“You have chosen a week when I am about the most toxic man in the country.” So said Jeremy Hunt at the beginning of a meeting with a dozen of his constituents to discuss climate change.
The meeting, at St George’s Church, Badshot Lea, on April 29, was a postponement of a public one in March which Mr Hunt withdrew from, citing “unforeseen circumstances”. He agreed to a new meeting with a strictly limited number of constituents and, despite stating that he was “toxic” and that he assumed that “none of the group had voted for me”, he and the constituents sought to find common ground.
There were three main topics of discussion: flood prevention, particularly by planting trees on the Farnham floodplain; energy-efficient buildings; and alternative transport. Mr Hunt was particularly keen on the idea of cycling and said he wanted to press for more cycle lanes in Farnham and agreed that there was a need for “a paradigm shift.”
He added: “I pay tribute to Ken Livingstone – and it is not a fashionable day to do that – because he brought in the congestion charge in London and put the money he made into improving bus travel. In London there are more frequent buses, more bus lanes, and in London there has been a paradigm shift.” He said that he wanted to encourage people to cycle because “every one person we can get to cycle is one out of a car or (in London) off the tube”. However, he would not yet make any commitment to campaigning for alternatives to cars powered by fossil fuels as he said he believed that first Farnham needs to be pedestrianised and then the town could rethink its public transport. He said he believed in “small steps”, though some in the group begged to differ that this was a small step.
On the subject of flood prevention, Mr Hunt said that in Godalming a £3.4million scheme to put in flood defences had just been signed off so he did not seem to feel the need to consider Farnham at the moment.
Mr Hunt did agree to talk to Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, on the subject of why the government policy for zero-carbon new homes had been cancelled. He also agreed that the meeting was the start of ongoing discussions with his consituents and said that he would be happy to meet them again after the summer break, perhaps in September.