Havant Friends of the Earth boss brands council motion for united front over climate action ‘vacuous nonsense’

HAVANT councillors have passed a motion calling on developers to match or exceed green policies set out in the borough’s Local Plan – but it has been branded ‘vacuous nonsense’.

Thursday, 23rd May 2019, 7:46 pm
Havant Friends of the Earth chairman Ray Cobbett, outside the Public Service Plaza in Havant. Picture: Byron Melton

The recommendation from Labour councillor Beryl Francis urged a bond between Havant Borough Council, businesses and community groups in the fight against carbon emissions.

But Havant Friends of the Earth, who for a month have been planning their own detailed motion, to appear before council in July, were only told about the move this morning.

The group’s chairman Ray Cobbett described tonight’s motion as a ‘missed opportunity’ on the grounds it sets no exact new targets for the borough.

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The Public Service Plaza, where Havant Borough Council's meetings take place. Picture: Allan Hutchings (150078-158)

‘This motion was vacuous nonsense – there was nothing in it,’ said Mr Cobbett, speaking on behalf of Havant Friends of the Earth.

‘It’s a pretty futile gesture and it doesn’t commit the council to doing anything.

‘I don’t doubt the sincerity of the people putting it forward, but we had planned a rather fuller version backed up with a borough-wide petition and deputations not just from us, but other interested parties.’

Unlike plans put forward by Portsmouth City Council, which recently declared a so-called ‘climate emergency’, tonight's motion specified no new statistical targets for carbon emissions.

It instead called for housebuilders to make good on policies set out in Havant Borough Council’s Local Plan for 2036, which proposes more than 9,000 new homes.

Though no figures were mentioned in the motion, these include making carbon emissions from new homes 19 per cent lower than cited in building regulations, repurposing construction materials from existing buildings, providing shade by planting trees and installing electric car charging points for every new home.

Cllr Francis said she lodged the motion to ‘strengthen what [council planning] officers were already doing’.

She added: ‘I think it’s useful to flag this up because it’s a long-term business, but the longer we delay, the worse it is.’

Mr Cobbett said Havant Friends of the Earth will still lodge a motion later this year.

It is expected to propose carbon management goals with target dates, the appointment of a council cabinet member for the environment, measures to encourage solar energy and a calendar of meetings to check council progress if the motion is passed.

You can read the motion passed at tonight's meeting below.

Cllr Francis’ motion in full

‘This council recognises that residents, businesses and community groups and public bodies all have a part to play in reducing harmful emissions and improving our environment.

‘As a council, we wish to see a reduction in carbon emissions across the borough, and new dwellings that have a reduced impact on the environment.

‘Our draft Local Plan for 2036 gives clear leadership to sustainable housing, increasing use of renewable energy and electric vehicles.

‘We call upon housebuilders to comply with and exceed these new standards which will significantly reduce the environmental impact of new housing.

‘As a council, we are providing leadership in environmental standards by, for example, investing in electric vehicles for HBC services, electric vehicle charging points in our car parks, better cycling and walking routes, high standards of building and green spaces in our regeneration plans and increasing our recycling rates.

‘There are many steps that property owners can take, for example, solar PV/solar tiles, solar-assisted water heating, individual room thermostatic heating controls, exterior wall insulation, double/triple-glazing, electric car charging points and other low-carbon and energy-saving measures.

‘This council urges all residents, businesses and other public bodies to work with us to reduce our collective impact on the environment.’