one man voiced his view about the importance of investing in and valuing the green spaces we have. “I sometimes feel that we’re perhaps not spending enough – not committing enough – to those spaces and to the wildlife that belongs on them,” he said.

We filmed our conversations with voters and turned them into a series of short films which were screened before Metro Mayor candidates had their chance to speak at this week’s hustings. It was a powerful way to hear the voices of voters first, and listen to what they think whoever is elected as Metro Mayor needs to prioritise for nature. You can see the films on Avon Wildlife Trust’s YouTube channel, read a summary of the hustings event in a blog by Bristol Green Capital, and read what each of the Metro Mayor candidates had to say about nature and sustainability on the Bristol Green Capital website.

 Photo credits: Jon Craig

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