Witham and Braintree Green Party formed at a public meeting held in Witham library in June 1989.
The first Green Councillors in Braintree District were elected in 1991, to Witham Town Council. There are currently 8 council seats held by Greens: 2 on Braintree District Council, 3 on Witham Town Council, 1 on Silver End Parish Council and 2 on Rivenhall Parish Council (although these are as 'non-party' as Rivenhall Parish Council has never had any political affiliations).
The number of seats held is currently the highest since the local party formed. At the last all-out elections, in May 2007, more than 2,000 people voted Green in Witham alone, a record.
The Greens have contested all the main elections since 1989 and most of the by-elections. In 2008, 6 by-elections were contested in Braintree District (and Maldon District) with all of the Green candidates being women.
One of the first achievements of Green councillors was the successful proposal that Witham should have its own Community Wood. This secured all party support and was subsequently planted by Witham Town Council in the early 1990s. James Cook wood is now well established.
Greens successfully campaigned to prevent Bellfield, an area of grass and trees in Chipping Hill, from being developed. Since the 1980s, local Greens have been active in the Local Plan (and now the Local Development Framework) process with the aim of preventing out-of-town greenfield developments and supporting redevelopment of brownfield land, particularly for affordable local housing.
Greens on Witham Town Council continue to work for more tree planting on appropriate sites, supporting local shops and businesses and protecting the historic architecture of the town centre. Witham's River walk is a much valued town asset. Green Councillors are working with others to ensure its protection and enhancement and will continue to oppose moves to urbanise it - for example, Greens have long resisted proposals to install streetlights along the River Walk, which would harm wildlife and do nothing to improve safety when there are much better existing lit routes people can walk along at night, closer to houses.
The Greens campaigned against the release of land for out-of-town developments on countryside on the southern side of Braintree. This was not successful, and now a large area of land has been built on for the Freeport and Galleys Corner developments, creating a highly car dependent area that has contributed to the congestion problems along the A120. The developments have also been built with little regard for sustainability and the area is now infamous as one of the most light polluted in Essex.
As the planning system becomes ever more "top-down", Greens are campaigning to see decision making remain local, and not the dictatorial imposition of very high development targets from Whitehall and the East of England Regional Assembly, whose recent study proposed a huge release of countryside in mid-Essex for urban sprawl, which if it happens will forever wipe out the current character of the area.
When in May 1999, James Abbott and Phil Hughes were elected to Braintree District Council (BDC), they were for a time the only Greens elected to any principal authority in the six counties of Eastern Region (there are now 28). Their election got a mention in The Times. Since then James and Phil have been active on many issues, often calling the various administrations of Braintree District Council to account when others failed to do so.
As Chair of a BDC committee, James helped establish the first set of detailed policies on sustainability and climate change for the Council, including the Sustainable Energy Strategy.
A long running high profile campaign continues to be the future direction of waste and recycling in Braintree District and across Essex, with the Tories edging towards having an incinerator built, despite pledges not to do so. Green Councillors have consistently supported high levels of recycling, composting and the use of genuinely sustainable management solutions such as anaerobic digestion. In the 1980s, James Abbott first suggested to BDC that kerbside recycling collections should be introduced, only to be told by the then Chief Executive that it would "not be possible and would be far too expensive". Kerbside recycling collections are now almost universal in the district and the recycling rate is heading towards 50% - one of the best in the UK.
Green Councillors have led the campaign against an incinerator on Rivenhall Airfield, which in 2008 was widened to become a cross-community campaign without political affiliation so as to maximise the number of people and groups involved. The September 2008 incinerator planning application for the airfield resulted in 659 letters of objection, and 1 letter of support. More on this campaign...
An ongoing campaign is to find a sustaimable solution for the Great Leighs Racecourse development. Green Councillors are working with local residents and groups including CPRE and local astronomers to combat the appalling light pollution from the course, visible for up to 20 miles away. Parts of the development do not have proper planning permission and the lights have been tested on several occasions all night, leading to many complaints from people.
Transport is a key issue in mid-Essex. Green Councillors have consistently opposed major road building and support instead investment to improve safety on existing roads and the development of high quality public transport.
The "Green Route" for the A120 is now an established option, following work by Green District Councillors, as a viable alternative for the A120 east of Braintree. This would concentrate safety and other improvements largely on the existing line of the road, whilst relieving Bradwell from through traffic. It would solve the congestion problems at Galleys Corner and improve safety at the Colne Road junction at Coggeshall. A major off-line route, as proposed by the Highways Agency and supported by many Tories, would carve though open countryside and impact on many settlements, as well as being hugely expensive.
Other transport proposals made by the Greens have gained support. In the 1990s, Green Councillors proposed that instead of building a separate road between Witham and Hatfield Peverel alongside the A12, the existing road could be improved by joining the slip roads together along the short stretch between them. This was rejected at the time, but is now the preferred option. Local Green Councillors continue to lobby the Highways Agency for safety improvements to junctions aliong the A12, particularly at Rivenhall End, as well as lower speed limits. More on this campaign..
Greens have also strongly supported public transport improvements and share the frustration of user groups about delays to long promised projects such as the Witham railway station improvements, the Motts Lane pedestrian/cycleway bridge and the Braintree Branch Line passing loop.
The single biggest transport issue remains the threat of Stansted Airport becoming larger than Heathrow is today. Green Councillors are working with CPRE, Stop Stansted Expansion and others to try and ensure that Stansted Airport remains "the airport in the countryside" as described by its owners, the BAA.
The community halls programme has been closely monitored by Green Councillors who have lobbied for work to be completed, and for renewable energy and other sustainability features to be incorporated - although these have often had to be done retrospectively after BDC failed to deliver what were thought to be agreed features at the outset.
Efforts are continuing to find a solution to the parking problems along a number roads within the Silver End Conservation Area.
Throughout the history of Witham and Braintree Green Party, residents have been kept informed with regular newsletters. When major issues have arisen, Green Councillors have also called public meetings and these have taken place across the district.