5th Jul, 2020

Solihull Council defends its record amid 'climate emergency' challenge

Felix Nobes 13th Sep, 2019

SOLIHULL Council has defended its actions over the climate crisis after a legal warning and criticism from major environmental organisations.

Chiefs have responded as pressure mounts on the council to announce a ‘climate emergency’ – after its leader Ian Courts spearheaded a similar declaration for the West Midlands Combined Authority.

As we reported, lawyers from pressure group ClientEarth have put 100 local authorities across England ‘on alert’, including Solihull Council.

They say they are warning councils set to violate statutory obligations on air quality, green space and sustainable planning.

Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Planning and Housing Councillor Andy Mackiewicz said: “I can confirm that along with over 100 other local authorities we have received the letter.

“Our Draft Local Plan, currently being reviewed, already contains objectives and policies on mitigating and adapting to climate change, and this is part of a series of actions taken by the council over a number of years to reduce CO2 and contribute to the protection of our environment.

“For over five years we have recognised the imperative of having in place a policy framework for Solihull to address environmental concerns.

“This can be evidenced by the expansion of our Wildlife Ways programme (which improve biodiversity and cycling infrastructure), our continuing success with Green Flag parks and a more recent approval to allow Solihull Community Housing (the borough’s housing association) to build passive heated homes that reduce heating costs by up to 90 per cent.

“With the above and other policies in place, e.g. Clean Air Strategy, the council remains committed to recognising the need for jobs and homes with a determination to ensure this is not at the expense of the very environment that is so important to our residents.

“We will be responding to the letter in due course.”

ClientEarth wrote to the council concerning their Local Plan for housing and development up to 2028, giving it eight weeks to explain how it will set evidence-based carbon reduction targets – and ensure these goals are then central to their new planning policy.

ClientEarth climate lawyer Sam Hunter Jones said: “Each and every planning decision taken today must be in line with long-term climate goals, because what and how we build today will determine our climate impact and resilience in the crucial decades to come.”

In recent weeks, many regional councils have declared a ‘climate emergency’ – with some committing to targets – and the council has been urged to ‘catch up’ by campaigners.

Coun Courts told us last month the council is ‘aiming’ to be net carbon neutral by 2030, but the council itself has not explicitly committed to this target.

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