Wealden councillors have backed a motion welcoming the climate agreements made at COP 26 and endorsing the Government’s net zero strategy.
The motion, from Conservative cabinet member Cllr Roy Galley, was debated at a Full Council meeting yesterday (Wednesday 24th).
Introducing his motion, Cllr Galley argued the government had set a “clear path” for the Council to follow to net zero, pointing to policies on reducing carbon emissions and adopting low carbon technologies.
In Wealden we are also taking a very proactive line. We have our climate change action plan [and] there will be a significant monitoring report coming to the next cabinet.
We already have large supplies of renewable energy in Wealden. We have adjusted our main properties with energy efficiency and solar panels. We are promoting the rollout of solar panels to private homes and businesses. We have a detailed plan for our council housing stock.
We are about to rollout EV charging points and we have just gone out to tender to find a partner for that. We are working also with our waste contractor on new vehicles for the fleet, which also looks at hydro-treated vegetable oil as a novel solution.
There is a lot more to do, but it is a start and I think it was important to bring this motion to council today to highlight to people and emphasise that we have proactive positive government policy and a proactive positive Wealden policy.Cllr Galley, Cabinet Member
Wealden District Council is currently searching for a contractor to install a network of electric vehicle chargepoints in a number of Council owned car parks. The tender document explains their visions is to encourage EV uptake. They want to have a network that will serve residents without access to off-street parking, as well as provide charging facilities for both visitors and commuters. The value of the contract is estimated to be over £1.5 million.
Cllr Galley also welcomed the agreements signed at COP 26, arguing that while some (including the Government) may have wanted more, progress had been made.
While the debate began on both the Government’s and the Council’s own climate strategy, it very quickly turned to the environmental impact of housebuilding within the district.
Green Party councillor Patricia Patterson-Vanegas said:
I do love the way the council wants to look very, very green, but I must say that if we want to do action and we want to do local action, we need more relentless determined action in the areas where we can really have an influence.
I will go back to working on stopping overdevelopment of the countryside. The leader of the council has told us that the council is lobbying. We need something even stronger, perhaps teaming up with all the Conservative councillors in the country to say this is not okay.
It is not okay to destroy nature, it is not okay to change the views of our beautiful countryside because we need to serve the donations of the Conservative Party centrally.
I’m still deciding. I would love to support you, but I might just abstain.Cllr Patterson-Vanegas (Forest Row, Green)
A similar argument was made by Liberal Democrat councillor Gavin Blake-Coggins, who said:
We all know that if it is green, it grows, it absorbs carbon dioxide.
Nobody has mentioned the fact that all the concrete that keeps going down in the thousands of houses which are being built. That doesn’t absorb carbon dioxide, it creates it.
So trying to head for [net] zero by whenever is not going to happen all the while you are constantly building hundreds and hundreds of houses.Cllr Blake-Coggin (Hailsham East, Liberal Democrat)
These arguments saw some pushback from Raymond Cade, Conservative Cabinet member for Housing and Benefits.
This blanket proposal of stopping any development I find difficult to contend with. If anyone has looked at the latest SLAA (Strategic Land Availability Assessment) report it recommends that we need to have 451 affordable houses per year in order to meet the needs of our residents.
We will argue here about where this development should go or in what quantities it will go, but we need to have development. To have some concrete over our district in order to give people, our residents, other human beings a decent place to live.
People are struggling. We know this is quite a wealthy and costly property area, but we also know that we have at least 48 per cent who live on low incomes and who cannot afford to rent in the private rented sector because of the high rents.
We have to build more houses. This blanket approach of getting rid of any development doesn’t sit well with me.Cllr Cade (Herstmonceux & Pevensey Levels, Conservative)
Arguments were also made that the Council’s planning system pushes for environmental and ecological mitigations as part of development.
However, others argued the debate had got off track and called on councillors to speak to the motion.
Following further discussion the motion was agreed on a majority vote, although Green, Independent and Liberal Democrat councillors abstained.
Conservatives and the Independent Democrat group voted in favour of the motion.