Nicholas Brown is the Green party candidate for the General Election
Tell us about yourself and why you’re standing for election
I am Nicholas Brown and I am the Green Party Candidate for the City of Chester. After spending 14 years in in the commercial world, I went back to university and retrained to be a teacher. I am currently the Head of Geography at a local secondary comprehensive.
I was born in Blackpool, and as a child we used to come on holiday to Chester every Christmas. I used to love going into the Warner Bros store which was on Eastgate Street, but that has long since gone. Chester was always magical to me back then and this love for the city has not gone away. For the last 15 years I have lived in the Garden Quarter.
Chester is full of people that care. Vibrant and diverse communities like ours in the Garden Quarter or over in Hoole make the city a fantastic place to live. The city is home to a huge network of people that are campaigning and acting to make the city, country and planet better, but they need support and the Green Party is the political home for all these groups.
I wanted to stand for the election as I know the potential of the city and am frustrated in seeing a lack of action on a number of issues that are important to me. When it comes to the climate emergency and other pressing matters I didn’t want to be another social media warrior, I wanted to stand up and be the amplifier for those voices that were not being heard.
What are your top 3 priorities for Chester if elected ?
Over the last 10 years I have been saddened to see a gradual rise in the cities homeless population. The reaction to this across the city has varied showing a mixed level of understanding of the plights of these individuals. I would aim to ensure this situation is put right. The Green Party has pledged to give local councils a £10bn uplift in funding to spend on the issues that matter to local communities. I want to ensure that we prevent people getting in to these situations rather than funding crisis management. Provision of new, energy efficient council houses and the repeal of the Vagrancy Act 1824 will allow people to have safe, warm and comfortable homes that can allow them to progress.
Chester’s air quality falls well short of national requirements and monitoring in the city is virtually non-existent. This is an issue that affects the health and wellbeing of the cities residents. I will work to improve this situation by looking to introduce low cost, electrified public transport, charging stations across the city for those with electric cars, and the potential introduction of a city wide diesel car emission reduction scheme.
Warm homes are a human right and not a luxury. Many of the residents in the city have to choose between heating and eating and this is not right or fair. I will introduce insulation schemes to reduce peoples fuel bills, improve their health, wellbeing and quality of life and reduce carbon emissions.
How would you describe Chester to someone that doesn’t know it ?
Chester is an international city with a small town feel. You can walk through town on a Saturday afternoon, stop and chat with Columbian neighbours, go for dinner with Spanish friends and go to work with Welsh colleagues. We have a thriving LGBTQ+ community and welcoming religious groups.
It is a unique historical city with some amazing small businesses, family restaurants and coffee shops.
It is an artistic and creative space full of fearless people.
What’s your favourite thing to do in Chester ?
I love to go down to the Dee with family and friends and get on the water. We have canoes that we use to explore the river. Its wonderful that we can be immersed in nature in such a tranquil space 5 minutes outside the city centre. It truly feels like another world.
I also enjoy the huge amount of live music the city has to offer. From the outstanding buskers on Eastgate Street to the live music venues across the city, the talent here is second to none.
We have seen a huge increase in homelessness in Chester over the last few years. What policies/funding would you put in place to address the issue?
As I mentioned before, this is one of my top priorities. Homelessness should not be treated like a crime. It is the culmination of a system that has failed people that are vulnerable and in need. Whether caused by redundancy, poor mental health, drug addiction of a failed family situation, these people have been failed and it needs addressing as a matter of urgency. The Green Party has pledged to give local councils a £10bn uplift in funding to spend on the issues that matter to local communities and increased funding for new council homes.
This would support all the great work charities, food banks and individuals do, that work tirelessly taking hot food and supplies out to those in need.
What’s your view on the ongoing homeless protest ?
I fully support their right to protest peacefully, and sleep in warm safe conditions. We should not be in this situation where the local council are spending upwards of £70k evicting vulnerable people from empty buildings. This money would be better spent preventing this situation and not on crisis management and paying already wealthy lawyers.
How safe is Frodsham Street ?
It has taken some getting used to but my worries are not so much for the safety of pedestrians in regards to a collision with a car or bus. The drivers are very careful in this area and give a toot on the horn if they are worried.
The real problems are centred on air quality. You have families sat eating lunches and workers on breaks on the benches that are in the middle of the road. The buses and taxis using that area push out large amounts of particulates and NOx amongst other gasses that can have serious and adverse effects on the health of the people in that area. If we are continuing to use this shared space then we really need to be electrifying our public transport and introducing low emission zones.
How did you vote in the EU referendum and what do you think the impact of Brexit will be on Chester, positive/negative/both ?
I voted to remain in the EU and would do this again. Chester is supported by the multinational corporations that circle our area. Airbus, Toyota, MBNA and Vauxhall all provide direct and indirect jobs pumping millions of pounds into the local economy. If the UK leaves Europe without a deal, or in an uncompetitive situation these businesses may choose to relocate. Many of them have clearly stated that this is an option. If they do then the economy of this area will spiral down.
Our local farms and hospitality all rely on migrant workers to keep them going. The Countess of Chester, care services and local GP’s utilise international expertise to ensure everyone gets the care that they need. EU immigration was used as the scapegoat for many of the social issues the country was facing, when really the Conservative austerity policy was to blame.
Boris has now done a deal with the EU. The Green Party want this deal fully and clearly explaining to the people, and then we should have a Peoples Vote to finally decide once and for all whether we are in or out. The Conservatives like to say ‘get Brexit done’ but they need to be honest and open about what this means to food and medicine supply, cost of living and the effect on jobs.
What can Chester improve on ?
Transport links are key to the success and improvement of the city. We need more safe cycle paths. We need more bus links to the suburbs and surrounding rural town. We need those buses to support the evening and night time economy of the City Centre.
Do you support the Northgate development ?
I think that the city centre needs to adapt to the changing face of retail and the way people are looking to use this space. The days of national chain city centre retail are nearing an end. People can use mobile phones to order what ever they want and get it delivered next day. There are a growing number of vacant properties in the current stock of retail units and building more will only add to the issue.
City’s are less about shopping and more about experiential services nowadays. Chester has some great examples of this in both the Storyhouse and the revitalised Market Hall, and there are sections of the development that do look exciting. We need inventive thinking by local people to find a solution to this issue and after paying over £1.6 million on consultancy fees, I don’t think we have had true value for money. We need to attract more agile start up businesses that make Chester a unique offer, and not put it in direct competition to Cheshire Oaks and Liverpool One.
The inclusion of the 700 space parking lot shows a complete lack of foresight and is a slap in the face to the Climate Emergency declared by the Council earlier in the year.
How would you describe Chris Matheson’s record?
Chris is an honourable man that cares for the city, however by representing the Labour Party he is tied to supporting their policies. Labour’s environmental policies are weak: they support airport expansion, support the completion of HS2 that is costing billions and destroying hundreds of kilometres of historic and mature woodlands, their council in Cumbria has licenced the opening of a new coal mine and their target for net-zero carbon is wishy washy.
Removal of the marriage tax allowance will hit many of Chester’s families that are working but struggling to get by at the same time they support the renewal of Trident Nuclear Weapons which will cost between £160 – 205 Billion.
There is a phrase my manager used to say, ‘Promise little and deliver more’, sadly I feel the Labour Party are doing the opposite.
How do you see the future of Chester as the high street declines, parking issues, congestion etc continue?
Historic cities across Europe thrive and Chester can follow suit. The city is a sought after place to live and our tourist figures go up and up each year.
Issues with parking and congestion are a symptom of a decade of Conservative austerity that was supported by the Liberal Democrats. Public transport services have been cut and by forcing each bus to make a profit, valuable evening services have been cut. If we want the city to thrive we need more investment in decarbonised bus services that are affordable and regular along with more safe cycling routes and secure bike storage. This, linked to more development of the cities night time economy will allow a reversal of the decline that we have sadly seen.
We are a unique offer. We are not Liverpool, Manchester or Cheshire Oaks. With some structured thinking and some courage we will have a strong future.
What qualities does your party leader have to be a good Prime Minister ?
We have two party co-leaders and they both have the ability to lead this country into the future that we need, either as individuals or even co-PM’s. They are compassionate, dedicated and honest.
Some leaders are focused on power, some are focused on the people they represent. Both Jonathan Bartley and Sian Berry are totally focused on the Green agenda. In fact during the recent Climate Protests in London Jonathan Bartley was one of those that got arrested for laying in the street for his beliefs. They are inspiring and fearless and that is what we need in this country right now.
Why should people vote for you ?
I live in Chester, as does my whole family. I am dedicated to making this city work for them and all the residents and visitors that pass through our walls. Some of the other parties like to bring out the classic ‘a vote for green is a wasted vote’. They are wrong, the Green party is leading the debate on Climate, we are affecting the policies of all the other parties, we are moving this election from a Brexit Election to a Climate Election.
We have less than 10 years left to make the changes we need to prevent catastrophic climate change. We do not have the time for more interparty squabbles, reviews or debates, we need action. A Green Vote is the most powerful vote you can make in this election. If you do not act now, then when?
Is there anything you’d like to add ?
As a School teacher I have seen the punishing effects austerity has had on pupils families and school budgets. I teach pupils that live in food poverty and struggle to afford lunch at school. Special Educational Needs are grossly underfunded, pupils are being left to struggle with their conditions and families are having to take legal advice on how they can get their children assessed. This situation is breaking families apart. School funding is a national crisis and something that I will take a special and keen interest in.