Local elections: Meet John Knight, Green Party candidate for Macclesfield Central Ward for Macclesfield Town Council

  Posted: 23.04.21 at 13:35 by Alexander Greensmith

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As we inch closer to the local elections on Thursday 6 May, Macclesfield Nub News have requested an interview with those standing for Central Ward councillor on Macclesfield Town Council, hearing more about their key priorities and what they would hope to achieve if elected.

Today is the turn of the Green Party candidate John Knight.

John has lived in Macclesfield for almost two decades. He worked as a Clerical Assistant for a Trade Union for over 30 years, before taking early retirement in 2016.

The married father-of-one has since split his time studying, and working on raising issues for the Cheshire East Green Party.

His policies include establishing a usable network of safe cycleways, and improving bus services ahead of the Town Council's upcoming survey of buses in Macclesfield.

Macclesfield Nub News: Why did you decide to stand for election as Macclesfield Central Ward town councillor and what do you think you can bring to the role?

You can find more about John's campaign on Facebook @MacclesfieldGreens. (Credit - John Knight)

John Knight: "I’ve been a Green Party member for some 15 years and I’ve been active for most of that time. Central Macclesfield is an area Greens can win. We came within 46 votes of taking a Cheshire East Council seat two years ago.

"And the benefit of voting Green is while other political parties have the whipping system, where the party essentially bows to the council or party leadership, If a Green wishes to vote differently than other Greens on that vote, they are free to do so.

"The Green Party doesn’t believe in that, we believe that Green Representatives are elected on a programme.

"[Before the pandemic] Myself, I was studying for a postgraduate degree in Sustainability and Adaptation at the Centre for Alternative Technology."

Macclesfield Nub News: Please can you tell me more about your ‘20 is plenty’ policy for Macclesfield, which is suggested by both the Greens and Labour?

John is campaigning for better buses for the people of Macc. (Credit - John Knight)

John Knight: "The '20 is Plenty' policy has been adopted by many councils now across the county and throughout the world. This is where there is a reduced default speed limit on roads in urban areas and towns.

"In Britain, the standard urban speed limit is currently 30 miles an hour, we say the policy of '20 is Plenty' as the default speed limit in towns.

"It is much safer. It is less likely to cause serious harm in the event of a collision, particularly with pedestrians and other people not in vehicles.

"It is also less polluting. The town centre of Macclesfield has narrow roads with terraced houses on either side. If you try to drive through at 30mph you are constantly slowing down, speeding up, changing that speed, stopping starting. Whereas, if you keep it at 20 you are generally able to go at a much steadier speed and that’s less polluting.

"Sandy [The Labour Party Candidate] is calling for Cheshire East Council to deliver a 20mph speed limit to make sure the streets of safer. But the problem is Cheshire East Council actually backed off from implementing twenty is plenty when that was put through them a few months ago.

John on northern Danes Moss - outside the Nature Reserve, but still an important wildlife habitat - that he is seeking to protect.

"There were a whole number of amendments put through the proposal which have ended up with a far more piecemeal approach to look at it area by area with the consideration of introducing 20mph zones. Instead of 20mph becoming the rule, it becomes the exception. And therefore, perhaps becomes less likely to be observed.

"So I am not clear why the Labour Candidate believes Cheshire East Council has a policy for 20mph speed limit, when in fact they fall far short of the '20 is Plenty' programme."

Macclesfield Nub News: Why do you think the current bus service is basic and what do you propose to improve it?

John Knight: "Well it currently seems to be nothing more than skeleton service. Of course, like most of us I’ve not been able to use the buses or any public transport for the last year, but from what I’ve read they certainly haven’t improved.

"For example, on Sundays there are a sum total of four bus routes operating from Macclesfield. Four. There are no bus services on a Sunday to places like Bosley, Pott Shrigley.

Running against John in the Macclesfield Town Council by-election is Sandy Livingstone for Labour and Abhishika Srivastav for the Conservatives. (Image CC Daniel Case)

"There’s also a skeleton service in the evenings, and we’ve lost our direct bus service to Manchester.

"It means that for most journeys going in or out of Macc, people have little choice other than to drive. Other than the railway, of course.

"And nearly everyone recognises the need to cut emissions, including transport emissions. Public transport policy in Cheshire East seems to leave us with as little service as possible and most people with no choice but to use private cars - that can’t be right.

"And then the bus fares are an issue. Look at the fares for Transport for Greater Manchester nearby - they are paying half for what you pay for an equivalent journey in Cheshire East."

Macclesfield Nub News: Your idea of protecting green spaces will connect with our readers. What are some sites in our area you’d like to help protect?

Mr Knight is standing again as Green Party candidate for Central Ward in the Macclesfield Town Council by-election to be held on Thursday May 6 2021. (Credit - John Knight)

John Knight: "One of the greenfield sites I’d like to protect that are currently under threat is the Chelford Rd site between Broken Cross and Henbury.

"There are proposals to build a large housing estate on a site that is greenbelt, a very valuable peat bog. Part of the site is a rich habitat and a carbon sink.

"The main proposal for house building just went through the Strategic Planning Board I think it was unfortunately, of Cheshire East Council. Despite massive, and I mean massive opposition in the area of Macclesfield. There are also Fence Avenue fields and northern Danes Moss - the so-called "South Macclesfield Development Area".

"I'd also like to highlight some specific brownfield sites that should be available for development. Which includes the old Alma Mill on Crompton Road - which is just lying there derelict.

"There’s Albion Mill on London Road. Which doesn’t appear to be used much. There are also rows of derelict houses on places like Shaw Street, Hurdsfield Road."

Macclesfield Nub News: Tackling the climate emergency is clearly a key priority for the Town Council, they are even organising an environmental summit this summer. What type of eco-friendly projects and initiatives would you like to see happen in Macclesfield in particular?

An empty shopping unit on Mill Street. John wants to encourage local businesses to move into our high streets, to start a a post-COVID revival for our stores.

John Knight: "An issue I first raised in the previous election campaign in 2019 - which would need the involvement of Cheshire East Council - I would like to work with the social housing landlords of the town to use the potential for renewable energy.

"Having been a student at the Centre for Alternative Technology I am very much aware of the potential for renewables.

"Not only are communities producing their own energy like wind turbines and water energy schemes, but individual households can do more and more.

"Like solar panels on roofs - which we are seeing all over town. But there are a group of residents which don’t have that option. Those who like myself, are tenants of housing associations. Like other tenants of housing associations and landlords as well.

"We just can’t go and buy solar panels and put them on the roof - they need to have the permission and the involvement from the landlord.

John pledges to fight to protect green spaces, and make use of derelict Macc buildings.

"But what I would like to do would be to bring those bodies together to discuss how in Macclesfield we can achieve this. We can start with social housing tenants and hopefully expand it beyond them, how tenants can access renewable energy with solar panels and solar energy.

"That would be a project that Macclesfield Town Council could try and initiate as a model example for all our colleagues across Cheshire East."

Macclesfield Nub News: Obviously the high street nationwide - not just in Macc - has taken a beating. How will you use your role - if elected - to support our local businesses and encourage locals to support them?

John Knight: "Well I know there has been a whole load of schemes brought forward on how to regenerate our town centre. And of course all the issues have been exacerbated by the pandemic for the last 12 months, showing the issue that has been apparently dying town centres.

"What previous schemes seemed to have been focused on is the idea that if you can get a big name department store to come to town, then the town can redevelop around that.

"What will actually attract people to come to town is something that will make Macclesfield unique. Not something that will make us the same as everywhere else not to make us a ‘clone town’ as some may say it is.

"We need to find ways of encouraging local businesses, and local creatives to find ways of encouraging them to set themselves up in town, to make the place a real attractive destination for not just for our own residents but also visitors also. An emphasis on celebrating the local."

Macclesfield Nub News: Above all, what do you think the biggest issue is facing our town?

John Knight: Well I think it is what the residents of Central Ward have told us. When the [Cheshire East] Green Party have gone out (pre-pandemic) and done extensive door-to-door surveying, the issues that matters most of them, aside health and social care which is outside the Town Council’s remit, are litter and green spaces [which was previously discussed].

"The key to dealing with litter that is already lying around and blowing around is preventing it in the first place. A big part of that is working with local retailers to reduce the packaging that comes with such goods. We have an excellent plastic free shop in Macclesfield which sells all your grocery items and you bring your own containers and take them home so it removes the waste from packaging. There’s no litter generated there.

"But what I would add to the important issues list is air quality. My wife comments on this, having spent the majority of her life in Poynton [where she is from] she actually finds the air quality in Macclesfield quite dirty and unpleasant. And there’s all sorts of hidden danger in that as well."

Macclesfield Nub News: Finally, what is your favourite thing about Macclesfield?

John Knight: My favourite thing is we have the countryside right on our doorstep. I can walk out of my house and we have the top of Tegg’s Nose Country Park. Past that, I’m in the Peak District. I’m a walker and a cyclist myself - what could be better!

You can find more about John's campaign on the John Knight for Macc Central Facebook page, or read more on the Cheshire East Green Party website.

We have also interviewed the other candidates for the Conservatives, and the Labour Party.

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