Chichester ‘can try to lead the way’ on climate change

Lib Dem councillor Jonathan Brown
Lib Dem councillor Jonathan Brown

Liberal Democrat councillors in Chichester have said they will be ‘holding the cabinet’s feet to the fire’ over the city’s carbon emissions.

While confirming its budget for the coming year, the council approved three amendments tabled by the opposition party last Tuesday (March 5).

The first called for a climate emergency officer to be appointed for three years to allow the council to learn from the work of other authorities – and other countries – when it came to environmental standards.

Jonathan Brown (Lib Dem, Southbourne) spoke of ‘frustration and anger’ that the government had not introduced laws allowing councils to insist that new developments followed a zero carbon building code.

He added that, while the council could not ‘prevent catastrophic global climate change’, it could ‘acknowledge and accept that we are facing a genuine climate emergency’.

Mr Brown said: “We can try to lead the way: inspire others to follow us and shame those doing nothing.

“But to do so we need policies that are practical, affordable and defensible should developers challenge us for going further than the government currently requires.”

The second amendment called for evening parking charges in the Northgate and New Park Centre car parks to be dropped, also for three years.

The idea was to ease pressure on the area’s shops and restaurants by attracting more people to Chichester in the evenings.

Adrian Moss (Lib Dem, Fishbourne) called the idea ‘an investment in the long-term future of our city’.

The Lib Dems suggested both ideas could be funded from the £532,500 proposed for the investment opportunity reserve – £150k for the climate officer and £115k per year to cover the loss of parking fees.

The third amendment asked for the remainder of the money to be placed into the reserve, as planned.

While all amendments were voted through, the wording only asked the council to consider what was being suggested – meaning the answer could still be ‘no’ further down the line.

Leader Tony Dignum said they would be given due consideration once the council’s officers had studied them and given their advice.

Peter Budge (Con, Chichester North) said they could be ‘accepted for consideration, without a doubt’.

Andrew Shaxson (Ind, Harting) said: “While in a day-to-day sense it might not affect us, we are by and large of a generation where climate change is not going to affect us but we are responsible for and responsible to those who will in the future be affected by it.”

He added: “I think it’s a very good idea for the cabinet and, thereafter the council as a whole, to give it proper consideration.”

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Brown said he was ‘really pleased’ by the support the amendments received.

He added: “I hope that the cabinet will bear that support in mind when they decide whether to proceed with this as well as the seriousness of the climate emergency we are facing.

“Not only must we do our bit in the national – indeed international – battle to dramatically reduce and reverse carbon emissions, but there are so many opportunities we must take to protect and enhance local biodiversity.

“We will be holding the cabinet’s feet to the fire on this one.”