On a glorious June evening, more than 120 people of Petersfield and surrounding villages filled the Rose Room at our Festival Hall, to put most of our Prospective Parliamentary Candidates through their paces ahead of next week's general election.

On the panel were Dominic Martin (Lib Dem), Richard Knight (Green), Lucy Sims (Labour), Damian Hinds (Conservative) and Jim Makin (Hampshire Independent).

Reform and the SDP candidates were invited but declined.

Written by PeCAN trustee Melanie Oxley

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PeCAN chair Greg Ford set the scene with some recent scientific information on the climate and nature crisis, injecting much-needed urgency into the proceedings.

Sir David Normington, who skilfully chaired the hustings meeting, then opened the session with a question to all panelists: “What is your vision for the environment and climate in ten years’ time and what should be the top policy priority in this coming Parliament to get us there?”

Damian Hinds spoke about the past achievements of the Conservative Party and claimed that his party was committed to Net Zero. Jim Makin, who stood in the last general election for UKIP, was loudly booed for claiming that climate change was a scam and arguing for more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Dominic Martin set out eight indicators and a well-considered pathway towards net zero. Lucy Sims spoke of Labour’s plans for a big increase in the nation’s renewable energy plant and retrofitting of five million homes. She was the only candidate to mention adaptation such as flood management using natural solutions.


Sir David then took an audience question on who pays for climate measures, and whether the "polluter pays" principle and a land tax could be part of the solution.

Candidates focused mainly on windfall taxes on fossil fuel companies and briefly discussed the pros and cons of economic growth.

A question about recycling and why East Hampshire is the one of the worst performing constituencies led to a lively debate. Only Labour's Lucy Sims had a response on persuading companies to switch the materials they use to pack products, while Damian Hinds said that The Environment Bill sets out the responsibilities of local authorities for waste. Jim Makin felt the solution was very devolved local government which would raise its own taxes to pay for this and Dominic Martin said local authorities need better, targeted income for recycling, something, he claimed, on which Lib Dem Councils have the best track record.


A question about the panel's view on rewilding and regenerative farming saw huge agreement from candidates, something I am sure would not have happened a few years ago. Only Jim Makin said that government should stop interfering with farmers, who "know best what to do with their land".

Richard Knight called to reverse intensive farming (new factory farms are currently being built to satisfy new trade deals) and pay farmers to be better custodians of the countryside.

Lucy Sims was all for rewilding and ecosystem solutions, including tree planting.

Damian Hinds talked about the Sustainable Farming Initiative, which should greatly benefit struggling nature. Lucy Sims said that Labour "would get rid of harmful pesticides to benefit pollinators", which raised a big cheer. Dominic Martin said it made sense to increase the health of our countryside and to grow our own food. Food security was only touched on, however.

Hustings Petersfield

The recent court case in which citizens won a case to prevent prospecting for oil in the Surrey Hills, triggered a discussion about future oil and gas licences. Damian Hinds said we would need oil and gas for some time and then spoke about increasing battery storage. Richard Knight insisted that the court ruling should set more than a precedent and result in licences such as for Rosebank being withdrawn.

An invitation from the floor to sign up to the Climate and Nature Bill led Damian Hinds to explain that the Bill fell at the end of the Government and would need to start its journey again. He said he hadn't read it. The other parties present said they had, or would, sign up to it.

A question about water companies and pollution led to interesting exchanges, in which Damian Hinds was mute. Richard Knight said water should never have been privatised and the Green Party would allow water companies to go bankrupt and then buy them back for £1 each. He said that in order to stop flip-flopping policy with every change of government, long-term climate and nature aims must have cross-party support so that the work continues its trajectory.

The meeting ended with all panellists stating that they either were, or felt they "had to be", optimistic about the future.

Alton Climate Action Network, Headley CAN and Cycle Alton have worked together to help voters compare candidates’ policies and priorities on environmental action. Find out what candidates from East Hampshire and Alton and Bordon constituencies had to say here.

PeCAN's Hustings was covered by Petersfield Shine Radio in an interview with PeCAN Chairman, Greg Ford - listen here.

Photographs courtesy of and with thanks to Vincent Edberg