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West Berkshire Green Party councillor hits back at criticism over HS2 protest in Aylesbury Vale

Climate change activist Steve Masters accuses Conservatives of 'dirty tactics'

Dan Cooper

Dan Cooper

dan.cooper@newburynews.co.uk

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Furious Green Party councillor hits back at criticism over tree protest

WEST Berkshire councillor and Green Party activist Steve Masters has responded furiously to claims he is not properly representing his constituents and accused his critics of ‘dirty tactics’.

Mr Masters, who was elected to serve Speen ward in May 2019, has spent the last two months camped in a tree in Jones Hill Wood in Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire.

Half the wood, which is home to an abundance of wildlife and reportedly inspired Roald Dahl to write Fantastic Mr Fox, is being destroyed to make way for HS2.

Mr Masters, who was arrested last week as he protested, is one of many ‘protectors’ who are fighting the Government’s decision to cut down ancient woodland to make way for the high speed rail line between London, the Midlands and the North.

Despite receiving widespread praise and messages of support from a number of people, he has been criticised by two members of the local Conservative Party.

Last week former council leader Graham Jones tweeted that it was “absurd to claim to be representing people if you live in a treehouse in the Midlands”.

And Conservative councillor Ross Mackinnon said that “if councillors go off campaigning on issues of personal importance then they should make that clear on their election leaflet”.

But Mr Masters this week countered his critics and had some strong words for his Conservative counterparts.

Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News on Tuesday, he said: “My attendance is still virtually 100 per cent.

“I even fully participated in a meeting while I’ve been locked into a concrete barrel and up a tree.

“If I didn’t have responsibilities as a councillor it would be easier, of course. 

“But I choose to be a councillor for the same reason I choose to be an activist – because I personally believe I can make a difference to society as a whole.”

Mr Mackinnon told the Newbury Weekly News last week: “In general, residents expect their representatives to be local and accessible and I think that is reasonable.

“I am not talking about dialling into Zoom meetings – that is just a small part of it.

“I am talking about the day-to-day work of being a ward member.

“For example, [council leader] Lynne Doherty, who also happens to represent Speen ward with councillor Masters, she sees a bin that is overflowing and tweets the council about it and it gets sorted.

“In the last three weeks I have attended an illegal traveller encampment in my ward of Bradfield and arranged a meeting with a resident about a planning issue.

“It’s little things like that you can’t do remotely.”

He added: “Councillor allowances are provided in return for doing that.

“If councillors go off campaigning on issues of personal importance then they should make that clear on their election leaflet.”

Mr Masters hit back, saying: “Councillor Mackinnon and the Conservatives seem to be so fearful of me and the Green Party that they have to resort to dirty tactics. 

“I am really disappointed by the comments.

“I would have thought in these times the Tories would have more important things to worry about than what I am doing.

“I think he’s just jealous that I am actually doing something for society.”

Speaking about his reasons for protesting, he said: “As I said before, I cannot look my grandchildren in the eye in 30 years time and say that I did everything I could if I didn’t and that’s what this is all about.

“Will councillor Mackinnon be able to look his grandchildren in the eye and say ‘I did everything to stop your generation suffering?’

“My answer to that would be no, he won’t.”

Speaking about the past two months, he said: “I have been sleeping in a treehouse every night for the last eight weeks in all weathers.

“It’s certainly no Enid Blyton life, like some people would have you believe.

“It is not a comfortable existence.

“I have to climb 55/60 feet up a tree every night. It is physically and mentally exhausting.

“It’s certainly a test of endurance.

“But I knew straight away that this was a place I was willing to fight for.

“I have a connection to it, both spiritually and physically.

“There is a beautiful tranquillity here.

“I am almost 60-foot up in a 150-year-old beech tree, but even in the extreme weather and gales of 60mph I feel completely and utterly safe.

“I am there with the protectors to save the wood, but at the same time it is protecting me from the elements.”

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Article comments

  • Grumpy

    07/09/2020 - 12:29

    I don't agree with HS2, but I think they have spent too much on it to back down - unfortunately.

    Reply

  • CommonHungerforder

    06/09/2020 - 20:14

    Steve 'Wannabee-Swampy' Masters. You look like a tramp me old luvver. Why do you climb the tree each night? Just stay up there for good. Shi(r)t from your branch. Get Just Eat on your phone (that cannot be charged) to catapult up your food. Even Swampy gave up this nonsense. Cannot wait until it is winter/freezing and you come home to Newbury. Or are you going to head south for the winter and nest in north Africa? HS2 WILL be built. OR, why not live in a 'local' tree here where locals don't want planning? Go live in a pot hole on the M4. To conclude, you do look like a tramp. Nothing to do with poor people that are forced to live that way, just a scumbag with an allowance.

    Reply

  • Morfooty

    05/09/2020 - 13:42

    Steve has been very supportive in trying to get the WBC Executive to do the right thing with respect to the Football ground - which is a massive local issue. If Lynne Doherty, who represents Speen ward can get a bin that is overflowing sorted out can she as leader of the Council and her Clay Ward Councillors Jeff Cant and Jeff Beck get the football ground in Farday Road sorted and get it re-opened for organised football which is far more urgent and affects the health & wellbeing of far more people than one over flowing bin! Go on Lynne, Jeff and Jeff prove Councillor Mackinnon's implied suggestion that it is only the Conservative Councillors who are interested in and able to fix local problems by putting your support behind getting the football ground re-opened. By the way can you also ask Jeff Cant why he does not return my phone calls or respond to my emails regarding a massive local issue that is in his ward - maybe he is in a tree house somewhere else in the Country.

    Reply

  • From Luddite Lodge

    05/09/2020 - 12:56

    Go for it Steve .

    Reply

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