'Time is not on our side': Harrogate councillor's call for action on climate change sparks planning review

A councillor's urgent call for action on climate change has sparked a review into planning policies - as Harrogate pushes ahead with its ambitious aim to achieve a zero carbon economy by 2038.

Thursday, 12th March 2020, 12:19 pm

Lib Dem leader Coun Pat Marsh warned "time is not on our side" at March's full council meeting after laying out her party's plans to fund emission-cutting projects using money from housing developers.

It was something Coun Marsh said needed introducing "as soon as possible" to sit alongside the council's now-approved Local Plan, but she also said she was warned it would "undermine" the blueprint which sets out where thousands of homes will be built in the district.

Harrogate has set a target of achieving a zero carbon economy by 2038.

She said: "2019 was the second hottest year on record, and the last five years were the hottest five years on record, and the last decade was the hottest decade on record.

"Mr Mayor, if your house was on fire, would you wait to 2050 to put it out? Well here is news for you, it is, and this council cannot wait another five years, let alone 30 years to get your house in order, we must be demanding zero carbon developments and carbon offsetting now."

Those proposals were contested by the Conservatives who argued a review of the council's existing policies - which as it stands only "promotes", not demands, zero carbon developments - would be a better approach.

Cabinet member for planning, Coun Rebecca Burnett (Con), said she was "really supportive" of what the Lib Dems were trying to achieve, but added she could not get behind their motion and its pressing timescales.

Hitting back, Coun Marsh said although the Conservatives amendment goes some way towards what they are trying to achieve, it was still "vague" and "leaves the issue open for some time."

And she also claimed the council's climate change ambitions set out in the Local Plan are outdated and lagging behind, after the housing blueprint took six long years to finalise.

Coun Marsh said: "I am grateful to Coun Burnett for her suggestion but the Lib Dem group wish to make this notice of motion tighter, time is not on our side.

"Because the plan has taken some time to evolve it has not been able to develop real climate change policies, so Mr Mayor this notice of motion seeks to address that.

"However, we the earth and our future do not have time to wait five years and that is why the Lib Dems are asking for work to start on this now. Already, Harrogate, Hambleton, and Craven are among the top 20 worst districts for carbon emissions in England and Wales, a statistic we should not be proud of."

After councillors put party tensions aside, it was agreed that a review is to be launched into how the council can better enforce developers to build more efficient homes, with a view of achieving net zero carbon developments.

It comes after Harrogate Borough Council set a target of achieving a net-zero carbon economy by 2038. A previous push from the Lib Dems to declare a climate emergency was rejected in March last year.

According to a report, the council's own carbon footprint - made up of its gas, electricity and vehicle usage - has shrunk year-on-year from 2016 to 2019.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter