Arguments break out among councillors as climate change motion is discussed

PUBLISHED: 11:27 23 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:57 23 December 2019

L-R: Cllr John Lodge and Cllr Barbara Light. Photos: CONTRIBUTED.

L-R: Cllr John Lodge and Cllr Barbara Light. Photos: CONTRIBUTED.

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Councillors clashed at a meeting of Uttlesford District Council as a climate motion was discussed.

The meeting, held on December 16 at the district council headquarters in Saffron Walden, saw a motion put forward by councillors from opposition parties, calling on the ruling Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) group to adopt several proposals.

Councillor Barbara Light, Green Party member, presented the motion and made amendments, including lobbying Government to adopt measures to reduce aviation emissions and to "review local planning guidance" to tackle the air transport impact.

Cllr Light said: "This motion calls for an environmental roadmap with clearly-defined actions, deliverables and timelines with definitive and measurable milestones met by December 2020 and annually thereafter.

"This motion calls on council to protect our environment, our woodlands, wildlife and their habitats, to play a significant part in mitigating climate change and in turning Uttlesford into the first truly green district. It calls for the council budget to include provision for the delivery of the initial priority actions of the environmental roadmap."

Cllr Light added that, during a meeting of the climate change working group, they were told the initiatives would cost £14million but, upon asking for a breakdown of costs, they were told "this figure had been calculated on the back of a fag packet".

Cllr John Lodge, leader of the district council, asked for evidence regarding the claim, but Cllr Light would not reveal the names of the two councillors who, she said, made the comment.

As a result, Cllr Lodge said: "Could I propose that that comment is struck out from the record? That is outrageous." and later added: "It is outrageous you are saying that without evidence."

Cllr Light also added the working group had been told the budget for 2021 had been finalised, but that she discovered it is currently being worked on, so the climate initiative costs could still be calculated, at a lower price than previously said.

When Cllr Light, who defected from R4U to the Greens earlier this year, finished speaking, Cllr Richard Freeman, council chairman, said: "I ask that the reference to fag packets please be expunged from the record. It is not a grown up way of referring to things. We do it amongst ourselves but it's disrespectful to the people who are putting the arguments." Cllr Light said she did not make the comments but was instead referred to the comments and was protecting the identity of the people she said made the claim.

Cllr Alan Dean, Liberal Democrat, seconded the climate motion, mentioning the 'internationally unsuccessful' United Nations conference in Madrid and the opportunity to take action locally through a guiding roadmap.

An amendment was proposed by R4U's Louise Pepper, focusing on declaring a climate and ecological emergency and committing to achieving net zero carbon target by 2030, while protecting biodiversity through central government lobbying and cross-party collaboration.

The motion, at this point amended by both Cllr Light and Cllr Pepper, was seconded by Cllr Richard Pavitt and further supported by Cllr Neil Reeve, member of the working group for climate change, who said: "Year on year, the CO2 emissions from our transport continues to go up. We, as a district, produce half a million tonnes of CO2 per annum. We need 26 million trees in Uttlesford to look after our CO2 emissions today. That excludes the airport, flying and its potential increase. We are 35 per cent worse than the national average in Uttlesford."

Cllr Susan Barker, Conservative, told the meeting: "I would like to make sure that when we talk about planting trees we don't think we need to do it here. A tree planted in Scotland is just as effective as a tree planted here.

"We need to look at the idea of building all future houses to 'passive house standard'. It's a loadable aim, but I am afraid our developers have to make a profit. If we insist that every house is built to 'passive house standard', and it costs 20 per cent more, the viability will go out of the window and what they won't build is affordable housing."

To find out more about the motion and its amendments, log on to www.uttlesford.gov.uk/article/5018/Council-Cabinet-and-Committee-meetings.


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